The Toronto Sun reported yet another investigation which resulted in fraud charges against an Attorney for Property for stealing the life savings of a senior in a nursing home. The article, found here, explains that the Attorney for Property was charged with theft, fraud over $5000, identity theft and breach of probation. It is estimated that the victim lost over $70,000 to someone she trusted.
While a Power of Attorney (POA) under the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 is an important part of planning, it is very easy for unscrupulous and dishonest attorneys to abuse the authority and use it as a license to steal. It is the most common form of elder abuse in Canada.
If someone suspects abuse of legal authority to commit a financial crime, there are options available to protect the vulnerable person. Theft, fraud and forgery conducted under the guise of a POA can be reported to the police and potentially prosecuted under the Criminal Code. In addition, in Ontario, the Public Guardian and Trustee can be contacted to protect an incapable person being victimized by financial abuse.
It is also possible that the stolen monies can be recovered through litigation. Where possible, it is preferable to commence civil tracing and freezing of assets prior to notifying the fraudster of the discovery or reporting it to the police. It is important for victims to speak with counsel experienced in fraud recovery to properly coordinate the civil recovery with the criminal complaint to maximize the potential to recover the funds.
It is important if you suspect elder abuse to contact a lawyer and the appropriate authorities, to help protect the vulnerable. At Investigation Counsel, we welcome inquiries to discuss strategies for recovery and protection of vulnerable persons against financial crimes