AG Racine Announces Actions in Six Cases Related to Financial Exploitation of Older and Vulnerable District Residents

Cases Address Stolen Retirement, Social Security Income, and Veteran Benefits from Vulnerable Elders

WASHINGTON, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced the filing of four cases and resolution of two others concerning financial exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults. The first of four new cases is against a Maryland woman who coerced a blind, vulnerable, elderly man struggling to pay for his basic needs into handing over nearly all of his social security income. Another complaint is against a Maryland resident who made more than $43,000 in payments to his company using his uncle’s retirement funds. The Office of Attorney General (OAG) through its partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office also assisted with filing criminal charges against a pastor who used his religious position to gain the trust of two elderly victims to steal more than $67,000, as well as an employee of a mental health residential facility who gained access to an elderly veteran’s bank account and used it to pay off her personal bills. Two additional cases included in today’s announcement concluded with guilty pleas against three professionals—one home health aide and two former SunTrust Bank employees—for financially exploiting elderly and vulnerable adults. 

“The District has a growing population of older adults, and unfortunately, we have seen a corresponding increase in those trying to take advantage of these vulnerable individuals,” said AG Racine. “Today’s actions demonstrate that the Office of the Attorney General will not hesitate to take legal action—whether criminal or civil—against perpetrators who target and take advantage of our elders.”

OAG hired a dedicated elder abuse prosecutor and investigator in late 2018 to pursue criminal cases involving financial exploitation of District elders and vulnerable adults. That prosecutor, funded by OAG, works as a Special Assistant United States Attorney dedicated to bringing and resolving criminal cases against those who financially exploit seniors. OAG also established an Elder Justice Section (EJS) in August 2019 to pursue civil cases, as well as provide informational resources to residents about their rights, common scams, and other relevant issues. EJS can obtain civil fines and temporary or permanent injunctions against bad actors through civil enforcement of the Criminal Abuse, Neglect and Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults and the Elderly Act. Today’s actions reflect the collaboration between OAG’s civil and criminal enforcement efforts.

Maryland Woman Coerces Blind, Vulnerable, Elderly D.C. Resident into Handing Over Nearly All Income

OAG filed a civil lawsuit against a Maryland woman alleging she financially exploited a 67-year-old District resident by coercing him into handing over nearly all of his limited income. The defendant repeatedly drove the elderly man to the bank when his Social Security income was deposited into his account and withdrew his money, leaving him with as little as $50 to cover his monthly expenses. OAG alleges that the defendant used the elder’s bank card while traveling, including making a $500 cash withdrawal at the airport and purchases at Red Lobster, Victoria’s Secret, a nail salon, and a tobacco shop. As a result of the defendant’s financial exploitation, the elderly man was unable to pay for his basic needs. He has been relying on the charity of a neighbor for clothes, social services agencies for free meal deliveries, and a sofa as a bed to sleep. OAG is asking the court to permanently bar the defendant from obtaining any of the elderly man’s finances, to require reimbursement for the money taken, and to assess up to $5,000 in civil penalties per violation of the law. The court has granted OAG’s request for a temporary restraining order, which prevents the defendant from contacting the elderly man or seeking to access his funds while the case is underway.

Nephew Makes $43K+ in Payments to His Company Using His Elderly Uncle’s Retirement Income

OAG filed a civil suit against a Maryland man alleging that he took possession of his 69-year-old uncle’s bank card. The uncle, who lives in a D.C. nursing home facility, experienced a fall in 2020 that left him severely cognitively impaired. The nephew used his elderly uncle’s bank account to spend more than $43,000 in hotel stays, meals at restaurants, and fraudulent payments to the construction business he owns. In addition to seeking a permanent order requiring the nephew to repay his uncle the misused funds and $5,000 in civil penalties per violation of the law, OAG is asking the court to prohibit the nephew from acting as a fiduciary for his uncle. The court has granted OAG’s request for a temporary restraining order, which prevents the nephew from contacting the elderly man or seeking to access his funds while the case is pending.

Maryland Religious Leader Steals More than $65K from Two Elderly Residents

Thanks to the work of OAG’s elder abuse investigator and Special Assistant United States Attorney, a Maryland man was indicted for fraudulently obtaining funds from two different elderly victims. The man stole $4,308 from one victim and $63,600 from another victim by befriending them, gaining their trust, exploiting his position as a pastor, and offering to perform work on their homes. He also used intimidation, deception, and undue influence to cause the second victim to take a reverse mortgage on her home so that he could benefit from stealing more of her assets.

Administrator for Mental Health Residential Facility Uses Military Veteran’s Benefits to Pay Personal Bills

A Maryland woman was criminally charged with financially exploiting an elderly veteran. The woman formerly served as the Administrator for a Mental Health Community Residential Facility, which was licensed by the District of Columbia Department of Health. In January 2019, the administrator used the account of one of the facility residents—a 73-year-old veteran—to pay $1,524.36 in personal bills. The elderly veteran’s sole sources of income were benefits from the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Two Former SunTrust Bank Employees Ordered to Pay $83,800 for Defrauding 72-year-old Military Widow

Two SunTrust Bank employees pled guilty to financially exploiting a 72-year-old military widow and D.C. resident who has diminished capacity. One defendant moved $51,900 into a joint account that he created in his and the victim’s name, which he later used on two trips to California and one trip to Miami. During the trip to Miami, the defendant used the victim’s funds to stay at a beachfront hotel, rent a red Ford Mustang, and purchase items from a mini bar. He also made ATM withdrawals totaling $3,200 from the victim’s account while she was hospitalized. The other defendant withdrew $3,000 in cash from one of the victim’s accounts and wrote himself a check for $25,700 from a different account. That defendant used these funds to shop at outlet stores and finance his move to Chicago. The scheme ended when the victim was hospitalized, and a newly appointed attorney-in-fact discovered that the funds were missing. The two defendants were sentenced to probation and ordered to pay $83,800 in restitution. If they violate the terms of their probation, they may face jail time.

Former Aide for Disabled Residents Steals Debit Card from Disabled Elderly Man Under Her Care

A former home health aide pled guilty in December 2020 to financially exploiting a 61-year-old man with a profound intellectual disability by taking his debit card from his residence, where she worked, and using the card to make up to $235 in personal purchases. The defendant agreed to complete community service and pay restitution to the elderly victim. If she completes her service and meets these conditions within six months, the case will be dismissed.

Resources

If you are or know a District senior or vulnerable adult experiencing abuse, neglect, or exploitation, immediately get help by:

  • Filing a report with Adult Protective Services (APS) by calling the 24-hour hotline at (202) 541-3950.
  • Filing a police report with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) by calling the police at (202) 265-9100.
  • Contacting OAG’s Elder Justice Section at (202) 727-3807 or elderjustice@dc.gov.

Know Your Rights: Read OAG’s Consumer Alert to protect yourself from scams, price gouging, discrimination, and to get information about consumer, worker, and tenant rights during the pandemic. You can access more information about OAG services during COVID-19 is at: www.oag.dc.gov/coronavirus.

 

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