Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul are leading a bipartisan coalition of 44 states in urging Congress to include Edith’s Bill in Coronavirus relief legislation. Their request would amend the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) to include victims of senior fraud as eligible for reimbursement by the Crime Victims Fund for states that provide compensation to victims.
In Washington, U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) are leading a group of senators to call on Senate leadership to include in the next relief package bipartisan legislation to protect seniors who have fallen victim to financial scams and ensure they can get paid back. Reports continue to show that American seniors are being targeted by COVID-19 scammers. U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Bob Casey (D-PA) also signed the letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“Scam artists know that seniors are especially at risk from COVID-19, and these criminals are despicably targeting our elderly who are isolated at home or separated from their families and support networks,” said AG Landry. “Our elected officials in Washington should recognize this public safety crisis and cast aside partisan politics to deliver for our seniors, especially during these perilous times.”
If signed into law, Edith’s Bill – or the Edith Shorougian Senior Victims of Fraud Compensation Act (S. 3487/H.R. 7620) – would amend VOCA so that penalties and fines from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements (including white collar criminal conduct against seniors) are deposited into the Crime Victims Fund.
In a letter to those Congressional leaders, the Landry-Kaul coalition note: across all states, there has been a surge in COVID-19 scams targeting vulnerable seniors. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has warned that fraudsters “are offering COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information.” This is unfortunately just one of many COVID-19 scams targeting seniors.
“Scammers view the pandemic as an opportunity to exploit anxiety over this public health crisis and particularly target seniors who are physically separated from their support networks. We need to protect seniors who are especially vulnerable to fraud and abuse by bad actors, and protect the retirement savings they worked so hard over a lifetime to build,” wrote the senators in their letter.
“It is unconscionable that bad actors actively seek to defraud seniors who have contributed so much to our country. Robbing them of their life savings during their golden years is a tragedy and one that has taken on greater urgency as scammers seek to profit off the headlines and anxiety produced by this pandemic. We urge you to include S. 3487/H.R. 7620, the Edith Shorougian Senior Victims of Fraud Compensation Act, in the next COVID-19 relief package and thank you for your continued leadership and support on this issue,” the senators continued.
First introduced in March, the Edith Shorougian Senior Victims of Fraud Compensation Act is named for a Wisconsin constituent who was scammed out of more than $80,000 by her longtime financial adviser, and fears she will never get back all the money that was stolen from her.
The full letter to Senate leadership is available here
Joining Attorneys General Landry and Kaul in their letter are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.