Charlotte federal courthouse. Courtesy of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina.

A federal grand jury in Charlotte indicted a 24-year-old Mecklenburg County man Tuesday on wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges involving an elderly victim.

Michael Filipidis of Mint Hill is accused of stealing more than $800,000 from an elderly person between December 2018 and February 2019, according to a statement from Andrew Murray, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Filipidis attempted to defraud an “elderly individual, by falsely representing (himself as) a financial adviser with a financial institution, and that he could manage and invest the victim’s monies,” the indictment alleges, according to Murray.

Although Filipidis was actually an employee of the financial institution, he worked at a call center and not in the role he described. The indictment alleges that the victim accepted his fraudulent claims and provided him with access to financial accounts, including authorizing Filipidis to transfer funds to new brokerage accounts, from which he “fraudulently diverted funds,” according to Murray.

The suspect also is accused of diverting funds from the victim’s life insurance annuities and other bank accounts into an account under Filipidis’ control and using the funds for his own “personal benefit,” Murray’s statement said.

“This is a case of financial exploitation perpetrated by someone who posed as a trusted financial expert,” Murray said.

“Criminals who target seniors are shameful opportunists who prey upon the vulnerable. My office will help investigate, punish and deter crimes against our seniors, and teach financial predators the hard lessons they deserve.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, whose special agent in charge for its Charlotte field office, Reginald DeMatteis, joined Murray in announcing Tuesday’s indictment.

“These types of cases often result in a devastating financial loss to victims,” DeMatteis said. “This is particularly true for seniors who are at risk of losing the financial security that they have worked a lifetime to build. The U.S. Secret Service will work tirelessly to protect our seniors from those who wish to exploit them.”

Filipidis’ first court appearance came Tuesday in Charlotte before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer. If Filipidis is convicted, he could face 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud. He would also potentially face a mandatory two-year sentence for aggravated identity theft, consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed.

Elder Justice Initiative

In March, Murray announced his office’s Elder Justice Initiative, which aims to combat financial exploitation of elders by expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors.

The initiative also seeks to educate older adults on how to identify scams and avoid becoming victims of financial fraud, as well as promote greater coordination with law enforcement partners.

For more information on the Elder Justice Initiative, see this link.

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