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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Elderly landlord victim of abuse in home repair scam

Many of our readers in the Twin Cities area may have been paying particular attention to discussions about the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. It seems that some unscrupulous people will stoop to any level to enrich themselves at the expense of the elderly.

In some cases, people abuse positions of trust or rely on the absence of a watchful guardian to siphon money from elders' accounts. In other cases, those seeking to exploit vulnerable adults employ tactics of coercion or undue influence to prey on the emotional vulnerabilities or cognitive disadvantages of the elderly. One recent case illustrates how an exploiter can use a threat-laden lie to coerce a vulnerable adult into handing over large sums of money.

The case involves two known instances in which a 46-year-old man scammed his elderly landlord into writing out huge checks in his name for unnecessary home repairs. According to criminal complaints filed against the exploiter, the man fraudulently convinced his landlord to write him a check for more than $14,000 to repair kitchen plumbing.

The criminal complaint also alleges a second incident in which the man conned his landlord into giving him nearly $20,000 on false claims that a city building inspector had found a code violation that required the house's sun room to be elevated.

According to police reports, no city inspector ever visited the property and the kitchen plumbing was in no immediate need of repair. Remarkably, police suspect the man may have convinced his landlord to give him as much as $182,000 under false home repair pretenses in less than one year's time.

In this case, police discovered the ongoing fraud and put an end to the exploitation, but whatever sum the man succeeded in scamming from his elderly landlord may be lost forever. This disturbing case serves as yet another reminder of the importance of paying attention to the finances of an elderly loved one.

Any Minnesotan who suspects that a family member may be the victim of financial abuse should be aware that the law provides opportunities to take quick action and prevent a loved one's property from ending up in the hands of a criminal.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, "Sandy man charged with exploiting $182,000 from elderly landlord," Michael McFall, Aug. 23, 2012

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