By Thomas Goldsmith
Russell Joseph Mutter, 49, a financial adviser from Clemmons, stood accused this week of taking more than $900,000 from the retirement accounts of three men, ages 66, 69 and 78, while bound by law to represent their interests, according to indictments in the case.
In a phone interview Thursday, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall cited the kinds of charges brought against Mutter, first reported by Winston-Salem Journal, as examples of the sort of elder financial abuse that remains common despite the best efforts of government, nonprofits and some businesses. Marshall will give the keynote speech and oversee a session at an annual meeting Wednesday, May 16, of the North Carolina Partnership to Address Adult Abuse, known as NCP3A.
“They have no mercy,” Marshall said of scam artists. “It is a business, a habit, a routine to try to get into people’s bank accounts.”
Estimated as costing older people more than $36 billion annually across the country, those who practice this kind of fraud are constantly devising new techniques in operations, in recent cases even as some were pursued by the Secretary of State’s cease-and-desist orders from the United Kingdom to Dubai.
The N.C. Secretary of State’s office offers these tips for family members or friends of people who may be vulnerable to financial exploitation:
- Has a new person come into the elder’s life and shown excessive interest in their financial situation?
- Are friends and family members unable to speak directly to the senior despite repeated attempts?
- Does the senior suddenly talk more about financial worries, or begin making references to a financial windfall?
Also, potential investors or concerned people should call the Secretary of State’s securities hotline at 800-688-4507 to make sure that any broker, adviser or investment offering is registered.
“In the last six months to a year, they’ve got these cell phone numbers,” Marshall said.
“The call looks like a 919 number coming from Raleigh or Cary, and it’s not. And then when you press a number to respond, that makes you more valuable, because they know it’s a good number.”
In the Forsyth County case, defendant Mutter is accused of 12 felony counts, four each of investment advisor fraud, financial exploitation, and obtaining property by false pretense. No one returned a message left Thursday by NC Health News at the offices of his firm, RJM Investments.
According to the indictments, Mutter was acting as an adviser to the retirement-aged men when he took money from their accounts for his own use. He offered to buy corporate and U.S. bonds, called Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, using one client’s IRA, an indictment said.
“When in fact, the defendant did not purchase the approved or authorized securities or investments and in fact withdrew investment funds the defendant was not entitled to, and used his client’s funds for his own use and benefit after depositing them into his brokerage account,” one of the indictments said.
Variety of abuse detailed
The N.C. Partnership to Address Adult Abuse promotes safe communities for older adults and adults with disabilities through “prevention, recognition, protection and prosecution of abuse, neglect and exploitation,” according to an agency statement. Its annual conference, “Elder Abuse Doesn’t Discriminate,” at the Wake Technical Community College’s southern campus in Raleigh, will present workshops that range from abuse and the LGBT community, to hoarding.
“One of the things this group is doing is how to educate people on how to recognize physical abuse, and how to avoid financial abuse,” said Joan Pellettier, president of the partnership.
If you go
What: North Carolina Partnership to Address Adult Abuse annual meeting
Get more details and register here. (People who sign up after Friday, May 11 will not be able to reserve lunches.)
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesday, May 16
How much: $30
Where: Student Services Building, 9101 Fayetteville Road, Wake Technical Community College, Southern Wake Campus, Raleigh
“APS is getting more referrals or reports of elder abuse,” Pellettier said. “Part of it is the older population is growing. Some of that is that awareness is increasing. People are realizing that abuse is just rampant.”
Meanwhile, Marshall will be pushing https://verifybeforeyoubuy.org/, a website that allows consumers to identify fake overseas pharmacies and avoid their counterfeit and potentially deadly products.
Learn about abuse
Workshop topics that overlap in the afternoon will include “Financial Abuse and Fraud,” led by Marshall; “Abuse and the LGBT Community,” with Paige Averett, director of graduate programs in the East Carolina University School of Social Work; and “Abuse of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disability Issues,” with Morgan Parlier, clinical lead social work faculty at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities.
Another set of concurrent workshops at 2:50 p.m. includes “Abuse of Individuals with Mental Health Issues, ” with Irene Reville, psychotherapist with Silver Linings for Seniors; “Understanding Hoarding,” with Marty Lamb; and “Oral Health and Its Implications,” with Suzanne Martin, director of outreach and engagement, N.C. Oral Health Collaborative.