Elder Financial Abuse | Civil vs. Criminal Cases
I’m Mike Hackard with Hackard Law. We represent clients in California trust, estate, and financial elder abuse contingency fee cases.
We aren’t criminal prosecutors. We are civil attorneys who practice in the civil courts. We neither have the authority nor power to prosecute individuals whose wrongdoing discovered in a civil proceeding might also be criminal.
Burden of proof standards are different in civil cases. For the most part, proving the merits of a civil case means proving the required liability elements by the preponderance of evidence. This is a “more likely than not” standard. Federal and state prosecutors have a higher burden in criminal cases – the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Apparent civil wrongs might well look criminal. This is up to law enforcement agencies. Here are a few recent examples where law enforcement agencies stepped in to prosecute some financial elder abusers.
In February of this year the U.S. Justice Department announced that a Fresno hairstylist, Anthony David Flores, and an actress, Ana Rene Moore, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, two counts of money laundering, and one count of engaging in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property.
The indictment alleges that they defrauded a physician out of more than $2.7 million before his death and then attempted to defraud his estate out of an additional amount exceeding $20 million. It’s also alleged that the defendants concealed information about the victim’s finances from his mother and sister, both of whom resided in Florida. This prompted the victim’s family to file a lawsuit, which uncovered the alleged fraud.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted on all counts, Flores and Moore would face statutory maximum sentences of 20 years in prison for each fraud count, 20 years on the conspiracy to commit money laundering and laundering of monetary instruments counts, 10 years on transactional money laundering count, and a mandatory two-year prison sentence for the aggravated identity theft count.
In another February announcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California stated that Brian Stoffel, 38, of Fresno, was sentenced to five years and four months in prison for bank fraud and identity theft for stealing money from an elderly victim’s bank accounts and getting fraudulent loans in the victim’s name. According to court documents, between September 2020 and August 2021, Stoffel obtained the personally identifiable information for an elderly victim and used it to drain the victim’s savings and apply for loans in the victim’s identity. Stoffel used the proceeds to purchase a new motorcycle, attend an NFL playoff game, and shopping at retail stores.
In another 2023 California case the Tuolumne County District Attorney announced that Kalene Chantel McMillan was sentenced to 12 years in state prison for a series of thefts that essentially drained her disabled mother’s entire retirement account. Forged checks, altered powers of attorney, and felony child abuse were all elements in this most unfortunate case. Superior Court Judge Laura Krieg, sentencing the defendant to 12 years in prison, noted that taking all the money in her disabled mother’s account was terrible and that “children should take care of their elderly parents, not steal from them.”
Of course, California is not the only state prosecuting elder financial abuse. Wisconsin Attorney General announced in April 2023 that Terry Lynn Culver, 64, of Oshkosh “was sentenced to serve three years in the Wisconsin Prison System. From 2013-2018, Culver was the power of attorney for the victim, and took over $426,000 from the victim’s bank accounts and spent the money on home improvements and vehicles and at bars, restaurants, and casinos. Culver did not report this illegal income on his State of Wisconsin income tax returns.
So, a few conclusions here. Wrongdoers, even family members, target vulnerable and elderly adults. Money laundering, conspiracy, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, forged checks, opening bank accounts in the victim’s name, embezzlement, and altered powers of attorney are common tools used by criminal defendants. Criminal wrongdoers use the money in various ways:
- Slot machines
- Home improvements
- New vehicles
- Motorcycle purchases
- Bar and restaurant dining
- NFL playoff games
- Retail purchases
Of course, the list goes on. California financial elder abuse is hardly limited to these examples.
We civilly litigate such actions in California’s largest urban areas. If you would like to speak with us about your case, call us at Hackard Law: 916-313-3030. We’ll be happy to speak with you.
Hackard Law: Attorneys Making a Difference
Attorney Michael Hackard
Michael Hackard is a top rated “AV” for over 20 years (“AV Preeminent is a significant rating accomplishment- a testament to the fact that a lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence.”). Avvo also ranks him with their highest rating – “ 10.0 Rating – ‘Superb.’” Michael is also a “SuperLawyer” – an honor reserved for no more than five percent of attorneys in each state. [ Attorney Bio ]
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