AG targets physical, financial elder abuse
General Peg Lautenschlager today unveiled a comprehensive effort by the
state Justice Department to defend
said she will assign one assistant attorney general to focus full time on
"elder abuse in a general sense, particularly involving financial
crimes against the elderly."
work will include prosecuting consumer fraud, identity theft, forgery and
fraud committed by financial institutions and family members who have
powers of attorney, in addition to the agency's ongoing prosecution of
physical abuse of the elderly and health care fraud.
for the first time, the state will bring together law enforcement
officials, prosecutors, social workers and financial institutions to
establish an "anti-financial exploitation coordinating
committee" to provide training, coordinate responses and address
complicated cases on an ongoing basis.
said the Justice Department is also trying to build links with senior
advocacy groups, such as the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, the
Center for Public Representation and the state branch of the American
Association of Retired Persons.
added that her agency has decided to target crimes against the elderly
because they are one of the fastest growing areas of white-collar crime
and because the elderly are one of the fastest growing sectors of the
said she has made prosecuting crimes against the elderly one of her top
priorities since taking office in January.
really needed direction in the law enforcement arena and the prosecutorial
arena to lend some guidance as to what can be done about these
things," she said. "On the other hand, we've often dealt with
things in a piecemeal way in the past."
example, Lautenschlager said, identity theft is one of the state's fastest
growing crimes, and senior citizens are often the victims. The same is
also true for many consumer fraud cases, where the victims tend to be poor
or elderly or both, she said.
much of the Justice Department's focus has been on the
she added that part of the problem is getting older adults to come forward
with their concerns. "One of the issues out there is that older
adults tend to be very fearful about making their problems public,"
she said. "As a result, we have learned that whether it's physical
abuse or financial abuse, many times they never articulate the problems
they face because they're afraid of what will happen. So many of the
crimes go unreported."
said she believes those problems may be especially acute in smaller, more
tight-knit communities where there is a greater fear of embarrassment.