Officials sound alarm about growing problem of elder abuse in metro Phoenix

Jun 15, 2024, 7:15 AM

Close-up stock photo of an elderly woman's hands crossed in her lap. The number of metro Phoenix el...

The number of metro Phoenix elder abuse cases rose by nearly 20% in 2023. (Upshot Photo)

(Upshot Photo)

PHOENIX — Elder abuse is growing at an alarming rate in metro Phoenix, with the number cases rising by nearly 20% last year, according to recently released data.

“Elder abuse deprives our seniors of their security at a time when they should be able to enjoy life without fear of being victimized,” County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said in a press release Friday, a day before World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security documented 17,575 individual reports of elder abuse in Maricopa County in fiscal year 2023, according to the release. That was a significant increase from the 14,795 cases a year earlier.

To help raise awareness, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) spotlighted two ongoing elder abuse prosecutions in the release.

Metro Phoenix elder abuse: 2 case studies

The first is out of Scottsdale, where David Volpe is accused of defrauding an elderly client of more than $400,000 while working as the victim’s investment advisor from 2015 to 2019.

Volpe allegedly sent a portion of the ill-gotten money to Joel Sauceda. Volpe and Sauceda now face multiple felony counts of theft from a vulnerable adult, MCAO said.

The other case is out of the West Valley, where a man is accused of fleecing his own mother out of $30,000.

Glendale Police arrested Ronnie Reid in July 2023 after his mother reported fraudulent ATM withdrawals from her account, MCAO said.

Reid pleaded guilty in April to one count of theft, a class 6 non-dangerous felony, according to court records. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 25.

“The elder community is often a target because of their vulnerability,” Mitchell said. “Many times, it is family members or people close to the victim who commit elder-related crimes.”

Other elder abuse cases have made headlines

Two other high-profile elder abuse cases have made the news recently.

In April, a third-party receiver was appointed to take control of Heritage Village, a Mesa assisted living facility accused of abuse and consumer fraud.

Then in May, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes sued an organization that operates dozens of facilities over its allegedly illegal secrecy clauses.

Mayes said she is suing to help the family of a Sun West Choice Health & Rehab Facility resident who allegedly died from neglect in March 2022.

For more information about elder abuse, or to report an incident, contact Adult Protective Services at 877-SOS-ADULT (767-2385) or the Area Agency on Aging 24-hour helpline at 602-264-HELP (4357).

In addition, the Arizona Department of Economic Security has an online portal for reporting cases of adult abuse.

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Officials sound alarm about growing problem of elder abuse in metro Phoenix