CWAG Roundup

 January 7, 2016

 

Greetings! 

 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
 
DIGITAL CURRENCY SYMPOSIUM
 
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and CWAG are proud to announce a Digital Currency Symposium open to all government and private sector attendees at the Montage Deer Valley in Park City, UT on February 4-5.  We encourage all interested parties to take advantage of the opportunity to meet with State Attorneys General to learn about and discuss important issues regarding the digital economy. The Digital Economy Symposium will work to foster relationships with responsible industry players, law enforcement officials and regulators with the goal of facilitating the sharing of information which will assist policy makers in the construction of regulatory and legislative interpretations beneficial to all involved.
 
The agenda for this meeting is under construction.  Within the next two weeks a draft agenda will be available.  Suggestions, questions or comments can be directed to CWAG Legal Director Chris Coppin, ccoppin@cwagweb.org, or 505.589.5101. The agenda will be distributed to CWAG Roundup recipients or is available upon request from CWAG.            
 
Space and attendance are limited.  For private sector registration information, please contact CWAG Meeting Planner Janine Knudsen, jknudsen@cwagweb.org, or 916.704.1057.
 
ATTORNEY GENERAL NEWS
 
CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah, with his family and staff, joined volunteers for Stop Hunger Now over the holidays to package 15,000 meals for charity. The event was hosted by the Utah Attorney General's Office in the Utah State Capitol Rotunda. Since its founding in 1998, Stop Hunger Now has provided more than 200,000,000 meals and life-changing aid to 71 countries. In just under two hours, a group of 30 to 40 volunteers can package 10,000 nutrient-rich meals for the undernourished globally.
 
CWAG Attorney General Doug Chin of Hawaii announced that the Hawaii Sex Offender Search app has been awarded the titles of Best Government Mobile Application and Best Information Services Mobile Application of 2015 by the Web Marketing Association in its annual MobileWebAwards competition. In April 2015, the Department of the Attorney General Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center released a major upgrade to the mobile Hawaii Sex Offender Search app. App users can now sign up for alerts regarding offenders in an area based on zip code or street name and city. Alerts indicate that an offender has relocated to the area or an existing offender in the area has updated their registration information.
 
HUMAN TRAFFICKING
 
With the College Football Playoff National Championship Game approaching, CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona is kicking off an anti-human trafficking campaign to be seen by millions in NYC's Times Square and in Arizona. The campaign utilizes some of the world's largest billboards to send a strong message to football fans about the consequences of soliciting sex. "Big sporting events draw pimps and underage prostitution into the state," said General Brnovich. "While we welcome college football fans, I want to make it clear that sex trafficking and prostitution will not be tolerated." Two giant billboards towering over NYC's Times Square and a third billboard at Westgate in Glendale feature General Brnovich's message - "Paying for sex can get you flagged...for the rest of your life."
 
CONSUMER PROTECTION
 
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced a lawsuit against a man accused of advertising immigration law services, when he is not an attorney or accredited to provide such services. Michael Bendzar published at least 73 advertisements in Russian-language publications since December 2013 advertising "immigration services" through his business, Michael's Office. The lawsuit alleges that Bendzar's representations violate the Washington Immigration Services Fraud Prevention Act (ISFPA) and the Consumer Protection Act because he is not an attorney or an accredited immigration representative. "My office will not tolerate scammers who prey on Washington residents working hard to follow complex immigration laws," General Ferguson said. "This type of fraud can have serious consequences for victims, and we are cracking down on perpetrators."
 
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado announced that through the settlement of several cases, nearly 5,700 Colorado consumers will be receiving refunds totaling approximately $2.2 million.  The majority of the settlements resolved issues with companies that were providing debt settlement services that violated the Uniform Debt Management Services Act.  "The harm to these consumers is especially egregious because the victims were desperately seeking debt management services and already in extremely vulnerable positions," said General Coffman. The largest of the recent settlements against the debt settlement companies was with California-based debt settlement provider, Freedom Debt Relief.  Pursuant to a Consent Judgment, Freedom Debt Relief agreed to revise the agreements and disclosures it uses with Colorado consumers and pay consumer refunds. The other debt settlement companies paying refunds include, Century Negotiations Inc., Orion Financial Group and Prestige Financial Solutions, Inc.
 
The Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA), in partnership with CWAG Associate Attorney General Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas, unveiled "ADVA Verified" in a press conference at the state capitol. The voluntary program verifies nonprofits who offer Veteran specific services are current with Arkansas filing requirements. "As I have been hosting veteran roundtable meetings, one of the common themes I have heard involves the regulation of veteran advocacy and support organizations," said General Rutledge. "Arkansans have big hearts and are very generous, but they should be able to verify that their donation will be used for the intended purpose. Working with Director Snead, I am pleased that donors can now use the new ADVA Verified to help separate certified organizations from those that may be questionable."
 
