Seniors march on capitol claiming elder fraud


Retiree Jerry Noel lost thousands of dollars after he paid a now bankrupt company to handle his and his wife's nursing care finances in case they ever needed it.

The owner disappeared after bilking more than 500 seniors from Redding to San Diego.

"Haven't seen a penny of it," said fraud victim Jerry Noel. "No benefits, no anything."

As a last resort, Noel and others went to the Secretary of State's office, which administers the California Victims of Corporate Fraud Compensation Fund, and applied to get some money back, up to $20,000 available per person.

The fund was created almost ten years ago after the Enron scandal. Corporations in California pay $2.50 a year into a state account, generating almost $15 million over the last decade.

Fraud victims, like Noel, called on the Secretary of State to start compensating victims, not just for their losses but countless others.

The fund has only paid out $92,000 to seven people since its inception in 2002. One group submitted its claim in May 2010.

"Today, we know of 50 to 60 elders that have passed since this has started," said attorney Lawrence Salisbury, "so time is not on these folks' side."

The Secretary of State's office says not everyone is eligible for the fund because a court has to say fraud happened and then money is dispersed only in July.

"The way the fund is written into law and regulation, there is a waiting period," said spokeswoman Nicole Winger. "It's out of respect for all the eligible victims so that everyone has an equal shot at that pool of money."

The fraud fund is used so infrequently, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers seized $10 million last year to help pay other bills, making victims think the money is actually a slush fund.

Noel is frustrated because his fixed income could use a boost.

"Could live a little easier," Noel said. "We've had to cut back."

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