Mark Herring

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FILES WIDE-RANGING LAWSUIT AGAINST 26 DRUG MAKERS AND 10 EXECUTIVES FOR CONSPIRACY TO FIX PRICES ON MORE THAN 80 GENERIC DRUGS

~ This is the third lawsuit filed by Attorney General Herring in ongoing, expanding antitrust investigation of the generic drug industry ~

RICHMOND (June 10, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 51 states in filing the third lawsuit stemming from an ongoing antitrust investigation into a widespread conspiracy by generic drug manufacturers to artificially inflate and manipulate prices, reduce competition, and unreasonably restrain trade for generic drugs sold across the United States. This new Complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, focuses on 80 topical generic drugs that account for billions of dollars of sales in the United States. The Complaint names 26 corporate Defendants and 10 individual Defendants. The lawsuit seeks disgorgement, civil penalties, and actions by the court to restore competition to the generic drug market.
 
The topical drugs at the center of the Complaint include creams, gels, lotions, ointments, shampoos, and solutions used to treat a variety of skin conditions, pain, and allergies.
 
“These drug companies chose profit over keeping people safe and healthy,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Too many Virginians know the struggle of paying incredibly high drug prices, and in many cases the generic alternative may not have offered a lower-cost alternative because of this alleged price fixing. Virginians should never have to choose between paying for critical medication or paying for food, rent or utilities because of artificially inflated prices. My colleagues and I will continue to combat illegal price fixing in the generic drug market and hold drug companies and decision makers accountable.”
 
The Complaint stems from an ongoing investigation built on evidence from several cooperating witnesses at the core of the conspiracy, a massive document database of over 20 million documents, and a phone records database containing millions of call detail records and contact information for over 600 sales and pricing individuals in the generics industry. Among the records obtained by the states is a two-volume notebook containing the contemporaneous notes of one of the States’ cooperators that memorialized his discussions during phone calls with competitors and internal company meetings over a period of several years.
 
Between 2007 and 2014, three generic drug manufacturers, Taro, Perrigo, and Fougera (now Sandoz) sold nearly two-thirds of all generic topical products dispensed in the United States. The multistate investigation has uncovered comprehensive, direct evidence of unlawful agreements to minimize competition and raise prices on dozens of topical products. The Complaint alleges longstanding agreements among manufacturers to ensure a “fair share” of the market for each competitor, and to prevent “price erosion” due to competition.
 
The Complaint is the third to be filed in an ongoing wide-ranging multistate antitrust investigation of the generic drug industry. The first Complaint, still pending in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was filed in 2016 and now includes 18 corporate Defendants, two individual Defendants, and 15 generic drugs. Two former executives from Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Jeffery Glazer and Jason Malek, have entered into settlement agreements and are cooperating with the attorneys general working group in that case. The second Complaint, also pending in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was filed in 2019 against Teva Pharmaceuticals and 19 of the nation’s largest generic drug manufacturers. That Complaint names 16 individual senior executive Defendants. The States are currently preparing for trial on that Complaint.
 
Corporate Defendants in the current Complaint:
  1. Sandoz, Inc.
  2. Actavis Holdco U.S., Inc.
  3. Actavis Elizabeth LLC
  4. Actavis Pharma, Inc.
  5. Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  6. Amneal Pharmaceuticals, LLC
  7. Aurobindo Pharma USA, Inc.
  8. Bausch Health Americas, Inc.
  9. Bausch Health, US LLC
  10. Fougera Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  11. G&W Laboratories, Inc.
  12. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Inc., USA
  13. Greenstone LLC
  14. Lannett Company, Inc.
  15. Lupin Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  16. Mallinckrodt Inc.
  17. Mallinckrodt plc
  18. Mallinckrodt LLC
  19. Mylan Inc.
  20. Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc.
  21. Perrigo New York, Inc.
  22. Pfizer, Inc.
  23. Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, Inc.
  24. Taro Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.
  25. Teligent, Inc.
  26. Wockhardt USA, LLC
 
