The Emporia Police Department has received what they are calling a "Credible Threat" of violence at this year's Virgninia Peanut Festival. The EPD, assisted by other law enforcement agencies, will have multiple tents and an increased presence. Festival attendees are asked to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings. If you see something, say something.

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Attorney General

AG HERRING URGES CONSUMERS TO BEWARE OF FRAUD AND SCAMS FOLLOWING HURRICANE FLORENCE

~ Urges awareness of common post-disaster frauds and scams involving door to door sales of services, home repair or debris removal following significant flooding and tornadoes ~

RICHMOND (September 18, 2018) – As Virginia begins to recover from significant flooding, storms and tornadoes caused by Hurricane Florence, Attorney General Mark R. Herring today encouraged Virginians to know their rights as consumers and to be on the lookout for common frauds and schemes that take advantage of people affected by natural disasters. Specifically, the Office of the Attorney General alerted Virginians to scams involving door to door canvassing, charitable contribution solicitations, home repair proposals, and tree cleanup and removal. Attorney General Herring previously warned Virginians to be cautious when donating money to assist hurricane victims in their recovery efforts. 
 
“This hurricane has had a significant impact on families across Virginia and we want to make sure that folks do not also become victims of scams during this time,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, those affected by natural disasters are often the target of frauds, scams, and other illegal practices as they try to clean up and move forward. I urge all Virginians to familiarize themselves with fraudulent behavior that follows storms like Hurricane Florence. Be wary of any red flags that you may notice, resist pressures to make any quick decisions, and do not hesitate to call my office if you think you may have been a victim of fraudulent or illegal business practices.”
 
Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section at 1(800) 552-9963 and can file a complaint online. Consumers are encouraged to keep and provide copies of as much documentation as possible.
 
HOME REPAIRS, DEBRIS REMOVAL, OR CLEANUP
Home repair companies will arrive at disaster sites in response to the high demand for their services resulting from widespread property damage. Often disreputable companies hoping to make easy money are among them. They may require you to pay them before doing the work, do a shoddy job, or add extra costs throughout the job. To avoid being taken advantage of in this way, follow these tips:
  • Work with contractors you know or local firms with roots in the community. 
  • Ask people you trust for contractor referrals.
  • Ask the contractor for references and check them.
  • Verify the contractor’s license status and check on any complaints with the Board for Contractors at http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/ or call (804) 367-8511.
  • Get written estimates from several firms.
  • Do not do business without a written contract. Be sure that all guarantees, promises, and details are in writing. 
  • Do not pay large sums in advance and never make final payment until all work is completed to your satisfaction. 
  • Be extra cautious when a contractor comes to your door soliciting your business, offers you discounts for finding other customers, or "just happens to have" materials left over from a previous job.

 
DOOR TO DOOR SOLICITATIONS
In addition to home repair services, door-to-door solicitors may offer a variety of products for use after the disaster, as well as services like tree or debris cleanup. Some door-to-door solicitors are not legitimate. Remember these tips when someone comes to your door to sell you something:
  • High pressure sales tactics are often a part of fraudulent activity. Do not be hurried or intimidated. The salesperson is at your door uninvited and remains there only at your courtesy.
  • Be extra cautious about letting someone into your home. Never let anyone into your home without first asking for identification.
  • Under Virginia law, you have three days to cancel sales made at your home if the product or service costs $25 or more.
  • Your right of cancellation may be waived by you in an emergency. Be very cautious about signing a document that waives your right to cancel the sale. Read anything you are asked to sign very carefully.
  • If you decide to purchase from or use the services of a door-to-door solicitor, get all information and promises in writing; but remember, without a bricks and mortar business location, it is easy for these individuals to relocate and make it impossible for you to find them should legal recourse become necessary.



 

AG HERRING WARNS VIRGINIANS TO BE CAUTIOUS WHEN DONATING TO ASSIST VICTIMS OF HURRICANE FLORENCE

~ Solicitations from fake charities are more common following natural disasters ~

RICHMOND (September 17, 2018) - As the East Coast begins to recover from Hurricane Florence, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring is encouraging Virginians to exercise caution as they consider donating money to assist victims in their recovery. Sadly, scammers often use natural disasters such as hurricanes to set up fake charities where the money collected is pocketed by the scammer. As crowdfunding becomes more popular, it is especially important to research a crowdfunding page to make sure it is legitimate before donating.
 
“The images we are seeing out of the areas hit by Hurricane Florence are heartbreaking, and it is the first instinct of Virginians to help victims during this time of need,” said Attorney General Herring. “Folks must be smart and cautious when donating to hurricane focused charities because the sad truth is there are immoral people out there who will take advantage of a natural disaster to line their own pockets. I would encourage everyone to do their research before donating money to any charity that claims to help victims of this storm.”
 
Prior to making any contributions, Attorney General Herring encourages potential donors to take some common-sense precautions. While there are many legitimate organizations that provide relief to disaster victims, there are also many con artists that will use the phone, e-mail, U.S. Mail, the internet, or personal contact to try to separate you from your money. Always follow these tips when considering a charitable donation:
 
  • On crowdfunding sites:
  • Check the creator or page owner's credentials and try to confirm its authenticity and seriousness.
  • Look for indicators of endorsement or legitimacy that the page is actually collecting donations for a particular victim or organization. Some sites offer verification and transparency measures for campaigns. Look for those markers of authenticity, and check out the site's fraud protection measures.
  • Be cautious, and if you feel uneasy, contribute to a more established charity in the community.
  • Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with a current event or natural disaster. They may make a compelling case for you to make a donation but even if they are legitimate, they may not have the infrastructure or experience to get your donation to the affected area or people.
  • Only give to charities and fundraisers you can confirm are reliable and legitimate. Scrutinize charities with consumer advocates or friends and find out how much of your donation will go to the charity's programs and services.
  • Beware of "copy-cat" names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations.
  • Be especially cautious if you do not initiate the contact with the charity.
  • Do not be pressured into giving. Legitimate organizations will not expect you to contribute immediately.
  • Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number. Legitimate organizations will give you materials about the charity's mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax-deductible. Just because a "charity" has a tax identification number does not mean your contribution is tax-deductible.
  • Avoid cash donations. Make checks payable to the charitable organization and not to an individual collecting a donation. For security and tax record purposes, you may wish to pay by credit card.
  • If contributing over the Internet, be sure the web site you are visiting belongs to the charity to which you want to donate. See if other legitimate web sites will link to that web site. Make sure the web site is secure and offers protection of your credit card number
  • If a charity is soliciting contributions in Virginia, verify its registration with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs ("OCRP") at (804) 786-1343, or by searching OCRP's Charitable Organization Database online: http://cos.va-vdacs.com/cgi-bin/char_search.cgi
  • While a legitimate charity should be registered with OCRP to solicit contributions in Virginia, registration alone does not mean that the organization will be effective in aiding victims of a particular natural disaster.

 

Who to Contact

You can report charitable solicitation fraud to the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs and the Office of the Attorney General at the following addresses and telephone numbers:
 
OFFICE OF CHARITABLE AND REGULATORY PROGRAMS
P.O. Box 1163
Richmond, Virginia 23218
(804) 786-1343
(804) 225-2666 (fax)

 
OCRP administers the provisions of the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions ("VSOC") law, Virginia Code §§ 57-48 through 57-69, and registers charitable organizations soliciting in Virginia. OCRP investigates complaints where there is an alleged violation of the VSOC law by a charitable organization or its professional fundraiser while soliciting contributions in Virginia. If it has reason to believe violations have occurred, OCRP can make an investigative referral to the Attorney General's Office and/or other agencies for a possible law enforcement action.
 
Here is a link to OCRP's Charitable Solicitation Complaint Form: http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/pdf/cscomplaint.pdf

  
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Consumer Protection Section
202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(800) 552-9963 (if calling from Virginia)
(804) 786-2042 (phone) (if calling from Richmond area)
(804) 225-4378 (fax)
 
The Virginia Attorney General has authority under state and federal consumer protection statutes to investigate and prosecute charitable solicitation and other consumer fraud and misrepresentation. If an action is brought, the Attorney General can seek injunctive relief to halt fraudulent or deceptive conduct in Virginia and obtain restitution for injured consumers. 
 
Here is a link to the Attorney General's Consumer Complaint Form: http://www.ag.virginia.gov/consumercomplaintform/form/start

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING WINS PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION BLOCKING 3D-PRINTED GUNS

~ AG Herring joined a coalition of state attorneys general asking the Courts to block the Trump Administration’s dangerous plan back in July ~

RICHMOND (August 27, 2018) – Today, Attorney General Mark R. Herring won a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump Administration’s dangerous plan to make 3D-printed guns more widely available. The preliminary injunction follows a lawsuit that was filed by Attorney General Herring and a coalition of state attorneys general back in July, seeking an injunction to prevent the distribution of detailed plans for printing plastic guns using 3D printers.

