Financial Exploitation

Financial fraud is one of the fastest growing forms of abuse targeting seniors and adults with disabilities. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, 1 in 20 older adults reports some form of financial mistreatment. However, it occurs much more frequently than it is reported. In fact, some studies estimate that only 1 in 44 cases of financial exploitation are reported to law enforcement officials.[1]

There are two broad categories of financial abuse. Financial exploitation is perpetrated by someone who is known to the individual, such as a family member, caregiver or other trusted person who uses their position of trust to gain access to the person’s financial resources. The second type of financial abuse relates to financial scams designed to take advantage of the elderly and adults with disabilities, such as home improvement and lottery schemes.

From CNN, November 6, 2015

Woman sentenced to life in prison for holding several individuals with disabilities captive

A Philadelphia woman held captive six adults and four children over a ten year period, from 2001 to 2011 for the purpose of stealing their Social Security and disability payments. She physically abused the captives by stabbing, burning, hitting and punching them when they tried to escape or objected to their treatment. Two people also died during this time. The woman pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including: forced human labor, involuntary servitude, multiple counts of murder in aid of racketeering and kidnapping resulting in the death of a victim.

From the Star Tribune, March 13, 2011

Unfit to be lawyer, yet a guardian for 200

Terri Ann Hauge’s career as a lawyer came to an abrupt end in 1995 when state officials suspended her license for mishandling cases and lying to her clients.

But that didn’t end Hauge’s work in the courthouse. In a professional comeback that raises questions about how the state oversees court-appointed caretakers, Hauge and her business partner went on to amass the state’s fourth-largest portfolio of work as guardians and conservators.

Though Hauge never sought reinstatement as a lawyer, she and her company, Estate Resources, were given control over the lives and finances of more than 200 vulnerable adults, despite complaints of neglect and mismanagement that go back as far as 2000, court records show.

Late last year, Hauge was charged with stealing $68,000 from 10 vulnerable adults in Rice County while ignoring their needs. One mentally ill man, investigators said, was living in squalor when he was rescued.

From the StarTribune, September 13, 2009

What happened to a vulnerable man’s money?

Everybody looks like a friend to Kevin Farley. From the people who come to the Eagan grocery store where he works, to shopkeepers and strangers on the street. If you’ve ever met Kevin, even in passing, he probably considers you a friend.

Unfortunately, that’s the problem.

Kevin is 49, but in some ways he has the mental capacity of a child or preteen. Kevin has high functioning autism, which means he can work and perform many daily tasks, but lacks the social skills that adults use to interact — and to protect themselves.

That vulnerability may have cost him a significant inheritance. According to a complaint detailed in a lawsuit filed in Texas, the people first designated to look after Kevin’s parents’ estate – Aaron and Katherine Rosenthal – are alleged to have spent most of the money put aside for his care.

From the StarTribune, September 28, 2008

They were preyed upon

Like a pair of teenage sweethearts, David Parkes and Kathy Sakry live in the moment. As social workers and county caseworkers assigned to help the vulnerable adults gather to talk about the foreclosure of the couple’s Hopkins townhouse, Parkes steps from the top of one coffee table to the next, landing cannonball-style on the couch next to Sakry.

She grins, but the talk quickly turns serious and she contorts her face to hold back the tears, her eyeglasses tilting.

Even as stories of people who can no longer afford their homes become depressingly familiar, the experience of Parkes and Sakry illustrates just how far some mortgage brokers and lenders were willing to go to cash in on the good times, and how few safeguards existed to protect consumers.

Parkes, 44, has an IQ of 56 and the math skills of a first-grader. Sakry is 43 and, like Parkes, faces challenges when it comes to planning and maintaining budgets. Despite their limitations, three different lenders persuaded them to keep refinancing their home until they burned up the equity in their house and could no longer afford the payments.