ATTORNEYS GENERAL GATHER WITH HIGH-LEVEL MEXICAN OFFICIALS
This week CWAG Attorneys General Mark Brnovich of Arizona and Lawrence Wasden of Idaho, pictured here with Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and Federal Attorney General Arely Gómez González, attended the National Association of Mexican Attorneys General Annual Meeting in Mexico City, Mexico. The President and the Attorney General addressed the conference, focusing on the subjects of combating corruption within the country and the implementation of the 2016 judicial reforms. Mexico's judicial system is in a period of transformation, with every state and the federal government moving from an inquisitorial to adversarial justice system.
Attorney General Gómez González was confirmed by the Senate in March 2015. General Gómez González is a constitutional scholar, judicial expert and accomplished academic. Her accession to the cabinet member position of Attorney General follows a distinguished career in both federal judicial and legislatorial bodies in Mexico.
The Associated Press reported that the Governor of Idaho has been informed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that it is planning to send a shipment of spent nuclear fuel rods to the Idaho National Laboratory to undergo experimental research. DOE issued the Governor a deadline to respond and asked Idaho to waive nuclear waste cleanup requirements in the historic "1995 Settlement Agreement" negotiated between the state and the federal government. The Idaho Statesman described the DOE action as follows: "Strip away all pretense and what we have here is a threat: Remove all barriers and allow us to deliver more radioactive material into your state in the next 60 days so we can conduct some research or we will find some other state that will." The Statesman concluded that, "We are fortunate that Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden - who would have to sign off on something like that - is holding DOE's feet to the fire of the agreement, refusing to allow the shipments in until the cleanup team gets its machinery operational and makes progress on the liquid waste."
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced that a judge has ordered a student loan processing company that unlawfully charged borrowers to pay back its Washington victims. "This firm preyed on students who sought their help, charging exorbitant and illegal fees," General Ferguson said. "In 1995, I graduated from law school owing $100,000 in debt, so I know that paying student loans can be a challenge. I will not tolerate the financial abuse of already overburdened Washington State students." General Ferguson brought a lawsuit against StudentLoanProcessing.US (SLP) and its president, James Krause, for violating Washington's Debt Adjustment Act and Consumer Protection Act, by charging illegal fees for debt adjusting and failing to inform customers of important rights as is legally required. The same services SLP offers are available for free through the U.S. Department of Education.
CWAG Chair, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon, filed a lawsuit against Liquidation LLC, for offering predatory car title loans to more than 250 Oregonians and ignoring Oregon consumer and business laws by operating an illegal car title scam. The lawsuit alleges that the sophisticated scam worked when unsuspecting Oregon consumers searched online for "title loans" and filled out an application by a third-party loan-referral site. The third-party site then sent their personal information to a company calling itself Auto Loans, LCC or Car Loan, LLC. Oregon consumers thought they were applying for a legal title loan, but were deceived into listing Auto Loans, LCC or Car Loans, LLC as a secured interest holder on their car titles. "These phony loans carried triple-digit interest rates, and we believe nobody ever saw the final terms of their loan agreement," said General Rosenblum. "When a consumer ultimately could not pay the astronomical interest on these illegal car loans, the company would threaten repossession. If a consumer actually paid off the loan, they would have paid over three times the amount originally borrowed! This is illegal in Oregon."
As Michigan drivers deal with a spike in gas prices, CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan issued a warning to gas stations against any attempt to take advantage of consumers by price gouging or price fixing. In addition to this warning, the Attorney General has also issued a letter to BP, the owner of a facility experiencing an outage, as well as other major petroleum companies outlining a need for transparency in the case of an outage or other unexpected event. "As Labor Day weekend approaches, the effects of an outage at a major Indiana petroleum refinery, combined with additional factors, means Michigan families are seeing an increase in the price at the pump. These circumstances do not constitute a free pass for gas stations to gouge consumers," said General Schuette. "We will not tolerate any unscrupulous behavior that violates Michigan law when it comes to gouging and price fixing."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas filed a lawsuit against a Dallas-based group of learning centers for unlawfully marketing and selling fraudulent high school diplomas and transcripts. The petition seeks a permanent injunction against seven individuals and thirteen schools operating as diploma mills in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). "Schools such as these take advantage of Texans seeking to better their lives through the attainment of their high school degree, however in reality, they're paying for diplomas that are essentially worthless," said General Paxton. "Our attorneys will continue the fight to eradicate this deceitful practice and its many ghost schools that have taken consumer's hard-earned money with misrepresentations and promises they have no intention of keeping."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas launched the Arkansas Cooperative Disability Investigations Program, or CDI, to fight Social Security disability fraud across the state. CDI is a joint effort among federal and state agencies to effectively pool resources for the purpose of preventing fraud in the disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and in related programs. "Arkansas ranks in the top five among states with the highest number of Social Security Disability beneficiaries," said General Rutledge. "Fraud hurts Arkansans in need and we have to stop those who are cheating and scamming the system. When I took office, I made a commitment to protect consumers. Stopping disability fraud protects all Arkansans."
CWAG Associate Attorney General James D. "Buddy" Caldwell of Louisiana announced his Cyber Crime Unit has placed first in the nation for their outstanding investigative techniques in cyber crime investigations at the 27th Annual Crimes Against Children Conference's (CACC) Digital Crime Scene Challenge. "This demonstrates to the nation what we've known here in Louisiana all along: Our law enforcement agents in this state are the best in the country," General Caldwell said. "I'm extremely proud to have these top-notch investigators on my team. Every day, they work tirelessly and effectively to help capture dangerous Internet predators and keep our children safe from harm." CACC is an internationally recognized conference providing practical and interactive instruction to those fighting crimes against children and helping children heal.
It is said that the 100 days of summer are the 100 deadliest days for young drivers. To remind the public of the dangers of distracted driving, CWAG Associate Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin of Rhode Island joined AT&T, the Rhode Island State Police, and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to attack the issue. AT&T provided a new virtual reality experience that simulates, in an immersive but safe 3-D setting, the potentially deadly consequences of glancing at your phone while driving. "Today's smartphones allow users to do so much, from calling and texting to tweeting and livestreaming. And, with each new function, it's one more deadly distraction for those driving behind the wheel of a motor vehicle," said General Kilmartin. "We have to continually educate drivers - young and old - to turn off the apps and tune in to the road. And, I would also like to commend AT&T for their ongoing commitment to changing drivers' habits when it comes to smartphone and cell phone use."