A troubling news story from the San Mateo Daily Journal discusses another example of financial elder abuse.
A bank teller in Redwood City is charged with felony fiscal elder abuse after she stole more $40,000 from her own aunt. While working as a teller, Arcelia Barajas Aguilar had close access to the funds of the bank customers. She was able to transfer money from one customer’s account to another. Early last month, Aguilar apparently transferred $40,000 from her aunt’s account into her own personal account.
Aguilar apparently used the money to pay down her credit card debt. Fortunately, the fraud was discovered during a bank audit. Aguilar was arrested and is now on bail. It is unclear how much money remains of the total that she stole. The judge warned the Aguilar’s sentence could ultimately be affected by the amount of restitution she is able to make-how much money she can pay back.
This story raises unique questions about the ultimate effectiveness of attempts to curb elder financial abuse. Our Chicago elder abuse attorneys at Levin & Perconti have long been advocates of taking steps to limit the chance for vulnerable seniors to have their finances exploited. This year the Illinois Legislature passed a bill which will attempt to help stop the problem by educating those in a position to notice fraudulent actions with senior finances—bank tellers. Of course, abuses like the one committed by Aguilar would probably not have been stopped by Illinois’ attempted remedy. There is little training that can be done to raise awareness of the problem if the people being trained are the very ones willing to commit fraud to steal cash from seniors.
This recent abuse is only more reason for everyone, no matter how often you interact with senior family and friends, to remain constantly vigilant to the potential of exploitation. What makes this a particularly complex problem is that the abuse very often occurs at the hands of family members themselves, as in the Aguilar case. It is hard enough for many elderly citizens to recognize when they are being taken advantage of by strangers, let alone family members who they are likely to trust even more.