Elder Financial Abuse

The Crime of the 21st Century

By John Schwartz, the Founder and President of The Center for Combating Elder Financial Abuse


The Center For Combating Elder Financial Abuse (Center) describes elder financial abuse as a low-probability, high-impact crime. What is meant by this statement is that the chances are low that an elderly person will become a victim of a financial predator. However, it also means that if a predator gains financial control of an elderly person, the results could be devastating, and entire life savings can be stolen. One of the most effective “attack vectors” financial predators use against vulnerable seniors is the fraudulent investment and Ponzi scheme. The Center has researched numerous predators who have used this attack vector effectively against the elderly and a few of these convicted predators are below.


• Wiliam Neil “Doc” Gallagher, age 80 at the time of his sentencing in 2021, stole over $32 million through a Ponzi scheme. Gallagher called himself the “Money Doctor” on Christian radio shows.

• Kent Maerki, age 78 at the time of his sentencing in 2021, was a part of a criminal enterprise consisting of at least 10 co-conspirators. This enterprise conducted a nationwide investment fraud scheme that stole over $23 million.

• Steven Pagartanis, age 60 at the time of his sentencing in 2020, conducted a Ponzi scheme that netted over $13 million.

• Roger Williams, age 52 at the time of his sentencing in 2018, was a church pastor who solicited funds for an “investment club” and also church bonds. Williams stole over $1.3 million from investors.


We chose these examples to illustrate that these fraudulent investment predators hide “in plain sight” and they possess the necessary skills to successfully steal up to tens of millions of dollars. These examples also illustrate that some of these predators are elderly citizens that prey upon their peers.


So, how do elderly citizens avoid being snared by an investment predator? The Center offers the following five tips.