A New York City Defense Lawyer Explains Elder Fraud Crimes
In New York City, harsh penalties may be imposed upon defendants who commit a crime against a victim who is conisdered a “vulnerable elderly person.” According to New York Penal Code 260.31, a vulnerable elderly person is someone aged 60 or older who has an infirmity or a disease associated with age and who has physical, mental, or emotional disfunction as a result. When a person participates in a scheme to defraud more than one vulnerable elderly person, he can be charged with a scheme to defraud in the first degree under New York Penal Law Section 190.65.
This is just one of many elder abuse laws that can result in a defendant facing harsh penalties because a senior claims to have been victimized by a crime. There are special agencies specifically designed to protect seniors and when seniors claim to be victimized by fraud, financial abuse, or other offenses, there is usually a comprehensive investigation into wrongdoing to try to identify those who committed the alleged crimes.
Because authorities take elder fraud so seriously and penalties are so harsh, you need to ensure you react assertively and strategically if you have been accused of elder abuse fraud of any type. Bukh Law Firm, PLLC is a NY criminal defense firm that has experience helping people accused of violating elder abuse laws. We will work hard to make sure you see no consequences or limited penalties when faced with fraud allegations and we have the experience to help you to decide on the best approach to take to fight charges. Give us a call as soon as you can if you come under investigation, are accused of elder fraud, or are indicted for federal or state offenses.
What is Elder Abuse Fraud?
Elder fraud can take many different forms including:
- Medicare/ health insurance fraud: Seniors could be charged for services they don’t need, could be double-billed, or could be otherwise victimized by or drawn into a Medicare fraud scheme.
- Counterfeit prescription drug scams: Seniors are sold or otherwise provided with fake prescription drugs that do not provide the promised health benefits.
- Funeral and cemetery scams: This scam involves watching the obituaries and identifying a person who has died. The deceased’s widow or widower is contacted and told that the deceased had outstanding debt which needs to be paid. The goal is to get money from grieving relatives. Funeral and cemetery scams can also involve selling funeral services or a cemetery plot for much more than it is actually worth.
- Fraudulent anti-aging products. Seniors are promised that drug therapy, hormone therapy, skin or face creams, or a variety of other products will fight the aging process even though the products do not work and many are unsafe.
- Telemarketing fraud. Seniors are targeted with different types of scams over the phone, with the goal of convincing them to send money or to provide financial and personal information that can be used to obtain money or commit identity theft offenses.
- Internet fraud. Seniors are targeted with fake website, phishing emails, fake advertisements, or fake Internet profiles. The goal is to obtain money, obtain personal information, and sometimes get seniors to put malware or viruses onto their computers.
- Investment schemes. Seniors are sold bad investments or convinced to participate in a Ponzi scheme or pyramid scheme.
- Homeowner or reverse mortgage scams. Seniors are tricked into taking out second mortgages or reverse mortgages on their homes under false pretenses. In some cases, foreclosed houses are bought and then sold to seniors who take out reverse mortgages, the proceeds of which are stolen.
- Sweepstakes and lottery scams: Seniors are told they have won a sweepstakes or lottery. They may be sent a fraudulent check and told to cash it but to send part of the money along, or may be told they have to wire money in order to claim their prize.
- Grandparent scams. Seniors are called by someone claiming to be a grandchild in trouble and asking for money. The goal is to get seniors to wire funds and/or to provide financial information.
- Sweetheart scams: Lonely elders are targeted by people who claim to want to make romantic connections, but the goal is actually to get the senior to wire money over.
- Excess fee charging: Seniors are charged excessive amounts of money for various simple household tasks or other services provided.
- Undue influence or fraud. Seniors are targeted and convinced to give away assets or sell them inexpensively. These scams can focus on getting seniors to make financial gifts while the seniors are alive or can be focused on getting seniors to change their will.
- Pigeon drop scams . This involves approaching an elderly person claiming to have found a large amount of cash. A fake phone call is made to a “lawyer” who says that the found money can be shared after a period but that the finders will have to put some good faith money into the pot in order to show all involved are acting above board. The goal is to get the senior to put money into the bag with the “found” money and then to leave with the money to “give it to the lawyer.” Of course, there is no found money.
These and other scams are intended to try to obtain money from seniors or to get seniors to provide information that can subsequently be used in identity theft crimes.
Penalties for Elder Fraud
Defendants who are accused of involvement with elder fraud scams can face a variety of consequences if law enforcement becomes involved. Defendants could be charged with state fraud and theft crimes, including attempted fraud, insurance fraud, and larceny offenses. Defendants may face more serious penalties if the scams that they were involved in were found to target vulnerable seniors, because the law provides seniors with special protections for this type of victim. Prison time is a real possibility for conviction, especially if there were multiple seniors who were defrauded as part of the scheme or if there were substantial amounts of money obtained from one or more seniors due to the fraud.
Defendants frequently find themselves facing charges not on the state level, but on the federal level. This is because federal authorities can become involved in prosecuting those who are part of large-scale fraud schemes or fraud rings, especially those that operate across state lines or that target large volumes of seniors. The federal government imposes very strict penalties for fraud, including up to 30 years imprisonment for mail or wire fraud under certain circumstances. Defendants do not get to have a choice regarding whether it is a state or federal prosecutor who comes after them and who presses charges for involvement in elder abuse fraud.
When convicted of fraud, jail time is not the only consequence either. Defendants can be forced to repay the money that they obtained in the fraud scheme and to make restitution to victims. Probation, fines and court costs, and community service may also be additional penalties that are imposed.
It is sometimes possible to reduce the penalties by negotiating a plea agreement wherein a prosecutor will recommend leniency or will even allow defendants to plead to lesser charges. Prosecutors may prefer a plea agreement rather than taking the chance of a court case, and defendants can benefit if this reduces the threat of a long jail sentence. However, before agreeing to a plea deal, it is best to speak with a NYC fraud lawyer who can evaluate the evidence and the possibility of avoiding conviction and who can deal with authorities on your behalf to negotiate the best possible plea agreement.
How Can a New York City Elder Fraud Lawyer Help Defendants
Because seniors are considered vulnerable, defendants who are accused of violating elder abuse laws through financial fraud scams can expect to face an uphill battle in many situations if they want to go to court to fight conviction. Still, there are ways to avoid being found guilty for many who are accused of involvement in an elder abuse scam. All you have to do to prevent a jury from convicting is to make the jury doubt the prosecutor’s case. Defendants don’t have to prove innocence, so introducing reasonable doubt is good enough to keep you out of prison.
Bukh Law Firm, PLLC has extensive experience helping people accused of violating elder abuse laws. We will explore all of the facts and circumstances of your case and we will advise you on whether the best outcome is likely to result from negotiating a plea deal or from fighting charges. If you opt to try for a deal, we will negotiate vigorously to try to get the charges reduced or to get a prosecutor to agree to recommend leniency. You could even get an immunity deal in some cases if there were co-conspirators and you are willing to testify against them.
We will also be there if you want to go to court and will help to put on the strongest defense possible. We care about keeping you out of prison and helping you to keep your money and reputation, so we will work hard to advocate for you and fight for you at every trial phase of your case. Give us a call now to learn more.