From the U. S. Department of Justice —
The Justice Department announced on Oct. 4 that as part of its continuing efforts to protect older adults and to bring perpetrators of fraud schemes to justice, it is expanding its Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, adding 14 additional U.S. Attorney’s Offices. Since 2019, current Strike Force members — including the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Homeland Security Investigations — have brought successful cases against the largest and most harmful global elder fraud schemes and worked with foreign law enforcement to disrupt criminal enterprises, disable their infrastructure, and bring perpetrators to justice.
Expansion of the Strike Force will help to coordinate the Department’s ongoing efforts to combat sophisticated fraud schemes that target or disproportionately impact older adults. The expansion will increase the total number of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices comprising the Strike Force from six to 20, including all of the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the states of California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and New York.
“We are intensifying our efforts nationwide to protect older adults, including by more than tripling the number of U.S. Attorneys’ offices participating in our Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force dedicated to disrupting, dismantling and prosecuting foreign-based fraud schemes that target American seniors,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “This expansion builds on the Justice Department’s existing work to hold accountable those who steal funds from older adults, including by returning those funds to the victims where possible.”
“At the FBI, we swear an oath to protect the American people, and this includes our most vulnerable populations like the elderly,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Efforts like these display our unwavering dedication to protecting our older citizens and combating fraudsters who look to exploit them. I am proud of the work by FBI agents and analysts, as well as our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, in bringing those criminals to justice. If you think you may be a victim of elder fraud, or you know someone who is, we encourage you to reach out. We are here to help.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is a longstanding member of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force,” said Chief Gary Barksdale of the Postal Inspection Service. Postal inspectors are proud to contribute to the impactful cases that help numerous victims, many of them older Americans, and aid in the recovery of their losses through restitution. Postal inspectors have a long history of protecting the vulnerable, and our ongoing efforts demonstrate the Postal Inspection Service’s continued commitment to the task. We are excited to learn of the Department of Justice’s decision to expand the strike force.”
The strike force expansion will further enhance the Department’s existing efforts to protect older adults from fraud and exploitation. During the period from September 2021 to September 2022, Department personnel and its law enforcement partners pursued approximately 260 cases involving more than 600 defendants, both bringing new cases and advancing those previously charged. The matters tackled by the Department and its partners ranged from mass-marketing scams that impacted thousands of victims to bad actors scamming their neighbors. Substantial efforts were also made over the last year to return money to fraud victims.
In the past year, the Department has held multiple transnational organized crime syndicates to account for their targeting of older Americans. On Sept. 16, 2022, for instance, the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California secured a guilty plea from the Chief Executive Officer of a global telecommunications provider for serving as a gateway carrier for Indian-based fraudulent robocalls that targeted elderly Americans.
Similarly, in September 2021, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern and Northern Districts of Texas secured two indictments collectively charging 34 individuals with, allegedly, facilitating a range of schemes, including romance scams. In March 2022, an individual charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California was sentenced to nine years in prison for participating in an international scheme that placed phone calls purportedly from government agents warning victims that they faced arrest or that their identities or assets were in jeopardy.
Many schemes connected to transnational criminal organizations involved impersonation to convince victims into sending money to fraudsters. “Grandparent scams” are especially pernicious versions of such schemes. Those scams typically begin when a fraudster contacts an older adult and poses as either a family member or someone calling on behalf of a family member. Call recipients are told that their family member is in jeopardy and urgently needs money.
When recently sentencing one of eight perpetrators of a grandparent scam indicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a federal judge described such scams “heartbreakingly evil.” That case was brought by the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California and investigated by the FBI’s San Diego Elder Justice Task Force. The Department also prosecuted other grandparent scam cases during the last year in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Western District of Pennsylvania, District of Maryland, Central District of California, Southern District of Illinois, and Southern District of Indiana.
Other cases advanced by the Department over the past year with a more local nexus involved schemes in which individuals who knew their victims took advantage of those victims’ trust. For instance, in March 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio convicted at trial an investment advisor, charged in 2020, who stole more than $9.3 million from his customers; the advisor was sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison. In September 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri secured charges against a bank branch manager who, allegedly, stole $175,000 from elderly customers by, among other things, logging into customer accounts and transferring funds.
Continue reading at Justice.gov.