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WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 19, 2012, 10:17 PM

Minnesota legislature takes further steps to protect vulnerable adults

Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) - It’s a major step forward in the fight against adult abuse in Minnesota. Until this week, the intentional abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult was a misdemeanor.

It’s a major step forward in the fight against adult abuse in Minnesota. Until this week, the intentional abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult was a misdemeanor. On Wednesday, Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill making it a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison.

A number of these victims are elderly. Sometimes they not only suffer physical abuse, but financial exploitation, as well.

The day to day transactions at State Bank & Trust are pretty typical, but every once in a while something doesn't add up.

Jim Martin – State Bank & Trust: "We've had someone come in and basically convincing their parent of how well you need to buy me a house."

Shelly Carlson with Clay County says one fifth of people ages 65 or older are victims of financial exploitation.

Shelly Carlson – Elder Abuse Project Coordinator: “It creates a situation where people are trying to get the money and when the money is being taken from that older person, then that older person isn't going to be able to access the services that they need to take care of themselves.”

State Bank & Trust averages one to two reports of financial exploitation to social services a year. Officials say it's hard to know when an elderly parent is being taken advantage of or just trying to help a loved one.

Jim Martin: "It is there account as long as they are of sound mind to make financial decisions, then yes we have to give in and for us to try to judge is someone of sound mind is very difficult."

There is justice for victims who do come forward. Financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult is a crime. The penalty depends on how much was taken.

State Bank & Trust officials say most of the financial exploitation victims they've seen are elderly, but this can happen to any vulnerable adult. If you or someone you know is being financial exploited or abused, you're asked to call social services in Clay County at 218-299-5200 or Cass County at 701-241-5761.

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