“The Trump Administration's reckless plan to make 3D-printed guns widely available and easily accessible was one of the most dangerous ideas I have ever heard,” said Attorney General Herring. “As a country, we need to focus on keeping our communities safer, not making it easier for dangerous individuals or criminals to get their hands on home-printed, untraceable, and undetectable guns. This preliminary injunction is an important first step in keeping 3D-printed guns off of our streets and I will continue to work with my colleagues to put a stop to the Trump Administration’s dangerous plan once and for all.”

3D-printed guns could be undetectable by metal detectors, untraceable because of a lack of a serial number, and sought out by criminals and domestic abusers who cannot legally possess a firearm or pass a background check. The company that wants to distribute the plans online does not require proof of age or proof of eligibility before allowing a customer to download the plans.

Attorney General Herring previously joined a bipartisan coalition of 21 attorneys general in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo objecting to the Trump administration’s plan to allow the print-at-home gun plans to be made available online.

In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that publicly available information on 3-D printed weapons will enable the production of firearms that are untraceable and undetectable by magnetometers in places such as airports, government buildings and schools. Additionally, unrestricted access to this kind of information will increase illegal trafficking of weapons across state and national borders.

The posting of the print-at-home gun plans was set in motion by a recent settlement between the Trump administration and Defense Distributed, a Texas-based online company that was previously ordered by the U.S. Department of State to remove downloadable files for firearms from its website.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING URGES CONGRESS TO CLOSE DEADLY FENTANYL LOOPHOLE

~ In Virginia, fentanyl deaths have gone up 1,337% since 2009 ~

RICHMOND (August 23, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 state and territory attorneys general to call on Congress to help end the opioid epidemic and close a loophole that allows those who traffic deadly fentanyl to stay a step ahead of law enforcement. Since 2009, Virginia has seen fentanyl overdose deaths increase by 1,337 percent.

“I remain committed to combatting the opioid crisis that is affecting communities across the Commonwealth and the country,” said Attorney General Herring. “Fentanyl has become the biggest driver of the rise in overdose deaths in Virginia and far too many Virginians are still losing their lives and loved ones to this dangerous drug. Fentanyl can be deadly in microscopic doses, which makes it a threat to law enforcement and first responders who are investigating or trying to treat an overdose. It’s also indistinguishable from heroin and other opioids, meaning that a user can suffer a fatal overdose on any use without even realizing what they are taking. We need to make it as hard as we can for criminals and drug dealers to get their hands on this deadly drug, which is why I am urging Congress to close this loophole.”

Attorney General Herring sent a letter to Congress in support of S. 1553 and H.R. 4922, Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. Fentanyl is currently a Schedule II controlled substance. However, outside of careful supervision, fentanyl and analogues manufactured illicitly can be lethal.

The SOFA Act, if passed by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, would eliminate the current loophole which keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl analogue and then introduce these powders into the opioid supply. The SOFA Act utilizes catch-all language which will allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.

Fentanyl is a particularly dangerous drug because even the smallest of doses can be fatal and, in many cases, it is indistinguishable from heroin. It can be hundreds of times more powerful than morphine and much more powerful than heroin. In Virginia alone, 2,182 people have died from a fentanyl overdoes since 2007. Additionally, cartels have begun to import chemicals from China to create their own homemade batches of fentanyl that they then sell on the streets. Importing these chemicals from China has made it even more difficult for law enforcement officials to crack down on the drugs because of complicating factors like Chinese chemical control laws, import laws, and the dark web where people can easily buy and sell the ingredients needed to make these drugs.

The heroin and prescription opioid epidemic has been a top priority for Attorney General Herring. He and his team continue to attack the problem with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcementeducation,prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources and made prescription drug disposal kits available across the Commonwealth. Attorney General Herring recently outlined his recommended next steps for combating the crisis, focusing on law enforcement initiatives, support from the medical community, and recovery, treatment, prevention and education. He and his team also continue to participate in a multistate investigation into the practices of additional drug manufacturers and distributors to determine what role they may have played in creating or prolonging the crisis and what accountability they should face.

Attorney General Herring and his team have handled 117 cases against heroin and fentanyl dealers and traffickers involving more than 667 pounds of heroin (302 kilograms) worth more than $37 million on the street. These cases against dealers and traffickers have involved 39 overdose victim fatalities as well as 47 overdose victims who survived.

The attorneys general who signed this letter include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FILES NEW BRIEF IN NET NEUTRALITY LAWSUIT

~ Herring joins 22 Attorneys General in urging DC Circuit to vacate and reverse FCC’s illegal rollback of net neutrality ~

RICHMOND (August 21, 2018) – Today, Attorney General Mark R. Herringfiled a new brief in the lawsuit to block the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) illegal rollback of net neutrality, urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to vacate and reverse the FCC’s order. Attorney General Herring is part of a coalition of 23 attorneys general that filed suit earlier this year.

“Having an open and fair internet is integral to economic, cultural and educational growth in the Commonwealth, by connecting Virginians to jobs, opportunities and experiences only accessible online,” said Attorney General Herring. “The FCC’s illegal rollback of net neutrality protections could open consumers up to internet providers who will take advantage of them, limit access to certain websites, slow down internet speeds, censor viewpoints they may not like, or even charge websites for priority access. These protections need to remain in place to make sure that ISPs provide fair services. I will continue to fight to keep the internet open for all Virginians.”

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues partnered with the County of Santa Clara, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission in this brief. The non-government petitioners submitted a separate companion brief today and Attorney General Herring and the other attorneys general also joined the arguments made by the non-government petitioners in that brief.

Attorney General Herring’s brief focuses on two critical issues: first, that the FCC’s order is arbitrary and capricious, therefore putting consumers at risk of abusive practices by broadband providers, jeopardizing public safety, and more; and second, that the FCC’s order preempts state and local regulation of broadband service.

As Attorney General Herring’s brief states, “for more than fifteen years, the Federal Communications Commission has agreed that an open Internet free from blocking, throttling, or other interference by service providers is critical to ensure that all Americans have access to the advanced telecommunications services that have become essential for daily life. The recent Order represents a dramatic and unjustified departure from this long-standing commitment”.

The coalition of 23 attorneys general collectively represents over 165 million people – approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population – and includes the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

AG HERRING JOINS 19 STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL ANNOUNCING INTENT TO SUE OVER EPA ROLLBACK OF CLEAN CAR RULE

~ Abandoning new federal standards will cost Americans between $193 billion and $236 billion more on gas and add carbon emissions equivalent of 400 million more cars ~

RICHMOND (August 2, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 19 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia, in releasing the following joint statement announcing an intention to challenge the Trump Administration’s illegal and environmentally-destructive plan to roll back federal limits on tailpipe pollution from cars and trucks.
 
“Federal rules to limit tailpipe pollution and improve fuel economy are our best strategy to reduce carbon pollution, improve air quality, and save drivers money on gas. The Administration’s proposal to weaken these rules will cause the American people to breathe dirtier air and pay higher prices at the pump. If adopted, the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s rollbacks will cost American drivers hundreds of billions of dollars. Freezing or weakening these standards puts the health of our children, seniors, and all communities at risk, and increases the rising costs of climate change for our states. This decision upends decades of cooperative state and federal action to protect our residents. We are prepared to go to court to put the brakes on this reckless and illegal plan.” 
 
Today’s multistate statement includes the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
 
“Virginia is uniquely vulnerable to the threat of climate change and air pollution, particularly in Hampton Roads where streets are frequently closed by nuisance flooding and the world’s largest naval base is threatened by sea level rise,” added Attorney General Herring. “We also recognize the huge health, economic, and environmental benefits of clean air, especially for our kids. We’ve made too much progress as a country and a Commonwealth to let President Trump roll back the clock and undo all our progress just to boost the bottom line of oil and gas companies.”
 
Background on Clean Cars Rule:
 
Globally, the transportation sector is the fastest growing source of dangerous greenhouse gas pollution. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the transportation sector has surpassed the electric power sector and is now the nation’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions. Cars and light duty trucks make up 60 percent of the country’s transportation sector and are the main driver of U.S. dependence on oil, including foreign imports. 
 
Beginning in 2010, the EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the California Air Resources Board agreed to establish a single national program to limit greenhouse gas emissions from model year 2012–2025 vehicles. This program allows automakers to design and manufacture vehicles that will comply with tailpipe standards in all states.
 
The current federal standards for model year 2022-2025 vehicles are estimated to:
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 540 million metric tons;
  • Remove the equivalent of 422 million cars from the road; and,
  • Save drivers $1,650 per vehicle.
 
If enacted, the EPA’s proposal to freeze the emissions standards at 2020 levels would:
  • Reduce average fuel economy from an estimated 46.8 miles per gallon in model year 2026 vehicles to 37 miles per gallon;
  • Increase the country’s oil consumption by 5.3 to 11.9 million gallons per day in 2025;
  • Result in 16 to 37 million metric tons more carbon pollution in 2025; and,
  • Cost Americans roughly $193 billion to $236 billion more at the pump through 2035.
 
In January 2017, the EPA determined, in its “midterm evaluation,” that the 2022-2025 standards are readily achievable by the auto industry. After an extensive technical review, based in significant part on information from industry, advocates, and other interested parties, the EPA found that “automakers are well positioned to meet the standards at lower costs than previous estimated.” However, in April, the EPA arbitrarily reversed course and claimed that the greenhouse gas emissions standards for model years 2022–2025 vehicles should be scrapped. The Administration offered no evidence other than a meager record of self-serving industry analysis to support this decision and deferred further analysis to a forthcoming rulemaking.
 
A coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia—who together represent 44 percent of the U.S population and 43 percent of the national new car sales market—sued the agency in May over its decision to withdraw the agency’s evaluation supporting the standards. The lawsuit is based on the fact that theEPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, failed to follow its own Clean Car regulations, and violated the Clean Air Act. 
 
In its draft rule, the EPA not only proposes to freeze federal emissions standards at 2020 levels but also threatens the authority of states to enforce stronger standards to protect residents. The Clean Air Act authorizes California to adopt emission standards that are more stringent than the federal standards and other states are authorized to adopt those same standards for new motor vehicles sold within their states. The proposed rule would eliminate the California standard, subjecting every state to less efficient and dirtier standards.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING TAKES ACTION AGAINST DECEPTIVE VETERANS CHARITIES AS PART OF NATIONWIDE SWEEP

~ AG Herring has filed suit against Hearts 2 Heroes Inc., and has entered into a multistate settlement with Operation Troop Aid Inc. ~

RICHMOND (July 19, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced that his office has taken legal action against two deceptive charitable organizations that he believes have conned Virginians by falsely promising their donations would help veterans, when the money really went to benefit those operating the so-called charities. Attorney General Herring has filed suit against Hearts 2 Heroes Inc., a for-profit company doing business as Active Duty Support Services Inc., and has entered into a settlement with Operation Troop Aid Inc. and its president and chief executive officer to resolve a multistate investigation of the charity. The actions are part of “Operation Donate with Honor,” a nationwide sweep to crackdown on fraudulent charities that exploit the name of America’s veteran community to solicit donations.
 
“Virginians are caring people who want to give back to veterans who have risked their lives to keep our country safe. Charities that deceptively solicit funds from donors who want to help veterans are disgraceful and should be held accountable for their efforts to make money on the good name of those who have served our country,” said Attorney General Herring. “I hope these enforcement actions send a strong message to similar organizations that they need to be honest about where their money is going, and make sure they follow through on their promises.”
 
Hearts 2 Heroes
Attorney General Herring has filed a lawsuit against Hearts 2 Heroes, a for-profit company doing business under the name Active Duty Support Services Inc. The business conducts door-to-door sales of “care packages” that will allegedly be sent to service members overseas. The lawsuit alleges violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and Virginia’s Solicitation of Contributions law through misrepresentations regarding the nature of the business and the care packages purchased, and the use of donated funds. The lawsuit alleges that the charity violated state charitable solicitation laws in the following manner:
 
  • Leading prospective donors to believe that Hearts 2 Heroes is a charity, when it is not, or that donations made are tax deductible, when they are not;
  • Delivering care packages, if delivered at all, to military bases in the United States, not overseas as represented;
  • Representing to consumers that staff were veterans or volunteers when in fact those staff were not veterans or volunteers; and
  • Employing staff who would “skim” cash donations for themselves.
 
The lawsuit asks the court to prohibit Hearts 2 Heroes from continuing to solicit donations, as well as award restitution to the affected consumers or impose a constructive trust on all funds received so that they will be distributed for legitimate charitable purposes. The suit also seeks an award of civil penalties, and reimbursement of the Commonwealth’s costs, investigative expenses and attorneys’ fees.
 
Operation Troop Aid Inc.
Attorney General Herring has entered into a settlement between 16 states and Operation Troop Aid Inc. and its president and chief executive officer to resolve a multistate investigation of the charity. The settlement resolves allegations that the Tennessee-based charity violated state charitable solicitation laws, including Virginia’s Solicitation of Contributions law, by improperly spending funds for purposes other than their solicited purpose and using unfair, false, misleading, or deceptive solicitation and business practices. 
 
The multistate group alleges the charity violated state charitable solicitation laws in the following manner:
 
  • Failing to conduct proper oversight of a commercial co-venture called “Operation Teddy Bear,” in which certain retail stores sold teddy bears in military uniforms that would supposedly provide a fixed dollar amount to the charity for each bear sold for the express purpose of sending care packages to service members;
  • Failing to maintain donated funds as restricted funds, even when designated for a particular purpose, and spending funds improperly on non-charitable purposes; and
  • Using donated funds for purposes other than those expressly represented as the charitable purpose of the charity, and engaging in unfair, false, misleading, or deceptive solicitation and business practices.
 
The settlement requires the charity to dissolve and prohibits the president and chief executive officer, Mark Woods, from becoming an employee, officer, director, board member, or assuming any fiduciary role with a nonprofit corporation, and from soliciting on behalf of a nonprofit corporation. The charity and Woods are also prohibited from violating state charitable solicitation statutes. The settlement includes a $10,000 civil penalty enforceable by all the states to be held in abeyance to ensure compliance with the injunctive terms of the settlement.
 
The 16 states involved in the settlement are California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.
 
Attorney General Herring has made it a priority to combat deceptive charities, especially those that target Virginians supporting veterans. In December 2017, Herring announced a settlement between 24 states and VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., an Illinois charity that falsely represented that donations would help local veterans, resulting in the organization's dissolution. The settlement appointed a receiver to dissolve VietNow, obtained an injunctive relief against VietNow's directors and officers and required their cooperation in investigations of VietNow's professional fundraisers.
 
Since 2014, Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $246 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators. Following a major reorganization and enhancement in 2016, the OAG's Consumer Protection Section has been even more effective in fighting for the rights of Virginians.
 
Virginians who have a question, concern, or complaint about a consumer matter should contact Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section:

 
Today’s enforcement actions are being announced in conjunction with “Operation Donate with Honor,” a joint effort between Virginia, other states, and the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on fraudulent charities that falsely claim to benefit veterans and service members.

AG HERRING JOINS BI-PARTISAN EFFORT TO FIGHT LEGISLATION THAT WOULD TERMINATE STATES’ ABILITY TO PREVENT PREDATORY LENDING

RICHMOND (June 28, 2018) – Today, Attorney General Mark Herring joined a bi-partisan effort urging U.S. Congressional leadership to vote againstHR 3299 (“Protecting Consumers’ Access to Credit Act of 2017”) and HR 4439(“Modernizing Credit Opportunities Act”). The bipartisan coalition of 20 attorneys general sent a letter to leadership in the U.S. Senate expressing their opposition to the proposed legislation, which could potentially invalidate the state’s ability to limit interest rates on payday and other high interest loans, and undermine the state’s ability to enforce consumer protection laws.

“One of my top priorities as Attorney General has been to protect Virginians from predatory lenders that prey on individuals who are looking for a way out of a difficult financial position,” said Attorney General Herring. “We need stronger laws to protect Virginians and Americans from predatory loans, but these bills would weaken the consumer protection laws we already have in place. I join my fellow state attorneys general in urging Congress against the further restriction of a state’s ability to protect their citizens from abusive lenders.”

As the attorneys general expressed in the letter, HR 3299 and HR 4439 would constitute a substantial expansion of the preemption of state usury laws, which have long been recognized as the purview of the individual states. Over decades, states have crafted laws that create a careful balance between the need for access to credit and the need to ensure that loans are offered on terms that do not create consumer harm.

Attorney General Herring created the OAG's first Predatory Lending Unit to investigate and prosecute suspected violations of state and federal consumer lending statutes, including laws concerning payday loans, car title loans, consumer finance loans, mortgage loans, mortgage servicing, and foreclosure rescue services. The Unit also focuses on consumer education so Virginians are aware of the potential risks of these loans, as well as alternatives.

In recent years, Attorney General Herring and his team have focused on online lenders, which have been a growing percentage of the lending market, but can still present the same risks as any payday or motor vehicle title lender. To date, the Predatory Lending Unit has recovered more than $25 million in restitution and forgiven debt from online lenders, including $15.3 million from CashCall$4 million from MoneyKey$3.4 million from Opportunity Financial, and $2.7 million from MoneyLion.

During his administration, Attorney General Herring's Predatory Lending Unit has also successfully brought enforcement actions against, among others, motor vehicle title loan lendersonline payday lendersmortgage servicing companies, and pawnbrokers.

The coalition of Attorneys General signing the letter hail from: California, Colorado District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

You can find a copy of the letter here.

GOVERNOR NORTHAM SIGNS ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING’S BILL TO PROTECT VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

~ Bill adds offenses related to human trafficking to the list of crimes for which bail can be denied, keeping traffickers in jail and protecting victims ~

NORFOLK (June 25, 2018) – In front of legislators, human trafficking victim advocates, and law enforcement officials, Governor Ralph Northam today signed human trafficking legislation championed by Attorney General Mark Herring. HB1260 (Mullin), recommended by the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force and carried by Delegate Mike Mullin, adds offenses related to human trafficking to the list of crimes for which bail can be denied, keeping traffickers in jail and better protecting trafficking victims.

“Human trafficking is a threat to public safety here in Virginia and across the United States,” said Governor Northam. “This legislation will help us prevent these crimes by making it more difficult for human traffickers to post bail and leave jail to intimidate witnesses or continue their criminal activity. I am proud to sign this legislation today and I thank Delegate Mullin and Attorney General Herring for their commitment to this issue.”

