Crime

DOJ charges elder fraud defendants nationwide and launches hotline

BALTIMORE, MD—Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur joined Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale this week in announcing the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.

This year, prosecutors charged more than 400 defendants, far surpassing the 260 defendants charged in cases as part of last year’s sweep. In each case, offenders allegedly engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors. In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused alleged losses of over a billion dollars.

In two separate cases in Maryland, three defendants were charged with mail fraud related to schemes targeting elderly victims. In each case, the defendants allegedly obtained more than $1 million from the fraud. Specifically, Osakwe Ismael Osagbue, 32, of Los Angeles, California was sentenced in January 2020, to four years in federal prison for mail fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to obtain and use fraudulent credit cards resulting in a loss of at least $1,365,746.24. In the second case, two Florida men, David James Green, 24, of Miami Gardens and McArnold Charlemagne, 32, of Miramar, are charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud by allegedly defrauding more than 65 elderly victims of at least $1.5 million. The indictment alleges that the defendants falsely told the victims that a relative, typically a grandchild, needed money for bail, legal fees, or other expenses.

“Americans are fed up with the constant barrage of scams that maliciously target the elderly and other vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “This year, the Department of Justice prosecuted more than 400 defendants, whose schemes totaled more than a billion dollars. I want to thank the men and women of the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, which coordinated this effort, and all those in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and Criminal Division who worked tirelessly to bring these cases. The Department is committed to stopping the full range of criminal activities that exploit America’s seniors.”

U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur stated, “The Department of Justice is committed to bringing fraudsters who prey upon the elderly to justice. We will continue our outreach efforts to make the public aware of scams and frauds targeting elderly victims and encourage anyone who believes they may be a victim to contact the newly launched Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).”

This interactive map provides information on the elder fraud cases highlighted by today’s sweep announcement.

Elder Fraud Hotline

Attorney General Barr also announced the launch of a National Elder Fraud Hotline, which will provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud.  The Hotline will be staffed by experienced case managers who can provide personalized support to callers.  Case managers will assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed.  When applicable, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for Internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller.  The Hotline’s toll free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).

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For the second year, the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners also took comprehensive action against the money mule network that facilitates foreign-based elder fraud. Generally, perpetrators use a “money mule” to transfer fraud proceeds from a victim to ringleaders of fraud schemes who often reside in other countries. Some of these money mules act unwittingly, and intervention can effectively end their involvement in the fraud. The FBI and the Postal Inspection Service took action against over 600 alleged money mules nationwide by conducting interviews, issuing warning letters, and bringing civil and criminal cases. Agents and prosecutors in more than 85 federal district participated in this effort to halt the money flow from victim to fraudster. These actions against money mules were in addition to the criminal and civil cases announced as part of this year’s elder fraud sweep.

Maryland Outreach

The District of Maryland became one of only ten districts throughout the country to form an Elder Justice Task Force in 2016.  The Elder Justice Task Force joins state, local, and federal law enforcement partners, the Maryland Department of Aging, the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and other private sector stakeholders and free legal service providers to collaborate on cases and outreach programs to combat elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

In one recent outreach event, the U.S. Attorney’s Office partnered with Maryland AARP, the Social Security Administration, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to present tips on how seniors can protect themselves from government imposter scams.  Every day thousands of Marylanders receive calls from identity thieves pretending to represent the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, and other government agencies, in an effort to steal personal information or coerce the victim to make cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest over an “irregularity with their account.”  Participants from every county in the State attended the call, from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore.

These outreach efforts have helped to prevent seniors from falling prey to scams and have frustrated offenders’ efforts to obtain even more money from vulnerable elders.

The charges announced today are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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