Financial Elder Abuse Investigations
By Ann Flaherty
California PI #20102
The year was 1994 and I had just begun working for The Rat Dog Dick Detective Agency. The owner, Fay Faron, had been investigating, for the past year, an alleged murder-for-profit scheme involving several elderly men in San Francisco. The main suspects were all part of a Gypsy family. As word of this unusual type of crime spread through the media, our agency became inundated with cases of financial elder abuse. I was thrown into this an area of investigation, learning everything and anything I could about crimes being perpetrated against the elderly.
Late that year, I got a call from private conservator Jean Malbrough about a case of alleged financial elder abuse. I obtained the facts of the case which lead me on the trail of yet another Gypsy female who had befriended an elderly man. The victim was Jimmy Callahan, a trusting man in his 80’s, who had lost his beloved wife, several years prior. While waiting at the bus stop one day, a woman stepped on Jimmy’s foot and quickly apologized. She asked him out for coffee and immediately gained his trust and friendship. Jimmy was lonely, vulnerable, and isolated. A perfect victim.
Soon the woman told Jimmy that her daughter needed an operation and he jumped at the chance to help, handing over $5,000. Then came other requests; money needed for a beauty shop, her brother needed roofing equipment, her house needed redecorating. And the list went on.
Jimmy gave to his friend over $185,000 and he truly believed that he was helping her and her family. He helped them alright - he helped them take trips to Las Vegas, eat in fancy restaurants and buy expensive cars. These stories were all a deception, all intended to rid Jimmy of his money.
When Jimmy no longer had any more money to give, was near blind and unable to walk, his” friend” dropped him off at a hospital, never to see him again.
When I first met Jimmy I was struck at how blue his eyes were. More importantly, they evoked a trust and a gentleness that made me want to cry. This kind man gave all that he had to a woman, who he thought, loved him. The woman was never charged for her crimes and moved on to another elderly man. This one, she actually married.
In 1997, Fay Faron and I co-founded ElderAngels, Inc., a non profit organization that investigates financial crimes against the elderly. It is through my work at ElderAngels that I have come to know this very specialized arena of investigation. I now know the civil and criminal statues used to prosecute these abusers. I have come to know the psychological aspects of financial elder abuse and how to spot the warning signs. I know what Adult Protective Services is, what an Ombudsman does and how to prepare a case for criminal prosecution. What my training doesn’t tell me is how to stop these crimes from happening across the country. In case after case, the stores are similar, if not identical. Though the laws have changed to protect the elderly, they have not sufficiently stopped these predators from taking advantage of the elderly.
I now know that the only way to stop these crimes, is by educating the public. Letting people know what to do if they suspect abuse and asking them to watch out for their elderly friends and family. It is the responsibility of all of us to protect those who are the most vulnerable. No elderly person should suffer the same fate as Jimmy Callahan.
If you suspect abuse, make the call. You can call your county Adult Protective Services, your local police or sheriffs department, or ElderAngels. We need to put a stop to this type of crime. It starts with a simple phone call.