July 25, 2023
Three Philadelphia residents are facing criminal charges for allegedly carrying out schemes that exploited seniors in the city, prosecutors said Monday.
Michael Williams, 55, and Summer Rifenburg, 44, allegedly conspired to steal the home of a senior man with dementia. Williams is accused of opening an estate in the name of the senior man's father, and transferring the rights by acting as the estate's executor.
Williams has been charged with neglect of a care dependent person, theft, burglary, conspiracy, forgery and related offense. Rifenburg is facing similar charges. They have a court hearing on Monday, July 31.
In another case, prosecutors charged Josh Leyland, 26, for allegedly defrauding a 77-year-old man of $140,000 in a home improvement scheme in 2019. Leyland, a construction worker, allegedly convinced the man that his home required extensive repairs and demanded he pay upfront in cashier's checks. But hardly any work was done to the home, prosecutors said.
Leyland allegedly used his passport to cash the cashier's check and fled to the United Kingdom. He was extradited to the U.S. and is facing charges of fraud, theft and related offenses. He has a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
The cases were investigated by the D.A.'s Office Elder Justice Unit.
"Elder abuse, particularly involving financial scams, is occurring at a rapid and alarming rate across the country," said Sarina Issenberg, coordinator of the Philadelphia Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team. "This form of predation afflicts 1 in 10 older Americans at a cost of over $36.5 billion per year. It's also a very serious crisis in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Anyone with knowledge of elderly abuse schemes or exploitation is asked to contact the Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team at (215) 686-5710.