Consider the 2009 King County case of Jasmine Kassim, now serving 75 months in prison for bilking five seniors out of more than $1 million dollars. Kassim was an annuity salesperson for Banker’s Life. She had numerous elderly clients that she systematically groomed and targeted over a period of years. The elderly victims were all between 75 and 90 years old.
“Kassim is a great example,” says Ulrey, who prosecuted Kassim. “These people trusted her, and when she told them to write a check out to her so she could reinvest the money in their annuity, they did without questioning her.”
The money went first into Kassim’s daughter’s account and then directly into Kassim’s personal bank account. Investigators later found that Kassim had spent almost all the money on herself and a lavish lifestyle.
In this case, the missing money came to light because the son of one of the victims began asking questions about large checks drawn from his father’s account. Banker’s Life refunded the money to all the victims, but it is believed that most cases of financial abuse go unreported and unprosecuted.
“We don’t know the scope of the problem because these cases are so underreported. We think we are only seeing a tiny fraction of what is actually happening,” says Ulrey. “But I can tell you anecdotally from doing this work for the last 12 years, it is getting worse and worse, and we are getting more and more cases.”
The young housekeeper who marries an aged and ailing multi-millionaire grabs the headlines but it happens regardless of income level.
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“For the victims, the pain is immeasurable because they are losing money they took a long time to accrue or they are depending on to survive, and secondly, because they have been betrayed by someone they trust,” she adds.
“A study done a number of years ago found that victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation are three times more likely to die a premature death. I have seen that a lot in my cases. Victims are so demoralized and devastated by financial exploitation that they often deteriorate, and many of my victims are dead before we get to trial,” says Ulrey.