Thanks to the efforts of two state legislators, Oklahoma's elderly and disabled will now be better protected from financial scams and solicitations. Governor Henry has signed Senate Bill 1793, by Senator Ron Justice and Representative Phil Richardson, into law. It will now be a felony to knowingly, through deception or intimidation, obtain or use the funds, assets or property of individuals 62 years of age or older or those who are disabled.
"Unfortunately, as many families have found out the hard way, these types of scams are becoming more and more common. Finally, though, we have a law in place that will help our district attorneys prosecute individuals who take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens – something they haven’t been able to do until now,” said Justice, R-Chickasha.
Under the new law, scammers using solicitation by mail, email, phone or door-to-door will be charged with a felony. Scams involving more than $100,000 in funds, assets or property, carry a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. For those scams involving $20,000 to $100,000 in losses, the punishment will include up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. Those convicted of financial exploitation of less than $20,000 will be fined up to $5,000 and could serve up to seven years in prison.
Richardson noted that an important aspect of the new law is that it allows charges to be filed up to five years after the date that an act of exploitation is discovered.
“This new law will not only give our district attorneys the tools they need to put these criminals behind bars, but it now gives them more time to do it,” said Richardson, R-Minco. “These types of crimes are usually not discovered by the family for some time and then it can be too late, but hopefully that won’t be the case now that we’ve extended the time frame in which charges can be filed.”
SB 1793 was a request bill from the Oklahoma State Silver-Haired Legislature and received broad support from district attorneys across the state.
“Thanks to this law, financial predators of the elderly stand a greater chance of being caught and sent to prison," said Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane.
The new law will go into effect July 1, 2006.