Tonawanda News

May 10, 2014

Legislators target abuse of seniors

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Two Western New York State legislators have introduced a bill they say would crack down on scams targeting the elderly.  

State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger ( D-C-I- Kenmore) and Sen. Patrick Gallivan ( R-C-I-Elma) said the proposal would add weight to cases taken up by state prosecutors against those who victimize senior citizens and would target theft from mentally disabled adults, including home improvement scams. 

It would also give prosecutors more leeway in collecting medical records and allow caregivers to accompany seniors required to testify during grand jury proceedings without a prosecutors consent. 

Citing the elderly populace in New York as the third largest in the country, Schimminger said seniors are vulnerable to financial exploitation with an annual loss of $2.9 billion.  

“The senior population is poised to continue to grow significantly over the next decade, and it is estimated that there will be a correlating rise in the number of elder abuse cases, including both domestic violence and financial exploitation, he said Schimminger. “The elderly population has worked hard to be able to support themselves through retirement, and it is our duty to do what we can to protect these individuals from criminals by giving prosecutors the right tools to hold criminals who take advantage of seniors accountable.”

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York released a report in September 2013 that included proposals that would update, streamline and focus state law to enhance the ability of prosecutors to pursue legal action against offenders of elder abuse, according to Schimminger. 

Gallivan said those types of changes would make New York’s laws related to senior abuse among the most stringent in the country. 

“This package of reforms will give local law enforcement and prosecutors the tools needed to protect New York state’s most vulnerable citizens,” he said. “Twenty-nine other states have enacted statutes specifically designed to protect senior citizens against financial abuse and I am proud to work in the Senate to ensure New York’s laws are among the toughest in the nation.”

Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita said scams against the elderly are becoming more common place, while more severe consequences would bolster law enforcement efforts. 

“Those who engage in such despicable conduct should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.