INDIANAPOLIS -- A Morgan County woman was charged in federal court Wednesday as part of what the Department of Justice is calling the “largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was joined Thursday by state and federal officials to announce charges against more than 250 people around the globe for their alleged roles in fraudulent schemes targeting the elderly.
The DOJ said those schemes involved mass mailings, telemarketing and investment frauds to individual instances of identity theft and theft by guardians. The agency also said it had identified “transnational criminal organizations” involved in defrauding “hundreds of thousands of elderly victims.”
Among those charged Wednesday was Sherry Gore, who faces a federal charge of mail fraud for her alleged role in a direct-mail scheme from 2002-2014.
According to charging documents filed in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the scheme involved fraudulent solicitations mailed across the U.S. which “gave the impression that they were individualized letters from world-renowned psychics.”
“The letters fraudulently represented that the psychics had visions or otherwise determined through the use of psychic powers that each letter recipient had the opportunity to achieve great wealth and happiness with the psychic's assistance,” the charging document reads. “Many of the solicitations stated that a psychic had seen the letter recipient winning money in a lottery. The solicitations urged the recipient to purchase various supernatural objects or personalized astrological services to achieve the predicted wealth.”
Federal prosecutors claim that none of the recipients ever received a personalized service or object, and that the “purportedly unique supernatural objects” were actually “mass produced trinkets with no supernatural properties.”
As part of the scheme, Gore is accused of sending collections letters to victims using the names of fictitious collections and legal-services employees. The letters threatened victims with escalating consequences, including lawsuits.
“Today’s actions send a clear message: we will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are,” Sessions said in a statement Thursday. “When criminals steal the hard-earned life savings of older Americans, we will respond with all the tools at the Department’s disposal – criminal prosecutions to punish offenders, civil injunctions to shut the schemes down, and asset forfeiture to take back ill-gotten gains. Today is only the beginning.”