Today, as the Department of Justice recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Michael Easley, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, reaffirms the Eastern District of North Carolina’s commitment to combating elder abuse and financial exploitation. Mr. Easley commented: “Our seniors deserve our best efforts to prosecute those who attempt to capitalize on their vulnerabilities. As the Department of Justice continues to fight elder abuse on the national scale, we are doing justice for elderly victims in North Carolina.”
Examples of our commitment to prosecuting crimes that target and disproportionately impact our elders include the following:
On February 3, 2022, Furman Alexander Ford, of Raleigh, North Carolina, was sentenced to 132 months in prison for eleven counts of mail fraud, eleven counts of wire fraud, and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Ford was a New York Life (NYL) financial advisor who was advising a 72-year-old client who had recently inherited real property valued at $1.3 million.
Ford assisted in the sale of the property and the setting-up of a charitable annuity trust with NYL using the sale proceeds. The victim was his primary client while employed at NYL. As part of Ford’s responsibility as the victim’s financial agent, he drafted and submitted letters of withdrawal from the client’s annuity account to pay for certain expenses. The funds would then be electronically wired to the recipient as directed by the client.
During the investigation however, agents identified twenty separate fraudulent letters of withdrawal drafted by Ford and submitted to NYL headquarters in New York, NY. The letters were all mailed by Ford from his office in Raleigh. The funds requested ranged from $5,000 to $45,000 and totaled over $376,000. The proceeds were then electronically wired by NYL to Ford’s personal checking account. An FBI financial analysis traced the funds to the purchase by Ford of various personal items, including a BMW vehicle, Rolex watches, firearms, child support, and a cruise to the Bahamas. On December 29, 2014, Ford withdrew an additional $1 million from his client’s annuity account. In total, Ford stole over $1.3 million from the elderly victim.
On March 17, 2022, Oluwadamilare Kolaogunbule, of Smyrna, Georgia, was sentenced to 71 months in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering. Between 2014 and 2018, Kolaogunbule opened, maintained, and controlled approximately 20 different bank accounts at multiple financial institutions that were used to receive more than $2 million in romance scam proceeds derived from elderly citizens and other victims. Romance scammers exploit victims who are looking for companionship by creating fake profiles on online dating websites that include false personal details, such as the death of a spouse or military service. After creating the illusion of a romantic relationship to gain the victim’s trust, the scammer will typically solicit the victim for money to alleviate some fabricated crisis, such as a medical or business emergency.
More than 60 victims were directed to send money to Kolaogunbule’s accounts, many of which were titled in the names of purported export companies, including DSC Exports and Belmont Integrated Logistics. In fact, these companies were fronts for Kolaogunbule’s money laundering business.
Our office will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who target our seniors to rob them of their life savings.