Individual Defendants:
  1. Ara Aprahamian, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Defendant Taro Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.
  2. Mitchell Blashinsky, Vice President of Marketing for Generics at Defendant Taro Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. from January 2007 – May 2012, and Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Defendant Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, Inc., USA from June 2012 – March 2014
  3. Douglas Boothe, Chief Executive Officer of Defendant Actavis from August 2008 – December 2012 and Executive Vice President and General Manager of Defendant Perrigo New York, Inc. from January 2013 – July 2016
  4. James Grauso, former Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Defendant G&W Laboratories from January 2010 – December 2011; Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations for Defendant Aurobindo from December 2011 – January 2014; and Executive Vice President, N.A. Commercial Operations at Defendant Glenmark from February 2014 – present
  5. Walt Kaczmarek, Senior Director of National Accounts, Vice President of National Accounts, and Senior Vice President of commercial Operations for Fougera Pharmaceuticals, a division of Nycomed US, Inc. (currently part of Defendant Sandoz, Inc.) from November 2004 – November 2012 and Vice President – General Manager and President of Multi-Source Pharmaceuticals for Defendant Mallinckrodt from November 2013 – August 2016.
  6. Armando Kellum, former Vice President of Contracting and Business Analytics at Defendant Sandoz
  7. Kurt Orlofski, President and Chief Executive Officer for Defendant Wockhardt USA from April 2007 – August 2009 and President of Defendant G&W Labs, Inc. from September 2009 – December 2016.
  8. Mike Perfetto, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Defendant Actavis from August 2003 – January 2013 and Chief Commercial Officer for Defendant Taro from January 2013 through his recent retirement from the company.
  9. Erika Vogel-Baylor, former Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Defendant G&W Labs, Inc. since July 2011
  10. John Wesolowski, Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations for Defendant Perrigo since February 2004
 
Drugs listed in the complaint as subject to price-fixing and market allocation agreements:
  1. Acetazolamide Tablets
  2. Adapalene Cream
  3. Alclometasone Dipropionate Cream
  4. Alclometasone Dipropionate Ointment
  5. Ammonium Lactate Cream
  6. Ammonium Lactate Lotion
  7. Betamethasone Dipropionate Cream
  8. Betamethasone Dipropionate Lotion
  9. Betamethasone Valerate Cream
  10. Betamethasone Valerate Lotion
  11. Betamethasone Valerate Ointment
  12. Bromocriptine Mesylate Tablets
  13. Calcipotriene Solution
  14. Calcipotriene Betamethasone Dipropionate Ointment
  15. Carbamazepine ER Tablets
  16. Cefpodoxime Proxetil Oral Suspension
  17. Cefpodoxime Proxetil Tablets
  18. Ciclopirox Cream
  19. Ciclopirox Shampoo
  20. Ciclopirox Solution
  21. Clindamycin Phosphate Cream
  22. Clindamycin Phosphate Gel
  23. Clindamycin Phosphate Lotion
  24. Clindamycin Phosphate Solution
  25. Clobetasol Propionate Cream
  26. Clobetasol Propionate Emollient Cream
  27. Clobetasol Propionate Gel
  28. Clobetasol Propionate Ointment
  29. Clobetasol Propionate Solution
  30. Clotrimazole 1% Cream
  31. Clotrimazole Betamethasone Dipropionate Cream
  32. Clotrimazole Betamethasone Dipropionate Lotion
  33. Desonide Cream
  34. Desonide Lotion
  35. Desonide Ointment
  36. Desoximetasone Ointment
  37. Econazole Nitrate Cream
  38. Eplerenone Tablets
  39. Erythromycin Base/Ethyl Alcohol Solution
  40. Ethambutol HCL Tablets
  41. Fluocinolone Acetonide Cream
  42. Fluocinolone Acetonide Ointment
  43. Fluocinonide .1% Cream
  44. Fluocinonide Gel 
  45. Fluocinonide Ointment 
  46. Fluocinonide Solution
  47. Fluticasone Propionate Lotion
  48. Griseofulvin Microsize Tablets
  49. Halobetasol Propionate Cream
  50. Halobetasol Propionate Ointment
  51. Hydrocortisone Acetate Suppositories
  52. Hydrocortisone Valerate Cream
  53. Imiquimod Cream
  54. Ketoconazole Cream
  55. Latanoprost Drops
  56. Lidocaine Ointment
  57. Methazolamide Tablets
  58. Methylphenidate HCL Tablets
  59. Methylphenidate HCL ER Tablets
  60. Metronidazole Cream
  61. Metronidazole .75% Gel
  62. Metronidazole .1% Gel
  63. Metronidazole Lotion
  64. Mometasone Furoate Cream
  65. Mometasone Furoate Ointment
  66. Mometasone Furoate Solution
  67. Nafcillin Sodium Injectable Vials
  68. Nystatin Ointment
  69. Nystatin Triamcinolone Cream
  70. Nystatin Triamcinolone Ointment
  71. Oxacillin Sodium Injectable Vials
  72. Phenytoin Sodium ER Capsules
  73. Pioglitazone HCL Metformin HCL Tablets
  74. Prochlorperazine Maleate Suppositories
  75. Promethazine HCL Suppositories
  76. Tacrolimus Ointment
  77. Terconazole Cream
  78. Triamcinolone Acetonide Cream
  79. Triamcinolone Acetonide Ointment
  80. Triamcinolone Acetonide Paste
 
