Friday, March 21, 2008

It's a Shame That We Even Need Laws to Compel People to do What is So Clearly the Moral Thing To Do.

Contra Costa Times

THE $23,095.58 WIRE transfer from Jack Whittaker's savings account at the Antioch Schools Federal Credit Union was the first sign something was fishy.

A day after the money had left his account, the 82-year-old widower went in to the credit union to make a withdrawal. He was shocked to learn that his account was nearly empty. The money he thought was there had gone to purchase an annuity he knew nothing about.

Whittaker had opened it back in the 1950s. The balance hadn't been touched in at least five years. Suddenly, in April 2005, Whittaker began coming in to the branch and withdrawing hundreds of dollars at a time. A younger man was always with him, near the counter or outside in a black truck. He claimed he was Whittaker's caretaker, but Greaff didn't believe him.

On Dec. 14, 2005, Whittaker came in to the credit union to withdraw $500. The teller, aware of the red flags on the account, asked Whittaker what he wanted it for. "I don't know," he said. "I just have to give somebody $500."

Greaff went to the authorities with suspicions that Whittaker was being taken advantage of financially.

According to Lynn Uikema, Contra Costa deputy district attorney, the credit union's vigilance foiled an ex-felon's elaborate scheme to steal everything that Whittaker owned.

Thanks to alert employees, Uilkema was able to put Joe Gonzales where he belongs - in prison, serving a 10-year sentence for elder theft.

It's because of shameless predators like Gonzales that the state Legislature passed the Financial Elder Abuse Reporting Act, which went into effect in January.

It requires all employees of financial institutions - banks, credit unions and savings and loans - to contact the police department or Adult Protective Services if they suspect that an elderly person is a victim of financial abuse.

The banking industry fought against this law to protect our seniors. Bankers argued that it wasn't their job to be policemen.

Since January, law enforcement agencies throughout the state have been deluged with invaluable tips from financial institutions. We believe state lawmakers should look at expanding the list of mandatory reporters.

Why not, for example, add title officers who routinely witness elder financial abuse in real estate transactions, but don't come forward because of confidentiality concerns?

It's a shame that we even need a law to compel people to do what is so clearly the moral thing to do.

Abridged for E.A. =>>

Related Stories by The Contra Costa Times :

Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial seriesState needs to revoke theft license

Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series:Getting involved early is critical

Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial seriesElder court is crucial

ENDANGERED SENIORSElder financial abuse has become a hidden national epidemic


Having a much more heightened awareness of Elder Financial Abuse, while in line at a bank , in Florida I have often witnessed an elder citizen approach a teller a withdraw a large sum of money with a younger person standing by in the shadows, without so much of a raised eyebrow from the bank teller or bank officials.

I have observed this behavior several times, and after my own attempts to report Elder Financial Abuse in my family where the paper trial is obvious, and the exploitation well documented, only to have met with ostracizing, "it's a civil matter," and unjust retaliatory complaints , I knew that I had better kept my mouth shut, lest being told to mind my own business.

It's sad to say; "We need laws to compel people to do what is clearly the moral thing to do!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great job Senator Simitian and Assembly woman Wolk both doing your jobs caring for the people! That is such Christ like behavior caring one to another especially of our elders. There is not enough systems in place to protect our elders especially those without family or family who cares about their well being.

That is what we need more officials in elected into office (local, city, government, and state) that operate under the hand ways and laws of God ( loving, caring, and compassion for our fellow man). These days it appears to be operating under a every man for his/ herself type mentality. If it doesn't concern you don't get involved.