SPOKANE, Wash. – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today the seizure of $290,399.73 by the U.S. Secret Service in an alleged elder fraud scam.
The seizure arises from an alleged online scam which targeted an elderly couple residing in the Wenatchee area. The alleged perpetrator befriended the couple through “WhatsApp” and claimed to be a 35-year old traveling musician. Over the course of two years, the alleged perpetrator persuaded the couple to send more than $20,000. Then, in February 2023, the alleged perpetrator convinced the couple to do a “cash out refinance” of their residence. The alleged perpetrator told the couple the funds would be used to participate in a real estate investment, with a promise of big investment returns.
The alleged perpetrator was able to induce the couple to obtain the cash out refinance mortgage for their residence, transfer the funds to a title company, and attempted to have the funds sent to the alleged perpetrator’s bank account. However, when one of the victims went to a local Wenatchee title company to complete the transaction, the CEO of the title company became suspicious and contacted law enforcement. The U.S. Secret Service subsequently seized the entirety of the funds, $290,399.73, before the alleged perpetrator was able to access the account. The forfeited property will be returned to the victim through a process known as remission. No criminal charges have been filed at this time related to the seizure.
“Financial fraud schemes targeting the elderly are reprehensible. With our increasing use and dependency on technology, fraudsters have found new ways to target and scam unsuspecting Americans,” U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref said. “The public can be assured that our office is committed to investigating and prosecuting financial fraud scams, especially those that impact the elderly. We will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute those who engage in financial fraud, and to strengthen our communities by protecting our elderly and vulnerable citizens.”
“This case represents a significant result in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimization of the most vulnerable members of the U.S. public,” Greg Ligouri, Resident Agent in Charge of the Spokane Office of the U.S. Secret Service, said. “The U.S. Secret Service is proud to have contributed to this result and will be relentless in protecting American citizens from fraud.”
“I commend the members of the Wenatchee community who took it upon themselves to look out for the elderly and vulnerable and affirmatively reached out law enforcement to protect them from fraud,” U.S. Attorney Waldref said. “I also commend the stellar investigative work and quick intervention by the U.S. Secret Service.”
This case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, Spokane Resident Office, and Assistant United States Attorney Brian M. Donovan is prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
More information about the Department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage at https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. The Department of Justice provides information about a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which are available at https://www.ovc.gov.
The allegations set forth herein are merely allegations, and all potential defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.