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Elder Financial Abuse & Bank Accountability

When a bank attempts to pass the buck on elder financial abuse, should it be held accountable for its actions? As reported by the Santa Cruz Sentinel's Jeremy Thomas, a recent case out of Livermore has highlighted just this problem - while underlining the necessity of safeguarding our senior citizens from exploitation.

Just weeks after John Magel died at age 91 in March of last year, his daughter Linda was shocked to learn that $118,000 of his life savings had gone missing from a local branch of Chase Bank, a place he had never visited in person. An investigation into the disappearance of the savings eventually pinpointed the culprit: Chase Bank employee Alex Ojeda, 28, who managed to steal Magel's money by forging signatures on a Certificate of Deposit.

Now Ojeda is in the process of making a plea bargain in Alameda County Superior Court, but in an unexpected move, Judge Christine Moruza has refused to green-light the deal, which would have seen Ojeda spend only four months in jail with five years' probation, provided he pay back the money he swindled from the 91-year-old Magel within three years. Judge Moruza declared loud and clear that there's no excuse for elder abuse, and that under a plea deal, time served should align with the crime.

We're just wondering when banks will be held responsible for their wrongdoing. According to Linda Magel, Chase Bank initially didn't even allow her to file a claim for her father's stolen funds, professing its innocence in the matter. Magel had to fight her way up the entire legal ladder - filing an affidavit to the claims department (denied) and then a complaint to the Department of Treasury, accompanied by a letter warning of a lawsuit to JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon - before Chase Bank finally agreed to reimbursement. Even then, Magel says, that amount did not include interest that would have collected had it not been stolen.

Wall Street may think it can dump its losses on the ordinary people of Main Street - think of those hundreds of billions in banker bailouts - but imagine if bad conduct were punished instead of rewarded. That's why the story of the late John Magel, a case of elder financial abuse, should move us to protect our most vulnerable loved ones and demand full accountability from out-of-control banks.

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