DA’s Office leading new team focused on scams, elder abuse

elder abuse
District Attorney Larry Krasner
Metro file

A new coalition led by the District Attorney’s Office is focusing on helping older adults who have been victimized by scams and other forms of financial exploitation.

The effort, which aims to prosecute criminals and provide supportive services to seniors, is being funded through a three-year, $375,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“There are a lot of scams going on,” DA Larry Krasner said at a news conference this week. “There are a lot of pretty traumatic hustles, grifts, scams going on.”

Many of the scams involve phony phone calls from thieves looking to get money from victims. In other instances, older people are exploited by family members or neighbors, officials said.

“Seniors are vulnerable for a number of reasons,” said Assistant District Attorney Alexander Blumenthal, who heads the office’s Elder Justice Unit. “They have regular income often, accumulated assets, and that makes them a target.”

Roseanne Milanes, supervising attorney for the SeniorLAW Center, said the legal nonprofit’s victim services division assisted more than 550 older adults from July 2021 through June 2022 in Philadelphia.

The funding allowed the DA’s Office to hire Sarina Issenberg, who previously worked at Lutheran Settlement House, to coordinate the initiative, known as the Philadelphia Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team. Krasner’s office also hired a forensic accountant to focus on senior abuse cases.

The Penn Memory Center, the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, the SeniorLAW Center and the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging are the other organizations in the coalition.

Each victim that comes to the team will be referred to agencies that can help them with medical care, civil litigation, housing assistance and support services, according to the DA’s Office.

“Very often, people who are victims of crime have other needs as well that they don’t know how to get answered,” First Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Engel Temin said.

Representatives from each group will meet regularly to review cases, officials said.

The Justice Department grant was awarded last year as part of a nationwide effort to establish enhanced multidisciplinary teams focused on elder abuse. Nine other jurisdictions also received money to start similar initiatives.

To report suspected exploitation to the Philadelphia Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team, call 215-686-5710.