Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston announced this week that the Southeast Texas-based office is joining the Justice Department’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force as one of 14 additional U.S. Attorney’s Offices. The expansion will increase the total number of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices comprising the Strike Force from six to 20, including all of the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the states of California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland and New York.

Current Strike Force members include the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations. Together since 2019, the group has launched cases against “the largest and most harmful global elder fraud schemes and worked with foreign law enforcement to disrupt criminal enterprises, disable their infrastructure and bring perpetrators to justice,” Featherston’s office explained.

The Strike Force expansion will further enhance existing efforts to protect older adults from fraud and exploitation. During the period from September 2021 to September 2022, department personnel and its law enforcement partners reportedly pursued approximately 260 cases involving more than 600 defendants, charged with a range of senior-targeted frauds from mass-marketing scams that impacted thousands of victims to bad actors scamming their neighbors. Highlighted efforts in Southeast Texas include a bevy of alleged criminals charged in September 2021 with facilitating a range of schemes, including romance scams. Grandparent scams, utility bill scams, all manner of confidence schemes, Featherston supported, are disproportionately executed on the most senior citizens of the area.

“To this day, the greatest generation remains the backbone for supporting truth and justice and the American way – knowing better than most what exceptional sacrifices ordinary Americans made to keep our country free,” Featherston said. “Unfortunately, those amazing senior citizens now face a target on their own back from cowardly swindlers who attempt to take advantage of them.

“It’s our turn to give back by helping prevent crimes committed by thieves who lurk at the end of a phone or computer screen. All of us should make it a priority to prevent our seniors from falling prey to these criminals and know that anyone who harms our greatest generation will be hunted down and prosecuted, for that you have our commitment.”

As part of its elder fraud prevention efforts, Featherston’s office is engaging in community awareness campaigns to educate the population about scams and exploitation, and participates in events to provide educational programming to seniors, such as a recent presentation at a Beaumont church. Groups or organizations interested in securing a speaker for their event should contact Assistant U.S. Attorney Camelia Lopez at (972) 509-1201.

Reporting from consumers about fraud and fraud attempts is critical to law enforcements efforts to investigate and prosecute schemes targeting older adults, Featherston’s office adds. Anyone age 60 or older that has been a victim of financial fraud is able to seek assistance through the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833 FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information about the Justice Department’s elder justice efforts, visit www.elderjustice.gov.

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