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Elder Financial Exploitation A Rising Crime In The UC

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Elder Financial Exploitation A Rising Crime In The UC

Cases of financial exploitation among elderly and vulnerable populations are on the rise in the Upper Cumberland.

A state report released this week said there’s an urgent need to address the issue because it’s affecting a larger percentage of people.

District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis serves the 31st Judicial District composed of Van Buren and Warren Counties. She helped prepare the state report.

“I am definitely seeing more,” Zavogiannis said. “But as I said, since we have been able to get the laws passed, it is allowing us to do more. So, I think that is bringing it to the forefront for people to know that it is there. Before, they weren’t coming in the office, because they were always told it was a civil matter.”

Zavogiannis said up until 2016, prosecutors could not do much against financial exploitation of elderly people. Zavogiannis said theft was considered theft regardless of age. Since then, a state law has passed making the offense more severe.

“Once we got the knowledge out there that there were things that we could do, I think we were really able to realize how big that problem is, and we do have a big problem,” Zavogiannis said. “For a lack of a better word, they are sort of a forgotten group. You don’t really give them the attention like you do with children cases, but we should because they are just as vulnerable.”

Zavogiannis remains one of the original members of the Legislative Elder Abuse Task Force formed in 2014. The group was formed to study the aspects of the crime. The task force was involved in the state report released Monday that emphasizes the urgent need.

While progress has been made, Zavogiannis said more gaps remain. That is why Zavogiannis said she wants her role on the Task Force to continue.

“I’m not sure if they will keep the task force together,” Zavogiannis said. “I hope they do, because the new laws that were written, they actually stemmed from the initiation of that Task Force.”

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