By a vote of 83-10, the Ohio House of Representatives today voted to more effectively safeguard Ohio’s elderly and disabled by increasing the penalties for those who commit telecommunications fraud.
Specifically, Senate Bill 223 increases the penalties of cyberfraud so that if the value of the benefit obtained by the offender or of the detriment to the victim of the fraud is between $1,000 and $7,500, telecommunications fraud is a fourth degree felony; if the value or the detriment is between $7,500 and $150,000, it is a third degree felony; if the value of the benefit or detriment is between $150,000 and $1 million, it is a second degree felony; and if the value of the benefit or detriment is $1 million or more, it is a first degree felony.
The legislation also specifies that if the offense is committed against an elderly person or disabled adult, the offense is known as “telecommunications fraud perpetrated against an elderly person or disabled adult” and increases the penalties of the crime based on the financial severity of the offense.
“I’m pleased to see this legislation pass from the Ohio House today because, at a time when technology plays such a central role in society, the opportunities for cyberfraud are more prevalent than ever before,” said State Representative Lynn Slaby (R-Copley), who serves as chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee and carried Senate Bill 223 in the House. “Senate Bill 223 will help to give Ohioans, especially seniors and the disabled, greater peace of mind when it comes to this issue.”
Senate Bill 223 permits the Ohio Attorney General to conduct an investigation if there is reasonable cause to believe that a person or enterprise has engaged in, is engaging in, or is preparing to engage in telecommunications fraud or telecommunications fraud against an elderly person or disabled adult.
In the House Criminal Justice Committee, Chairman Slaby amended the bill to eliminate a requirement that an offender must know that the victim is an elderly person or disabled adult for the offender to be guilty of telecommunications fraud perpetrated against an elderly person or disabled adult.