Attorney General Herring joined the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Territory of Guam, 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, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin in filing the complaint. 

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING URGES CONGRESS TO FUND EXPANDED ACCESS TO BROADBAND

~ Herring joins bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general in urging Congress to ensure critical broadband access for those studying, working, and seeking healthcare from home during COVID-19 ~

RICHMOND (May 22, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general in urging Congress to help ensure that all Americans have the home internet connectivity necessary to participate in telemedicine, teleschooling, and telework as part of any additional legislation that provides relief and recovery resources related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Internet access has become critical for basic needs over the past few weeks while millions of Virginians and Americans have been working, learning, socializing and seeking healthcare from home.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Virginians to move school, work, healthcare and just about everything else online and has highlighted how desperately we need a national broadband plan during this crisis,” said Attorney General Herring. “Many telecom companies have stepped up to provide internet access but that is not a sustainable answer. Congress should include a national broadband plan in any future relief packages to make sure that all communities, especially those in more rural or underserved areas, have access to the internet resources they need.”

In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues laud independent efforts of various companies to increase access by waiving late fees or even providing free or discounted access to students and medical providers, while acknowledging that such efforts are not sustainable. Ultimately, the attorneys general argue that there must be a national solution to get internet access to homes across the country, especially in more rural areas.

Unless Congress acts quickly, disparities in access to home internet connectivity will exacerbate existing gaps in educational and health outcomes along lines of geography, economic resources, and race.

In a letter sent to Congressional leaders, the attorneys general urge Congress to:

  • Provide state, territorial, and local governments with adequate funding expressly dedicated to ensuring that all students and patients, especially senior citizens who are at risk, have adequate internet-enabled technology to participate equally in online learning and telemedicine.
  • Increase funding to the U.S. Federal Communication Commission Universal Service Fund, which provides vital funding to rural and low-income populations, healthcare providers, and educators with the goal of bridging the digital divide.

With public health experts warning that a second wave of coronavirus infections may require teleschooling and telemedicine to continue for millions of Americans throughout 2020, it is critical that Congress act now to help ensure that all Americans have the home internet connectivity they need to access educational opportunities, healthcare, and to earn a livelihood.