“Human trafficking is a dehumanizing crime that robs its victims of their dignity, their identity, and their freedom,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “This legislation is critical to protecting victims of human trafficking by keeping traffickers in jail and taking their control away. I want to thank the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force for their tireless work fighting this atrocious crime, and Governor Northam, Delegate Mullin and Delegate Dawn Adams for standing with me against human trafficking.”

While prosecuting traffickers, local law enforcement found that traffickers would pay their own bail and bail out their victims continuing the cycle of abuse and trafficking. This legislation, recommended by the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, will keep traffickers in jail and better protect their victims.

This legislation adds the following offenses that are attributable to human trafficking to the list of crimes for which there is a rebuttable presumption against admission to bail:

  • Taking or detaining a person for the purposes of prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse,
  • Receiving money from procuring or placing a person in a house of prostitution or forced labor,
  • Receiving money from the earnings of a prostitute, and
  • Commercial sex trafficking, where the alleged victim is a family or household member.

“I am proud to see HB 1260 be signed into law today. This piece of legislation aims to disrupt the cycle of abuse in human trafficking here on the Peninsula and across the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Delegate Mullin. “I want to thank the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Taskforce for their tireless efforts, and Governor Northam, Attorney General Herring, and Delegate Dawn Adams for seeing it through the process of becoming law.”

“Protecting people that have been trafficked and abused is our mission, when legislation promotes survivor safety, it’s a shared win every time,” said Robin Gauthier, Executive Director, Samaritan House.

“In order to have successful human trafficking investigations, we must rescue and stabilize victims. The fact that now, in Virginia, bail can now be denied for offenses related to human trafficking serves as a significant tool in ensuring victims’ safety,” said Patrick J. Lechleitner, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Washington, D.C.

Human trafficking is a $150 billion dollar enterprise worldwide, and is widely considered one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. The United Nations' International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, with hundreds of thousands of victims here in the United States.

Combating human trafficking in Virginia has been a top priority for Attorney General Herring. In November 2016, the Attorney General announced a $1.45 million grant that would help fund the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, which then launched in January of 2017. The Office of the Attorney General partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Samaritan House, the U.S. Attorney's Office, Virginia State Police, and law enforcement agencies from Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Chesapeake for the task force. HB1260 is a recommendation from the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force.

FREE VETERANS LEGAL CLINIC TO BE HELD IN PETERSBURG IN JULY

~ July 10th event at Petersburg Freedom Support Center to include free powers of attorney, wills, and advance medical directives for veterans, as well as benefits information sessions from DVS ~

PORTSMOUTH (June 15, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of VirginiaAnnual State Convention that the next pro bono Veterans Legal Services Clinic will take place July 10 in Petersburg at the Petersburg Freedom Support Center, located at 32 West Washington Street, Petersburg, Virginia 23803.
 
During the daylong event, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) and the Virginia State Bar (VSB), volunteer attorneys from Attorney General Herring's office and the VSB will serve low-income veterans by drafting important estate planning documents like wills, powers of attorney and advance medical directives. Representatives from DVS will also be present to answer questions regarding state and federal benefits that may be available to Virginia veterans including health benefits, disability benefits, financial services, education benefits, burial in a Virginia or United States veterans cemetery, and more.
 
Qualified veterans can sign up on Attorney General Herring’s website at their local DVS Benefits Services Field Office, or by completing and mailing an application to the Attorney General's office. 
 
“The legal services these clinics provide are very important, but they can often be too expensive for a veteran who may be retired or on a fixed income,” said Attorney General Herring. “I have had the opportunity to visit clinics that we have held across the Commonwealth where we have been able to serve more than 185 veterans and their spouses. It has been so rewarding to witness the peace of mind we have provided these men and women who have given so much to Virginia and our country. This has been a rewarding partnership with the Department of Veterans Services and the State Bar, and I look forward to growing the program even more in the months and years ahead.”
 
Attorney General Herring, DVS, and VSB have held eight pro bono Veterans Legal Services Clinics, serving more than 185 veterans and their spouses in Hampton Roads, Roanoke, Richmond, Lynchburg, Annandale, and Petersburg.
 
Clinics provide qualified veterans and their spouses with simple wills, powers of attorneys, and advance medical directives, including notary services, during the one hour time slots which will be filled on a "first-come, first-served basis." In order to be eligible for services, veterans and their spouses must fill out anintake questionnaire on Attorney General Herring's website or at their local Virginia Department of Veterans Services Benefits Center. Because participants must collect information and make significant decisions prior to the clinic, walkups cannot be accepted.
 
Additional details including qualifications and sign up links can be found here: https://oag.state.va.us/programs-initiatives/veterans-assistance-resources.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING STEPPING IN TO DEFEND THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AND VIRGINIANS’ HEALTHCARE

~Since the President and Attorney General have abandoned defense of the ACA, Herring and his colleagues are stepping in to protect accessible, affordable healthcare and Virginians with preexisting conditions~

RICHMOND (June 8, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring and a coalition of 16 state attorneys general will be defending the Affordable Care Act and the American healthcare system now that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have announced they will abandon defense of the ACA in the pending lawsuit Texas v. United States.  The Texas-led lawsuit, which now has the support of the U.S. Department of Justice, would end the ACA, threatening healthcare coverage for 20 million Americans, stripping protections from those with preexisting conditions, and ending billions of dollars in funding for critical healthcare programs and services nationwide. Attorney General Herring has joined this lawsuit to protect Virginians who benefit from the ACA, including Virginians with preexisting conditions and those who would suffer reduced access and increased premiums should this lawsuit succeed.

“It cannot be overstated how reckless, cruel, and dangerous this politically motivated lawsuit is,” said Attorney General Herring. “In seeking to strike down the entire ACA, these plaintiffs are playing games with the lives and financial well-being of millions of Americans and Virginians. Unfortunately, they now have powerful allies in President Trump and Attorney General Sessions. I will do everything I can to protect the progress we have made under the Affordable Care Act, including the life-changing Medicaid expansion that Governor Northam signed into law just yesterday. I will continue to fight to make sure that politics do not stand in the way of Virginians receiving high-quality, affordable healthcare.”

As part of their defense of the ACA, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed a brief yesterday in opposition to the Texas lawsuit, which seeks to end the ACA based on a far-fetched legal theory that the recently passed Republican tax bill rendered the ACA unconstitutional. Instead, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the Court should reject the request to strike down the ACA because it remains lawful, constitutional, and of vital importance to the health and well-being of Americans.

Since the ACA was implemented in 2009, Virginia’s uninsured rate has dropped from 16.4% to 12.4%, and the recently enacted Medicaid expansion is expected to drive it down even further.

If successful, Texas’ lawsuit would harm Virginia by:

  • Halting Medicaid expansion, which was signed into law in Virginia just yesterday with the goal of covering an additional 400,000 Virginians;

  • Allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them more;

  • Allowing insurance companies to discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums;

  • Taking away seniors’ prescription drug discounts;

  • Ending $1.15 billion in tax credits that helped 335,000 Virginians afford insurance in 2017 alone;

  • Ending the healthcare exchange where more than 410,000 Virginians purchased their healthcare in 2017;

  • Stripping funding from our nation’s public health system, including work to combat the opioid epidemic; and

  • Ending billions in federal aid for healthcare, including $458 million in FY 2019 and $1.9 billion in FY 2020.

 In total, Americans living in the states that successfully intervened could lose half a trillion dollars in healthcare funding.

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues were allowed to join this case as defendants on May 16, 2018, meaning that the states can defend the ACA in place of President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, and can appeal any adverse ruling that threatens Virginians’ access to healthcare.

Joining Attorney General Herring in defending the ACA and filing the motion opposing Texas lawsuit are the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota by and through its Department of Commerce, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Attorney General Herring previously defended the healthcare rights of Virginians by leading a multistate coalition in the Fourth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States in the cases of King v. Sebelius. He intervened to defend "cost sharing reduction payments" that more than 220,000 Virginians rely on to afford healthcare, and successfully sued to block President Trump’s attempts to end the no-cost contraception benefit created by the ACA.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MARK HERRING AND HAMPTON ROADS HUMAN TRAFFICKING TASK FORCE LAUNCH NEW REGIONAL AWARENESS CAMPAIGN

~ Billboards going up on major highways across Hampton Roads to bring awareness to the realities of human trafficking and engage victims ~

    

NORFOLK (May 22, 2018) – Attorney General Mark Herring today announced that the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force will launch a new awareness campaign across the Hampton Roads region. Beginning this week, billboards will be placed on major highways across the region encouraging victims or those with information about possible human trafficking to contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline. The billboards are estimated to make 2.5 million impressions while they are up across the region. Additionally, the campaign will include bilingual digital advertising which will run in the region. In 2017, Virginia has had thefifteenth highest number of human trafficking cases referenced on the hotline, and experts believe human trafficking occurs in Virginia because of its location on the east coast, international air and sea ports, and large number of major interstates.
 
