Lindeen Announces Restitution for Montana Fraud Victims

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On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, total payout from Montana Securities Restitution Fund exceeds $1 million

HELENA — Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica J. Lindeen on Wednesday announced the order of more than $200,000 in restitution to Montana victims of a pair of major financial frauds.

The restitution, announced on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, brings the total paid by the Montana Securities Restitution Assistance Fund beyond the $1 million mark, benefiting more than 75 different Montanans. The fund was established by the Montana Legislature in 2011 at the urging of Lindeen. Further legislation in 2015 doubled the possible restitution and expanded the potential criminal penalties for financial crimes that victimize seniors or other vulnerable people.

“The Restitution Fund is a big step toward getting some money back to victims of financial fraud, but it doesn’t come close to recovering everything,” Lindeen said. “That’s why we work hard to educate seniors and their families, to give them the tools to help prevent anyone else from losing their life savings to financial criminals.”

The latest order gives restitution to victims in two different cases in Montana.

One of the scammers was John “Jack” Cross, a Lake County man now in federal prison for wire fraud. He told victims he was putting the money into real estate and other investment, when actually he was using the money for his own personal benefit.

The other scammer was Paul Schumack, a Florida man who defrauded 1,800 investors nationwide in an $80 million Ponzi scheme. Schumack, now serving a 12-year federal prison sentence, told victims they were investing in “virtual concierge” kiosks, like ATMs, to be placed in hotels, hospitals, stadiums and other public places. The machines would let people download movies, order food, and more. Schumack and others sold interest in more than 20,000 of the machines, telling people they would earn a steady income stream. But in reality, only 84 machines were ever produced.

Lindeen reminds seniors and their families to take steps to protect personal data and to be wary of any investment opportunity that promises large returns for little risk. If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is.

People should also check with the Commissioner’s office at 800-332-6248 to check whether an investment broker or financial advisor is licensed in Montana.

Wednesday is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Lindeen and the National Center on Elder Abuse remind Montanans of some of the potential red flags of elder financial abuse, including:

  • The senior lacking basic amenities he or she could usually afford.
  • A vulnerable person “voluntarily” giving uncharacteristically excessive financial reimbursement or gifts for care and companionship.
  • A caregiver has control over and elder’s money but is failing to provide for the elder’s needs.
  • The elder has signed property transfers or power-of-attorney papers, but is unable to comprehend a transaction or what it means.

Anyone suspecting elder abuse should call the Commissioner’s office or Adult Protective Services.