PROTECTING CRIME VICTIMS
As part of the National Crime Victims' Rights Week, CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota recognized the progress in the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification System (SAVIN). "National Crime Victims' Rights Week focuses on the advancement of victims' rights and how victims can be better served. The SAVIN System is doing just that as it continues to make more readily available to victims and the public more information," said Jackley. In August 2016, the SAVIN System was launched and tasked at providing a free, automated service that provides crime victims with vital information and notification 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The system service allows victims to obtain offender information and to register for notification of a change in offender status.
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington
released guidance for local governments on protecting the rights of all Washington residents, and the limits of federal immigration authority. The extensive guidance addresses local law enforcement, jails, public hospitals, schools and employers, as well as interactions between local jurisdictions and federal authorities. It includes model language that can be used to enact laws and policies on how local government entities should respond to federal requests for assistance with immigration enforcement. "Recent changes in federal immigration policy and practices have caused needless fear and uncertainty in our communities," Attorney General Ferguson said. "This guidance helps local governments protect their residents and understand their obligations and their authority in this shifting landscape."
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado
announced that her office has shut down the unlicensed debt collection company Peak Resolution, LLC and secured a judgment requiring the defendants to pay approximately $491,000 in consumer restitution, penalties, and attorney fees. The judgment also prohibits the defendants from ever doing business in Colorado or collecting from Colorado citizens again without proper licensure and full legal compliance. Dan Cane, Peak Resolution's owner, and Chris Hagerman, the company's primary manager, are also subject to the judgment. "There is a right way and a wrong way to collect debts in Colorado, and consumers who have fallen into debt do not deserve to be lied to and threatened by collection agencies," said Attorney General Coffman. "While there are many law-abiding collection companies in Colorado, we will not tolerate any company that collects debts illegally."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan
announced a Notice of Intended Action and Cease and Desist Order against for-profit clothing donation bin operator A.T.R.S. of Houston, Texas, alleging over 300,000 violations for falsely labeling the 251 clothing bins it operates for the Michigan Humane Society. The A.T.R.S.-operated bins state that the Michigan Humane Society "receives 100% of the market value of every donation received at this location." However, by contract, A.T.R.S. pays the Michigan Humane Society just $.02 per pound. For 2016, donations to the bins generated $835k in revenue for A.T.R.S., an average of $.34 per pound; A.T.R.S. paid the Michigan Humane Society $.02 per pound for these items, or $49k, which equals just 6% of the market value of the donated clothes. "Michigan residents deserve to know if the donation they make will have an impact," said Attorney General Schuette. "Due to the alleged deceptive marketing of this company, residents who donate to these bins across the state are led to believe that the Michigan Humane Society is getting a large amount of their donation which is untrue and cannot be tolerated."
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington
announced that a Portland, Ore.-based property management company must pay more than $16,000 for requiring service members to sign illegal lease addendums requiring them to forfeit rent concessions if they had to terminate their leases early as a result of change of station or deployment. CTL Management included the addendum on more than 220 leases at Chambers Creek Estates, a large apartment complex in University Place, near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which houses many military families. "Our men and women in uniform should not be burdened by unfair costs for serving their country," Attorney General Ferguson said. "I won't allow companies to make our military service members pay for serving their country."
FIGHTING OPIOID ABUSE
CWAG Associate Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts
announced a physician has pleaded guilty to illegally prescribing opioids to patients for no legitimate medical purpose, some of whom had documented substance use disorder, and for defrauding the state's Medicaid program. Dr. Fernando Jayma, a solo practitioner of general medicine in Ludlow, pleaded guilty to charges of Illegal Prescribing of Controlled Substances (22 counts), Medicaid False Claims (18 counts), and Larceny over $250 (1 count). This case is just one way Attorney General Healey is working to address the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. The AG's Office is looking at a host of other practices, from marketing by pharmaceutical companies, to pill diversion and drug trafficking by criminal entities, to coverage for substance abuse treatment by insurance companies. The AG's Office also continues to work on solutions that include eliminating barriers to treatment and supporting prevention and education initiatives across the state.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas
praised the new administration for suspending three U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) surveys that the BLM used to justify a land grab involving 90,000 acres near the Red River. The federal action was prompted by the BLM's admission earlier this week that it used "incorrect methodology" while determining the gradient boundary on a portion of the 116-mile stretch of Texas properties along the Red River. Attorney General Paxton intervened in November 2015 on behalf of the state in a lawsuit brought against the BLM by affected property owners. Pursuant to various U.S. Supreme Court cases in the 1920s, the federal government only has rights to from the Red River's medial line up to the river's southern bank. The BLM began its surveys in 2008 as part of a process to update the Bureau's Resource Management Plan. Those surveys claimed federal rights to land far from the river's southern bank. That was reportedly the first time Texas landowners were told that the federal government was claiming their properties as public lands.