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Stopping Senior rip-offs
The Department of Social Services, Police and the District Attorney are taking steps to prosecute people who exploit senior citizens.

July 16, 2007



Charlotte, NC – A collaboration of social workers, police fraud investigators, and the District Attorney's office is the support for a new effort that will use legal action to help senior citizens fight financial exploitation, and recover their money when possible.

Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services has on staff an associate county attorney who serves as an assistant district attorney to pursue public assistance fraud cases. With the new approach effective July 1, 2007, the attorney will work an additional five hours each week on cases of senior abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Supporters say a dedicated resource to review cases and determine their merit for criminal prosecution or civil remedies will increase the ability of the DA's office to pursue financial exploitation cases, and help recover assets. Reporting suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation against a senior is the law in North Carolina. In many cases, the vulnerable adult is victimized by a family member, trusted friend or caretaker, which makes them reluctant to pursue action.

"Spending the time and resources to set up a protocol for evaluating these cases and directing them appropriately for criminal or civil resolution will hopefully yield much better results in obtaining restitution for the victims,'' said Pam Baker, the attorney who will prosecute the cases. "Educating law enforcement and the courts to the problems in dealing with reluctant witnesses with fading memories will also help the effectiveness in dealing with this growing problem."

A look at 217 alleged cases of exploitation reported to the DSS Adult Protective Services Unit between July 2005 and February 2007 led to 59 substantiated cases of exploitation, according to Wayne Mullis, APS manager. Of those 59 cases:

- 45 could be assigned an estimated dollar figure
- Total loss was estimated at $1,602,045
- Individual estimated dollars ranged from $500,000 to $120 per victim.

The crime against the victim is apparent, but supporters say the taxpaying public should understand how financial exploitation impacts the cost of such federal programs as Medicaid which must absorb the cost of care when resources get depleted.

For more information, or to report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation, call 704-432-0059.


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