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Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office creates new Elder Justice Unit

Officials said goal is to raise awareness, prosecute crimes targeting seniors
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Posted at 5:13 PM, Aug 09, 2023

GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — From phone and online scams to fraud and even physical abuse, there are so many crimes targeting seniors. It's something the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office is hoping to crack down on with its new Elder Justice Unit.

The prosecutor's office introduced the unit Wednesday with an info session at the Green Township Senior Center.

Michelle Y. Graves, a financial advisor who works with seniors, said she hopes the unit will make a difference. She shared one example with WCPO of two clients who met two men they didn't know and were offered $1 million. But the men asked for $50,000 in exchange.

"They gave them the $50,000 in cash, which represented most of their life savings," Graves said. "They go inside the bank to deposit the check and discover it is a bogus check."

The nonprofit Pro Seniors also works with seniors on cases like this, as well as other types of financial exploitation and abuse.

"So much elder abuse — both physical abuse or financial abuse, goes unreported because there's a feeling I think that sometimes those crimes won't be prosecuted," said Pro Seniors Executive Director Dimity Orlet.

She said Hamilton County, like many counties, has an interdisciplinary team, made up of organizations that serve seniors. This team meets with the prosecutor's office throughout the year to discuss trends they're seeing and how to best serve seniors.

"As part of that process, the prosecutor's office came forward and really looked for where are the gaps, what can we do to work together effectively to prosecute more crimes that seniors report?" Orlet said.

The prosecutor's office also worked with AARP Ambassador and Paul Greenwood, a former prosecutor with the San Diego District Attorney's office.

"Unfortunately, we're going to see an explosion of these cases as our aging population increases in Hamilton County and beyond," he said.

There are two sides to the Elder Justice Unit, education and prosecution.

"It also is to be able to focus on and work in partnership with the Adult Protection Services so they can address and identify more quickly, abuse and neglect cases," said Hamilton County Prosecutor Melissa Powers.

Wednesday's event focused on education, with tables featuring resources and a presentation, sharing tips with seniors to avoid scams and fraud.

"I think a red flag, obviously, is if anyone ever asks you for money, there is an ulterior motive behind it," Greenwood said.

Greenwood said he gave a presentation to local police to educate them and help lead to more investigations into these kinds of crimes.

"Please take these cases, investigate them, pass the facts onto the prosecutor's office. Don't just say to someone, 'Oh that's a civil matter,'" Greenwood said.

Whether it's a scam, another type of fraud or physical abuse, the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office said it now has a hotline seniors can call to report these kinds of crimes.

The hotline number is 513-946-SCAM(7226).

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