CARSON CITY, NV (KXNT) – On Thursday, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office participated in a national announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice and National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) in the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.
The sweep involves cases from the U.S. Department of Justice, state attorneys general, U.S. attorneys and law enforcement agencies around the country. Cases involve more than 250 defendants who victimized more than a million Americans, most of whom were elderly. The cases include criminal, civil and forfeiture actions across more than 50 federal districts. Of the defendants, 200 were charged criminally. In total, the charged elder frauds caused losses of more than half a billion dollars. The actions charged a variety of frauds victimizing the elderly, including telemarketing and investment frauds, mass mailing and individual instances of theft by guardians and identity theft.
“Elder exploitation and abuse is a growing problem, and my office has partnered with state and federal agencies in a national effort to express our joined commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Laxalt. “In Nevada and other states, members of our elderly population are exploited and abused by professional guardians, friends and even family members. My office is proud to have created a Financial Fraud Unit dedicated to this mission, which has charged the most significant guardianship indictment in Nevada’s history,” Laxalt added.
AG Laxalt has addressed elder exploitation in Nevada through a number of successful cases including:
*State of Nevada vs. James Thomas Melton, April Parks, Mark Simmons and Noel Palmer Simpson (2018)–The case involved four defendants and 17 total felony counts for Elder Exploitation, Theft, Grand Larceny Auto, Offering False Instrument for Filing or Record and Perjury. The indictment alleged that James Thomas Melton, a former lieutenant with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), worked with April Parks, the owner of ‘A Private Professional Guardian, LLC,’ her office manager Mark Simmons, and attorney Noel Palmer Simpson to exploit an elderly couple. The exploitation totaled more than $700,000.
*State of Nevada v. April Parks, Mark Simmons, Gary Neal Taylor and Noel Palmer Simpson (2017)–This case involved a 270-count grand jury indictment against April Parks, her office manager Mark Simmons, her husband Gary Neil Taylor and her attorney Noel Palmer Simpson. the charges included Perjury, Offering False Instrument for Filing or Record, Theft, Exploitation and Racketeering. This indictment represented the most significant guardianship exploitation indictment in Nevada’s history.
*State of Nevada v. Yohannes Habtemicael (2017)–This case involved a defendant who was appointed as the permanent guardian of his elderly father and his estate. As a guardian, he converted more than $88,000 of his father’s funds for his own personal use. Habtemicael was sentenced on one count of Theft and on count of Embezzlement to 2-10 years in prison, and was ordered to pay full restitution.
*State of Nevada v Wade Fordin (2016)–This case involved a defendant who was appointed as the permanent guardian of the elderly mother and her estate. As a guardian, he converted his mother’s funds for his own personal use. Fordin was charged with one count of Conspiracy to Commit Exploitation of an Older Person and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Theft.
*State of Nevada v. Wendy Rudder (2016)–This case involved a defendant who provided public guardian services pursuant to a contract with Lincoln County. She pleaded guilty to one count of Misconduct of a Public Officer related to unauthorized withdrawals from a ward’s guardianship account, and was sentenced in the spring of 2015.
An indictment is merely a charging document; every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
In addition to Nevada, other states that participated in this sweep include: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Texas.