(Gray News) – More than 200 people were charged this week in what the Justice Department called its “largest-ever nationwide elder fraud sweep.”
Attorney General William Barr announced the law enforcement operation on Thursday. It targeted “financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors.”
A Justice Department release said the elderly were robbed of hundreds of millions of dollars in such schemes in the last year, and the sweep brought in people who had collectively defrauded seniors of three-quarters of a billion dollars.
More than 260 defendants from around the world are accused of defrauding more than two million elderly Americans.
“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Barr said. “The Trump administration has placed a renewed focus on prosecuting those who prey on the elderly, and the results of today’s sweep make that clear.”
The operation targeted accused fraudsters in every federal district in the U.S., the Department of Justice said.
In many cases, seniors were fraudulently targeted in a tech support scheme “in which criminals trick victims into giving remote access to their computers under the guise of providing technical support.”
In a fact-sheet released by the Justice Department, it outlined case examples such as one where three men allegedly convinced victims to purchase fake drug discount cards.
They typically charged victims about $300 for the cards, and many victims were over the age of 55.
In another case, four men all under the age of 33 were accused of contacting elderly victims and “pretending to be a relative in distress who needed money in a foreign country,” a so-called “grandparents scheme.”
Other charges involved a fraudulent loan scheme, people asking for “insurance fees” in the hundreds or thousands of dollars to collect nonexistent sweepstakes prizes and posing as debt collectors.
In one particularly disturbing case, a certified caregiver, Rosemarie Delatorre, was accused of stealing the life savings of an 83-year-old woman she looked after. The woman took her own life when she learned she could no longer afford to continue to stay at the retirement home where she had been living.
“Fraud against the elderly is a massive problem, and one that is often perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations,” Barr said. “And due to the victims’ stage in life, the cost is especially high and the losses frequently catastrophic and irreversible.”
He vowed the Justice Department would “prosecute an all-out attack on these despicable crimes.”