Fraud leads to elderly victims losing hundreds of thousands of dollars

A recent story from Peoria, Illinois is an egregious example of fraud perpetrated through the use of power of attorney documents. A former insurance agent pleaded guilty to four federal criminal counts in U.S. District Court in Peoria. Between February 2001 and July 2016, James Smith defrauded clients out of more than $310,000. Mr. Smith has plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud and one count each of wire fraud and money laundering. The Court will sentence him on July 20, 2017.

Mr. Smith targeted elderly individuals. He was arrested on June 23 after authorities learned that he wrote himself checks from a victim’s account totaling more than $36,000. He was serving under a power of attorney for the the victim who at the time was 80 years old. Additionally, Mr. Smith defrauded an elderly couple while acting as attorney under a power of attorney between December 2013 and October 2015.

The details of this story were made public. As a result, more victims came forward.

Federal charges carry lengthy penalties

Macon County prosecutors have turned the case over to federal authorities. Each count under the federal charges he is facing carries up to 20 years in federal prison. Three of the counts carry a penalty of up to $250,000. The money laundering charge carries a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the transactions, whichever is greater. Consequently, the money laundering charge carries a minimum penalty of $500,000.

It will be interesting to see the kind of sentence Mr. Smith receives. Unfortunately, this kind of predatory behavior toward vulnerable elderly individuals is not uncommon.

If you have an elderly family member who may have capacity issues, it is important to be involved in that person’s life. The elderly individual needs to be protected to avoid victimization at the hands of someone like Mr. Smith.

More on this story here.