In keen discussion: Senator Donna Cox, Minister of Social Development and Family Services, meets with Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and his team at the TTPS to discuss fraud. (Image courtesy Ministry of Social Development and Family Services)

The Police Service has pledged to work closely with the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services to eradicate the worsening threat of fraud against senior citizens in this country.

The partnership was confirmed following a meeting this week, between the Minister, Senator Donna Cox, and the Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith.  In addition to officials from the Ministry of Social Development, also present at the meeting from the Police Service were ACP Corbett of the White Collar Crime Department, and Senior Superintendent Groome, Head of the Fraud Squad Division.

Minister Cox asserted that those who are found guilty of fraud will face the brunt of the law, while Commissioner Griffith pledged the TTPS’ commitment to ensuring the eradication of fraud cases plaguing the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services.

“I am quite happy to be included at this point in any discussion related to fraudulent behaviour, and I pledge the services of the TTPS to work closely with the Ministry. I will, therefore, do my part to work with the Ministry in treating with this very important issue,” the Commissioner stated, noting that a follow up meeting is scheduled to take place with other departments of the TTPS in order to address several issues raised in the meeting.

The meeting came days after Minister Cox’s contribution to the Mid Term Review debate in Parliament, during which she highlighted several instances of fraudulent activity against older persons.

It also follows on from a previous discussion with the Supermarkets Association on the issue of the cashing of Senior Citizens’ Pension Cheques at supermarkets, as well as the issuing of fake cheques, and the blatant use of fake identification cards by fraudsters.

L-R: Senior Superintendent Groome, Commissioner Gary Griffith, Senator Donna Cox and ACP Corbett, following a meeting held to discuss fraud. (Image courtesy Ministry of Social Development and Family Services)

An official statement from the Ministry notes that with the current implementation of Phase II of the COVID Social Support Relief Measures, the meeting also was “an opportune time to establish mechanisms for early detection of fraud, in order to safeguard the public purse, during these financially, challenging times.”

With regard to fraudulent activities impacting the social services, the TTPS has investigated some 20 cases, from 2019 to present day, and more cases are under probe:

●   2019 – Six reports, involving six victims, amounting to the sum of $24,000

●   2020 – 16 reports, involving 58 victims, amounting to the sum of $712,000

●   2021 (to 16th June) – Seven reports, involving 170 victims, amounting to the sum of

$431,300

Other items discussed at the meeting between the Minister and the Police Commissioner included:

●   Outstanding matters related to Food Card and Flood Relief, which are currently being investigated by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS);

●   Procedures and arrangements for reporting on matters of fraud;

●   The establishment of an Investigations Unit at the Ministry;

●   A collaborative approach between both the Ministry and the TTPS to treat with Elder Abuse in all its forms; and

●   Measures to mitigate and manage fraudulent activities related to those living abroad and receiving state funds under false pretences.