CWAG Roundup

October 13, 2016
 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
 
 
CWAG WINTER DINNER ANNOUNCEMENT
 
We invite you to attend the CWAG Endowment Dinner on Tuesday, November 29, 2016, at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale.  The CWAG Endowment is a fund established to support the educational, research, training, and other work of CWAG and the state Attorneys General.  CWAG has benefitted from the generosity of the sponsors that will be in attendance. The cultivation of these relationships and your support of this event is greatly appreciated. The evening will begin with a reception in the Grand Ballroom 3 which is located on the 4th Floor of The Ritz-Carlton from 6:00pm - 7:00pm.  The progressive dinner will immediately follow the reception in the Grand Ballroom 1 & 2 from 7:00pm - 9:30pm. Please RSVP no later than Wednesday, November 23rd to Meeting Planner Alejandra Stephens at AStephens@CWAGWeb.Org or 303.304.9206.
We hope to see you in Fort Lauderdale!
 
UPCOMING EVENTS
 
Cyber Forum
Park City, Utah
February 2-3, 2017
 
Chair's Initiative and Western Pacific AG Summit
Honolulu, Hawaii
March 14-16, 2017
 
2017 CWAG Annual Meeting
San Francisco, CA
July 30- August 2, 2017
 
 
FIGHTING OPIATE ABUSE
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Brad Schimel of Wisconsin , Chairman of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Midwestern Region, held a meeting October 6-7, 2016, in Milwaukee, Wis. to discuss an attorney general's role in fighting opiate abuse. "My top priority as Attorney General has been preventing prescription drug and heroin abuse in Wisconsin," said Attorney General Schimel. "When I ran for Attorney General, I promised to convene AGs from across the country to discuss heroin and prescription drug abuse and now the multi-disciplinary team of professionals that have been leading this fight with me in our state will have an opportunity to share our efforts with my colleagues." Presentations and discussions at the meeting covered treatment, prescription drug monitoring programs, legislation and policy, building a drug disposal program, enforcement, coalition building, and raising public awareness.
 
HUMAN TRAFFICKING
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas announced the arrest of Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage.com, a notorious adult website that generates millions of dollars annually from its classified sex ads. Ferrer, 55, was taken into custody on a California arrest warrant after he arrived in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. A lengthy joint investigation by the offices of the Texas and California attorneys general uncovered evidence that adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads that appeared repeatedly on Backpage. "Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas," Attorney General Paxton said. "I intend to use every resource my office has to make sure those who profit from the exploitation and trafficking of persons are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
 
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced the arrest of Carl Ferrer, the Chief Executive Officer of online advertising website Backpage.com, on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping.  Michael Lacey and James Larkin, controlling shareholders of Backpage, have also been criminally charged with conspiracy to commit pimping, a felony. Backpage hosts ads for "escort services", essentially operating as an online brothel and generating millions of dollars off the illegal sex trade.  "Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal," said Attorney General Harris.  "Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world's top online brothel. Thank you to the California Department of Justice Special Agents, investigators, attorneys, and our partners in law enforcement who have worked tirelessly to bring the operators of this online brothel to justice and protect thousands of victims of trafficking."
 
FIGHTING CYBER CRIME
 
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced the creation of the California Cyber Crime Center (C4), a new initiative within the California Department of Justice to fight crime in the digital era by bringing state-of-the-art digital forensic capabilities and cyber security expertise to law enforcement across the state. "As the world becomes increasingly digital and crime evolves, the tools we use to prevent, investigate, and prosecute crime must keep pace. Criminals are operating online with alarming sophistication, committing identity theft, hacking, cyber exploitation, and other crimes that involve technology, and law enforcement must stay one step ahead," said Attorney General Harris. "The California Cyber Crime Center brings legal, technical, and forensic capabilities to law enforcement across the state, helping our partners combat crime and building on our commitment to bring innovation to government." C4 brings together the eCrime unit, established by Attorney General Harris in 2011 to investigate and prosecute large-scale identity theft and technology crimes; the Network Information Security Section (NISS), the California Department of Justice (DOJ)'s office of cyber security experts; and the Digital Evidence Unit, which was first piloted in the California DOJ Bureau of Forensic Service state crime labs in 2011, making California one of the first states in the nation to develop this capability.
 
