SIOUX FALLS – The Department of Justice has announced the results of its efforts over the past year to protect older adults from fraud and exploitation. Over the past year, the Department and its law enforcement partners have tackled issues ranging from mass marketing scams that have affected thousands of victims to bad actors who defraud their neighbors. Substantial efforts have also been made over the past year to return money to victims of fraud. This week, the Department also announced that it is expanding its Transnational Elder Fraud Task Force to amplify efforts to combat scams from overseas.
“We are stepping up our nationwide efforts to protect seniors, including tripling the number of U.S. law firms participating in our transnational seniors fraud strike force dedicated to disrupting, dismantling and prosecution of foreign-based fraud schemes that target American seniors,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said. “This expansion builds on the Department of Justice’s existing work to hold accountable those who steal funds from seniors, including returning those funds to victims where possible.”
“Crimes that target older Americans are among the most deplorable. We take any allegations that elderly people in South Dakota have been targeted very seriously. These crimes take many forms, often through mass marketing scams, sweepstakes or other misrepresentations designed to gain access to financial accounts,” said South Dakota U.S. Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell. “Our office, together with our partner investigative agencies, is committed to finding these criminals and bringing them to justice.”
Over the past year, Department personnel and law enforcement partners have prosecuted approximately 260 cases involving more than 600 defendants across the country, both bringing new cases and advancing those previously charged.
Last year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Dakota prosecuted and prosecuted various cases in which older Americans were targeted. In one, Nathan Peachey and John Rick Winer were prosecuted along with several co-conspirators for a sophisticated scheme that deprived the victims of their savings, retirement income and other funds. They lied to their victims claiming that they were investing funds that were to be used for charitable and humanitarian projects. Instead, the money was stolen and laundered through a network of entities and banks around the world. Peachey was sentenced to 25 years and Winer was sentenced to nearly 22 years in federal prison. They were also ordered to pay approximately $11 million in restitution.
In another case, the South Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted Robert “Larry” Lytle and two conspirators for marketing and selling fraudulent medical devices, often to older Americans, falsely promising they were the cure-all. for virtually all ailments. Lytle was sentenced to 12 years, Ronald D. Weir, Jr., was sentenced to 2 years, and Irina Kossovskaia was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. They were ordered to pay millions in damages to hundreds of victims. Those jail sentences were handed down in 2018, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Dakota has vigorously continued its collection efforts. In recent months, $1,222,075 has been received from various members of Lytle’s family after litigation began targeting assets transferred by Lytle to his family or their business entities. To date, $2,305,893.52 has been recovered to reimburse the victims.
As part of the South Dakota Attorney’s Office’s anti-elder fraud efforts, it engages in community and industry outreach to raise awareness of scams and exploitation and prevent victimization.
Nationally, the Department highlighted three other efforts: the expansion of the cross-national senior fraud task force, the success of returning money to victims, and efforts to combat grandparenting scams. . In connection with the Department’s ongoing efforts to protect older adults and bring perpetrators of fraudulent schemes to justice, the Department is expanding the Transnational Elder Fraud Task Force by adding 14 new U.S. Attorney’s Offices to the effort . The expansion of the Strike Force will help coordinate the Department’s ongoing efforts to combat the largest and most harmful fraud schemes that target or disproportionately impact seniors.
Over the past year, the Department has notified over 550,000 people that they may be eligible for rebate payments. Notifications were made to consumers whose information was sold by one of the three data companies prosecuted by the Department and then fell victim to “contest” or “astrology” solicitations that falsely promised prizes or individualized services in exchange for remuneration. More than 150,000 of these victims have cashed checks totaling $52 million, and thousands more are eligible to receive checks. Consumers who have paid fraudsters committing people in need scams and employment scams through Western Union have also been notified. Over the past year, the Department has identified and contacted over 300,000 consumers who may be eligible for a rebate. Since March 2020, more than 148,000 victims have been awarded more than $366 million following a 2017 criminal resolution with Western Union for the company’s willful failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. money and his aiding and abetting electronic fraud.
Over the past year, the Department has filed lawsuits against perpetrators of “grandparenting scams,” also known as “needy scams.” These scams usually start when a fraudster, often based overseas, contacts an elderly person and poses as a grandchild, another family member, or someone calling on a family member’s behalf. Call recipients are notified that their family member is in danger and in urgent need of money. When recently sentencing one of eight grandparent scams charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal judge described the scams as “heartbreakingly evil “. The Department works with government partners and others to raise awareness of these programs.
Consumer reports of fraud and attempted fraud are vital to law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute schemes targeting seniors. If you or someone you know is 60 or older and has been the victim of financial fraud, you can get help from the National Fraud Hotline for Seniors: 1-833 FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Department of Justice hotline, operated by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the victim’s needs and identifying next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to help them report or connect them with agencies, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis. The hotline is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. [ET]. English, Spanish and other languages are available. More information about the Department’s elder justice efforts can be found on the Department of Elder Justice website, www.elderjustice.gov.