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U.S. Attorney Announces Elder Fraud Protection Efforts

The US District Courthouse in Providence, RI.
The US District Courthouse in Providence, RI.
The US District Courthouse in Providence, RI.

PROVIDENCE, RI — The Justice Department has announced expansion of its Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force to combat scams originating overseas.

“We, and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute scams targeting older Americans and to hold the perpetrators accountable.  If you think you can help yourself to someone else’s livelihood without consequences, think again,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

From September 2021 to September 2022, department personnel and its law enforcement partners pursued about 260 cases involving more than 600 defendants, both bringing new cases and advancing those previously charged. Nineteen of these defendants, charged by the United States Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island, appeared in federal court in Providence on charges that they allegedly perpetrating one or more romance, grandparent, tech support, or government imposter scams that defrauded at least 133 known victims of nearly seven million dollars.

The Department also highlighted three other efforts: expansion of the Transnational Elder Fraud Task Force, success in returning money to victims and efforts to combat grandparent scams.

The Department announced that as part of its continuing efforts to protect older adults and bring perpetrators of fraud schemes to justice it is expanding the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, adding 14 new U.S. Attorney’s Offices. Expansion of the Strike Force will help to coordinate the Department’s ongoing efforts to combat largest and most harmful fraud schemes that target or disproportionately impact older adults.

In the past year, the Department has notified over 550,000 people that they may be eligible for remission payments. Notifications were made to consumers whose information was sold by one of three data companies prosecuted by the Department and were later victims of “sweepstakes” or “astrology” solicitations that falsely promised prizes or individualized services in return for a fee. More than 150,000 of those victims cashed checks totaling $52 million, and thousands more are eligible to receive checks. Also notified were consumers who paid fraudsters perpetrating person-in-need scams and job scams via Western Union. In the past year, the Department has identified and contacted over 300,000 consumers who may be eligible for remission. Since March of 2020 more than 148,000 victims have received more than $366 million as a result of a 2017 criminal resolution with Western Union for the company’s willful failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and its aiding and abetting of wire fraud.

“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.”

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