On October 18, 2017, the President signed into law the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act. Its purpose is to increase the federal government’s focus on preventing elder abuse and exploitation by sending a stern message to the public that the federal government is creating a multipronged approach for protecting older adults by punishing perpetrators who exploit, abuse, and harm vulnerable seniors. Generally, this new law requires the following ten actions:
- The Attorney General must designate at least one Assistant United States Attorney to serve as an Elder Justice Coordinator in every federal judicial district so that there are additional resources to assist with the federal prosecution of elder abuse cases;
- The Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission must designate an Elder Justice Coordinator to serve the Bureau of Consumer Protection and expand efforts to provide the elderly with consumer protection;
- The Department of Justice must publicize data regarding its elder abuse cases and investigations;
- The Department of Health and Human Services must release data about cases investigated by adult protective services;
- The Director of the Office for Victims of Crime must provide Congress with statistics regarding elderly victims of crime;
- Penalties are enhanced for convictions of interstate fraud where:
- the victim is elderly,
- the fraud was committed by marketing via telephone, email, text message, or electronic instant message, and
- the fraud involves actions that induce investment for financial profit, participation in a business opportunity, commitment to a loan, or participation in a medical study.
- The property acquired through such fraud and the property used to perpetrate such fraud must be forfeited;
- Interstate agreements that encourage the safety and well-being of elders may be formed amongst the adult protective service programs in two or more states;
- The Comptroller General of the United States must provide Congress with recommendations as to how elder abuse can be prevented; and
- The Attorney General must publish model legislation addressing guardianship proceedings and powers of attorney where the purpose of such model legislation is to prevent elder abuse.
While this new law is not precise on how exactly the penalties for elder abuse are enhanced, it nevertheless makes clear that there is now a mandatory forfeiture of the assets obtained by telemarketing fraud and the assets used to perpetrate that fraud. It is an innovative law because it criminalizes the new ways that seniors are defrauded with modern technology. The takeaway from the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act is that the federal government is heightening its response to this nationwide problem and prioritizing ways to fix it.
Here are additional materials for those interested in learning more about this legislation:
- The full text of this new law: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/178/text
- The Congressional Research Services’ detailed summary of this new law: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/178
- The Congressional Budget Office’s $21 million cost estimate for this new law: https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/costestimate/s178.pdf
- The White House’s Press Release regarding this new law: https://www.whitehouse.gov/