Legislation criminalizing the financial exploitation and abuse of Florida’s older or disabled adults is awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature.
HB 1041 / SB 1344 would expand the jurisdiction of the state attorney general’s Office of Statewide Prosecution to include specified authority over crimes against those two groups. The older adult protection enhancement is designed to grant law enforcement and prosecutors the authority to intervene before irreversible physical harm or financial loss occurs.
“With more than 5 million seniors calling Florida home, it is our duty to ensure we provide a safe environment for older citizens to enjoy their golden years from fraud and exploitation,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement. “Unfortunately, scammers recognize our booming senior population and often seek to turn their dream retirements into a financial nightmare.”
Additionally, the bill would criminalize the previously uncharged conduct of someone who exploits a vulnerable adult by changing the terms of a will or trust to their benefit. Anyone convicted of abuse, neglect, exploitation or aggravated manslaughter automatically would forfeit any inheritances under a will or a trust.
The bill, if signed into law, also would expand who may file an injunction for protection against exploitation of a vulnerable adult, and it would extend a temporary injunction for up to 45 days.
Moody called the senior protection legislation “historic.” She worked with the Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar, Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephrhills) and Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland) on the bill. She also created Florida’s Senior Protection Team, an intra-agency group of experts tasked with fighting fraud.
Scams against older adults have increased during the pandemic. In March, a Florida man was indicted for COVID-19 relief fraud for allegedly using the identities of senior living residents to obtain more than $1.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans.