Announcements, information and updates from CWAG Members and Associates
The CWAG 2017 Winter Dinner is scheduled for Tuesday, November 28th, 2017  in Jekyll Island, Georgia at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. Registration is now open.  If you have not received an email link inviting you to register via our new meeting portal, please contact meeting manager  Alejandra Stephens.
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada announced the appointment of Terry Kerns as Nevada's first statewide opioid coordinator in the Office of the Nevada Attorney General. In this role, Ms. Kerns will endeavor to bridge the gap between local law enforcement and state victims' service providers, to ensure a coordinated response to opioid crisis in Nevada. Kerns, a recently retired Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a registered nurse, will work to identify and implement best practices concerning the opioid crisis in other states; identify and expand on current best practices regarding the continuum of care from incarceration to release; expand on criminal justice interventions regarding prescription drugs in the community; and bolster law enforcement cooperation with health care providers. "As a former federal law enforcement officer and registered nurse, Kerns is a perfect fit to assist law enforcement and victim services coordinate responses to the opioid crisis," said Attorney General Laxalt. "As the chair of Nevada's Substance Abuse Working Group, I understand that prevention goes hand-in-hand with law enforcement efforts. I look forward to the ways in which Kerns will enhance our ongoing efforts to educate at risk youth in our communities and collaborate with local law enforcement."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas named Cory Cox as Chief of Staff at the Attorney General's office following the departure of Carl Vogelpohl, who has served in that role since the beginning of General Rutledge's term. "There is no one better prepared to serve as my Chief of Staff than Cory Cox," said Attorney General Rutledge. "Not only does Cory have many years of experience across state government, but as my Legislative Director for nearly three years, he has developed strong relationships with members of the General Assembly and understands the need for this office to be the top law firm in the state. He has a tremendous work ethic, a desire to serve the public and I am confident he will do an exceptional job leading the team at the office to ensure that we continue to protect Arkansans from criminals, con artists and an overreaching federal government."
CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota said that his Elder Abuse & Financial Exploitation Subdivision continues to see an increase in referrals and prosecutions since its inception in 2016. The Subdivision received 122 leads/referrals and cut 28 cases in the July -September 2017 quarter. "Elder financial abuse is increasing as our state population continues to age. Often these crimes are underreported making it challenging to investigate and prosecute," said Attorney General Jackley.  "This is why the public's help and support is so important, and why our Elder Abuse community outreach continues to spread the word that these cases will be taken seriously." The Elder Abuse & Financial Exploitation Subdivision was created by the Legislature during the 2016 legislative session and is comprised of one full-time investigator and one full-time prosecutor and primarily investigates and prosecutes cases involving theft of assets from the elderly in South Dakota.
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington released his second annual Data Breach Report. His report finds that between July of 2016 and July of this year, data breaches affected nearly 3 million Washingtonians, more than six times the number impacted in the previous 12 months period. The report focuses exclusively on significant data breaches that affected 500 or more Washingtonians. During the last fiscal year, 78 data breaches were reported, twice the number of significant breaches reported to the Attorney General the previous fiscal year. The release of the new Data Breach Report follows recent news that credit-monitoring company Equifax suffered a data breach, compromising the personal information of more than 145 million people nationwide. The Equifax breach happened after the dates covered by this year's report. "Data breaches are a serious threat to our personal and financial security, and the more information consumers have, the better they can protect themselves," Attorney General Ferguson said. "My office will continue to serve as a watchdog to protect the people of Washington."
CWAG Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth of Alaska announced that the Bureau of Land Management recently paid the State $593,007.71 in legal fees as a result of a federal court's decision that the federal agency acted in bad faith in a lawsuit involving the navigability of an Alaskan waterway. "This award of attorneys' fees is important not only because of the money we got back but because of the message it sent to BLM," said Deputy Attorney General Ed Sniffen. "We hope this will convince the federal agencies to sit down with us and work through these disputes in advance, instead of forcing us to file needless litigation." The State filed a lawsuit to resolve a longstanding dispute over the ownership of lands beneath the Mosquito Fork, a tributary of the Fortymile River. The fundamental dispute was whether the Mosquito Fork was a navigable waterway, which, under the Submerged Lands Act (43 U.S.C. ยงยง1301-1315) and equal footing doctrine, meant that the bed of the river is owned by the State. As the case proceeded over multiple years, BLM continued to contest the State's ownership, making many arguments that had already been rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. BLM suddenly changed course shortly before trial. One day prior to a court hearing, the federal government abandoned all legal claims to the submerged lands, essentially nullifying the lawsuit.
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona announced inmate Jason Bullard, the ringleader of a property fraud title scheme, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Co-conspirator Rockney Martineau was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the fraud scheme. Bullard and Martineau have a history of attempting to take over deeds to properties they don't own. The defendants falsely claim to be the homeowners and attempt to take loans out against the property. The true owner is then left with a costly legal battle to reclaim the title to their own home. Bullard and Martineau claim they have the right to do this as "sovereign citizens." The most recent conviction comes after Bullard and Martineau attempted to file a quit claim deed on a property in Mesa. The Maricopa County Recorder's Office pulled the deed since it looked "odd."  A manager at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office is familiar with both defendants due to their fraudulent filings over the years and immediately contacted the Mesa Police Department.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Josh Stein of North Carolina announced that his office is partnering with the Federal Trade Commission to target student loan debt relief scams. The sweep, called "Operation Game of Loans," will target scammers who use deceptive marketing tactics, charge illegal upfront fees, and fail to provide expert services. "Education is one of the most important investments a person can make," said Attorney General Stein. "North Carolinians working hard to pay off their student loan debt deserve protection from fraud. I am proud to work with federal and state partners who also prioritize protecting student borrowers." Attorney General Stein resolved a lawsuit against Student Loan Group for charging illegal upfront fees and failing to deliver the promised debt management services. As a result, Student Loan Group was required to refund $377,048 to borrowers. This represented a full refund to consumers of the illegal fees charged by SLG.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Brad Schimel of Wisconsin obtained a temporary injunction against Vision Property Management (VPM), a South Carolina-based property management company and its many affiliates. In June, the state filed a lawsuit against VPM alleging that the company used misleading and deceiving business practices to induce Wisconsin consumers to lease, rent, or purchase uninhabitable properties in violation of Wisconsin landlord-tenant and mortgage banking laws. "This injunction will provide relief to consumers impacted by this company's deceptive business model," said Attorney General Schimel. "Companies that deceive Wisconsin consumers are not welcome in our state and we will continue to pursue the lawsuit against VPM." The case is based on VPM's business model, which induces tenants into leasing run-down properties, with the prospect of someday being able to purchase them. VPM requires the tenants to rehabilitate the property in three to four short months, pay all the overdue taxes, which are sometimes years overdue, and resolve any outstanding building code violations with the city. If the tenants fail to do any of these things, VPM evicts the tenant and repeats the cycle by renting the uninhabitable property to yet another Wisconsin consumer.
CWAG Associate Attorney General TJ Donovan of Vermont filed motions to stay and appeal the Energy and Environment Legal Institute matter seeking to depose and gain access to personal emails and other personal communications of former Attorney General Bill Sorrell and three current and former Assistant Attorneys General. It is the firm position of the Vermont Attorney General's Office that state employees must follow "The Public Records Act," but the Act does not strip those in public service of their right to privacy. Attorney General Donovan said: "This is a precedent setting case. Until the Vermont Supreme Court rules or the Legislature acts, I will continue to protect public servants' privacy- from the Governor to a select board member. I look forward to litigating this matter"
Chris Coppin | Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General