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What is Senior Fraud?
Senior fraud is a pattern of financial abuse against a person who is aged 65 or older. Senior fraud covers a range of crimes, from petty theft to stealing of assets. If you convince a senior to hand over a $20 bill under false pretexts or sign over the deed to their home, you can be found guilty of committing senior fraud. This type of fraud is also included in California’s elder abuse law, which punishes people for a range of crimes against seniors.
Common Instances of Senior Fraud:
-Pretending to represent a charity and soliciting donations from seniors
-Posing as a home repair company and taking money but not performing work
-Offering a senior a loan for a product that is out of their budget, knowing that they will default
-Convincing the senior to sign over property to you
The Problem With a Senior Fraud Charge
Senior fraud charges are problematic for many defense attorneys because innocent people are often charged with this crime simply by having regular contact with seniors and their finances. If, for example, your grandparent gave you their car as a gift, a concerned relative could argue that you persuaded or intimidated the senior into giving you the property. It is extremely difficult to prove your motivations in this case, and you could be prosecuted for a legitimate transaction.
Penalties for Senior Fraud
Senior fraud is treated as a crime of theft in California and is prosecuted in a similar way. The penalty for this crime depends on a number of factors, the largest being how much was stolen from the victim. If your crime resulted in a loss of $950 or less, it is considered a misdemeanor. If the victim lost more than $950, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Penalties for misdemeanor senior fraud include fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum sentence of a year in jail. You may also be sentenced to probation if it is a first offense. For a felony conviction, you will face up to four years in state prison, fines of up to $10,000 and a strike on your criminal record. As part of the California “three strikes” law, this strike could eventually lead to a life sentence if you are convicted of other felony offenses later.
Defenses Against Senior Fraud
The most common defense against senior fraud is a lack of malicious intent. There are cases in which seniors will willingly hand over cash or property to friends, neighbors and family. Elders who are suffering from dementia often make these decisions without the consent of their caregivers. Those caregivers may then seek out senior fraud charges against you. Your attorney will present evidence to the court that demonstrates that you had no ill intent when receiving property or money from the senior.
If your attorney can prove that a person made a false accusation against you intentionally, you can be found not guilty of senior fraud. This often happens when a caregiver or family member becomes jealous of your relationship with the senior and accuses you of a crime. This often happens when people are left out of a will.
When it comes to senior fraud charges, it is imperative to take them seriously. You will need a skilled attorney to fight your case and ensure your freedom.