5/10/2013 10:18:00 AM Governor signs bill that
expands prosecutor abilities
by DENISE MARTIN
One of the most bi-partisan bills signed into law this legislative session is the vulnerable adult financial protections measure. The bill enjoyed unanimous support in the Minnesota Senate and House.
The new law, does however, have the potential to cost a county like Chisago more money because of the extensive senior citizen population here. But Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter feels it’s such an important tool for justice that the benefits outweigh negatives. The law changes how and where financially exploited adults can pursue charges when an offender is identified. In several court cases reported in this paper in recent months the exploitation (theft) have all taken place in this county. Under the new action-- the county in which an exploited adult resides becomes an eligible venue for trying a case of financial exploitation, even if the offenses happened somewhere else.
County Attorney Reiter said this is a mobile society and often an elderly person re-locates to wherever there are the most suitable accomodations. Before this revision to law came along-- if money was stolen fraudulently by a caregiver or a family member-- it could only be prosecuted in the county where the victim resided. It’s impossible to estimate how many cases may not have been investigated because the victim has moved. Reiter commented that it’s equally as hard to estimate how many additional cases will arise in Chisago County, due to the number of elderly and vulnerable adult housing facilities here. Reiter added, “I think it’s a positive though...it is important to be able to pursue criminal charges on any basis.” When the law makes it easier to pursue justice for these vulnerable adults the better off society is as a whole. The law also allows for offenses to be aggregated or combined over a six month period. This generally increases the monetary thresholds and increases severity of penalties.
Financial exploitation happens over a period of time, such as credit card fraud and depleting bank accounts by a trusted individual. The law becomes effective August 1. If you have concerns about financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult don’t hesitate to contact the county attorney’s office, or at least view the Minnesota attorney general’s website which has good tips for knowing what financial exploitation looks like and for how to avoid it.