Last month, a DuPage County grand jury charged a Chicago woman with several Illinois identity theft-related crimes. The woman reportedly worked as a caregiver for an elderly Hinsdale resident and gained unauthorized access to many of her personal documents and accounts. Using this information, the caregiver spent more than $3,500 to pay her own personal bills, shop online, and fund relatives’ jail commissary accounts. The felony charges included continuing a financial crime enterprise, financial exploitation of the elderly, and aggravated financial identity theft.
The age of technology has made it easier to steal another person’s identity and personal information. The elderly are especially at risk of being the victims of financial abuse. Illinois has enacted laws and regulations that are aimed to protect the elderly from abuse. In Illinois, abuse is specifically defined to include “financial exploitation.” In turn, financial exploitation as “the use of an eligible adult’s resources by another to the disadvantage of that adult or advantage of a person other than the adult.” These laws protect adults who are 60 years of age or older.
The Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect Act specifically offers the elderly protections against abuse by family members, household members, and caregivers. Caregivers can be paid or unpaid. The fact that the Chicago woman was, in fact, the elderly victim’s caregiver means that she is subject to these laws.
The Chicago caregiver was charged with three crimes: financial exploitation of an elderly person, continuing a financial crime enterprise, and aggravated financial identity theft. The crimes, while distinct, have many common elements.
Financial exploitation of an elderly person, as defined in 720 ILCS 5/17-56, is the crime of abusing a position of trust to illegally use the assets or property of an elderly person through deceit. A caregiver is specifically listed as a person who “stands in a position of trust and confidence with an elderly person.” What does it mean, though, to “illegally use” the assets or resources of an elderly person? The statute indicates that many behaviors, including fraud, deceit, and undue influence can be considered an illegal use. Acting without the knowledge or authority of the patient to spend her funds on the caregiver’s own personal agenda would likely be considered an illegal use. If convicted of this Class 3 Felony, the caregiver could face two to five years in prison and be required to pay up to $25,000 in fines.
Continuing a financial crime enterprise, as defined in 720 ILCS 5/17-10.6(h), is the crime of committing at least 3 separate financial crimes within an 18-month period. The financial crimes that can trigger this statute are listed and include bribery or robbery of a financial institution, shoplifting, receiving stolen property, concealing or abandoning stolen property, and financial institution fraud.
The caregiver, when using her patient’s bank account and/or credit cards to make illegal purchases, likely committed financial institution fraud (obtaining the money or assets of her patient by deceiving the bank or credit card company about her true identity). If the caregiver committed this offense on at least 3 occasions in an 18-month period she may be convicted of this felony offense. If convicted of this Class 3 Felony, she may face 2-5 years in Illinois state prison and be required to pay fines of up to $25,000.
Financial identity theft, as defined in 720 ILCS 5/16-30, is the crime of knowingly using the personal identity of another to fraudulently obtain (or try to obtain) credit, money, goods, services, or other property. This crime is aggravated when the victim of the financial identity theft is a person who is at least 60 years of age. In this instance, it appears as though the Chicago caregiver knowingly used her patient’s personal identity for at least three fraudulent purposes: to pay the caregiver’s own bills, to shop online, and to fill her relatives’ jail commissary accounts. Aggravated financial identity theft, when the value of the stolen property is more than $300 but less than $10,000, is a Class 2 Felony. A Class 2 Felony is punishable by 7 to 14 years in Illinois state prison and fines of up to $25,000. The Chicago caregiver is facing 11 counts of this aggravated financial identity theft charge.
In addition to facing several years, if not decades, in prison for these financial elder abuse crimes, the Chicago caregiver may also be required to pay hefty monetary fines. The caregiver will also probably be required to pay restitution for the $3,500 that was actually stolen. When she hires an experienced DuPage County criminal lawyer to represent her, the attorney will probably attack the individual elements of each crime.
The attorney may try to prove that the caregiver had permission to use the accounts, that the items she purchased were gifts from the patient, or that the caregiver lacked the proper knowledge when making the allegedly fraudulent purposes. The more information the criminal defense attorney has, the better she can attack the prosecutor’s case against her client.
Have you been arrested for a financial crime against the elderly in DuPage County? If so, do not hesitate to contact the skilled identity theft defense attorneys at Kostopoulos Law Group for a free consultation. Hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent you is the best way to limit the negative consequences of criminal charges.