DOJ: Largest-ever elder fraud sweep includes Oregon cases

Booking photos for Ronnie Stevens and Tina Ephrem from the Multnomah County Jail.

It's the largest-ever crackdown against elder fraud in history, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and it includes three cases in Oregon.

Attorney General William Barr announced Thursday that the latest sweep of elder abuse cases involved more than 260 defendants from around the world who victimized more than two million Americans. Arrests surpassed last year's nationwide sweep.

Three Oregon district cases included the indictments of Portland couple Ronnie Stevens, 49, and Tina Ephrem, 43.

On Jan. 8, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment charging Stevens and Ephrem with wire fraud after they conspired to defraud an elderly couple of money and property, according to a news release from the Attorney General's office.

The news release states that Stevens and Ephrem stole more than $1.5 million from the adult victims and spent the stolen money on utility bills, restaurants, cigars, retail purchases and travel to locations including Hawaii, Anaheim, California, Las Vegas, Nevada and the Spirit Mountain Lodge in Grand Ronde, Oregon.

The couple was arrested Jan. 11. Their jury trial begins June 10.

In another case on Jan. 22, Rodney Paul Gregory, 64, of Lebanon, Oregon, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering for his role in online romance scams, some of which targeted the elderly.

On Feb. 12, Tayva Tucker, 41, of Madras, Oregon, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government funds for stealing nearly $40,000 in Social Security payments from 10 mentally disabled adults. Tucker was employed by a social services organization where she oversaw outreach to mentally disabled clients as part of the organization’s mental health program, the news release stated.

“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Attorney General Barr said in a statement. “But thanks to the hard work of our agents and prosecutors, as well as our state and local partners, the Department of Justice is protecting our seniors from fraud. The Trump administration has placed a renewed focus on prosecuting those who prey on the elderly, and the results of today’s sweep make that clear.”

Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC online or at 877-FTC-HELP.

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