WICHITA, Kan. -- Kansas lawmakers returning to Topeka next week plan to take a look at legislation some hope will help protect senior citizens and other vulnerable Kansans from financial crimes.
Prosecutors say financial crimes targeting the elderly are serious enough to warrant prison time, so they are urging legislators to change state law to provide that option. Many lawmakers already agree.
"Financial abuse cases against senior citizens in this state happen every day, happen every hour to hundreds and hundreds of vulnerable Kansans," Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, said during a Wichita news conference Thursday.
Protecting those vulnerable Kansans is why a group of prosecutors and advocates for the elderly are encouraging lawmakers to tighten state law and increase penalties and prison time for those who commit financial crimes against citizens who are 60 or older.
"It's important for us to let Kansans know that these crimes are going on, to be on the lookout for them and then, unfortunately, when they happen, to make sure prosecutors are able to bring the criminals to justice," King said.
If a bill pushed by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt becomes law, will increase prison time for anyone convicted of medicaid fraud. He said the crime has two groups of victims: Taxpayers and program recipients.
"Not only do you have a financial loss, you have somebody who was entitled to and expected to receive services who never got them," Schmidt said.
Kansas Securities Commissioner Josh Ney is also pushing for prison time for those who commit securities fraud with senior citizens as their victims.
Sen. Michael O'Donnell, R-Wichita, worked over the summer with former Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston to craft legislation that increases penalties for those who scam anyone 60 or older.
"One of the most important things we do today is assure that their financial health and well-being is protected," Foulston said.
O'Donnell said the three bills will be packaged as the Nola Foulston Senior Citizen Protection Act. It likely will enjoy broad bipartisan support in Topeka.
Prevention is the best tool for combating financial crimes, Schmidt said. His office recently launched the website,inyourcornerkansas.org, to provide Kansans with information about how to look out for scams and where to turn if they have been victimized.