Southern California Insurance Agent Charged with Financial Abuse
Elder abuse comes in many forms, from physical violence to financial fraud. A recent article in Consumer Affairs reported that a licensed insurance agent in Southern California was recently arrested fo elder financial abuse. The insurance agent, John Paul Slawinski, 59, was charged with “five felony counts of financial elder abuse and five counts of burglary.” What did he do? Specifically, the charges allege that he “ripped off five senior citizens for more than $2 million through the sale and surrender of investment annuity products.”
Earlier in the summer, the California Department of Insurance received complaints about Slawinski and decided to launch an investigation. The complaints claimed that Slawinski had convinced five different senior citizens to give up annuities and investments, promising that he could get them higher returns on their money. Yet Slawinksi never purchased additional annuities or investment products with the seniors’ money, and he never gave back the funds, either. In other words, he “conned the victims into giving him money to invest for them.”
In order to hide his crimes, Slawinski gave each of the victims “fraudulent financial statements,” and he issued minimum investment payments in order to “lead them to believe their insurance investment and life savings were secure,” according to the California Department of Insurance.
In response to Slawinski’s arrest, Commissioner Dave Jones said, “I find it particularly appalling when people in the position of trust violate that trust and take advantage of vulnerable senior citizens.” Jones emphasized that “consumers should be able to trust their [insurance] agent when making important insurance decisions,” and when agents like Slawinski take advantage of that relationship, “the result is often devastating.” Authorities suspect that Slawinski could have defrauded other California seniors as well, and they’re currently looking for additional victims.
A “Thriving” Abuse Industry Across the State
Slawinski’s victims aren’t the only California seniors who recently suffered from financial elder abuse. In fact, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, a Bakersfield woman was arrested last month after authorities determined she had abused her elderly mother. The article described elder abuse as a “thriving industry” in our country. How common is elder abuse among California seniors?
According to the article, a 2013 study found that elder abuse affects “between 700,000 and 1.2 million elderly people annually.” And the financial cost of this abuse is strikingly high. Indeed, each year, abuse results in tens of billions of dollars.
Based on a 2013 Consumer Reports survey of about 2,600 financial planners, “56 percent said they knew older clients who had been subject to unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices.” For all the cases of elder financial abuse reported, the average loss estimate totaled more than $140,000 per person.
Who’s to blame for most financial elder abuse? According to the article, the following groups of people tend to be the ones who take financial advantage of older adults:
- Scammers operating by phone, email, and mail;
- Financial advisers; and
- Family members.
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