AG Racine Files Lawsuits to Protect District Seniors Defrauded by Family Members and Home Health Aide

Cases Involve Opening Unauthorized Credit Lines for Personal Shopping Sprees, Deceiving Seniors Out of Social Security Income, Home Ownership

WASHINGTON, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed five lawsuits against family members and a home health aide alleging they financially exploited vulnerable adults in the District. Four complaints involve family members exploiting their elder parent’s finances for personal benefit, including opening a line of credit and withdrawing cash from their social security income without authorization. One of the complaints involves a home health aide making personal purchases with a card belonging to her 61-year-old vulnerable client. OAG is seeking court orders for the misused funds to be returned in full, civil penalties, and that the alleged perpetrators be barred from working with or handling the finances of any elderly or vulnerable adults.

“These abuses are a chilling reminder that our most vulnerable neighbors who rely on others for assistance with money management, healthcare, and other daily tasks are extremely susceptible to exploitation,” said AG Racine. “OAG’s Elder Justice team will not hesitate to bring legal action against perpetrators who, emboldened by this time of uncertainty, exploit elderly or vulnerable adults.”

OAG has authority to enforce the District’s Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults and the Elderly Amendment Act. The law grants OAG authority to criminally prosecute individuals and organizations and to seek civil relief, including fines, revocation of licenses and permits, freezing bank accounts, and preventing perpetrators from working with elders or otherwise vulnerable adults. Since March, OAG’s Elder Justice section has reported an increase in the number case referrals. In May alone, they received more than 45 case referrals, the largest number since the section’s inception.

Lawsuits

Maryland Woman Opens Credit Card in Elderly Father’s Name, Shopping Spree Totals $4,400+
OAG filed a lawsuit against a Maryland resident alleging she financially exploited her 88-year-old father, a District senior, by opening a credit card account in his name without his permission and making $4,405.70 in unauthorized charges on the card. The defendant allegedly made at least 59 purchases—ranging from $619.71 total at Macy’s, $451.67 total at Baltimore Gas and Electric, and $426.65 total at Coach, among others. OAG is seeking a refund for the transactions made without the elder’s authorization and up to $5,000 in civil penalties for each violation of the law. This complaint was filed in April.

Daughter Steals Social Security Income from Mother Suffering with Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia
OAG filed suit against a District resident alleging that she exploited her 84-year-old now-deceased mother. After the defendant’s three siblings filed a petition alleging their sister misused their mother’s funds, a court-appointed auditor was assigned to investigate. The auditor reported $11,471.43 in mismanaged funds. OAG is asking the court to bar the defendant from assuming financial responsibility for any elderly or vulnerable adults and seeking payment of up to $5,000 in civil penalties per violation of the law. This complaint was filed in April.

Son Deceives Legally Blind Mother into Signing Power of Attorney Documents, Takes the Title of Her Home
OAG filed suit against a District man who allegedly presented his 82-year-old legally blind mother with power of attorney documents to sign while she was confined to a hospital bed. Unbeknownst to her, the documents enabled the son to take the title of her home, assessed at $225,880. In addition, while receiving and controlling his mother’s pension, the defendant had not made any of the reoccurring monthly payments to her long-term care facility, leaving his mother with over $16,000 past due. OAG is asking the court to bar the son from assuming financial responsibility for any elderly or vulnerable adults, to require payment of up to $5,000 in civil penalties per violation of the law, and to return the title and funds believed to have been wrongfully taken from his mother. This complaint was filed in April.

Home Health Aide Makes Personal Purchases Using Patient’s Card
In this lawsuit, the OAG is suing on behalf of a 61-year-old District resident who experiences physical disabilities after falling victim to a drunk driving accident in 1991 and suffering a gunshot wound as a bystander to a 2016 shooting. These incidents confined him to a wheelchair, and he now requires assistance in performing daily activities. OAG alleges that his home health aide made seven unauthorized charges on a PEX prepaid card that receives a monthly allotment of funds from his settlement regarding the 2016 bystander incident. OAG is seeking $5,000 in civil penalties per violation of the law and repayment for unauthorized transactions the defendant made. Additionally, OAG is asking the court to prohibit the defendant from ever engaging in future employment involving any elderly or vulnerable adults. This complaint was filed in May.

Daughter Uses Mother’s Social Security Income for Personal Benefit
OAG filed suit against a woman who allegedly stole from her 87-year-old mother, a District resident who suffers from schizophrenia, chronic kidney disease, and major depressive disorder. Shortly after a court found her mother incapacitated and unable to handle her own financial affairs, the daughter began using her mother’s social security income for her personal benefit. Notably, the daughter withdrew over $3,000 in cash withdrawals and spent over $500 on hotels. In addition to seeking $5,000 in civil penalties per violation of the law and repayment for unauthorized transactions the defendant made, OAG is asking the court to prohibit the defendant from acting in a fiduciary capacity for any elderly or vulnerable adult. This complaint was filed in June.

Resources
If you are a District senior experiencing abuse, neglect, or exploitation, or you are aware of a senior being victimized, immediately get help by:

  • Filing a report with Adult Protective Services (APS) by calling their 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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