PROSECUTING CAMPAIGN FRAUD
CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota announced that a jury has found former U.S. Senate candidate, Annette Bosworth, guilty of election law violations, including 6 counts of offering false or forged instrument for filing and 6 counts of perjury. Although Bosworth argued that the prosecution was politically motivated, her defense largely relied on her argument that she received bad advice from her attorney and political consultant during the 2014 campaign. "I want to thank our citizen jurors for their service, the prosecutors and the witnesses for preserving the integrity of our election process in South Dakota," said General Jackley.
CWAG Attorneys General Cynthia Coffman of Colorado and Peter Michael of Wyoming filed for a preliminary injunction in federal court to block a new federal hydraulic fracturing rule on public and tribal lands from taking effect. The states joined earlier filings made by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance (WEA), which filed for similar injunctions. "Wyoming has led the way in creating safe, responsible rules for hydraulic fracturing -- rules that have been in place for years," Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said. Governor Mead said "it makes sense" to delay the BLM rule's effective date until states' arguments are resolved, contending that letting the rule become effective "complicates compliance and hurts our economy."
CWAG Attorneys General from Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have stepped into a lawsuit over the Utah prairie dog to support a ruling striking down federal protections for the Utah prairie dog on private property. They argued that federal authorities shouldn't be managing animals that live only within state borders. The federal government is appealing a ruling from U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, who sided in November with southern Utah residents who said that federal rules protecting the threatened species were allowing prairie dogs to overtake their town. The property owners from Cedar City said the small, burrowing animals damaged the golf course, airport and cemetery and interrupted funerals with their barking.
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada announced that Norma Olga Benavidez pleaded guilty to theft, a category "B" felony, stemming from stealing tens of thousands of dollars from victims in an immigration assistance scam. Benavidez engaged in the scam between March 2012 and March 2014. As part of the immigration scam, Benavidez victimized those seeking legal status in the United States by falsely claiming to be a federal government employee. Benavidez fraudulently promised victims that she could assist them with paperwork related to their lawful status in the United States in exchange for significant fees, totaling more than $50,000. In reality, Benavidez could not and did not perform the promised services. "My office remains vigilant about enforcing the rule of law and protecting all consumers from being defrauded, especially the most vulnerable in our society," said General Laxalt. "Immigrants already deal with many challenges, and should not also be faced with exploitation by unscrupulous fraudsters. Criminal prosecutions of this kind will remain a priority in this office."
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced that her office will host a series of statewide public forums in partnership with Univision Los Angeles, Service Employees International Union of California and iAmerica to inform Californians about the impact of President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions. The statewide forums will also serve to warn consumers about potential scams and other fraud targeted at immigrant communities. "Because of DAPA and DACA, so many families will be able to get out from living in the shadows. We want to shine a light on a new path that frees them from the lure of predators and con artists," said General Harris. "These forums will inform immigrants about their rights and responsibilities under the new programs, helping them on their way to realizing the American Dream."
FIGHTING PILL MILLS
CWAG Associate Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida announced that eight employees of Real Care Medical Group have been arrested for racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and eight counts of manslaughter. According to the investigation, Dr. Lynn Averill issued prescriptions of alprazolam, methadone and oxycodone without medical necessity, causing overdose deaths of at least eight patients. "We will not allow any doctors or clinic owners to knowingly abuse their positions by selling or delivering highly addictive controlled substances to patients with no medical necessity," said General Bondi. "I applaud my Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Broward County Sheriff's Office and the Sunrise Police Department for the great investigative work that led to these arrests."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau were granted a final judgment against the Hoffman Law Group and corporate affiliates accused of using deceptive marketing practices and scamming distressed homeowners into paying illegal advance fees. The court found the corporate defendants liable for more than $11.7 million-the full amount of illegal fees paid by consumers-and ordered them to pay a $10 million civil penalty to CFPB and more than $6 million in penalties to Florida. "Scamming homeowners worried about losing their homes is not only illegal, it is despicable, and thanks to the great work of my consumer protection division and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, these defendants will pay for preying on Florida homeowners facing foreclosure," said General Bondi. "These companies preyed on vulnerable consumers who were trying to save their homes from foreclosure," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "The false promises made by these companies lured struggling homeowners into scams that led to greater financial hardship. We are working to protect consumers from illegal predatory practices by holding bad actors accountable for their actions."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia announced the Office recently filed suit against Florida-based Simple Recovery Solutions, or SRS, and its owners for allegedly trying to collect unverified debt or debt which never really existed from West Virginia consumers. The complaint alleges that SRS engaged in unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in violation of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act by repeatedly contacting consumers to collect debt they didn't owe. "This complaint seeks to protect West Virginia consumers from paying out money they do not owe," General Morrisey said. "Our Office believes SRS and its owners have collected, or attempted to collect, unverified debts from at least 125 West Virginia consumers so far."