Rachelle Aud Crowe

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS – U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe joined local, state and federal leaders Friday in recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day slated for June 15.

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“On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we recognize the importance of protecting our seniors from fraudsters and others who attempt to prey upon them,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe. “In the southern Illinois, we fully support the Justice Department’s Elder Justice Initiative, both by prioritizing the prosecution of criminals who victimize senior citizens and by providing training to seniors to help them avoid being victimized by the multitude of schemes aimed at defrauding them.”

As part of the Elder Justice Initiative, a federal grand jury in southern Illinois returned an indictment earlier this month charging Ligneshkumar H. Patel, 37, of Des Plaines, Illinois, with serving as a money mule for a criminal conspiracy that swindled more than $148,000 from an elderly Edwardsville woman.

According to court documents, unidentified members of the conspiracy falsely posed as law enforcement officials and convinced the victim that her identity had been stolen. Then, telling the woman that she was in jeopardy of losing all of her money, the fraudsters convinced her to purchase gold and hand over to a “federal agent” to be kept safe. According to the indictment, Patel was the “federal agent” who showed up at the victim’s Edwardsville home and took the gold from her.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen several cases where seniors in southern Illinois have been victimized in these imposter scams,” said U.S. Attorney Crowe. “These scams are particularly vicious, because the perpetrators attempt to take the senior’s entire life savings. If you have loved ones who are elderly, please warn them about these scams, so that they don’t end up becoming victims.”

The Department’s Money Mule Initiative helps to identify schemes involving money couriers to disrupt criminal organizations. By exploiting the vulnerability of their targets, scammers recruit people to move money in furtherance of the fraud scheme.

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“HSI special agents are proud to work closely with our law enforcement partners to target and arrest individuals who prey on the elderly,” said HSI Chicago Special Agent in Charge Sean Fitzgerald. “While the charges cannot undo the pain and financial loss inflicted upon the victim, it is my hope that the perpetrator being held accountable for this horrific crime will aid in the journey of processing what has transpired.”

Elder abuse is specifically defined as an act that knowingly, intentionally, or negligently causes or creates a serious risk of harm to an older person by a family member, caregiver, or other person in a trusted position.

In another recent elder abuse case filed in the Southern District of Illinois, a federal grand jury charged former certified nursing assistant Markeisha A. Hill, 35, of Granite City, with allegedly using her elderly patients’ credit card and bank account information to make personal purchases without their consent. The indictment alleges that Hill committed these crimes while working at nursing homes located in Edwardsville and Glen Carbon.

An indictment is merely a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.

As part of the Department’s Elder Justice Initiative, earlier this week the chief federal prosecutor of the Fraud and Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois presented a program entitled “Protect Yourself Against Fraud” at a senior community center in Edwardsville. The program is designed to educate seniors about the types of fraud scams that target them and how they can avoid becoming victims. An upcoming presentation is scheduled for June 21 at Senior Services Plus in Alton. To schedule a presentation, contact Lauren Barry by emailing Lauren.Barry@usdoj.gov.

To report elder fraud, contact the dedicated National Elder Fraud Hotline by calling 1-833-372-8311 or filing a cyber crime complaint via the FBI’s IC3 Elder Fraud Complaint Center.

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