WASHINGTON D.C. – Thornton Fennell, 56, was indicted on October 26, 2020, and arrested on December 5, 2020, on charges involving the financial exploitation of two elderly District residents.
The announcement was made by Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin; Peter Newsham, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and Karl Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia.
The indictment charged Fennell with three counts of Financial Exploitation of an Elderly Person (FEVA) and ten counts of First Degree Theft of a Senior Citizen. The charges involve fraudulently obtaining funds from two different elderly victims as well as using intimidation, deception, and undue influence to cause an elderly victim to take on a reverse mortgage for the benefit of another person. The theft charges involved $4,308 from one victim and $63,600 from the other.
An indictment is merely a finding of probable cause by the grand jury. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This prosecution is part of the Office’s wider efforts to combat crimes against seniors and vulnerable adults. In 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia simultaneously launched initiatives to address the abuse and exploitation of older adults. The Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation Initiative at the U.S. Attorney’s Office expanded its response to criminal and civil violations targeting older adults. The initiative has enabled the U.S. Attorney’s Office to develop and coordinate further its prosecution of these cases and enhance its overall support of older or vulnerable victims. The team consists of experienced prosecutors and victim advocates from across the Office, to include the Superior Court, Criminal, and Civil Divisions, as well as the Victim Witness Assistance Unit. This prosecution is indicative of the continued collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General to prosecute cases of this kind.
In announcing the indictment and arrest, Acting U.S. Attorney Sherwin, Chief Newsham, and Attorney General Racine commended the work of those who investigated the cases from the District of Columbia’s Office of the Attorney General and MPD. They also cited the efforts of Special Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer C. Mika, on detail from the Office of the Attorney General to handle financial crimes cases involving elderly victims, and Assistant United States Attorney Chimnomnso Kalu, who investigated and are prosecuting the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia with support from Paralegal Specialist Chad D. Byron.