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Alaska, American Samoa, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

ROANOKE ROBOCALLERS TO PAY $300,000 BACK TO CONSUMERS

~ Attorney General Herring reaches settlement with Adventis Inc., Skyline Metrics LLC, which operated as OnceDriven among other names, and owner Bryant Cass for alleged illegal robocalling and deceptive sales tactics ~

RICHMOND (April 29, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has reached a settlement with two Roanoke-based telemarketing companies, and Roanoke resident Bryant Cass, for illegal robocalling and deceptive sales practices. Attorney General Herring filed suit against the two companies and Cass last summer, alleging that they made hundreds of thousands of unsolicited robocalls nationwide pitching car selling services to people who listed cars for sale on Craigslist, Autotrader.com, or similar sites. As part of the settlement agreement, Cass will pay $300,000 in restitution that will go back to consumers who were affected by his telemarketing, sales or refund practices. Additionally, Cass has been banned from engaging or participating in telephone solicitations for five years and has been permanently banned from illegal telemarketing and robocalling. The companies have ceased operations and are no longer in business.
 
“I’m really pleased my team and I were able to shut down this illegal robocall operation and help consumers get their money back from this scheme,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, robocalls continue to be an everyday occurrence for most Virginians, and many times they can not only be annoying but dangerous, potentially scamming people out of hundreds or thousands of dollars. I will continue to do everything I can to protect Virginia consumers and find ways to stop illegal robocallers, especially those operating in Virginia.”
 
Attorney General Herring filed suit against Adventis Inc., Skyline Metrics LLC, which operated as OnceDriven, Longwood Industries, The Big Lot!, Autohopper, and Auto Marketing Systems, and Cass in June 2019 alleging that the businesses used automated equipment to pull telephone numbers from websites, make hundreds of calls a day – even to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry – and leave prerecorded voicemails in which Cass used fake names like “Peyton” or “Brian” to pitch car selling services for a “small fee” with a “money back guarantee.” If people called back, they reached a telemarketing boiler room in downtown Roanoke, where trained salespeople worked off a scripted pitch to make sales.
 
Attorney General Herring also alleged that, from 2014 to 2017 alone, Cass and his companies made 586,870 unsolicited telemarketing calls just to Virginia area codes.
 
The Complaint also alleged that the companies enticed people to pay $289 for online car sales services through deceptive claims like these:
  • We have “buyers in your area” or buyers looking for “vehicles like yours,” regardless of whether the companies actually had such buyers
  • We also pre-screen buyers for financing to “make sure they are serious and they have a plan for paying you.” In fact, there was no such pre-screening
  • “We have a Money Back Guarantee!” If you sell your car on your own, “you’re eligible for a refund in the first 45 days.” In fact, refunds were hard to get, and Mr. Cass instructed employees to limit the number of refunds given, even to customers who took all the steps to qualify for a refund
 
Under the terms of the settlement, Adventis Inc., Skyline Metrics LLC, and Bryant Cass agreed to the following:
  • Restitution totaling $300,000 to be paid to consumers affected by the telemarketing, sales, or refund practices alleged in the Complaint
  • Civil penalties and attorneys’ fees totaling $8,708.02
  • A permanent ban from illegal telemarketing and robocalling, including bans on using automatic dialing systems or pre-recorded voice messages, calling numbers on the do-not-call registry, failing to honor do-not-call requests, failing to include a three-day right to cancel, and from violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act or any of the federal or state telemarketing laws the Attorney General enforces.  These prohibitions apply to all calls, not just calls to Virginians
  • Cass is barred from engaging in or participating in telephone solicitations or assisting others in engaging in telephone solicitations for a five-year period
 
Attorney General Herring’s lawsuit was part of “Operation Call it Quits”, a coordinated federal and state law enforcement crackdown on robocallers and illegal telemarketers. This major crackdown on illegal robocalls included 94 actions targeting operations around the country responsible for more than one billion calls pitching a variety of products and services, including credit card interest rate reduction services, money-making opportunities, and medical alert systems.
 
In 2019 alone, Virginians received at least 1.56 billion robocalls. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Virginia was the 8th highest state in the nation for Do Not Call Registry complaints with 178,717 complaints in 2019. Additionally, Virginians made more than 125,000 complaints to the FTC about robocalls alone, up from more than 118,000 complaints in 2018. Americans received at least 58.5 billion robocalls in 2019, an increase of 22% from 47.8 billion robocalls in 2018.
 
Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $323 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators. The Section has transferred more than $55 million to the Commonwealth’s General Fund, and following a major reorganization and enhancement in 2016 the Section has been even more effective in fighting for Virginia consumers.
 
Attorney General Herring has the following tips for Virginians to help manage robocalls:
  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you do not recognize
  • If it’s an unwanted robocall, hang up
  • Don’t press any numbers. This could lead to even more calls, even if the robocall claims you can press 1 to speak to a live operator or press a number to get your number off the calling list
  • Register your home and mobile phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register
  • Report robocalls to the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov. Federal and state law enforcement officials have access to the complaints filed through the National Do Not Call Registry
  • Contact your phone service provider and ask about available robocall-blocking technology
  • Consider using mobile apps or other features that may already be built into your phone to block robocalls
 
Consumer victims seeking additional information about the settlement can contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section:

 

 

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FIGHTS DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTHCARE DURING COVID-19

~ Coalition of 24 attorneys general are urging the Trump Administration to not finalize a rule change that would eliminate protections against discrimination for women, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable populations ~

RICHMOND (May 1, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of 24 states in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging it not to finalize its proposed rule during COVID-19 that would allow discrimination in providing healthcare. The “Nondiscrimination in Health and Health Education Programs or Activities” (Section 1557 Rule) is an antidiscrimination provision that prohibits discrimination in healthcare based on gender, race, ethnicity, sex, age or disability. If finalized, the proposed changes to this provision would seriously undermine the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critical anti-discrimination protections at a time when they are most needed to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“No one should ever be afraid of being discriminated against by a healthcare provider, especially during a national health crisis,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color in Virginia and around the country, exacerbating the racial and ethnic disparities in our healthcare system. We cannot allow the Trump Administration to make it easier for healthcare providers to discriminate against their patients.”

The proposed rule would roll back anti-discrimination protections for communities of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities by undermining critical legal protections that guarantee healthcare as a right. Data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is already exacerbating racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare that the ACA attempted to address, particularly in states that have not expanded Medicaid. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted, and recently more than 100 national and local organizations signed on to an open letter to the healthcare community about how COVID-19 may pose an increased risk to the LGBTQ population. HHS itself has long noted that discrimination within the healthcare system contributes to poor coverage and health outcomes, and exacerbates existing health disparities in underserved communities. Individuals who have experienced discrimination in healthcare often postpone or forgo needed healthcare, resulting in adverse health outcomes.  
 
In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that moving forward with this rule change in the midst of this unprecedented healthcare crisis will create unnecessary confusion and administrative burdens for state agencies, healthcare providers, and patients at a time when the healthcare system is battling to save lives. Data suggests that increased access to healthcare could assist with prompt COVID-19 detection and increase early treatment, which helps diminish spread of the disease. For these reasons, the coalition warns the Trump Administration that making this major regulatory change in the midst of the current crisis is not only irresponsible, it is potentially deadly.

 

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending this letter are the attorneys general of California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

PRICE GOUGING PROTECTIONS IN EFFECT AS STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED OVER CORONAVIRUS

~ Anti-price gouging statute was activated upon Governor Northam’s declaration of state of emergency; covers items and services such as water, food, cleaning products, hand sanitizers, medicines, personal protective gear, and more ~

RICHMOND(March 12, 2020) – As public health concerns surrounding the coronavirus continue to grow, Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency has triggered Virginia's anti-price gouging statutes designed to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessary goods and services during an emergency.
 
“When you’re trying to make sure that you and your family have all the necessities in order to protect yourselves against illness, the last thing you want to deal with is a scam or exorbitant price for a needed service or product. The sad reality is that there are unscrupulous folks out there who will take advantage of public health crises in order to make more money,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginia law offers protections for folks who find themselves in need of things like medicines, cleaning products, hand sanitizers and other necessities during a public health crisis. I would encourage all Virginians to pay attention to any prices that seem too high, and contact my office as soon as possible if you think someone may be illegally overcharging for necessary goods or running a scam.”
 
