Ohio Establishes Elder Justice Initiative to Protect Seniors

An Elder Justice Initiative aimed at increasing investigation and prosecution of elder abuse cases in Ohio was announced earlier this month by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The state’s Crime Victim Services will head up the project utilizing the expertise of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI), Consumer Protection, Adult Protective Services, Health Care Fraud and Special Prosecutions.

Elder abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal or emotional. It encompasses neglect, abandonment and financial exploitation, and can even include something like exerting undue influence. The latter is an attempt by someone, often a party close to an elderly person, to influence the elderly person’s judgment in matters of inheritance. If successful, the victim leaves their wealth to a person who is exerting pressure or influence on them. The Ohio Elder Justice Initiative also hopes to improve access to services for those who have already been abused.

Cases of Elder Abuse in Ohio

A U.S. Department of Justice study estimated that one in nine people 60 and older suffer abuse each year. It is believed five more cases go unreported for every case reported to authorities. The American Medical Association has found that elder abuse victims have a 300 percent higher risk of death than those not abused.

Four recent cases which came to the attention of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office highlight the type of work the Elder Justice Initiative will perform.

Most recently, James Thomas, Jr., a Preble County attorney, was found guilty of stealing money from elderly and disabled clients. The 38-year-old lawyer was charged with three counts of theft from an elderly person or adult with disabilities and three counts of falsification. A BCI investigation of Thomas revealed he withdrew more than $208,000 from four individual’s bank accounts over a six-year period.

In 2012, a Cleveland man, Virgen Caraballo, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of patient abuse. He admitted that while working as an aide in a Cleveland nursing facility, he repeatedly threw an elderly patient from her bed to a chair and back without using a lift or asking for help. The Attorney General’s Health Care Fraud Unit handled the investigation.

Two other cases also involve suspected stealing from the elderly. In Northwest Ohio, an investigation is underway concerning a woman believed to have taken more than $200,000 from an elderly woman under the guise of investing funds for her.

In Central Ohio, the BCI is investigating a woman’s theft of more than half a million dollars from an elderly man over a 10-year period. A family member of the elderly man discovered suspicious withdrawals from his bank account and asked the Ohio Attorney General’s office to get involved.

As the elderly population increases, statistics point to a significant increase in elder abuse cases. Through its already existing Elder Abuse Commission of Ohio, the Attorney General’s Office provides elder abuse training to law enforcement and victim advocates. It also promotes consumer awareness, investigates and prosecutes patient abuse and neglect in care facilities and takes action against those who perpetrate scams and fraud against members of the older population.

What the Elder Justice Initiative Plans to Accomplish

The Initiative will include outreach to community members, civil and elder attorneys, aging advocates and others on the signs of elder abuse—more readily identified in care facilities than in isolated environments where few have an opportunity to witness what is going on.

Reports of possible abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of an elderly Ohioan can be made to the Attorney General at 1-800-282-0515.

In cases where the abused elderly person is your parent, a spouse, or a family member, you may wish to hire your own attorney to navigate some of the difficult issues that are almost certain to arise. The Ohio law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP offers a free initial consultation with an attorney experienced in Ohio nursing home abuse.

Please call 1-888-534-4850 or send us a website message.

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