The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia celebrates 16th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
ATLANTA (STL.News) Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine joins the entire Department of Justice to observe the 16th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Department echoes voices around the world condemning elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
“One of the Department of Justice’s top priorities is investigating and prosecuting elder abuse, as well as helping to educate the public on these issues.” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “Financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse and is estimated to cost older adults up to $36?billion annually.”
Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. Elder abuse — an intentional or negligent act that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult — is a serious crime that affects at least 10 percent of older Americans every year. The Department of Justice is steadfastly committed to combatting all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enhancement actions; training and resources; research; victim services; and public awareness.
Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine is joining forces with the U.S. Postal Service, the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, and the American Bankers Association today to discuss financial fraud scams targeting the elderly and how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from falling victim.
As the world takes this day to honor our seniors, the Department of Justice remains committed — through its Department-wide Elder Justice Initiative — to preventing and prosecuting elder abuse.
Regarding prevention, our team routinely engages in community outreach to educate the public on current fraud scams, including by speaking at senior citizen centers, on the radio, and on television. In addition, our office regularly collaborates with our state and local law enforcement partners in the fight against elder abuse.
Our office also is one of seven around the country participating in the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, which focuses on investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities associated with foreign-based fraud schemes affecting American seniors. For example, this past year, our office prosecuted the following:
On April 29, 2021, in United States v. Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel and Chaitali Dave, the defendants were sentenced for laundering over $500,000 on behalf of India-based phone scammers. The India-based callers posed as federal agents so as to mislead victims into believing that their Social Security numbers were involved in crimes. The callers threatened to arrest the victim if they did not send money. The callers directed victims to mail cash to aliases used by other members of the fraud network, including Patel and Dave.
On March 15, 2021, in United States v. Louis Beria, the defendant was sentenced to prison for defrauding a company and its elderly owner. The victim was an elderly, German investor who hired Beria to manage an apartment complex that the victim owned in Atlanta. Beria himself owned a separate apartment complex in Atlanta. Beria hired a company to do construction work on the complex that he owned but used the victim’s money to pay for it and lied to the victim about what he did. In total, Beria stole $1,621,979 from the elderly man.
On February 3, 2021, in United States v. Karla Suzanne Spiker, the defendant was sentenced for her role in laundering money for an international telephone scam. Spiker worked with scammers in India, who sent out robocalls claiming to have an urgent message for the victim. When the victim — mostly elderly or otherwise vulnerable — returned the call, the scammers threatened or cajoled the victims into sending money. Specifically, the scammers told the victims that their Social Security number was used in a crime and that the victim would be arrested unless they paid money, or the scammers offered the victim a reduced mortgage if the victim first paid a fee. Once the victim agreed to make the payments, the scammers directed them to wire or send money to individuals in the United States — including Spiker — who worked for the India-based callers.
On November 17, 2020, in United States v. Guarav Gupta and E Sampark, the defendants were charged in a first-of-its-kind indictment. Gupta directed and operated E Sampark, a Voice Over IP (VoIP) company that pushed out tens of millions of scam calls from criminal India-based call centers to victims in the United States. Gupta and his company thus provided the technological infrastructure for the India-based scammers to get their fraud calls into the United States, and financially profited from doing so. The callers defrauded the victims by, for example, claiming to be government agents and stating that the victim owed money and would be arrested if they did not pay (either by wiring money or buying gift cards), and by claiming to be from a bank and that the victim was eligible for fictious loans, thus convincing them to provide their bank account information.
On the civil side, this office obtained an injunction under 18 U.S.C. § 1345, shuttering foreign scammers’ access to a server farm in Florida. The first-ever Section 1345 injunction in this District shut down the robocall scammers’ VoIP technology, halting their ability to forward fraudulent calls to U.S. residents. Additionally, this office continues to investigate nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities as part of the Department of Justice Nursing Home Initiative for potential violations of the False Claims Act.