FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 22, 2022
Assemblymembers Michael Reilly (R-Staten Island) and Michael Tannousis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) announced today that they have introduced legislation to classify certain financial crimes against the elderly as grand larceny in the third degree. Under the New York State Penal Law, grand larceny in the third degree is considered a class D felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison.
According to a report published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), more than 790,000 fraud complaints were registered with the IC3 in 2020 from across the United States. That year, losses totaled more than $4.1 billion nationally, and approximately 28% of those complaints involved an elderly victim, accounting for almost $1 billion of the national total.
In 2020, between 5,000 and 10,000 elderly New Yorkers fell victim to a financial scam, resulting in as much as $100 million in losses. New York ranked 4th in the total number of financial crimes that year. It’s part of a national trend that has risen sharply in recent years, with more and more elderly Americans falling victim to deceptive scams under the pretense of romance, tech support, and government impersonation, to name a few.
Another growing scam revolves around the theft of high-end jewelry from elderly victims using sleight of hand and confusion, with thieves replacing the victim’s real jewelry with costume jewelry.
Presently, a person is found guilty of grand larceny in the third degree when the value of the property stolen exceeds $3,000, or when the property stolen is either an automated teller machine or the contents of one. The proposal offered by Reilly, a former Lieutenant with the New York City Police Department, and Tannousis, a former Assistant District Attorney who served in both the Bronx and Staten Island, would expand the criteria for grand larceny in the third degree to include crimes of theft or extortion against individuals 65 years of age or older.
“This is nothing new – unscrupulous individuals have preyed on the elderly for a very long time. But the COVID-19 Pandemic, which separated many elderly New Yorkers from their loved ones, exacerbated the problem, leading to an increase in crimes targeting the most vulnerable,” said Reilly. “We already work closely with our partners in law enforcement to educate the public about these scams, but it’s time we actually got serious about taking steps to deter this activity from the very beginning. Once passed, the classification of these additional crimes as Grand Larceny 3 will act as a deterrent for all those who wish to deceive our elderly loved ones.”
“As crime continues to rise in our city and state, it has become imperative that we protect the most vulnerable in our community – our seniors,” said Tannousis. “This bill will ensure that those who victimize our senior are held accountable for their actions and are properly prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
A draft of the legislation can be found online at bit.ly/3N60wcF.