- By Denise G. Callahan Staff Writer
Police officers don’t always have time to dive into financial records and unearth proof of elder abuse, so Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser’s staff is helping to catch some scammers.
Senior citizens are bilked out of about $36.5 billion each year because of scams, according to the National Council on Aging. Susan Monnin, outreach director for Gmoser’s office, recently took on the tedious task of pouring over one grandmother’s books to try to find proof that her granddaughter had been stealing.
Hamilton Detective Shawn Fryman initially investigated the case but saw difficulties ahead .
“When I left her home I felt this case would be impossible to prove,” Fryman wrote in a letter to the prosecutor’s office. “(The victim) did not have statements from the banks or credit card companies, her memory of the events were not clear and the acts she described had taken place months before.”
Monnin found the statements, and Gmoser’s office was able to directly tie $2,367 worth of fraudulent credit card and check purchases, from July through October, to the granddaughter. The proof was enough to convince a grand jury to indict the woman on a fourth-degree felony.
Monnin said she met with the 80-year-old victim on three or four occasions and discovered there were checks missing from the middle of the checkbook. Transactions made at Meijer — the grandmother never shops there — Fingerhut and PayPal, among others, also raised red flags.
“The problem (that) comes into play — and this is where I can help — is the detectives are just bombarded with cases that, even though this is a serious case, I guess, in comparison, killing and drug dealing are by far worse,” she said. “But this really is as serious in my opinion.”
Fryman said the spreadsheet Monnin created outlining the illegal transactions was instrumental in securing the indictment.
“It was apparent she had spent many hours working with the victim, collecting financial statements and documenting the illegal transactions,” he wrote. “The spreadsheets she produced made a difficult case that went in many directions very simple to understand … Her efforts are very much appreciated.”
Gmoser created an elder abuse task force in 2011, not just for seniors who are taken advantage of by family members, but for other scams as well.
“The task force was designed because traditionally cases were just too involved, too complicated and too time-consuming for police officers who were normally chasing people on foot and going after the bad guys and car jackings and things like that,” Gmoser said. “They just didn’t have the time and resources to devote to these elderly folks that were being scammed by these crummy criminals. This is a perfect example of how this program works.”
Gloria Sigman, the assistant prosecutor who handles crimes against elderly cases, said she has prosecuted 170 cases over the past five years. Courts have ordered more than $1 million in restitution to the victims.
There is a section on Gmoser’s website that discusses popular scams and offers a hotline number which is 1-888-662-3673. The website is: http://www.butlercountyprosecutor.org/scamAlerts.cfm