For Immediate Release:
May 19, 2006
Oklahoma's elderly and disabled are one step closer to receiving protection from financial scams and solicitations after the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1793 Friday. The measure, by Senator Ron Justice, makes it a felony to knowingly, through deception or intimidation, obtain or use the funds, assets or property of those 62 years of age or older as well as disabled individuals.
"This is a growing problem in our society. There are those who look for the easy way out financially and do it by preying on our most vulnerable citizens," said Justice, R-Chickasha. "The state's district attorneys' hands have been tied because our laws simply aren't strong enough to prosecute these people and that's what we're trying to address."
SB 1793 was a request bill from the Oklahoma State Silver-Haired Legislature. It is supported by the Oklahoma County District Attorney's office and the State Attorney General's Medicare Fraud Division.
According to Rebekah McGowan, Programs Manager for the Community Adult Protective Services Program of the Department of Human Services, financial exploitation is growing at an alarming speed in Oklahoma.
"Financial exploitation is the second leading category of abuse investigation involving a perpetrator, making up around thirteen percent of all abuse investigations," said McGowan. "In Fiscal Year 2005, there were 2,100 investigations of financial exploitation statewide in the last nine months there have already been nearly 1,900 investigations. It's a growing problem and sadly very few of these cases get prosecuted and we're confident this legislation will change that."
Under provisions of the legislation, scammers using solicitation by mail, email, phone or door-to-door can be prosecuted. If a person is cheated out of more than $100,000 in funds, assets or property, the violator could face up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. For those scams involving $20,000 to $100,000 in losses, the punishment would include up to ten years in prison and a fine not to exceed $5,000. Those convicted of financial exploitation of less than $20,000 would be fined up to $5,000 and receive a prison sentence of no more than seven years.
"In some cases, we're talking about people's entire
life savings being stolen from them and then they're left with nothing
to live on," said Justice. "This needs to be stopped and these
criminals need to know that there will be severe consequences for their