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Judiciary Committee Advances Blumenthal-Grassley Bill to Curb Crimes Targeting Seniors

[WASHINGTON, DC] – – The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed legislation to help reduce crimes against America’s seniors through expanded education, prevention and prosecution tools. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which was introduced by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), passed the committee by a voice vote without objection.

“The unconscionable scourge of elder abuse is all too common in our country. It’s an issue that notably hit home in Connecticut with the tragic case of Purple Heart recipient Robert Matava. This national hero deserved the utmost care during his senior years, but instead he was defrauded by those he trusted most. Our bipartisan legislation, a portion of which is named in Matava’s honor, is now one step closer to raising awareness, improving prevention, and increasing prosecution in order to combat this shameless crime,” Blumenthal said.

A portion of the bill is named for Robert Matava, a Unionville, Connecticut veteran and Purple Heart recipient who was defrauded and turned out of his own home by his son, who he had entrusted with his assets. Matava passed away in 2011 at the age of 90. Earlier this year, Blumenthal served as the ranking member during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine how best to protect older Americans from financial abuse. In this Congress, Blumenthal also introduced the Elder Abuse Protection and Abuse Prevention Act to help protect seniors from abuse by implementing comprehensive network of elder abuse prevention and response measures.

“Crimes targeting America’s senior citizens are widespread and have impacted families across the country including Iowa.  As more and more Americans age and become targets of these crimes, law enforcement, seniors and their caregivers must be better equipped to prevent and respond. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act takes meaningful steps to deter criminals seeking to exploit seniors and hold accountable those who do,” Grassley said.

The bill (S. 3270) expands data collection and information sharing to better prevent and respond to all forms of elder abuse and exploitation, including financial crimes against seniors.  Specifically, the bill increases training for federal investigators and prosecutors and calls for the designation of at least one prosecutor in each judicial district who will be tasked with handling cases of elder abuse.  It also ensures that the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Justice Department will both have an elder justice coordinator.  Further, the bill improves information sharing among government agencies and between federal, state and local authorities to develop best practices in the fight against elder financial exploitation.  Finally, the bill increases penalties for perpetrators of such crimes – including mandatory forfeiture – to deter future offences.

The bipartisan 3,000-member Elder Justice Coalition called the bill, “one of the most comprehensive and meaningful bills ever developed to address the rapidly increasing problem of elder financial abuse in America.” The bill also has the support of the Alzheimer’s Association, the National District Attorneys Association,  Consumers Union, SIFMA, the 60 Plus Association, Leading Age, and the National Center for Victims of Crime, as well as the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators.

Along with Blumenthal and Grassley, the bill is cosponsored by Senators, John Cornyn (R-Texas), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). 

For more information, see the legislative text and a summary of the bill that was amended and reported by the Judiciary Committee.