ENERGY
 
Energy Transfer Partners issued a statement saying it is pleased with the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals to dissolve the administrative injunction that had temporarily suspended construction activities on the Dakota Access pipeline in an area near the proposed crossing of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. The Appeals Court has now joined with the Federal District Court in denying the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's motion for an injunction to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The statement said:  "The Army Corps and Dakota Access carefully considered the views of all potentially affected tribes that chose to participate in the consultative process prescribed by Congress, and fully complied with both the letter and the spirit of the National Historic Preservation Act. In light of Sunday's court decision, Dakota Access looks forward to a prompt resumption of construction activities east and west of Lake Oahe on private land. All construction efforts will be undertaken in close coordination with state and local law enforcement officials, and we are hopeful their law enforcement efforts will be supplemented by those of the federal government."
 
FIGHTING FRAUD
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Sorrell of Vermont announced that the State of Vermont, and Burlington Laboratories, Inc. have reached an agreement settling an investigation by the Medicaid Fraud and Residential Abuse Unit of the Office of the Attorney General into whether Burlington submitted false claims or received overpayments from the Vermont Medicaid Program. Burlington Labs will pay $6.75 million to settle potential claims under the Vermont False Claims Act.  "This settlement balances the ongoing needs for drug testing services in Vermont with ensuring proper billings for services rendered and safeguarding of state and federal monies," said Attorney General Sorrell. Burlington Labs is an independent toxicology laboratory, headquartered in Burlington, Vermont. The settlement resolves an investigation into Burlington Labs' Medicaid claims related to drug screening and certain confirmatory tests. The investigation revealed that from January 1, 2015, through June 30, 2015, Burlington Labs violated a number of Medicaid rules regarding such tests including by varying the charged amount submitted to Vermont Medicaid depending on the number of drugs tested. As a result of this practice, Burlington Labs received more than $12 million from the Vermont Medicaid program in calendar year 2015, after only receiving approximately $10 million over the previous five years combined.
 
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced that a court has ruled that the makers of 5-hour ENERGY® violated the state's Consumer Protection Act by making claims in thousands of ads that were not backed by scientific evidence. After a three week trial that ended in early September, King County Superior Court Judge Beth Andrus agreed with Attorney General Ferguson that advertising campaigns and press releases by the companies that produce 5-hour ENERGY® - Living Essentials LLC and Innovation Ventures LLC - were misleading. Attorney General Ferguson filed the lawsuit in July of 2014 against the makers of 5-hour ENERGY®, a popular flavored energy shot sold in 1.93 oz. containers. The Attorney General's Office alleged they deceived consumers with ads claiming that doctors recommend 5-hour ENERGY®; that the product is superior to coffee because its "energy blend" interacts in a "synergistic" way with caffeine to make the energy and alertness associated with caffeine last longer; and that Decaf 5-hour ENERGY® provides consumers with energy, alertness and focus that lasts for hours. "The makers of 5-hour ENERGY® misled consumers in pursuit of profit," Attorney General Ferguson said. "They broke the law, and they will be held accountable for their deception."
 
MARIJUANA
 
Attorney General Derek Schmidt of Kansas published a new report that shows marijuana from Colorado has permeated nearly all parts of Kansas. The report also shows that Colorado's decision to "legalize" marijuana has resulted in a sharp increase in the availability of marijuana-laced "edibles" in Kansas, a phenomenon rarely encountered here before the Colorado experiment. Since Colorado changed its state law to allow recreational as well as medical use of marijuana, persistent anecdotal reports from law enforcement agencies in Kansas had suggested Colorado marijuana was readily flowing into Kansas despite assurances that federal authorities would exercise their authority to prevent Colorado marijuana from flowing into nearby states where it remains illegal. But solid data about the extent of the problem was unavailable. In December 2015, Attorney General Schmidt exercised his authority under Kansas law to gather information from local law enforcement officials and began surveying all county and district attorneys, sheriffs and police departments in the state about their specific experiences with marijuana coming from Colorado. "This report provides the first data-based snapshot of the specific effects Colorado's experiment in 'legalization' is having in Kansas," Attorney General Schmidt said. "I hope this information will serve to better inform policy discussions and debates. Whatever one's views on the merits of Colorado's choice to 'legalize' and on the federal government's decision to look the other way despite the commands of federal law, it is clear that decisions made in Colorado and Washington, D.C., are having a significant effect in Kansas."

 
 
Chris Coppin
Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
505-589-5101 (cell)
817-615-9335 (fax)
Chris.coppin@cwagweb.org