On October 19, the Department of Justice announced that it had issued its Annual Report to Congress on its Activities to Combat Elder Fraud and Abuse. The Report begins with a quote from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, which reads in part, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated injustices faced by far too many of the most vulnerable among us, including older Americans and elderly people around the world. For too long, elderly people have faced abuse, neglect, and exploitation.” The Report reveals that during the reporting period of July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, DOJ brought 229 criminal and civil cases involving conduct that “targeted or disproportionately affected older adults” with 10% being civil cases and 90% being criminal cases. The cases included conduct involving veteran fraud, technical support fraud, romance fraud, telemarketing fraud, lottery and sweepstakes fraud, investment fraud, and identity theft, among many other types of fraud.
The report also highlighted a few of DOJ’s new initiatives. First, the “Money Mule” initiative. “Money mules are individuals who assist fraudsters by receiving money from fraud victims and forwarding it to fraud organizers.” The report details how many forms of fraud perpetrated against the elderly utilize money mules. Numerous federal agencies including the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and many state agencies made up the participants in the initiative. During the reporting period, the government “took action against” 2,300 money mules, up from only 600 last year.
The report also highlighted the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) Recovery Asset Team (RAT). The FBI established RAT in February 2018 to facilitate freezing funds of victims who had been defrauded into making wire transfers. During the reporting period, IC3 RAT processed 1412 complaints, with a reported loss of nearly $390 million and successfully froze nearly $280 million, a 72% success rate. This attempt to assist victims is a major step in counteracting the incentive to commit fraud against the elderly or otherwise technically deficient individuals.
Elder fraud and abuse is a priority for both state and federal law enforcement. Along with allegations of wire or mail fraud, elder fraud and abuse can form the basis of False Claims Act enforcement actions. Those accepting government funding for the care and treatment of the elderly are especially exposed to False Claims Act liability based on elder fraud and abuse, and companies working in that space must understand that the federal government is focusing on that type of misconduct.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with elder fraud and abuse, False Claims Act investigations, and qui tam litigation. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.