LAW ENFORCEMENT
 
The Montana Law Enforcement Academy (MLEA) graduated 53 new officers who will serve 30 different agencies across the state. The MLEA is operated by the Montana Department of Justice, providing basic and advanced training for state, county, city and tribal law enforcement officers throughout the state. Of note, the graduating class had more Native American graduates - 13 - than any other basic course in MLEA history. Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Tribe addressed the graduates as part of the event, and a star quilt was presented to Academy officials from the Tribe. "Law enforcement is not only a noble profession - it's a changing profession. And necessarily so, as we see additional strains placed upon officers here in America, and even more so for our colleagues dealing with cruel, calculated acts of extremist terrorism," CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox told the graduates. "The education and training that this class received is cutting edge, and is different than what the previous class received, and will be different than what the next class will receive. But as up-to-date and as complete as the training this class has received may be, this is just the beginning of what each of you will learn and experience in your newly chosen vocation as law enforcement professionals."
 
FANTASY SPORTS
 
A New York court ordered the two largest fantasy sports operators to shut down in the state while they battle in court with the state's attorney general over whether the games constitute illegal gambling. State Supreme Court Judge Manuel Mendez denied a request by the two companies to remain operating in the state as they argue in court. He said the decision is "not a final determination of the merits and rights of the parties." The ruling is a victory for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who last month requested an injunction to ban FanDuel Inc., and DraftKings Inc., the industry's major players, from accepting money from New York residents.
 
MARIJUANA
 
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced he has launched a project to collect information from local law enforcement agencies about how marijuana purchased in Colorado is entering Kansas and how it's affecting the state. "There are numerous and persistent anecdotal accounts of marijuana acquired in Colorado and illegally transported into Kansas causing harm here," General Schmidt said. "But because of technology limits, the confirming data is elusive. Since Colorado's experiment with legalization is affecting Kansas, we need to know more about what is actually happening here so policymakers can make informed decisions." In 2012, voters in Colorado approved a constitutional amendment legalizing the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Since then, the state has become a kind of destination attraction for people who want to enjoy a legal high, including many people who enter Colorado by way of Kansas.
 
Supporters of an effort to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Montana can begin gathering signatures. The secretary of state said that CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox has approved the language for Initiative 178. Supporters have to gather signatures from at least 5 percent of registered voters in each of 34 House districts, with a total of at least 24,175 signatures, for the measure to appear on the November 2016 general election ballot. The measure would legalize marijuana use for people ages 21 and over, would allow for the commercial sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products and place a 20 percent excise tax on sales. The initiative expects the excise tax and licensing fees would generate about $37 million over five years, while the measure would cost the state about $10.9 million in administrative expenses and other costs.
 
If you take a prescription pill in America, you can be fairly certain of what you're getting, thanks to strict federal regulations that mandate quality and consistency. That's not true for marijuana, even if a doctor prescribes it. Bud can mildew or be covered in potentially dangerous pesticides; edibles can be contaminated with E. coli or mold; concentrates like butane hash oil can have high levels of solvents left over from processing. As more states legalize medical or recreational marijuana, they're tasked with defining the kind of tests and quality controls that must be done, if any, on the edibles, bud, and concentrates sold at dispensaries and storefronts across the country. But because selling or possessing cannabis is still a federal crime, the 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana aren't getting any guidance from the EPA, FDA, or USDA, the federal agencies that set the standards for safely growing and processing plants for consumption.
 
The Fourth Corner Credit Union occupies a prime spot in downtown Denver, not far from the state Capitol. It has a big safe, four teller windows, drive-up service and a banner out front that says, "The Fourth Corner Credit Union Coming Soon." But there's a problem. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which oversees Denver, has refused Fourth Corner's request for a "master account," essentially a bank account allowing it to do business, because Fourth Corner hopes to be the first financial institution in the nation catering exclusively to the marijuana business.
 
Denver police are posing as pot growers on Facebook. They are conducting sting operations and have landed at least one deal worth tens of thousands of dollars. The Internet social media websites have become a high-tech marketplace for drugs. On Instagram one post reads, "Place your order today, gets shipped out before 8 a.m." It was Facebook where Denver police say 26-year-old Sean Edelson responded to a picture placed by them in a well-planned sting. It was a photo of a marijuana grow with the words, "Getting close to peak!! Taking orders now!!" The reply, police claim, from Edelson was, 'I'm the type of person that will take everything, every time." A meeting was then arranged at a Denver restaurant. Court documents allege $64,000 in cash was shown by Edelson to an officer as payment for 36 pounds of pot. Edelson was promptly arrested.
Chris Coppin
Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
505-589-5101 (cell)
817-615-9335 (fax)
Chris.coppin@cwagweb.org

Conference of Western Attorneys General | 1300 I Street | Sacramento | CA | 95814