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Honolulu prosecutor taking elder abuse personally

By Paula Akana
Published On: May 07 2013 06:01:08 PM HST

At a time when seniors are supposed to be enjoying their lives, more and more are finding themselves the victims of elderly abuse. The Honolulu prosecutor has made elderly abuse a top priority, and he's taking it personally.

HONOLULU -

Elder abuse cases are exploding. The number of cases are up a whopping 294 percent in the last five years.

While many of those cases involve physical abuse, financial abuse is on the rise.

"I think one of the most important things is the elders are very trusting," said Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.  "They trust.  They grew up in a generation where you trusted people.  They view people as being basically good and, in our time, that's not necessarily so.  People will take advantage of the elderly."

The losses are huge.  A 2009 study by MetLife showed seniors lost $2.6 billion to financial abuse nationwide.

The Honolulu city prosecutor's office is aggressively attacking elder abuse.  Its Elder Abuse Justice Unit has doubled in size and is working with the finance industry to stop abuse in its tracks.

"We just recently had a case where a caretaker sold an elderly woman's home and took the proceeds from the house and put it in her and her children's account," said Kaneshiro.

That woman, Susan Chin, was found guilty last month of theft and money laundering.  That case alone involved more than $600,000.

A bill sitting on the governor's desk right now would get things rolling faster.

"It's important, in a sense.  It will bring to the attention of law enforcement suspected crimes, so we can investigate the case sooner.  We can get involved sooner.  We can get involved with banks sooner and protect the assets.  It's an important step," said Kaneshiro.

It's a mission Kaneshiro takes personally.

"When I was prosecuting attorney, before I spent a lot of time working.  I didn't spend as much time as I should have, perhaps, with my parents and family because my job came first," said Kaneshiro.  "But, when I left office, I spent a lot of time with them taking care of them.  In doing so, I saw what the elderly had to go through."

The abusers may not always be who you think.  Kaneshiro says they found 64 percent of the abusers were family members.

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