Seniors are being victimized in increasing numbers by scams perpetrated against them. The manner in which these crimes occur are varied but one thing is always the same: they target the vulnerable. At Cona Elder Law, we understand the devastating impact these crimes have, both financially and emotionally, as they exploit the trust and dependence that seniors often place in those around them. Our Senior Scam Practice Group was born from the need to seek justice on behalf of our senior community members.
The following is a brief case in point where Cona Elder Law attorneys successfully intervened and protected a senior’s home from being sold in a “catfish” scam.
Facts: In 2018, John Doe Sr, divorced, age 75, and living alone, began communicating via text with an individual claiming to be a woman who had obtained his contact information through a dating website. John Doe Sr began a romantic relationship with this woman over a two-year period of time and eventually wanted to marry her, even though they had never spoken to each other on the phone or met in person. An investigation involving the FBI, FDIC, and the U.S. Secret Service revealed that the person John Doe Sr had been communicating with for more than two years was not, in fact, a real woman but was actually a network of individuals conducting a “catfish” scam. In this type of scheme, an individual assumes a fake online persona to target an older, vulnerable man or woman whom the “catfish” scammer believes he or she may be able to financially exploit and then manipulates the person into giving them large sums of money or other assets based upon the promise of a romantic relationship. In the case of John Doe Sr, the scammer persuaded him that she needed money for legal fees to secure her entitlement to a substantial inheritance and that once she received the inheritance, they would get married, live together, and share the money.
Ultimately, John Doe Sr sent more than $800,000 to the scammers. He emptied his bank accounts, including funds he inherited from his own family, sold his car, leaving him with no mode of transportation, and took out a mortgage on his house. Despite being presented with evidence that he was the victim of a complex financial criminal enterprise, John Doe Sr refused to accept that the woman was not real and continued to funnel money to the scammers, leaving him without sufficient means to provide for his own needs. He was so devoted to the fraudulent relationship that he retained a real estate agent to sell his home, planning to transfer the proceeds to this woman and move in with her, most likely leaving him homeless.
The daughters of John Doe Sr, alarmed by their father’s financial exploitation and inability to let go of the delusion that he would marry this woman, contacted Cona Elder Law for assistance. Our attorneys promptly commenced an Article 81 proceeding for guardianship of the personal and property management needs of John Doe Sr. After a hearing before the Supreme Court, the Court determined that John Doe Sr suffered from a functional limitation in that he was unable to distinguish between reality and the lies communicated by the scammers, which impaired his ability to provide for his own needs. As such, the appointment of a guardian was appropriate and necessary to protect his remaining assets, including stopping the sale of his home and ensuring that no further monies were transferred to the scammers.
Result: Two daughters of John Doe Sr and an independent attorney were appointed as Co-Guardians of the Property Management and Personal Needs of John Doe Sr. John Doe Sr. continues to live in his home and has sufficient funds to provide for his care.
At Cona Elder Law, we are committed to aggressively pursuing the return of seniors’ property through the courts, ensuring that justice is served. Our seasoned litigators are uniquely qualified to assist seniors who have fallen prey to these scams. By harnessing our comprehensive knowledge and experience, we can effectively navigate the complexities of the legal system and fight for the justice that our clients and community members deserve. Together, we can create a safer environment for our older adults and send a powerful message that senior scams will not be tolerated.
Have you or a loved one fallen victim to a senior scam? With offices in Melville and Port Jefferson Station, Cona Elder Law is here to help you. Contact our Senior Scam Practice Group today by calling 631.390.5000 or sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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