My Father is 80 years old and general in good mind and body. He is being scammed by a woman who has been in his life via church for 6 months. He has given this woman over $20k with the guarantee of being paid back through a settlement she has coming. 4 of her payback checks have bounced so far and now we have people telling us she has been arrested for scamming the elderly in the past. What actions can I take? I live in Florida and have a flight booked tomorrow to Massachusetts to figure this thing out.
While you are on your way to MA, search for an attorney to assist you with this. Among other things, this woman can be charged criminally for passing bad checks so you may want to take your father to the local police station and file a criminal complaint. If this woman took your father's money with the intent to never return it or to defraud him, such actions are also crimes. There are also civil penalties and causes of action that can be privately brought by your father, including conversion and passing bad checks. Because of your father's age he likely will be afforded additional protections. You may also want to contact the Attorney General's office in MA to notify them of what this woman has done to your father and to other people. You should consult an attorney as soon as possible with your father to discuss his best options and determine what rights and remedies he may have. Best of luck.
To get back the money, you would have to confirm her identity and file civil suit, for which I encourage you to retain an attorney. An attorney can find any assets she has (house, car, etc) and attach them to the claim so that you are assured of getting paid back.
To prevent it from happening again is trickier. If your father is of "good mind," as you say, then you don't meet the requirements to get a conservatorship over his estate, which is the only way to actively take away his ability to handle his own funds. However, the fact that he gave a loan to a new friend suggests that he might not be doing as well as you say. You should ask the nursing home to have a "mini-mental state examination" administered. It's not ideal, but it's a straightforward, five minute exam that is easily administered and provides a general read on whether someone is developing dementia. If he gets a score of under 20/30, you should meet with a local elder law attorney to examine your options in more detail.
Absent that, you can try browbeating him into letting you manage his finances of his own accord, which is what most families unfortunately resort to in this type of situation. You can always let him keep a small bank account or amount of cash so that he can handle the day-to-day without putting a significant amount of assets at risk.
I am so very sorry to hear this – not only for you, but also for your Dad. I am sure he will now be feeling foolish, and is berating himself for having been taken advantage of by this unscrupulous woman.
Having said that, do NOT allow him to refuse to allow you to help him because he fears looking “foolish” or “stupid” – people such as this woman are VERY good at what they do, which is how they manage, at least initially, to put these types of scams over on otherwise intelligent, kind-hearted people like your Dad, who would never usually allow this to happen to him!
Eventually it all catches up with these CROOKS (which is why they are called crooks!), but, unfortunately, sometimes not in a sufficiently timely manner for some victims to recoup their losses.
My suggestion would be (a) have your Dad gather all documentation (canceled checks, bank statements, etc.) evidencing that your Dad extended these “loans” to this thief; (b) gather together the four (4) checks with which this thief attempted to partially re-pay your Dad; (c) get all documentary evidence you possibly can from person who told you she has been arrested for similar scams, or this one, either now or in the past; (d) contact the Raynham Police Department, and schedule an appointment with you and your Dad, armed with the materials you have gathered, and demand an investigation and that criminal charges be pursued by the police department against this thief.
If the local police for reason are unresponsive, contact the State Police, and/or the State Police Task force liaison between the State Police and the county District Attorney’s office – Raynham is within jurisdiction of Bristol County, and I attach a link to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office for your convenience…..
You may also want to retain the legal services of an experienced attorney in the fields of both civil and criminal law within Bristol County, or with ties to the Bristol County D.A.’s office, to be sure that you are receiving proper advice from relevant legal authorities, and to make sure that this thief is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and who can insure that your Dad has someone working on his behalf to ensure he recovers the most amount of his money as he can….. I can provide you with several suggestions, privately, if you would like to contact me by email….
Best wishes and regards to you and your Dad.
The first thing you might consider is Googling the woman - to see if there is already a public record of her prior activities. If you believe that she has done this before, you may be surprised to find out that it doesn't take much digging, and or that she is not using her own name.
However, as others have noted, if he doesn't fit the description of someone who is unable to handle his own financial affairs, you won't necessarily be able to have the probate & family court intervene (via guardianship). However, if this person is known to the authorities, contacting the Commonwealth may have an effect. (If not, and you have an attorney, they may let you sort it out.) Having just spent from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. attending a "Safe Church" training, I'd also say it might not be a bad idea to talk to the pastor/rector/minister at the church about this. People at the church in positions of authority and volunteers (at least in some mainstream churches) are also supposed to be on the lookout not only for child exploitation and abuse but elder exploitation and abuse.
If this doesn't help resolve the matter, then you may need to engage an attorney. Of course, the danger is that unless you step carefully, you damage your relationship with your father and the scammer isn't stopped. If there is a public record of her prior behavior, and or the Commonwealth has been notified of her before, it may be easier to convince your father that he is being taken advantage of. (Rumors may just not cut it- an official record, or something from the press is more conclusive.)
Whether the $20K can be recovered is a different matter. That would depend upon the financial situation of the woman, the particular circumstances of the "loan", and what your father is willing to do (i.e., it is his money and his decision) to pursue recovery.
One of the toughest situations is a child who lives far away from a parent-- sometimes it isn't possible to detect a change in the parent's abilities or environment until something has happened.
(... and it probably would be a good idea, when things settle down, to make sure your father's life and estate planning is up to date.)
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