Those planning to swindle money from Michigan's elderly would be most deterred if they faced mandatory minimum jail time and fines for the crime, Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte said.
So far, the Legislature is taking the opposite approach by proposing increasing maximum sentences for scamming senior citizens.
A bill has been approved in the Senate, and awaits a final House vote, that would increase prison time and fines for those convicted of swindling money or property from senior citizens or fraudulently obtaining their signatures.
Bezotte called for mandatory minimum one-year county jail sentences or minimum 18-month state prison sentences for those convicted of defrauding seniors.
He said maximum sentences in cases of swindling seniors are rarely, if ever, handed down in Michigan.
On Wednesday, he warned seniors gathered at the Hartland Senior Center of such scams, most of which he said have ranged from $5,000 to $25,000 in the county in recent years.
"The sentences have got to fit the crime, and you've got to know if they're going to rip off a senior citizen, it's going to be this amount" of punishment, Bezotte said.
"Take some discretion away from the judges," he added.
Senate Bill 459 would create maximum penalties of 15 years in prison, a $15,000 fine, or both, for theft valued between $50,000 and $100,000.
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Heat is Rising on Senior Swindles; Bill Would Increase Prison Time, Fines