Those found guilty of fraud against older people will face the brunt of the law.
This was the warning given yesterday by Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox subsequent to a meeting she had with Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to discuss fraud.
Just mere days after her contribution to the Mid Term Review– where she highlighted several instances of fraudulent activity against older people– Cox met with Griffith in an attempt to mitigate and treat with such activities which occur from time- to- time at the ministry.
The meeting followed a previous discussion with the Supermarket’s Association of T&T (SATT) on the issue of cashing senior citizens’ pension cheques at supermarkets, as well as the issuing of fake cheques and the blatant use of fake identification cards by perpetrators.
With the current implementation of Phase II of the COVID Social Support Relief Measures, the meeting was also an opportune time to establish mechanisms for early detection of fraud, in order to safeguard the public purse.
The following data was shared in terms of investigations undertaken by the Police Service so far:
2019: Six reports involving six victims, amounting to the sum of $24,000.
2020: Sixteen reports, involving 58 victims, amounting to the sum of $712,03.00.
2021 (to 16th June): Seven reports, involving 170 victims, amounting to the sum of $431,300.00.
A statement from the ministry said among the other items discussed at yesterday’s meeting included:
Outstanding matters related to food card and food relief, which are currently being investigated by the Police Service.
· Procedures and arrangements for reporting on matters of fraud;
· The establishment of an Investigations Unit at the ministry;
· A collaborative approach between both the ministry and the TTPS to treat with elder abuse in all its forms.
· Measures to mitigate and manage fraudulent activities related to those living abroad and receiving state funds under false pretences.
The release said in response, Griffith expressed his commitment to working closely with the ministry and offered pertinent advice in order to eradicate the cases of fraud plaguing the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services.
He said, “I am quite happy to be included at this point in any discussion related to fraudulent behaviour and I pledge the services of the TTPS to work closely with the ministry. I will therefore do my part to work with the ministry in treating with this very important issue.”
Griffith said a follow up meeting is scheduled to take place with other departments of the Police Service in order to address some of the other issues raised in the meeting.
Cox said the ministry remains committed to working closely with all stakeholders to ensure that “no one is left behind, and those who are found guilty of fraud will face the brunt of the law.”