U.S. Attorney Keefe Joins Department Of Justice In Observing 15th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day | USAO-NDFL

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – Lawrence Keefe, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida,
joins Attorney General William P. Barr and the entire Department of Justice in observing the 15th
Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Department echoes voices around the world condemning
elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

“The Northern District of Florida is home to more than 300,000 residents age 65 and older, and they
have earned the loving support of all our communities,” U.S. Attorney Keefe said. “The sad truth is
that some people see these elders as a prime target, someone they can take advantage of, and we are
committed to stopping them and pursuing justice for our older neighbors.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our country and the world, but among
those most severely affected by the threat of the coronavirus are our senior citizens. During this
time when seniors are most vulnerable and often isolated from their families and loved ones by
social distancing and quarantine restrictions, bad actors have jumped in to exploit this
international tragedy by preying on the elderly through a host of scams and fraud schemes. As the
world takes this day to remember the elderly during these uncertain times, the Department of
Justice remains relentlessly committed, through its department-wide Elder Justice Initiative, to
prevent and prosecute fraud against America’s seniors.

The Department will aggressively prosecute fraudsters exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and
targeting seniors through such ploys as offering them fake testing kits and fake help in obtaining
stimulus and Paycheck Protection Program Funds. On this day dedicated to recognizing our seniors,
the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice are sending a strong message that they
continue the fight to keep seniors safe as a top priority.

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 Justice Department’s four top

Major strides have already been made to that end:

    •  National Elder Fraud Hotline: 833-FRAUD-11
        Earlier this year Attorney General Barr launched a National Elder Fraud Hotline. Staffed by
        experienced case managers who provide personalized support to callers, the hotline serves to assist
        elders and caretakers who believe they have been a victim of fraud by reporting and providing
        appropriate services.

    • Annual Elder Justice Sweep: In March of this year, the Attorney General announced the largest
       coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in department history. The Department, together with every
       U.S. Attorney’s office, charged more than 400 defendants, causing over $1 billion in loss through
       fraud schemes that largely affected seniors. In the Northern District of Florida, three Tampa
men – Edward Newton, 45, of Lutz, Christopher Mayes, 29, of Tarpon Springs, and Christian
       Pantazonis, 31, of Largo – pled guilty to charges of defrauding elderly Northwest Florida
       homeowners whose homes suffered damage from Hurricane Michael. The men fraudulently
       contracted to make home repairs in the Panama City area but instead, stole approximately
       $319,000 in down payments. The Tampa Bay-area company owned by Newton hired Mayes and 
       Pantazonis in November 2018 to go door to door in Bay County soliciting home repair contracts.
       They promised that the repair work would begin immediately, telling homeowners they required a
       down payment to obtain building materials and permits or to “place the homeowner at the front of the
       line” for repairs. As part of the fraud, they occasionally sent workers to complete small projects, such
       as removing damaged drywall or replacing shingles, in order to lead the homeowners to believe the
       major repairs were underway. When homeowners began to complain about the lack of work, Newton
       told them in writing or by phone that he would return the money he collected for the work never
       performed. However, on May 25, 2019, he sent each homeowner a letter stating that he did not intend
       to complete any of the contracted work and would not return any money.

    • Money Mule Initiative: In October 2018, the Department and its law enforcement partners began a
       concentrated effort across the country and around the world to disrupt, investigate, and prosecute
       money mule activity used to facilitate fraud schemes, especially those victimizing senior citizens.
       In 2019, actions were taken to halt the conduct of more than 600 domestic money mules, exceeding a
       similar effort against approximately 400 mules in the previous year. In the Northern District of
       Florida, three Bay County men – Delroy Williams, 52, of Lynn Haven, Vivian Walters, 33, of Lynn
       Haven, and Jevaughn Williams, 22, of Panama City Beach – were sentenced on federal fraud charges
       stemming from activities meant to induce elderly victims with false promises of sweepstakes prizes.
       Since the late 1990s, telemarketers in Jamaica have been engaging in a scam in which they contact
       victims in the United States and falsely claim their targets have won large sweepstakes prizes.
       Victims, who are primarily elderly, are induced to send cash or cash equivalents in order to
       release their supposed prizes. The victims’ funds are often transported by wire transfers and
       United States Postal Service packages. Between 2014 and 2017, the defendants conspired together to
       receive wire transfers and packages mailed by victims. They then took a percentage of the funds for
       themselves before forwarding the remainder to co-conspirators in Jamaica. Multiple victims have
       been identified through wire transfer records and searches of the defendants’ electronic devices.

For more information on enforcement actions, training and resources, research, and victim
services, please visit www.justice.gov/elderjustice.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that
serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access
available public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern
District of Florida
website. For more information about the United States Attorne  ’s Office for
the Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.

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