“Human trafficking robs its victims of their dignity, their identity, their freedom, and in a tragic number of cases, their childhood,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginia has made great strides in combating this crime and my team and I have been proud to be a part of those efforts. By raising awareness about the existence and impact of human trafficking and promoting critical resources, we can help restore victims and seek justice against those who perpetrate this dehumanizing crime. I want to thank our Hampton Roads Human Trafficking partners for their continued efforts to combat this heinous crime.”
 
Human trafficking is a $150 billion dollar enterprise worldwide, and is widely considered one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. The United Nations' International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, with hundreds of thousands of victims here in the United States.
 
Hampton Roads billboard locations include:
  • 3210 Bainbridge Boulevard, near the intersection of Rosemont Avenue, Chesapeake, VA
  • US 60, near the intersection of Elmhurst Street East, Newport News, VA
  • 3601 Chestnut Avenue, near the intersection of 36th Street, Newport News, VA
  • 2720 Hampton Boulevard, near the intersection of 35th Street, Norfolk, VA
  • 2019 Granby Street, near the intersection of 21st Street, Norfolk, VA
  • 3001 Lafayette Boulevard, near the intersection of Ballentine Boulevard,Norfolk, VA
  • 2561 Airline Boulevard, near the intersection of Victory Boulevard,Portsmouth, VA
  • 3307 George Washington Highway, Portsmouth, VA
“No one anticipated how prevalent the problem would be, we have opened three new shelters and served over 60 victims since the inception of the program 16 months ago,” said Robin Gautheir, Executive Director, Samaritan House.
“We know that awareness and outreach are two important tools in identifying victims of human trafficking, and we hope this billboard campaign will encourage the public to report suspicious activity to us,” said Dewey Mann, supervisory special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Norfolk. “One of the task force’s first successful investigations began with a tip to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.”
 
In November 2016, Attorney General Herring announced a $1.45 million grant that would help fund the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, which we then launched in January of 2017. The Office of the Attorney General partnered with Homeland Security, Samaritan House, the US Attorney’s Office, Virginia State Police, and law enforcement agencies from Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Chesapeake for the task force. Since October 2016, just before the launch of the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, there have been a total of 108 new trafficking investigations, 45 arrests, and 76 victims have been identified.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING ANNOUNCES ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS AGAINST UNLICENSED CONTRACTORS

RICHMOND (May 11, 2018) - Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that he has taken enforcement actions against three unlicensed contractors operating in Virginia. The three unlicensed contractors are Ricky Harmon Pettit, operating under Pettit’s Home Improvement, Ricky H. Pettit Home Improvement, and R. H. Pettit Builders in Central and Northern Virginia; Timothy Oneal White, operating as White Renovation and Construction and White Renovations in the City of Roanoke; and Gerald Lee Whitfield, operating as Whitfield’s Home Improvements in the City of Chesapeake. Each of the unlicensed contractors allegedly committed numerous violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, which generally prohibits the use of any deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation in connection with a consumer transaction.
 
“No one should have to worry about whether the contractor they have hired to work on their home is licensed or trained to do the work they say they can,” said Attorney General Herring. “These unlicensed contractors are not only lying to consumers they are potentially putting them in danger with shoddy workmanship. My Consumer Protection section will continue to investigate claims of fraud and abuse against consumers and take action where we can to stop it.”
 
Ricky Harmon Pettit – Pettit’s Home Improvement, Ricky H. Pettit Home Improvement, and R. H. Pettit Builders
The Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Ricky Harmon Pettit for providing unlicensed contractor work in consumers’ homes in Central and Northern Virginia. The lawsuit alleges that in several instances Pettit offered contractor services to consumers, obtained money before performing those services, and failed to complete those services. Pettit also falsely told consumers that he was insured and licensed with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Board for Contractors. The Complaint alleges Pettit violated the Consumer Protection Act by:
 
  • Representing that he was a plumber, when he has never held a tradesmen license with a plumbing specialty as required by statute;
  • Taking payments of $2,524.99 from one consumer to install floor and wall tiles in a bathroom, and later install a toilet, pedestal sink, and water heater, and never finishing the work;
  • Taking payments of $21,000.00 from another consumer to renovate the consumer’s kitchen, and never finishing the work;
  • Representing himself as licensed and insured on business documents including an invoice, a business card, a written contract, and his website, when Pettit was not licensed and insured;
  • Making other false statements and unfulfilled promises throughout his transactions with consumers; and
  • Undertaking work without a valid Virginia contractor’s license when a license is required.
 
Timothy Oneal White – White Renovation and Construction, and White Renovations
The Attorney General reached a settlement with Timothy Oneal White related to unlicensed contractor work performed in the City of Roanoke. Specifically, the Attorney General alleges that White violated the Consumer Protection Act by, among other things:
 
  • Undertaking work without a valid Virginia contractor’s license;
  • Taking payments of $6,650 from one consumer to complete various renovations to the consumer’s home bathroom including plumbing to make it accessible for persons with mobility issues, and never finishing the work;
  • Representing that he was a plumber, when he has never held a tradesmen license with a plumbing specialty as required by statute; and
  • Making various other misrepresentations and deceptions in his interactions with the consumer.
 
Under the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, White is prohibited from operating as a contractor without a required license and will have to pay $6,650 in restitution to the affected consumer, $2,500 for civil penalties and $500 for attorney’s fees and expenses. The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance has been adopted and approved by the Roanoke City Circuit Court.
 
Gerald Lee Whitfield – Whitfield’s Home Improvements
The Attorney General has reached a settlement with Gerald Lee Whitfield alleging that Whitfield committed numerous violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act by:
 
  • Undertaking work without a valid Virginia contractor’s license;
  • Taking payments of $8,796 from one consumer to complete various remodeling projects in the consumer’s home, including framing, hanging drywall, painting, and refinishing floors, and never finishing the work;
  • Describing himself in writing as a “Contractor”;
  • Representing that he was licensed to do electrical work, when he has never held a tradesmen license with an electrical specialty as required by statute; and
  • Making various other false statements and unfulfilled promises in his interactions with the consumer.
 
Under the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, Whitfield will be prohibited from operating as a contractor and electrician and will have to pay $4,398 for restitution to the affected consumer, $2,000 for civil penalties, and $500 for attorneys’ fees and expenses. The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance has been filed for approval with the Chesapeake Circuit Court.
 
The three matters were handled for the Commonwealth by Assistant Attorney General Stephen John Sovinsky and Investigator Christopher Olson.
 
Consumers are encouraged to remember these tips when hiring a contractor:
  • Hire only licensed contractors.
  • Verify the contractor’s license status and check on any complaints with the Board for Contractors at http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/ or call (804) 367-8511.
  • Get referrals from friends, neighbors or co-workers.
  • Check references and look at past work.
  • Get written estimates from at least three contractors.
  • Don’t automatically choose the lowest bid. Ask for an explanation of price differences.
  • Get a signed contract that includes start and completion dates, payment schedule, all materials needed, any promises or warranties.
  • Limit any down payment.
  • Don’t pay cash.
  • Don’t pay in full before all work is complete to your satisfaction.
  • Keep all paperwork.
  • You have three days to cancel most sales made at your home. If you have second thoughts, consider exercising this right.

 
If you think you have been a victim of an unlicensed contractor please reach out to the Office through Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963, or file a complaint on its website.
 
During Attorney General Herring’s administration, the Consumer Protection Section has undergone a significant reorganization and expansion, and recovered more than $243 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators.


HERRING FILES SUIT AGAINST "SERVICE DOGS BY WARREN RETRIEVERS"

~ Suit alleges violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act in connection with the sale of purported “diabetic alert dogs" ~
 
RICHMOND (May 8, 2018) - Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that he has filed a lawsuit against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, Inc., a Virginia-based company that sells purported service dogs to consumers nationwide, and its CEO, Charles D. Warren, Jr., for alleged violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions law. The suit alleges that Service Dogs and Warren sold so-called “diabetic alert dogs” for tens of thousands of dollars, when they were often delivering poorly-trained puppies with significant behavioral issues and inadequate skills or training to notify a customer of a potentially life-threatening high or low blood sugar situation. Service Dogs and Warren also misled customers and charitable donors about certain aspects of the business’s payment structure, and lied about Warren having served in the armed forces.
 
“This suit alleges not just dishonest and unlawful business practices, but a recklessness that could have endangered the lives of customers who relied on the claims made by Service Dogs and its owner,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Our investigation shows that, in many instances, Service Dogs was simply selling a $25,000 pet, leaving customers with a huge bill and no protection against a potentially life-threatening blood sugar situation. Customers have a right to rely on the accuracy of a business’s claims, especially when it involves a person’s health and well-being. We will continue to hold businesses to the highest standards and take action whenever necessary to protect Virginia consumers.”
 
The lawsuit alleges that Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers and Mr. Warren charged $18,000 to $27,000 for a dog that could purportedly identify and alert individuals to life-threatening low and high blood sugar in individuals with diabetes. In reality, the dogs were often poorly trained, ill-behaved, and unequipped to help manage a life-threatening situation, rendering them little more than incredibly expensive pets.
 
