Sunday, May 11, 2008

Video warns seniors of exploitation by family

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By T.J. GREANEY of the Tribune’s staff
Sometimes adult children are abusing drugs or alcohol, sometimes they’re resentful of their childhoods and feel their owed, and sometimes they’re simply opportunistic, but financial exploitation by children of their elderly parents is a problem only now beginning to be widely reported.

"A lot of people think it’s within the family so it’s a civil matter, and some people even think, ‘Well, I’m going to inherit the money anyway, so I’m just collecting my inheritance early,’ " said Marta Fontaine, adult protective services planner for the health and senior services department. "We’ve seen it get to the extent where someone gets the deed to a home or opens joint bank accounts. People have signed over CDs. It can be quite extreme."

Fontaine said this area of the law is relatively new. Missouri first passed a financial exploitation of the elderly and disabled statute in 2000. It has been revised twice to make it easier to prosecute criminals.

"Nationwide, prosecutors are just now starting to understand undue influence and how that can make what may appear to be a civil matter into an actual criminal matter," Fontaine said.
Financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person of greater than $1,000 is now a Class B felony in Missouri and rises to a Class A felony if the sum is greater than $50,000.

Still, said DHSS officials who monitor the Elder Abuse Hotline, only about one out of every 14 cases are ever reported.
Reach T.J. Greaney at (573) 815-1719 or

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