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May 29, 2012

'Silent Crime' - Defrauding Elders Grows in Ethnic Communities (USA)

 'Silent Crime' -- Defrauding Elders Grows in Ethnic Communities
Paul Kleyman
May 18, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO

The sentencing of Edwin Parada in San Francisco this past April for 24 counts of mortgage fraud against Spanish-speaking homeowners spotlighted the growing incidence of “affinity” crimes — those perpetrated by crooks against their own communities.

Parada — who promoted himself as a pastor — got 15 years for his mortgage schemes, which preyed on Latinos in San Francisco, including numerous elders, often with limited English proficiency.

Nationally, fraud against seniors is on the rise, according to the 2011 “MetLife Study of Financial Elder Abuse." In only three years such crimes grew by 12 percent, becoming a $2.9 billion problem.

While in half of the cases the perpetrators were strangers, one-third involved family members or friends. The MetLife study showed that most victims were women in their 80s and living alone.
San Francisco Resources In “Blueprint For Action”
San Francisco has been a major innovator in combating elder abuse since the early 1980s, said Erika P. Falk, director of Geriatric Assessment Services at San Francisco’s Institute on Aging.
For instance, one program has trained more than 500 frontline police officers to intervene in abuse cases in partnership with the nonprofit Casa de las Madres, which helps domestic-abuse victims.
In part officers learn to look for financial wrongdoing when investigating cases of elder physical or mental abuse, and they learn to spot signs of battering or poor care when looking into fraud.
San Francisco is also one of four California cities with a nationally emulated Forensic Center on Financial Elder Abuse. Because so many financial abuse cases fall through the cracks between law enforcement and social services, these centers coordinate efforts among local police, legal services attorneys, social workers, district attorneys, as well as health and mental health professionals able to assess a seniors vulnerability to scams.
Despite San Francisco’s laudable history of creating multidisciplinary units, such as today’s Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST), said Falk, “both the city and state are still failing to deal with financial abuse seriously.”
For example, she cited a 2011 survey by the Legal Aid Association of California showing that only half of victims in reported cases were offered nominal advice about financial elder abuse and a third received none at all. Of the Bay Area’s more than 50,000 lawyers, only 29 law firms list financial elder abuse as a specialty.
Falk teamed up with Sarah Hooper of the University of California’s Hasting Law School as part of the San Francisco Financial Elder Abuse Collaboration to produce a two-page “Blueprint for Action” outlining the need to increase the system’s capacity to respond to financial elder abuse cases.
The guide also includes an extensive list of San Francisco resources to deal with financial elder abuse and contacts for both professionals and members of the public.
Ethnic Elders More Vulnerable to Fraud

A 2011 report by the California Elder Justice Coalition (CEJC) found that African American seniors “may be up to five times more susceptible to being cheated financially” than non-blacks. The same study found, “Black and Latino seniors were more than 70 percent more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure between 2007 and 2009.”

For lead author and CEJC coordinator Lisa Nerenberg, the findings point to one troubling fact. “Elders of color,” she said, “have been especially hard hit by predatory lenders.”

Those in San Francisco concerned about financial abuse should call the consumer fraud program in the S.F. District Attorney’s Office, at 415-551-9595. For other resources, see the sidebar to this article.

 Abridged
SOURCE:           The New America Media
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