An investigation of customer complaints showed that, instead of the well-trained service dog that was promised, Service Dogs often provided an untrained puppy that showed significant shortcomings such as an inability to properly walk on a leash, inappropriate chewing and destruction, inability to respond when called, jumping on people, fear of noises, and frequent barking or whining. Critically, dogs that were billed as a potential lifesaver failed to alert customers to dangerous high or low blood sugar.
 
The complaint also alleges that Service Dogs encouraged customers to solicit charitable donations to cover the cost of their dog despite several times not being properly registered to solicit charitable funds, and misled customers about a partnership with or endorsement from JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
 
Finally, the suit alleges that Mr. Warren lied to customers and donors when he claimed to have served in the United States Marine Corps, to have trained dogs for the military, and to have received a medical discharge because of a diabetes diagnosis. In reality, Mr. Warren has never served in the United States Marine Corps or any other branch of the military.
 
Attorney General Herring specifically contends that Service Dogs and Mr. Warren violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions law by, among other ways, deceiving consumers about:
  • the testing and training dogs would undergo before being placed in a home with the diabetic person;
  • the skills and abilities dogs would have when assisting a consumer or family member with diabetes;
  • how the dogs could be paid for, and how long consumers would have to pay their balances; and
  • why consumers—or those who donated on their behalf—could not receive refunds.
In his lawsuit filed in Madison County Circuit Court, Attorney General Herring is seeking restitution on behalf of affected consumers, civil penalties, attorneys' fees, and asking the court to block Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers from further violations of the Consumer Protection Act and Solicitation of Contributions law. He is seeking civil penalties of up to $2,500 per willful violation of the Consumer Protection Act and $5,000 per violation of the Solicitation of Contributions law, with the exact number of violations to be determined during trial proceedings. In addition, Attorney General Herring is seeking an accounting from the company of all funds obtained through unlawful solicitations, and the establishment of a charitable trust so those funds can be provided to an appropriate charitable organization.
 
During the course of investigating complaints against Service Dogs, Attorney General Herring had to ask a court to enforce a civil investigative demand compelling the company to produce information about its business. The company failed to fully comply with the civil investigative demand for nearly two years, resulting in approximately $90,000 in sanctions against Service Dogs and Warren.
 
Consumers who believe they have been injured by Service Dogs should file a complaint with Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section as soon as possible. For information about filing a complaint, to get a complaint form, or to submit a complaint online, consumers should go to the Attorney General's website: Online Complaint Form. Consumers with questions or who need assistance can contact us:

Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section is handling this matter. During Attorney General Herring’s administration, the Consumer Protection Section has undergone a significant reorganization and expansion, and recovered more than $243 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators.

If you have any consumer-related inquiries, the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline telephone counselors are available to assist you with your consumer questions. Please call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963 if calling from Virginia, or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area. You can also subscribe to the Consumer Protection Quarterly Newsletter here.

 

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING ALLEGES ILLEGAL PREDATORY LOANS IN SUIT AGAINST ONE OF VIRGINIA’S LARGEST ONLINE LENDERS

~ AG Herring’s suit against Net Credit, one of the largest online lenders operating in Virginia, seeks restitution on behalf of affected consumers ~

RICHMOND, VA (May 4, 2018) - Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that his Predatory Lending Unit has filed a lawsuit against Net Credit, one of the largest online lenders operating in Virginia, for lending and collections practices that allegedly violate the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit alleges that Chicago-based Net Credit issued loans of $1,000 to $10,000 to more than 47,000 Virginia borrowers between 2012 and 2018 with interest rates from 34% to 155%. In one loan cited in the complaint, a Virginia borrower was responsible for more than $6,000 in repayments for just $2,000 borrowed.

“We’ve seen more and more Virginians turn to online lenders in a time of need only to find they’ve signed up for a debt trap that is going to cost them hundreds if not thousands of dollars in finance charges and interest,” said Attorney General Herring. “I believe we need stronger laws to protect Virginians from predatory loans, whether issued online or in-person, but until we get those, I’m going to make sure the laws we have are enforced and make sure that companies can’t come into our state and abuse financially vulnerable Virginians.”

Attorney General Herring’s complaint alleges that Net Credit operated without a license in Virginia and misled borrowers about its licensure status in Utah in an attempt to avoid interest rate caps when loaning money to Virginians. Unless a lender qualifies for an exception, Virginia law caps the interest rate on loans at 12% per year. Instead, Net Credit forced borrowers to repay loans at exorbitant rates that cost Virginia consumers thousands of dollars.

The Complaint also alleges that Net Credit tried to illegally collect money from borrowers who had filed for bankruptcy and were entitled to protection from collections activities. This conduct allegedly occurred in the form of automatic withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts and collections emails while court-ordered bankruptcy stays were in effect.

The lawsuit has been filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court. Attorney General Herring is seeking restitution on behalf of consumers who were charged illegal interest, civil penalties, attorneys' fees, and a court order banning Net Credit from further violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

The Commonwealth is represented in this matter by attorneys in Attorney General Herring’s first of its kind Predatory Lending Unit, which has recovered more than $22 million from online lenders including CashCallMoneyKeyMr. Amazing LoansOpportunity Financial, and MoneyLion. Overall, Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $243 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators.

DRUG TAKEBACK DAY EVENTS TO BE HELD ACROSS SOUTHSIDE VIRGINIA

~Attorney General Herring reminds Virginians to dispose of unused prescriptions, especially opioids, at one of many drop-off sites across the Commonwealth~

RICHMOND (April 24, 2018) - Attorney General Mark R. Herring is encouraging Virginians to take advantage of Saturday's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to dispose of unused or expired medications, especially prescription opioids, before they can be misused, abused, or accidentally ingested. Law enforcement agencies, community partners, and members of the Attorney General's team will be stationed at dozens of locations throughout the Commonwealth to accept medications for proper disposal. Takeback locations in the Southwide area, which will be open from 10am - 2pm, are listed below, and you can find a site near you by searching here.

"One of the simplest things we can all do to fight the opioid epidemic and make our homes and our communities safer is to get rid of unused prescriptions before they are misused, abused, or even accidentally ingested by a child or grandchild," said Attorney General Herring. "We know that opioid abuse often starts with drugs from the medicine cabinet, not the streets. Taking just a few minutes of your weekend to clean out your medicine cabinet and get rid of unneeded medication can be a huge step forward in making your home and you family safer."

There is a strong link between misuse of prescription opioids, opioid addiction, and even subsequent use of heroin once prescriptions become too expensive or are no longer accessible. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Heroin abuse is 19 times more likely among those who abuse prescription opioids.
  • Half of young people who used heroin got started by abusing prescription opioids.
  • One in fifteen individuals who misuse prescription opioid painkillers will try heroin within 10 years.
  • Studies show a link between the availability of prescription and illicit drugs and the likelihood of abuse.

In Virginia, opioid overdose deaths have risen steadily since 2010:

  • Heroin overdose deaths have risen more than 1,060% between 2010 and 2015, from 48 to 558.
  • Fentanyl deaths have risen by over 1,500% percent from 2007 to 2017, from 48 to 770.
  • Prescription opioid overdose deaths have risen 26% between 2007 and 2017, from 400 deaths to 504.

Attorney General Herring has made combating the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic a top priority, attacking the problem with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcementeducation, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources and made prescription drug disposal kits availableacross the Commonwealth. Attorney General Herring recently outlined his recommended next steps for combating the crisis, focusing on law enforcement initiatives, support from the medical community, and recovery, treatment, prevention and education. He is also participating in a multistate investigation into the practices of drug manufacturers and distributors to determine what role they may have played in creating or prolonging the crisis.

Drug Takeback locations include:

DANVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

CENTRA MEDICAL GROUP DANVILLE 
PARKING LOT - WEST END OF THE BUILDING

414 PARK AVE

DANVILLE

VA, 24541

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

MT. HERMON SHOPPING CENTER 
FOOD LION PARKING LOT

4048 FRANKLIN TURNPIKE

DANVILLE

VA, 24540

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE 
IN FRONT OF SHERIFF'S OFFICE

21 NORTH MAIN STREET

CHATHAM

VA, 24531

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

FOOD LION 
PARKING LOT

100 VADEN STREET

GRETNA

VA, 24557

MARTINSVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

MARTINSVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT 
FRONT ENTRANCE

65 WEST CHURCH ST.

MARTINSVILLE

VA, 24112

LAWRENCEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

LAWRENCEVILLE MUNICIPAL BUILDING 
AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE POLICE DEPARTMENT

400 N. MAIN STREET

LAWRENCEVILLE

VA, 23868

FARMVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT/LONGWOOD UNIVERSITY PD

MIDTOWN SQUARE 
IN FRONT OF CHICK-FIL-A

156 S. SOUTH STREET

FARMVILLE

VA, 23901

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE DIVISION III HQS 
POC: SGT DREW MCCORMICK

240 THIRD DIVISION LOOP

APPOMATTOX

VA, 24522

APPOMATTOX COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

KROGER

7851 RICHMOND HWY

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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FILES SUIT TO BLOCK TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FROM UNDERMINING 2020 CENSUS

~ Census Bureau itself has said that proposed citizenship inquiry is likely to depress response, threatening billions in critical federal funds and states' fair representation in Congress and Electoral College  ~

RICHMOND (April 3, 2018) - Today, Attorney General Mark R. Herring-as part of a coalition of 18 Attorneys General, six cities, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors-filed a lawsuit to block the Trump administration from undermining the 2020 decennial census with a "poison pill" citizenship inquiry that the U.S. Census Bureau has said is likely to depress response and compromise the accuracy of the census. Demanding citizenship information would particularly depress Census turnout in states with large immigrant populations, directly threatening those states' fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College, as well as billions of dollars in critical federal funds for education, infrastructure, Medicaid, and more.

"This poison pill from the Trump administration is about ideology, not accuracy," said Attorney General Herring. "The Census is one of the most important things our government does. It determines how many congressional representatives and electoral votes Virginia gets, and how much federal money comes to the Commonwealth for things like healthcare, education, and transportation. There is overwhelming evidence that including this provision will cause underreporting and produce an inaccurate census, violating the Enumeration Clause in the Constitution, which calls for an actual count of all persons in the Country. In the current climate, many immigrants are already wary of the government, and there is no question that this is just another attempt to intimidate and instill fear in immigrant communities." 

The lawsuit is brought under the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as this action by the Trump administration will impede an "actual Enumeration" of "the whole number of persons in each state," as required by the Constitution. It is also brought under the Administrative Procedure Act, which permits courts to set aside unlawful or arbitrary and capricious agency decisions.

In their suit, the bipartisan coalition describes the reasons that the administration's decision is inconsistent with the Census Bureau's constitutional and statutory obligations, is unsupported by the stated justification, departs from decades of settled practice without reasoned explanation, and fails to consider the availability of alternative data that can effectively serve the federal government's needs.

The lawsuit also emphasizes the irreparable harm that will result from inaccuracies in the 2020 Census caused by demanding citizenship information. Hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds are directly tied to demographic information obtained through the census, including the Highway Trust Fund and other Department of Transportation grants, Child Care Development Grants, and Medicaid. Consequently, inaccurate counts can potentially deprive states of much-needed funds designed to protect low-income and vulnerable communities.

A total of $700 billion is distributed annually to nearly 300 different census-guided federal grant and funding programs. In FY2015, Virginia received over $953 million in Highway Trust Fund grants, over $131 million in Urbanized Area Formula Grants, and nearly $64 million in Child Care Development grants, all based on census data.

In addition to the significant financial implications of an inaccurate census, the decennial census is also used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives, and each plaintiff state relies on population information from the Census Bureau to draw statewide redistricting plans for their Congressional and state legislative districts. Demanding citizenship information would cause disproportionate undercounts in communities with immigrant populations and therefore prevent plaintiff states from fulfilling the one-person, one-vote constitutional requirement, as well as create inaccuracies in the data states use to draw district lines. Currently, immigrants account for 12.3 percent of Virginia's population.

As the Census Bureau's own research shows, the decision to demand citizenship information will "inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count" by significantly deterring participation, particularly in immigrant communities, because of concerns about how the federal government will use citizenship information. These concerns are amplified by President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and pattern of actions that target immigrant communities.

In 1980, the Census Bureau rejected the addition of a citizenship question, saying, "Any effort to ascertain citizenship will inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count. Obtaining the cooperation of a suspicious and fearful population would be impossible if the group being counted perceived any possibility of the information being used against them. Questions as to citizenship are particularly sensitive in minority communities and would inevitably trigger hostility, resentment, and refusal to cooperate."

In 2009, all eight former Directors of the Census Bureau dating back to 1979 - who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents - affirmed that a citizenship question would depress participation and lead to a significant undercount, undermining the purpose of the Census itself.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia; the cities of New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco, and Seattle; and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors.

61 SUSPECTED FIGHTING DOGS SEIZED IN EMPORIA

~ AG Herring's Animal Law Unit assisted in the forfeiture hearing as investigation continues ~

EMPORIA (March 19, 2018)-Attorney General Mark R. Herring's Animal Law Unit and Greensville/Emporia Commonwealth's Attorney Patricia T. Watson successfully won an order for the forfeiture of 61 dogs after evidence was presented in court showing that the dogs owned by Jeffrey Shanel Scott had been systematically fought as part of a dogfighting operation. The forfeiture was ordered on March 6 by Judge Stephen D. Bloom and the time for an appeal has now expired. The animals were seized on February 22, 2018 by federal and state authorities at a property on Low Ground Road in Emporia as part joint investigation by local, state, and federal authorities into suspected dogfighting and other illegal activities. While the investigation remains ongoing, the dogs are being assessed and cared for by the ASPCA in hopes of responsibly placing them with animal shelters and rescue groups to be made available for adoption.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch and Assistant Attorney General Kelci Block prosecuted the case for the Office of the Attorney General alongside Commonwealth's Attorney Watson. The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Office of the Attorney General Animal Law Unit.  In addition, the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, Virginia State Police Narcotics Task Force, Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office, Emporia Police Department, Greenville County Sheriff's Office, and the ASPCA assisted in the seizure and related proceedings.

Virginia Swears In Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General

By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A new voice formally joined Virginia’s government Saturday afternoon as Justin Fairfax was sworn in as lieutenant governor, and a familiar figure, Mark Herring, took the oath of office to continue his role as attorney general.

The two, alongside newly instated Gov. Ralph Northam, headlined an inaugural ceremony attended by approving guests.

Rita Williams, who had worked with Fairfax’s campaign when he lost the Democratic nomination for attorney general to Herring in 2013, said she was proud of his accomplishments.

“He is a very, very intelligent young man, a gifted young man, and he will make an excellent lieutenant governor,” she said.

Fairfax is the second African-American elected to a Virginia state position, following Douglas Wilder as governor in 1989. He was sworn in by former U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee. Before retiring, Lee oversaw a number of high profile cases, including the convictions of Brian Patrick Regan for espionage and Ahmed Omar Abu Ali for conspiracy to assassinate then-President George W. Bush.

Thomas Horne, a former judge and commonwealth’s attorney from Loudoun County, returned to administer the oath of office for Herring as he had done four years ago. Herring spent his previous career as a lawyer in Horne’s Loudoun County courtroom.

Mia Masten, director of advocacy and professional relations for Pfizer in Washington, D.C., attended the event. She said she was unfamiliar with the two politicians but was enthusiastic about Virginia’s future with “the new influx of new energy, new blood, new excitement.”

Charles Cockrell, communication and business director at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, was also optimistic.

“I think we have great leadership in Virginia,” he said.“We see a lot of progress in technology and what we’ve done to foster economic growth in the Commonwealth. We look forward to seeing that continue in the next administration.”

Attorney general praises injunction blocking travel ban

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark Herring praised a federal judge for issuing a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s temporary ban prohibiting people from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Herring said the ruling suggests that he will win his lawsuit alleging that the ban violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion.

The injunction issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of Alexandria will last until the case goes to trial. Herring said people affected by the ban “can have a lot more confidence knowing that the commonwealth will likely win at trial.”

In granting the motion for a preliminary injunction, Brinkema cited Herring’s argument that President Trump’s executive order violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

“The Commonwealth has produced unrebutted evidence supporting its position that it is likely to succeed on an Establishment Clause claim,” Brinkema wrote. “The ‘Muslim ban’ was a centerpiece of the president’s campaign for months, and the press release calling for it was still available on his website as of the day this Memorandum Opinion is being entered.”

Trump said he issued his executive order to ensure national security. He said he was putting a temporary halt on admitting visitors from seven countries that the Obama and Bush administrations had identified as terrorist threats.

“It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes,” the executive order said. It put a 90-day ban on people coming to the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

In a telephone conference call with reporters Monday night, Herring said the Trump administration had “no evidence to support the bald claim that it was about national security.”

Herring said the Virginia case differed from other cases challenging the executive order. The states of Washington and Minnesota also sued over the issue and received a temporary injunction to block the executive order. A three-judge federal appeals court panel last week refused to toss out the injunction and reinstate the travel ban.

“While Washington and Minnesota alleged other violations including the Establishment Clause, the court was really focusing on due process – where in Virginia, the judge really went to the heart of the Establishment Clause case,” Herring said.

Herring, a Democrat, called Trump’s travel ban “unlawful, unconstitutional and un-American.”

“The overwhelming evidence shows that this ban was conceived in religious bigotry and is actually making Americans and our armed forces less safe at home and abroad,” Herring said.

On Twitter, Trump criticized the injunction, saying, “The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real, just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle-East. Courts must act fast!”

Tuesday’s election will fill Richmond-area House seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RICHMOND – Voters in parts of Richmond and Henrico County will go to the polls Tuesday to elect one of three candidates to a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

 

 

The three candidates are vying to fill the 71st House District seat vacated by Democrat Jennifer McClellan, who was elected to the state Senate last month. The candidates are:

 

 

  • Jeff Bourne, a Democrat and member of the Richmond School Board
  • John Barclay, a Libertarian and teacher in the Richmond Public Schools
  • Regie Ford, an independent and Air Force veteran

 

 

The district is considered so Democratic that the Republicans did not nominate a candidate. In presidential and statewide election, the precincts that make up the 71st House District typically cast more than 80 percent of their votes for the Democratic nominee, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

 

 

The district stretches from Bryan Park, Scott’s Addition, the Fan and the Virginia Commonwealth University campus on the west, to Church Hill, Fulton Hill, Richmond’s East End and the Ratcliffe area of Henrico County.

