Monday, May 23, 2016

Elder financial exploitation is now a crime in N.H.

GORHAM — Two amendments to the state’s criminal code that went into effect in 2015 mean that those who financially exploit elderly, disabled or impaired adults in amounts over $1,000 can be charged with felony crimes that call for jail time and restitution, explained Berlin native Susan Keough Staples to an outreach session at Gorham Town Hall Tuesday.

Staples, who serves as coordinator for the Coalition Against Later Life Abuse (CALLA), told 40 social service professionals, bankers, police officers, attorneys and senior citizen advocates on hand that certain crimes — taking or using an elder’s assets for one’s own benefit or using undue influence, force or coercion to take control of an elder’s personal property — are on the upswing in what is now a “graying” Granite State.

Victims of these crimes — often misled by younger members of their own family or by trusted caregivers — are left with greatly reduced assets or even destitution, sometimes resulting in shortened lives and even suicide because of the emotional impact.

When she signed the legislation into law in 2014, Gov. Maggie Hassan said, “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation takes an important step toward confronting abuse of vulnerable victims by strengthening protection against financial exploitation for elderly, disabled and impaired adults,” that she noted is one of society’s most important responsibilities.

The amendments give law enforcement — both state and local —concurrent jurisdiction with Adult Protective Services (APS) of the state Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services (1-800-949-0470).

The state Attorney General’s Office was recently given the green light to accept a grant to reinstate an Elder Abuse Unit under its Consumer Protection & Antitrust Bureau.

“We’ll be looking to hire both a full-time lawyer and victim advocate,” said James Boffetti, a senior assistant attorney general, in a phone interview. “The AG’s Office will seek to play a leadership role, assisting local law enforcement and helping county attorneys prosecute serious cases of exploitation, abuse, and neglect.”

Combating Elder Financial Exploitation will require a multi-disciplinary approach, involving law enforcement, prosecution, legal services, financial services and community supports, Staples said.

“We’re looking to create public awareness and to provide training to those who regularly come in contact with the elderly, ranging from hairdressers and barbers to social service professionals. These crimes are a community problem that affects everyone, not only because they have a devastating impact on victims and their families but also because they have a serious impact on communities, often requiring elders to become reliant on community services.”

Staples continued, “Exploitation by trusted others can include forging an older person’s signature, stealing money or valuables, cashing checks or using debit and-or credit cards, threatening or coercing elders to sign documents, and borrowing money and then not paying it back.

“Common tactics that exploiters use include inducing shame and fostering secrecy and isolation, and-or abusing their roles as someone given a power of attorney (POA),” she said. “Victims — often widows — are usually reluctant to complain or are in a dazed state of disbelief. Although exploitation can happen very fast, the general public is unaware that crimes against the state’s vulnerable elderly are increasing.”

Staples said that CALLA is now trying to develop a statewide blueprint for action to combat elder financial exploitation; and she called for communication, cooperation, and collaboration from all sectors.

“Our message to elders must be: ‘we respect and honor you; we commit to seeking justice for you; we will prosecute with passion, purpose and perseverance.’” Staples said.

An earlier statewide summit that drew 140 people was held on April 20 in Concord. Five regional sessions were then scheduled, the first in the North Country.

Among those on hand were: chairman Mark Frank of the governor-appointed State Committee On Aging (SCOA); Energy, Elders & Outreach Services Division Director Andrea Gagne of TCCAP;
Anthony Rodriques of NHHS, manager Paul Robitaille of ServiceLink; paralegal Dona Larsen of N. H. Legal Assistance; Melissa Fales, one of five Grafton County assistant county attorneys; risk management specialist Yolanda Kelley of Northway Bank; supervisor Rhonda Holmes of Adult Protective Services; and three Gorham police officers: Sgt. Mark Santos, Mike Turgeon, and Rich McClure.

Full Article & Source:
Elder financial exploitation is now a crime in N.H.

1 comment:

StandUp said...

It's a crime in every state already but it's also important to have tougher laws when dealing with the vulnerable. Good going NH.