021418 KS 9889SPRINGFIELD – To protect some of Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens, State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Plainfield) is seeking higher criminal penalties for felonious scams that target the elderly and disabled.

Bertino-Tarrant advanced Senate Bill 69, which would institute tougher penalties on Class 2 felony offenses against an elderly person or a person with a disability.

“There are scammers actively cheating our seniors every day, partly because they are lucrative while being comparatively less risky than other forms of crime,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “To discourage this growing epidemic, we must put laws in place to protect the financial well-being of Illinois’ seniors and people with disabilities.”

This measure expands the Class 2 felony offense of theft by deception over $5,000 to include offenses committed against a person with a disability.

It also clarifies that consent cannot be used as a defense in a case of financial exploitation of an elderly person or person with a disability if the accused knew or should have known that the victim lacked the ability to consent.

Nearly 5 million older Americans are financially exploited. While scammers are to blame, more than half of cases involve exploitation by a family member. A 2014 study by Mark Lachs, co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital found that almost 60 percent of cases involve a perpetrator who is a family member.

Lachs also reported that elder abuse victims—including those who suffer financial exploitation—die at a rate three times faster than those who haven’t been abused.

“This measure would give law enforcement officials further resources to prosecute those attempting to exploit elderly Illinoisans,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “These higher restrictions will help make scammers think twice before attempting to manipulate seniors and people with disabilities.”

Senate Bill 69 passed the Senate’s Committee on Criminal Law with bipartisan support and is scheduled for consideration before the full Senate.

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