Is Elder Abuse on the Rise in Utah?

Is Elder Abuse on the Rise in Utah?

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News Specialist Jill Atwood reportingA new crime wave is sweeping Utah and the nation involving physical and emotional abuse, financial fraud, and sexual exploitation of the elderly.

What's more disturbing, is the perpetrators are often those the victims trust most.

Everyday, at least 10 cases are reported. Last month alone over 200 referrals came in.

Half of the victims are over 70, and in nearly two out of three cases, the suspect is a member of the victims' own family.

A disturbing trend, a frustrating crime for investigators, an age old problem.

Maynard and Elizabeth Long lived in a modest home in Sandy for over 30 years. It was nothing fancy, but it was a castle by their standards.

Today it sits empty and up for sale.

"He keeps telling me my name was on the deed with him. He lied to me about all of this."

Across town the Longs give us a tour of their new place, a one bedroom apartment, in what police describe as a high-crime area.

But that's not the crime the Longs are worried about. Police say it took three years, but the couple's own son managed to swindle his parents home right out from under them.

"I wish this was the only one. I wish this was an isolated case and something that I had never seen before," says Glenn Keister with the state's adult protective services.

According to police, Bruce Long conned his parents into signing a bunch of legal documents that would put the home in his name. He then took out loan after loan against the home to pay off back child support and other debts. In total he borrowed $80,000.

For years the Longs had no idea anything was wrong. As far as they knew, Bruce was paying the mortgage every month and taking care of their financial affairs. That is until one morning when Maynard woke up to find a forclosure notice on his fence.

"He just loaded that van up with half of my stuff -- anything he could pick up. He loaded up and took off," Long says.

Glenn Keister is the adult protective services worker who investigated this case, and has seen many others just like it.

He says extreme cases of elder exploitation keep him up at night.

"What more can I do. Sometimes I feel inadequate. Sometimes I feel that I just haven't done enough. I could I stop all of this? (It's) a powerless feeling, helplessness," Keister says.

Experts in the field say financial exploitation is the fastest growing form of elder abuse, up 6 percent in the last three years. Investigators say the only reason the numbers aren't higher is because so many cases go unreported.

"One of the reasons is they're embarrassed that they were taken advantage of. A second reason is family members that perpetrate the crime and they don't want to see their son or daughter or grandchildren go to prison," says Detective Chuck Thoman with the Sandy Police Department.

And police say Bruce Long will probably go to prison. He was in court last month on felony charges of exploitation of an elder adult.

Meantime, his mom and dad struggle with his betrayal.

"I just, I'm not having nothing more to do with him. I don't give a darn if I ever speak to him anymore, I don't."

The Longs are embarrassed and very hurt by what happened, but they chose to share their story in the hopes that others won't be so trusting.

If you know anyone who may be a victim of elder abuse of any kind, contact adult protective services. Your call will remain anonymous.

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