FORT WORTH, Texas (August 15, 2022) – Defendants like William “Doc” Gallagher grab headlines, but Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson wants you to remember people like Susan Elder.
Elder, 76, was swindled out her life savings by a remodeling contractor. Unlike many older Americans targeted by con artists every year, her story doesn’t end there.
Thanks to Wilson’s Elder Financial Fraud team, a special group of Tarrant County prosecutors fighting one of America’s fastest growing categories of crime, Elder is one of 800 older adults who have fought back since 2016. With Tarrant County prosecutors’ help, victims of elder fraud have recovered more than $2.5 million in restitution to date.
“Older Tarrant County residents have a dedicated and passionate defender in Sharen Wilson,” Guardianship Services, Inc. Executive Director Lyn Scott said in announcing Wilson will receive her agency’s 2022 Colleen Colton Community Services Award. “I’m proud to call her a partner in protecting vulnerable adults of all ages.”
Wilson was chosen to receive the award for her work to create the elder fraud team and establish the Financial Exploitation Prevention Center (FEPC) at GSI, an alliance with social service agencies that helps older and other vulnerable adults in Tarrant County. Its goal: to help at-risk adults evade swindlers, support prosecution when these crimes do occur, and help victims recover.
Scott and Wilson formed the FEPC in 2016, enlisting more than 10 other social services agencies to streamline delivery of services. GSI serves as the front door for the victim advocacy network, coordinating referrals through its social services staff, dedicated telephone hotline, and website.
ELDER FRAUD: THE CRIME OF THE 21ST CENTURY
Fraud costs older Americans an estimated $3 billion annually. Tech support scams, investment and home improvement fraud, romance scams, and the grandparent scam—in which callers impersonate a grandchild in trouble to persuade older adults to send money—are common here and across the nation.
It is just one category of crimes against vulnerable adults, who include aging and other adults living with cognitive disabilities. Adult Protective Services received 8,733 allegations of abuse of an adult, ranging from medical neglect to physical or emotional abuse and financial exploitation, from Tarrant County in 2021.
THE COLLEEN COLTON AWARD
Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson will receive the Colleen Colton Community Service Award in events at 6:30 p.m. September 17, 2022 at Cinnamon Creek Ranch in Roanoke. Guardianship Services, Inc. is part of the remarkable legacy of Colleen Colton, the agency’s founder and longtime executive director. Colton led the agency for 27 years, expanding its services to include adults of all ages who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect or exploitation due to cognitive, developmental and other disabilities.
ABOUT GUARDIANSHIP SERVICES, INC.
GSI’s mission is to provide guardianship and supports and services for at-risk adults in Tarrant County. It became an independent organization serving adults of all ages in 1998 and launched the Money Management program, which provides flexible alternatives to guardianship, in 2000. The Financial Exploitation Prevention Center (FEPC) was formed in 2016 to combat rising rates of fraud and financial exploitation targeting older adults and those with physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities.