200 people criminally charged in nationwide elder fraud sweep; 4 prosecuted in Michigan

Dearborn Heights man among defendants rounded up in elder fraud sweep

A sweep of elder fraud cases resulted in 200 people being charged criminally. (WDIV)
A sweep of elder fraud cases resulted in 200 people being charged criminally. (WDIV)

WASHINGTON – Federal officials criminally charged 200 people in connection with the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.

The cases involve more than 250 defendants from around the world who are accused of victimizing more than a million Americans, most of whom were elderly, Sessions said.

Criminal, civil and forfeiture actions across more than 50 federal districts were included among the cases.

Of the defendants, 200 were charged criminally, Sessions said. In each case, offenders are accused in financial schemes that targeted or affected seniors.

In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused losses of more than $500 million, officials said.

"The Justice Department and its partners are taking unprecedented, coordinated action to protect elderly Americans from financial threats, both foreign and domestic," Sessions said. "Today’s actions send a clear message: we will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are. When criminals steal the hard-earned life savings of older Americans, we will respond with all the tools at the Department’s disposal -- criminal prosecutions to punish offenders, civil injunctions to shut the schemes down, and asset forfeiture to take back ill-gotten gains. Today is only the beginning. I have directed Department prosecutors to coordinate with both domestic law enforcement partners and foreign counterparts to stop these criminals from exploiting our seniors."

The defendants are accused in a variety of fraud schemes, including mass mailing, telemarketing and investment frauds to individual incidences of identity theft and theft by guardians. A number of cases involved transnational criminal organizations that defrauded hundreds of thousands of elderly victims, while others involved a single relative or fiduciary who took advantage of an individual victim.

The schemes charged in these cases caused losses to more than a million victims.

"We are arming our senior citizens with the knowledge to detect fraud and giving them the resources to report it," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said. "Protecting our seniors from thieves who steal their hard-earned savings requires a coordinated effort, and I applaud the law enforcement agencies and elder services agencies for their dedicated work on these cases."

4 people to be prosecuted in Michigan

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan is prosecuting four people for federal crimes arising from elder fraud.

In one case, David Pickelman, 46, a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma, defrauded two elderly investors out of over $300,000. Pickelman persuaded them to help him finance a lawsuit against his former employer, but there was no such lawsuit, and the company he represented to be his former employer did not exist, officials said.

Pickelman was indicted in June 2017 and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in October 2017. He is awaiting sentencing by U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington.

In a second case, a federal grand jury indicted three people earlier this month for conspiring to commit mail fraud.

Two of the defendants, Assaad El-Atat, 19, and Raphael Paquette, 20, are Canadian citizens. The third defendant is Khaled Hassan, 32, of Dearborn Heights.

The indictment alleges that they agreed with each other and others to make phone calls to several people, intending to defraud them. The caller would identify himself as a police officer or attorney and would say that a relative of the person called had been arrested and needed bail money, officials said.

The indictment alleges that the victims, who were elderly, sent money to the defendants, but no relative of any of the victims had been arrested or needed bail money.

On Jan. 18, El-Atat and Paquette were arrested in Burton, Michigan. Agents searched their car and found $39,800 U.S. currency in the glove box and a ledger showing dates and amounts totaling over $200,000.

About the Author: