AG Schmidt looks to compensate senior victims of financial fraud

Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 1:33 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Attorney General Derek Schmidt is looking for the authority to compensate seniors that have become victims of financial fraud.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt says federal funding to repay victims of crime should be made available to seniors that have been defrauded of their life savings.

Schmidt says in a bipartisan letter signed by 40 state and territory attorneys general, he asked Congress to expand the 1984 Victims of Crime Act to allow states to repay seniors for certain fraud losses. He says the provisions contained in Senate Bill 3487, which is known as the Edith Shorougian Senior Victims of Fraud Compensation Act. He says the bill is named after a Wisconsin senior who was defrauded out of over $80,000 by a longtime financial adviser.

“When seniors become victims of fraud, the harm often is much deeper than the financial loss,” Schmidt said. “The damage from losing a lifetime of savings cannot be measured only in dollars and cents. Expanding the scope of the VOCA through Edith’s Bill will give states the option of a vitally important tool to help victims recover at least a portion of what was lost and to mitigate some of the associated harms.”

According to Schmidt, current federal law provides for state-run victim compensation programs that help pay costs accrued by victims of violent crime through no fault of their own. He says the proposed legislation would expand that program to also assist certain senior victims of financial fraud.

Schmidt says the program is funded by penalties and fines paid by convicted criminals, not taxpayer dollars. He says the fund reimburses states fo 60% of payments to victims of crimes but is only eligible for certain things like medical bills, lost wages and funeral and burial expenses. He says Edith’s Bill also makes more funds available by directing fines and penalties and related funds from white-collar prosecutions into the program.

According to the AG, the passage of the bill would not mandate that states provide compensation to senior fraud victims but would make available options to use federal funding for that purpose. He says in Kansas, funds are distributed to eligible victims through the Crime Victims Compensation Division within his office.

Schmidt says during his time as attorney general, he has made justice for seniors a priority by targeting elder abuse, consumer fraud and related issues. He says seniors can be especially vulnerable to predators due to their accumulated income and assets, potential cognitive decline and dependence on others to care for them.

A copy of the letter to Congress can be found here.

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