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Judith Kozlowski Is Leading the Fight Against Elder Abuse

Consultant, Department of Justice Elder Justice Initiative

Elder Justice expert Judith Kozlowski

Stephen Voss

Responsibilities: The initiative combats financial exploitation of older Americans and elder abuse and neglect.

Current priorities: Working with the Corporation for National and Community Service to train its 220,000-plus Senior Corps volunteers to recognize elder abuse and financial exploitation.

At A Glance

Age: 67

Hometown: Garfield Heights, Ohio

Time in office: DOJ consultant since 2016

Personal: Married with two daughters and helps care for her father, 98

Background: Kozlowski has fought to protect older folks from rip-offs through four decades. She was a federal criminal prosecutor for 20 years and a securities regulator and trial lawyer for 10 years for agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission. She frequently trains FBI agents, prosecutors and judges on elder financial exploitation. Testifying before the Senate Special Committee on Aging this year, she recalled how a late uncle, Howard Shaft, lost about $200,000 in the ‘90s in a penny stock scam targeting residents of a Leisure World community in Orange County, Calif. When he was swindled, the World War II veteran and retired restaurateur was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. That inspired her to become a prosecutor. Another career highlight: helping set up the Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2011. Kozlowski graduated from Oberlin College in 1974 and New York Law School in 1978.

What she says:

On the scope of the problem: “Elder financial exploitation remains the most pervasive and fastest growing form of elder abuse in this country and the world."

On recruiting others to the cause: “I'm one of those people, if I end up talking to you on an airplane, I'll hoodwink you into doing something for me, but in a nice way. In this field, when you ask someone to do something, they will, because they know it's so important."

On what she told jurors in closing arguments: “This isn't just a crime about taking money. It's really, truly a crime about ending a life. It can't be repaired. Let's say you lose half of what have — $2,000 or $200,000. Your life is upended. You may need to find a new place to live. You may need to find medical care. You may or may not have family that can help you. You may have cognitive issues. You can't just get another job and be a greeter at Walmart or pack groceries at Publix.”

What people are saying:

"She is a professional of the first order. She's a friend. She's fun to be around. I just know she has been at this a long time and she continues to do it. God bless her for doing that,” says Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III, her former boss at CFPB.

"Through her more than four decades of experience working to prevent elder financial abuse and exploitation, Judith has made a real difference in the lives of countless seniors,” says Sen. Susan Collins, (R-Maine), chairman, Special Committee on Aging.

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