Justice Department Coordinates Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep of more than 250 Defendants

Justice Department Coordinates Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep of more than 250 Defendants

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and law enforcement partners announced today the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.   The cases involve more than two hundred and fifty defendants from around the globe who victimized more than a million Americans, most of whom were elderly.  The cases include criminal, civil, and forfeiture actions across more than 50 federal districts.  Of the defendants, 200 were charged criminally.  In each case, offenders engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors.  In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused losses of more than half a billion dollars.  The Department coordinated its announcement with the FTC and state Attorneys General, who independently filed numerous cases targeting elder frauds within the sweep period.

Attorney General Sessions was joined in the announcement by FBI Acting Deputy Director David Bowdich; Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell; FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen; and Kansas Attorney General and President of the National Association of Attorneys General Derek Schmidt.

“The Justice Department and its partners are taking unprecedented, coordinated action to protect elderly Americans from financial threats, both foreign and domestic,” said Attorney General Sessions.  “Today’s actions send a clear message:  we will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are.  When criminals steal the hard-earned life savings of older Americans, we will respond with all the tools at the Department’s disposal – criminal prosecutions to punish offenders, civil injunctions to shut the schemes down, and asset forfeiture to take back ill-gotten gains.  Today is only the beginning.  I have directed Department prosecutors to coordinate with both domestic law enforcement partners and foreign counterparts to stop these criminals from exploiting our seniors.”

"Fraud directed at the elderly puts at risk the financial fruits of the labors of those who spent a lifetime improving our communities and our nation,” said Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney Alan R. Jackson.  “They should be able to enjoy their hard earned savings without worrying about swindlers.  It is important that we use all means at our disposal to bring con artists who target the elderly to justice.”

In the Eastern District of Texas, a 67-year-old Houston man, Lawrence Allen Deshetler, was sentenced on Nov. 6, 2017, to 60 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution to his victims.  Deshetler, a certified financial planner and investment advisor, devised an investment scheme to defraud his victims, many of whom were elderly, of nearly $2 million.  

In support of the Department's Elder Fraud Sweep, U.S. Attorney Jackson has assured the appointment of an Elder Justice Coordinator (EJC) for the Eastern District of Texas.  The mission of the EJC is to serve as the district’s legal counsel on matters relating to elder abuse and to facilitate the prosecution of elder abuse cases.  The EJC will work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to determine how best to efficiently and aggressively investigate and prosecute elder fraud cases and as well as how best to conduct community outreach.  There is one EJC for each of the four federal judicial districts in Texas.  All four EJCs have made preliminary coordination efforts with a view to combining efforts statewide where possible.

The actions charged a variety of fraud schemes, ranging from mass mailing, telemarketing and investment frauds to individual incidences of identity theft and theft by guardians.  A number of cases involved transnational criminal organizations that defrauded hundreds of thousands of elderly victims, while others involved a single relative or fiduciary who took advantage of an individual victim.  The schemes charged in these cases caused losses to more than a million victims.

“Winners. That’s what so many of the people who received these solicitations in the mail thought they were. But they’re not. They are victims of scams that Postal Inspectors have seen and investigated for decades. In fact, some of the same operators we encountered 20 years ago are back. But so are we. Yesterday, Postal Inspectors around the country executed search warrants on 14 locations that some of these same operators used to run their scams. We’re letting the American public know – and especially our vulnerable older Americans – that Postal Inspectors are working hard to protect them and ensure their confidence in the U.S. Mail,” said Chief Postal Inspector Cottrell.  

“Over the last year, the FBI has initiated more than 200 financial crimes cases involving elderly victims who were devastated financially, emotionally, mentally and physically. Picking up the pieces of these fraud schemes can be equally as traumatizing for the caregivers of these elderly victims,” said Acting Deputy Director Bowdich.  “The FBI reminds seniors and their caregivers to be vigilant. If any person believes they are the victim of, or have knowledge of fraud involving an elderly person, regardless of the loss amount, they should report it to the FBI.”