Minnesota Commerce chief says elder financial abuse needs urgent response

StarTribune.com - Minnesota Commerce chief says elder financial abuse needs urgent response - November 20, 2016

John Heath is part of a boom industry. Financial exploitation of the elderly.

Heath, 45, an Edina financial adviser, is scheduled to be sentenced in December by a Hennepin County judge after pleading guilty this fall to swindling an 88-year-old man out of $220,000. Heath, who also was accused of bilking thousands of dollars from an elderly woman, had that case dropped in return for pleading guilty to identity theft against the client who had been incapacitated by a stroke and diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The Hennepin County attorney’s office and Minnesota Department of Commerce, which investigated the case, had an assist from Wings Financial, the credit union where Heath used the victim’s identification to set up an account that Heath controlled. Wings suspected suspicious activity and alerted police and Commerce investigators.

However, most financial fraud against elders goes undetected. It’s a growth industry of greedy family members, illicit telemarketers, third-party caregivers, financial advisers and others. Prosecutors, with limited resources, pursue only the strongest cases brought to police and state investigators.

Commerce has worked with AARP in Minnesota on public-information campaigns, and conducted training sessions for hundreds of financial advisers and professionals on the law and how to spot problems in cooperation with the Financial Planning Association of Minnesota and other industry groups.
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