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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 tackled issues ranging from mass marketing scams that affected thousands of victims to bad actors scamming their neighbors. Substantial efforts were also 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 Strike Force to amplify efforts to combat scams originating overseas.

“We’re ramping up our efforts across the country to protect seniors, including more than tripling the number of U.S. attorneys’ offices participating in our Transnational Elderly Strike Force dedicated to disrupting, dismantling and prosecuting foreign-based fraud schemes targeting senior Americans.” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “This expansion builds on the Department of Justice’s ongoing work to hold accountable those who steal funds from seniors, including returning those funds to victims whenever possible.”

“Crimes targeting older Americans are among the most deplorable. We take very seriously any report that South Dakotans have been targeted. These crimes take many forms, often through scams mass marketing, lottery schemes or other false claims designed to gain access to financial accounts,” said South Dakota United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell. “Our office, along with our partner investigative agencies, is committed to finding these criminals and bringing them to justice.”

During the past year, Department staff and their law enforcement partners prosecuted approximately 260 cases involving more than 600 defendants across the country, both bringing new cases and advancing those previously charged.

In the past year, the US Attorney’s Office for South Dakota has prosecuted and civilly prosecuted several 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 robbed victims of their life savings, retirement income and other funds. They lied to their victims with claims that they were investing funds that were supposed 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 to nearly 22 years in federal prison. They were also ordered to pay approximately $11 million in restitution.

In another case, the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Dakota prosecuted Robert “Larry” Lytle and two co-conspirators for marketing and selling fraudulent medical devices, often to elderly Americans, falsely promising that they were cures for virtually all the diseases 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 compensation to hundreds of victims. These prison sentences were handed down in 2018, and the United States Attorney’s Office for South Dakota has continued to vigorously pursue collection efforts. In recent months, $1,222,075 was received from several members of Lytle’s family after litigation began targeting assets that Lytle transferred to his family or business entities. To date, $2,305,893.52 has been recovered to pay victims.

As part of the elder fraud efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for South Dakota, she engages in community and industry outreach to raise awareness of scams and exploitation and prevent victimization.

Nationally, the Department has highlighted three other efforts: the expansion of the Transnational Elder Fraud Task Force, success in returning money to victims, and efforts to combat grandparent scams. As part of the Department’s continued efforts to protect the elderly and bring perpetrators of fraud schemes to justice, the Department is expanding the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force by adding 14 new U.S. Attorney’s offices in 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 affect older adults.

Last year, the Department notified more than 550,000 people who might be eligible for remission payments. Notifications were made to consumers whose information was sold by one of three data companies processed by the Department and who then became victims of “sweepstakes” or “astrology” solicitations that falsely promised prizes or individualized services in exchange for a fee. More than 150,000 of those victims cashed checks totaling $52 million, and thousands more are eligible to receive checks. Consumers who paid scammers who perpetrated needy scams and job scams through Western Union have also been notified. In the past year, the Department has identified and contacted more than 300,000 consumers who may be eligible for referral. As of March 2020, more than 148,000 victims have received more than $366 million as a result of a 2017 criminal settlement with Western Union for the company’s willful failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. capitals and their collaboration in electronic fraud.

Over the past year, the Department initiated cases against the perpetrators of “grandparent scams,” also known as “needy scams.” These scams usually begin when a scammer, often based overseas, contacts an older adult and poses as a grandchild, another family member, or someone calling on behalf of a family member. family Call recipients are told that their relative is in danger and urgently needs money. When he recently sentenced one of eight grandparent scam perpetrators charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal judge described the scams as “heartbreakingly evil.” The Department is working with government partners and others to raise awareness of these schemes.

Consumer reporting of fraud and attempted fraud is critical to law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute schemes targeting senior citizens. If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been the victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Senior Helpline: 1-833 FRAUD-11 (1-833-372 -8311). This Department of Justice hotline, managed 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 inform or connect them with agencies, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis. The hotline is available seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 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’s elder justice website, www.elderjustice.gov.

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