 

 

All of the candidates have education as a top issue.

 

 

Barclay is an eighth-grade math and science teacher. He has seen firsthand the issues with Virginia’s education system. He believes schools put too much emphasis on standardized testing. He says Virginia is forced to do that because it receives funding from the federal government.

 

 

“Virginia should look into not taking the money from the federal government so that we can be free from the culture of standardized testing,” Barclay said. “Our classrooms should be preparing our students to be thinkers and citizens, not test takers.”

 

 

Barclay separates himself from his rivals with his position on legalizing marijuana “rather than filling our prisons with marijuana users.”

 

 

Barclay’s campaign platform also includes restoring the voting rights of people who have been convicted of a felony and have served their sentence. “We need a constitutional amendment that allows any felons in the commonwealth who have completed their jail time to automatically regain their right to vote.”

 

 

Furthermore, Barclay wants the state to “deregulate industries that currently require excessive licensing in order to practice,” such as barbers and hairdressers.

 

 

Bourne says education is key to fighting poverty in Richmond. He said it is important to improve not only the school system but also workforce training for adults.

 

 

“It really is a way to address some of the most systemic issues,” said Bourne, who has been endorsed by U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. “We have some of the most significantly concentrated poverty in our city, and education could help break that up.”

 

 

Bourne says his two children motivated him to get involved in politics.

 

 

“They not only drive this decision, they also influence and drive my desire to be a public servant and help our city and our state,” Bourne said. “I’ve been on the School Board for five years now. I want to build an education system that provides the tools and skills they need to be productive in life.”

 

 

Bourne’s other top issues are addiction and domestic violence. “My father was sober for 20 years before he died,” Bourne said. “Seeing the effects that addiction can have is both personal to me but also affects so many Virginians.”

 

 

Ford says his community activism started in high school when he was a member of the Urban League. He has continued public service into his adult life through his service in the United States Air Force and as president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters.

 

 

Ford wants to tackle the issue of Richmond’s food deserts. He noted that it’s hard for many residents of the 71st House District to get fresh food because of a lack of grocery stores or reliable public transportation.

 

 

“So education, crime, unhealthiness – all of that starts with food deserts. We have to make sure all students and parents have the proper nutrition,” Ford said.

 

 

He also has declared his support for House Bill 1444, which would increase the minimum wage of Virginia from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour – and eventually to $15 an hour by 2021.

 

 

Moreover, Ford supports restoration of rights for felons who have served their time, “sensible gun control laws” and term limits for elected officials.

 

 

Whoever wins Tuesday’s election will serve the remainder of McClellan’s term, until January 2018. The seat will be up for election again in November, meaning Tuesday’s winner might be on the ballot again in nine months.

 

 

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Go to richmondgov.com or http://www.elections.virginia.gov/voter-outreach/where-to-vote.html to find your polling place.

 

 

 

More on the web

 

 

Here’s where you can find more information about the candidates:

 

 

·         John Barclay – http://barclay4delegate.weebly.com/

 

 

·         Jeff Bourne – https://www.facebook.com/JeffMBourneVA/

Regie Ford – https://www.facebook.com/Regie-Ford-for-71st-Delegate-207715256361991/

Virginia Legislators Sound off on Trump Inauguration

By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Several members of the Virginia House of Delegates spoke out Monday in regards to the events surrounding the inauguration of Donald Trump over the weekend.

Members from both sides of the aisle made their voices heard, both in support and opposition of the 45th president and the activities that engulfed his inauguration weekend.

Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, alluded to the events as a teachable moment for America’s youth.

“As a government teacher … I had a real passion for my students to understand what an incredibly unique representative democracy this was,” Cox said on the House floor Monday. “I thought of that on Friday when we saw one of the things I think is one of the greatest things we do, and that’s the transition of power.”

However, Cox was quick to voice his displeasure over both Trump’s Democratic opposition and those who took to the streets of Washington, D.C., to protest over the weekend.

“I’d be less than candid if I didn’t say I was disappointed in the 67 Democratic congressmen that did not attend,” Cox said. “I was probably even more disappointed with some of the violent protests I saw. I thought that it was bad for the country and, frankly, probably kept some of those good folks from various parts of the country from attending.”

Cox also used his platform as a call to action for his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He referred to recent remarks delivered by Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News.

“I was reflecting on a speech that Del. Price gave last week,” he said. “I think we all need to look at other people’s perspectives, and I really took to heart when she said that for her, her grandmother and, I think, for so many others, what President Obama’s presidency meant. I thought that was very well said. And so, having said that, I think it’s crucial that whether you did or did not support President Trump, that he’s our president and we need to pray for his success, success for Americans and Virginia’s success.”

Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, agreed with Cox’s call to support the new president but warned against doing so blindly.

“I, too, share (Del. Cox’s) support for the notion of a smooth transition of political power in this country. I think that’s what distinguishes our country from many other countries around the globe,” Toscano said.

But he added, “Be careful before you walk down the road with President Trump. He is our president, and we have an obligation to support him, but we also have an obligation to tell him he is wrong when he is wrong.”

Toscano cited the administration’s stances on repealing the Affordable Care Act and a reported freeze on federal government hiring as two examples where Americans need to remain vigilant.

“In these two instances – ACA and freezes on federal employment – he is wrong, and we should stand up for those principles,” he said.

Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpepper, was quick to address Toscano’s claims.

“I actually agree with some of the comments from (Del. Toscano),” Freitas said, “and I have to say that if President Trump accomplishes nothing more than once again reinvigorating the Democrats’ passion for the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, he will achieve more than I ever thought possible in my lifetime.”

Freitas, like Cox, also expressed his disdain over the weekend’s protests.

“As I looked at the violent riots that broke out – probably by a bunch of people with ‘coexist’ bumper stickers on their cars – at the inauguration, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “These are some of the same people that are constantly lecturing us on tolerance and diversity and getting along, and the moment there’s an election result they don’t like, we’re setting things on fire and throwing bricks through windows.”

Freitas compared the protesters with what he characterized as the oppressive regulations of his opponents across the aisle.

“When it comes to things like Obamacare and when it comes to a lot of these other government-imposed programs that don’t require voluntary cooperation, they use coercion. If it’s such a good idea, why does it always require government force to implement on an otherwise free people?” Freitas asked.

“I think that’s a fair question to ask, because at the end of the day, coexistence is not a bumper sticker you put on your car. Coexistence is resisting the urge to coerce those whom you can’t convince. I think we need to be a little bit more cognizant of that.”

However, Freitas concluded by reiterating Toscano’s point on holding government accountable.

“I, for one, hope this administration will rely more on free people to resolve their problems through voluntary association as opposed to a top-down Washington, D.C., approach for everything,” he said. “I commit to holding the administration, even though it’s my party, accountable to that end.”

Advocates for Rape Survivors Applaud Grant

By Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Organizations that help rape survivors see benefits from Virginia receiving a $2 million federal grant to improve the commonwealth’s handling of sexual assaults.

They say the money will help the state train sexual assault investigators, test rape evidence kits and provide services to rape survivors.

“At YWCA Richmond, we acknowledge that all survivors respond differently to trauma and to news involving sexual assault. News of this continued testing may provide comfort to survivors and their families that justice will be served to the perpetrator of the assault,” Rachel Solomon, the Y’s development and relations coordinator, said Thursday.

“Many service providers, survivors and community members may also find comfort that the collection of evidence from physical evidence recovery kits could lead to the prevention of future sexual assaults by known perpetrators.”

The Virginia Department of Forensic Science and Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced Wednesday that Virginia will receive the funding from the Federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.

The grant is part of an effort that started in 2015 when Virginia received $1.4 million to conduct DNA testing on a backlog of more than 2,000 untested Physical Evidence Recovery Kits. PERKs contain evidence collected from the survivors of sexual assaults.

“This new investment is going to let us take those efforts to the next level, completely eliminating Virginia’s backlog of untested kits once and for all and making needed upgrades throughout our response to sexual violence,” Herring said.

“Survivors are going to be met with a more informed and compassionate response, cases against perpetrators will be stronger, and every survivor will know that their commonwealth stands with them as they seek justice and healing from these brutal crimes.”

The funding will enable Virginia to:

  • Finish processing untested PERKs.
  • Establish a statewide tracking system that will show each step of the PERKs from collection to the test results. Victims and all those involved in the handling of the kit will be granted access to the status of the kit.
  • Hire a dedicated specialist to provide support for sexual assault survivors through the investigation. The Department of Forensic Science also would hire a project manager and a research assistant to oversee and streamline the processing of PERKs.
  • Provide specialized training for Virginia law enforcement.

The training will help officers understand how the experience impacts a victim’s memory to aid in the investigation. Officers also will receive training about preventing gender bias to make sure all survivors are treated with respect.

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