Monday, March 5, 2007

Con Artists prey on Victims of Dementia and Alzheimer's in brutal Financial Scams that can leave the Targets Destitute.

By Ryan Huff and Randy Myers CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Reach Ryan Huff at Reach Randy Myers at

The 83-year-old Antioch man served his country in World War II, worked hard at Dow Chemical, married his love and mourned her, and wisely invested in the future.

In his old age, dementia stealthily interceded, blurring memories and scrambling thoughts. Living alone with no relatives nearby, Whittaker grew increasingly confused. He became an easy target for an ex-con.

Enter Joe Gonzales...In 2005, Gonzales nearly wiped out Whittaker's bank accounts: The elder man's savings went from $382,000 to $46,000 in one year. A living trust, will and annuity soon surfaced with Gonzales tagged as the beneficiary.

Whittaker's case may be unusual for its high dollar amount, but surreptitious theft from senior citizens is growing.

"It's the crime du jour," said Lynn Uilkema, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the Whittaker case.

As baby boomers begin to retire and their parents pass away, Americans are about to witness the largest transfer of wealth in the nation's history.

"We know we are currently barely scratching the surface in responding to elder financial abuse in this county."Local government is ill-positioned to protect seniors.

Although relatives and self-proclaimed caregivers like Gonzales make up the top offenders, professional scammers have many ways to prey on seniors' vulnerability.

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