CWAG Roundup

August 27, 2015

Greetings! 


INDIAN LAW
 
CWAG Attorney General Craig Richards of Alaska filed the State's opening brief in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the Department of the Interior's authority to take land into trust for Native American tribes in Alaska. "Many of the comments I received, whether pro or con, made good points. It is clear that there are good elements and bad elements about the creation of trust lands in Alaska for both the Tribes and the State," said General Richards. "But ultimately this is a fundamental change to a law that has been in place for over 30 years, and a change of that magnitude requires thorough and deliberative dialogue that can't occur in just a matter of months. The current legal question will continue before the courts, but the State's policy position will also continue to develop in dialogue with the citizens of Alaska, including Tribes."
 
ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
 
U.S. officials knew of the potential for a catastrophic "blowout" of poisonous wastewater from an inactive gold mine, yet appeared to have only a cursory plan to deal with such an event when a government cleanup team triggered a 3-million-gallon spill, according to internal documents released by the Environmental Protection Agency. The spill came as workers excavated the entrance to the idled Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, unleashing a torrent of toxic water that fouled rivers in three states. CWAG Attorney General Cynthia Coffman of Colorado said after reviewing the documents that she remained frustrated with the EPA's lack of answers. "The plan indicates there was an understanding of what might happen and what the potential consequences were. We don't know whether they followed the plan," General Coffman told The Associated Press. "I want to give the EPA the benefit of the doubt here. I really want to do that. It's getting harder."
 
PUBLIC SAFETY
 
CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico is launching an investigation into how the state's largest school district hired a high-level administrator who faces child sex abuse charges. General Balderas announced his office will look into why Albuquerque Public Schools' safety protocols were breached and Jason Martinez was hired in June before a background check was completed. Martinez resigned abruptly last week. It later surfaced that he faces six felony counts of sexual assault on a child in Colorado. "I'm very concerned about the allegations that safety protocols were breached at APS," General Balderas said in a statement. "I've decided to initiate a formal review of the matter, and I will be communicating with the district today."
 
CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana encourages all Montana pharmacies to apply to receive one of ten grants of $2,000 each through the Montana Pharmacy Safe Medication Disposal Initiative. This initiative was announced July 30 and is meant to increase prescription drug take-back locations at pharmacies throughout Montana. "Right now, most prescription drug disposal sites in the state are at law enforcement agencies like the sheriff's office, police department, or highway patrol building," General Fox said. "While these take-back programs are vital, I think Montanans will appreciate the ease of returning unused and unwanted medications to their local pharmacy; a place they're likely to be visiting anyway. That's why I'm encouraging pharmacies across the state to take advantage of the $20,000 in grant funding my office has dedicated for this program to become a prescription drug disposal location. More prescription drop boxes in pharmacies will make it easier for consumers to dispose of these dangerous substances safely and responsibly."
 
SAVING TAXPAYER DOLLARS
 
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada announced that his office reached a settlement with Measured Progress, Inc. The settlement is a result of the company's failure to provide an efficient testing system intended to deliver Nevada's Criterion Referenced Tests (CRTs) to students in grades three through eight. In March 2015, electronic testing materials developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and delivered by Measured Progress failed, preventing students across Nevada from completing their federally mandated standardized tests. The company agreed to refund a total of $1.299 million in cash and services, to cover some of the costs of the testing program, and to assist with future educational programs. "This settlement is just one example of how litigators in my office problem-solve to keep the state out of court and save taxpayers' money," said General Laxalt. "Without being embroiled in costly litigation, the state will be reimbursed for its losses and can now focus on ensuring that students will be able to complete next year's examinations without interruption."
 
CONSUMER PROTECTION
 
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced that his office is taking action to combat illegal immigration services and crack down on "notario" fraud.  General Ferguson filed legal actions involving four separate entities engaged in scams targeting immigrant consumers. General Ferguson also announced a $125,000 grant to prevent immigration services fraud and ensure immigrant consumers have greater access to legal assistance. "Scammers who prey on Washington residents who are working hard to follow complex federal immigration laws will not be tolerated," General Ferguson said. "Immigration services fraud has dire consequences for Washington families, and my office is committed to prosecuting these frauds."
 
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona announced new felony charges against Chalice Renee Zeitner, an Arizona woman previously accused of faking cancer to obtain a state paid late-term abortion. Zeitner is now facing 8-felony charges for allegedly scamming veterans charities out of thousands of dollars.During the cancer fraud investigation, authorities discovered Zeitner worked with Veterans Hope and Armed Forces Racing. Both organizations are closely connected with each other. Zeitner is alleged to have fraudulently obtained the personal information of the founder of Veterans Hope charities and his family.  Zeitner allegedly used this information to open a credit card account under their names without their consent, charging approximately $25,000 on the card which Zeitner never paid off. "Individuals who prey upon the kindness of others for their own personal gain will be aggressively prosecuted by this office," said General Brnovich. "This case is a great example of law enforcement agencies working together to uncover the facts and make sure Zeitner is held accountable for her actions."
 
CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota warned South Dakotans of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) phone scam that has surfaced in the state. The scam involves a caller telling the consumer they are being sued by the IRS for an unresolved debt. Some of the threats went as far to say there has been an arrest warrant issued for the consumer. The caller will then ask for personal identifying information or demand payment by wiring money. "These scam artists use the threat of arrest to convince trusting individuals to pay a debt that is not legitimate. The IRS does not ask for personal identifying or financial information through phone calls," said General Jackley. The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division believes some of these calls may be a result of the IRS data breach in May 2015.
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against two New Jersey companies and their owner for their role in helping facilitate marketing, billing and debt collections in Iowa on behalf of fraudulent European psychic operations. The lawsuit filed against TCA Mailing Inc. and T. Clements & Associates Inc. and the companies' owner Timothy J. Clements alleged that the defendants actively coordinated with the psychic operations in mailing Iowans offers of a free personal analysis by a famous psychic, billing those who accepted the free analysis, and then sending threatening collection letters to consumers who refused to pay the unfounded bills. "We allege that this is a vicious scheme that preys primarily on vulnerable older people," General Miller said. "We also allege that although operators in Europe may have originated the scheme, these US-based defendants were active participants and can't escape responsibility for the financial and other harm it inflicted on Iowans."

Chris Coppin

Legal Director

Conference of Western Attorneys General

111 Lomas, NW   Suite 300

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102

505-222-9175

505-660-5901 (cell)

505-222-9183 (fax)

CCoppin@cwagweb.org