The Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) is needed because of the increase in the number of financial abuse cases.
The sharp rise in real estate values in the Bay Area coupled with an often trusting and vulnerable senior population has resulted in an environment that is ripe for abuse. Cases with a financial abuse component are often complex, containing other forms of abuse, including emotional or physical abuse. As a result, it is not unusual for FAST to find elders facing situations such as the following:
- An elder’s adult child is residing in the senior’s home, isolating the elder from friends and relatives. The senior has become very dependent, surrendering all control over her checkbook and enduring constant emotional abuse. She knows something is wrong but does not believe she is a victim of elder abuse, refusing help from Adult Protective Services or any other agency.
- An elderly widower residing in a home worth more than $700,000 is befriended by a younger person. The person promises to be his caregiver if allowed to live rent-free in his home, but leaves shortly after accruing significant credit card debt in the elder’s name.
- A woman in her nineties is residing in the house she purchased more than 30 years ago. Her relatives, who now hold the house in trust for the elder, refuse to provide adequate care to the elder, allowing the elder to go without medical treatment for long periods of time.
The inclusion of the County Counsel’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office facilitates the early identification of complex legal issues that arise in financial abuse cases. Team members meet on a regular basis to discuss the legal remedies available to abuse victims. Remedies that FAST has utilized to date include the filing of criminal charges against the suspects by the District Attorney’s Office and the filing of civil actions by the County Counsel’s Office on behalf of the Public Guardian’s clients.
Desired backgrounds to participate on the team
- Real estate
- Financial Planners
- Estate Planners
- Civil Attorneys
Cases Involving the FAST team
Mrs. B. is a 73 year old woman who is aphasic (speech impaired) due to a stroke six years ago. She spoke only Spanish prior to her stroke and is illiterate. She is a retired cannery worker who purchased a home and owned it free and clear of mortgages until she was approached by her former son-in-law. Mrs. B’s former son-in-law, a convicted felon, teamed up with another convicted felon and real estate broker. Together with family members and an attorney, they persuaded Mrs. B. to sign documents taking out a series of loans against her property, totaling $160,000. Mrs. B. received none of the loan proceeds. The loans were assigned to purported ‘good faith holders’ who are now attempting to sell the property.
The County Counsel’s Office has filed a civil action alleging lender fraud, attorney malpractice and other civil causes of action against the son-in-law, the other family members, the lenders, the attorney, and others involved in the loan processing. The County Counsel’s Office has obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the sale of the home and stipulation from adverse parties that it shall remain in effect until the matter is resolved.