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Investigating financial crimes against vulnerable adults

Family members, friends and caregivers often prey on defenseless adults. Here’s a “starter kit” to aid CFEs on how to gather and analyze financial, medical and real estate records; present cases to prosecuting authorities; and conduct successful interviews.

When the family of Reginald Lucraft placed him in the care of Myles Roberts, they couldn’t have imagined they’d have to spend three years after his death fighting for his assets. But after battling banks to understand how fraud was committed against Lucraft, they got their answer. Roberts admitted to defrauding Lucraft between 2004 and 2014.

According to The Telegraph article, ‘We placed our trust in a carer – but he stole more than £100,000’ on April 25 by Amelia Murray, Roberts withdrew large sums from Lucraft’s accounts and sold shares on the pretext that he’d gone into a care home. He also borrowed 82,500 pounds in Lucraft’s name secured against his London home and falsely claimed to be Lucracft’s next of kin, his son or his grandson. In January, Roberts was sentenced to 32 months in prison.

According to The Telegraph article, Charity Action on Elder Abuse estimates approximately 120,000 cases of elderly people are financially abused in England each year, mainly by family members, friends and caregivers.

CFEs — whether licensed law enforcement professionals or investigators for prosecuting authorities — face special challenges when investigating financial crimes against vulnerable adults (VAs).

A victim’s vulnerability is usually caused by physical and/or cognitive impairments that render the VA less able, or totally unable, to live independently. Should a VA fall prey to a financial fraudster, they also might be less able or unable to assist in the investigation of these crimes. In fact, unlike most business-fraud victims, the VA might be less willing to assist in the investigation because they’re ashamed, embarrassed or deny they were victimized. Nevertheless, it’s important to discover evidence on alleged predatory fraudsters who target VAs, and CFEs can substantially help.

A thief can steal everything a VA owns. However, I’ll focus here primarily on the theft of money and property found in bank, investment and/or retirement accounts; life insurance policies; Social Security payments; and real estate titles. A financial predator can also use a VA’s stolen personally identifiable information to open their financial accounts.

My goal here is to provide a “starter kit” for CFEs investigating financial crimes against VAs — but especially for those CFEs who are new to this field of prosecution. The information here is general in nature, given that each jurisdiction has its own laws that govern financial crimes against VAs. I don’t intend to give legal advice or offer legal opinions.

I discuss initial reporting of the crime, initial planning of the fraud examination, interviewing the relevant parties, and obtaining and analyzing documents to build the case for prosecution submission.

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