Today United States Attorney John F. Bash joined Attorney General William P. Barr and the entire Department of Justice in observing the 15th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. On the day dedicated to recognizing our seniors, the Department of Justice sends a strong message that the fight to keep seniors safe continues to be a top priority. The Department echoes voices around the world condemning elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
“There are many fraudsters and other criminals who seek to take advantage of the elderly. I am exceptionally proud of the work that our office has done to bring them to justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Bash.
Every day our seniors are targeted with fraudulent robocalls, spam emails, and other unsolicited messages seeking to exploit seniors and to steal their hard-earned life savings. Fraud schemes include:
- Lottery phone scams where callers convince seniors that a fee or tax must be paid in order to receive lottery winnings;
- Grandparent scams where callers convince seniors that their grandchildren have been arrested and need bail money;
- Romance scams where victims are lulled into believing that their romantic interest needs funds for a visit to the United States or for some other purpose;
- Government employee imposter scams where callers pose as an IRS agent or other government representative claiming that the victim owes back taxes or that there is an issue with the victim’s government benefits;
- Money Mules who receive scam proceeds from victims and then quickly transfer the money into bank accounts controlled by fraudsters; and,
- Tech Support scams where scammers offer assistance with computer viruses or malware they claim were detected on the victim’s computer.
The Western District of Texas has prosecuted multiple defendants for elder fraud-related offenses in the past several years. In the past calendar year alone, the District has brought and sentenced elder fraud-related charges in San Antonio and Austin. Those cases include:
- Olumide Bankole Morakinyo (A19-CR-200): The Defendant hired others to launder funds from various fraud schemes using stolen personally identifiable information (PII). The fraud schemes included stealing from the Texas Employee Retirement System and redirecting money from retired Texas employees. It also included a multimillion-dollar tax refund fraud scheme. Morakinyo is currently awaiting sentencing.
- Akinbobola Akinmadeyemi and Clarence Barefield (A18-CR-333): Two Defendants from an eight-defendant indictment schemed to steal over $250 million from elderly Americans via a sweepstakes scam. The defendants then laundered the proceeds from that offense as well as the proceeds from a multimillion-dollar tax refund scheme. Akinmadeyemi was sentenced to 120 months of imprisonment. Barefield was sentenced to 96 months of imprisonment. The remaining defendants await sentencing or extradition from other countries.
- Paola Gallego (A18-CR-272): The Defendant was a banker in Austin, Texas who stole millions from an elderly married couple who were her clients at the bank by deceiving them into transferring funds into accounts she controlled. Gallego was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution.
- Robert Wayne Boling, Jr., et al. (SA19-CR-524): Defendants, based in the U. S. and in the Philippines, carried out an identity theft and fraud scheme that targeted thousands of older U. S. Military service members and veterans. The defendants gained access to a Department of Defense Portal and stole millions of dollars from military members’ bank accounts.
In addition, the U. S. Attorney’s Office helped coordinate interviews of money mules by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Money mules are often unknowing victims of criminals. The money mules fall victim to romance or work-from-home schemes and then are tricked into receiving funds from other victims and sending those funds to criminals perpetuating the scheme. By identifying and personally interceding with the money mules, law enforcement diminishes the ability of the fraudsters to profit from their scams.
Earlier this year Attorney General Barr declared “Prevention and Disruption of Transnational Elder Fraud” to be an Agency Priority Goal, making it one of the Department’s four top priorities. The Justice Department and its law enforcement partners have undertaken a series of steps to identify and hold accountable those who take advantage of the elderly to include:
- Establishment of a National Elder Fraud Hotline (833-FRAUD-11) so victims can report fraud activity and receive information about available services to help them;
- Formation of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force to combat foreign elder fraud schemes;
- The Annual Elder Justice Sweep was conducted in March of this year. It was the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in department history;
- Money Mule Initiative that involves law enforcement concentrating efforts around the world to disrupt, investigate, and prosecute those who facilitate financial fraud schemes on senior citizens; and
- Focusing on foreign-based perpetrators as in the Boling case mentioned above.
For more information on enforcement actions, training and resources, research, and victim services, please visit www.justice.gov/elderjustice.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.