$500M elder fraud sweep called biggest ever: 250 charged, 20 in region


What prosecutors call the largest elder fraud sweep in U.S. Department of Justice history has resulted in 250 defendants charged in schemes costing more than 1 million victims half a billion dollars, officials said — such as a fake lottery scam that cost an 87-year-old Boynton Beach man $6,000.

Among those targeted: Marvin Damian Coote, 36, of Fort Pierce. In a plea agreement involving mail and wire fraud charges, he received 41 months in prison and was ordered to pay $225,995.68 in restitution.

Co-conspirators phoned victims to notify them they had won a lottery that required them to send money in advance to secure their prize, prosecutors said. But there was no prize and $6,000 from an elderly Boynton Beach man, for example, wound up in a bank account Coote controlled, documents in the case show.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it an “unprecedented, coordinated action to protect elderly Americans from financial threats, both foreign and domestic.”

At least 20 defendants were based in South Florida, in cities including Miramar, Miami Gardens and Fort Pierce, and their schemes cost victims more than $100 million, officials said.

“We will bring to justice those who target the elderly and defraud them out of their life savings,” said Benjamin G. Greenberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Some charges have been resolved while others are ongoing. Coote was sentenced Dec. 1. An attempt to seek comment through his attorney was not successful.

Fake lotteries are just one of several ploys targeted in the crackdown. Another is the grandparent scam. An 81-year-old woman in Iowa, for instance, wired $5,000 after a caller said her grandson was in jail and urgently needed his help, officials said.

Pleading guilty in that case was Tiffany Strobl, 38, of Ohio. She received 24    months in prison and was ordered to pay $9,548.25 in restitution, prosecutors said.

Other cases involve advertising scams and the money-laundering of scam proceeds.

“We cannot allow our elderly and vulnerable citizens to continue to be the target of fraud schemes,” Greenberg said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

It’s hot outside! Indoor things to do in Palm Beach County and South Florida
It’s hot outside! Indoor things to do in Palm Beach County and South Florida

Summers in Florida are as bipolar as a Sour Patch Kids gummy. You know, first they’re sour, then they’re sweet. Except in Florida, there’s a touch of bitter too, with rain and heat competing to make our day miserable.  Luckily, we have some of the best beaches in the country, crystal clear natural springs and plenty...
LATEST: Person stabbed early Friday in Lake Worth
LATEST: Person stabbed early Friday in Lake Worth

A person was stabbed early Friday in Lake Worth, one of three violent incidents reported in the city’s Dixie Highway corridor that night, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies responded at about 1:15 a.m. to 1000 South Dixie Highway, near 10th Avenue South, for reports of a stabbing.  The victim was ...
LATEST: Person robbed at knifepoint in Lake Worth
LATEST: Person robbed at knifepoint in Lake Worth

Two men robbed a person at knifepoint late Thursday in Lake Worth, Palm Beach County sheriff’s authorities said.  The victim waved down a deputy shortly before 11 p.m. at Sixth Avenue South and Dixie Highway to report the robbery.  The victim said the men ordered him to empty his pockets. One man took his pocket knife and held it to...
BREAKING: Man shot in Lake Worth; sheriff seeks suspects
BREAKING: Man shot in Lake Worth; sheriff seeks suspects

A man was shot early Friday in Lake Worth, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office authorities said.  At 6:15 a.m., deputies responded to the 600 block of North H Street just west of Dixie Highway for a reported shooting.  They found a man with non-life threatening injuries. The suspects fled the area in a vehicle, authorities...
NEW: Woman, 69, cries foul as PBSO seizes pounds of marijuana from Lake Worth-area home
NEW: Woman, 69, cries foul as PBSO seizes pounds of marijuana from Lake Worth-area home

Kathleen Szabo has been a court reporter and a chef. She's raised and sold exotic cats and wild animals. But it's her marijuana that recently got her into trouble. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office raided her home west of Lake Worth last month and arrested her for possession of 1,500 grams — 3.3 pounds — of marijuana and...
More Stories