Enacted in 2004, Virginia's Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act prohibits a supplier from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services” during the thirty-day period following a declared state of emergency. Items and services covered by these protections include but are not limited to water, ice, food, cleaning products, hand sanitizers, medicines, personal protective gear and more. The basic test for determining if a price is unconscionable is whether the post-disaster price grossly exceeds the price charged for the same or similar goods or services during the ten days immediately prior to the disaster.
 
Suspected violations of Virginia's Anti-Price Gouging Act should be reported to Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for investigation, as violations are enforceable by the Office of the Attorney General through the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
 
Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for information or to file a complaint:
 
Additionally, Attorney General Herring has warned Virginians to be wary of scams related to the coronavirus. Below are some tips and ways to protect yourself from coronavirus scams:
  •  Look out for emails that claim to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that they have information about the coronavirus. For the most updated information you can visit the CDC and the World Health Organization websites.
  • Do not click on any links from unknown sources. This could lead to downloading a virus on your computer or phone.
  • Ignore any offers, online or otherwise, for a coronavirus vaccine. If you see any advertisements for prevention, treatment or cures ask the question: if there had been a cure for the disease would you be hearing about that through an advertisement or sales pitch?
  • Thoroughly research any organizations or charities purporting to be raising funds for victims of the coronavirus.
  • Look out for “investment opportunities” surrounding the coronavirus. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission there are online promotions claiming the products or services of certain publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure the disease and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase because of that.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING SECURES PRO-CONSUMER PROTECTIONS IN SETTLEMENT OVER T-MOBILE, SPRINT MERGER

~ The agreement includes terms to protect low income subscribers, extend access to underserved communities, and protect current T-Mobile and Sprint employees ~

RICHMOND (March 11, 2020) – Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced a settlement with T-Mobile, resolving the Virginia’s challenge to the company’s merger with Sprint. The agreement includes terms to protect low income subscribers, extend access to underserved communities, and protect current T-Mobile and Sprint employees. T-Mobile also will reimburse Virginia for the costs and fees of its investigation and its litigation challenging the merger. This agreement resolves the legal challenge brought by Attorney General Herring and several other states, which alleged that the merger was unlawful and would lead to reduced competition and increased prices for consumers. 

“My colleagues and I vigorously challenged the T-Mobile/Sprint merger because we were concerned that it would leave consumers with higher prices and less choices and would lead to reduced innovation in the telecom industry,” said Attorney General Herring. “I take my responsibility to protect Virginia consumers very seriously and strongly believed in our case. While I disagree with the Court’s decision to approve the merger, it still emphasized the importance of local market competition in mergers and the importance of state enforcers. This agreement will protect existing jobs in Virginia, give price protections for low-cost plans, and extend broadband access to our lower-income households with children."

As required by the settlement, the merged company is required to:
  • Make low-cost plans available in Virginia for at least 5 years, including a plan offering 2 GB of high-speed data at $15 per month and 5 GB of high-speed data at $25 per month;
  • Extend for at least an additional two years the rate plans currently offered by T-Mobile pursuant to its earlier FCC commitment, ensuring Virginians can retain T-Mobile plans held in February 2019 for a total of five years;
  • Offer 100 GB of no-cost broadband internet service per year for five years and a free mobile Wi-Fi hotspot device to 10 million qualifying low-income households not currently connected to broadband nationwide, as well as the option to purchase select Wi-Fi enabled tablets at the company’s cost for each qualifying household;
  • Protect Virginia jobs by offering all Virginia T-Mobile and Sprint retail employees in good standing an offer of substantially similar employment. T-Mobile also commits that three years after the closing date, the total number of new T-Mobile employees will be equal to or greater than the current total number of employees of the unmerged Sprint and T-Mobile companies;
  • Increase diversity by increasing the participation rate in its employee Diversity and Inclusion program to 60 percent participation within three years; and
  • Reimburse Virginia and other plaintiff states up to $15 million for the costs of the investigation and litigation challenging the merger.
Joining Attorney General Herring in this agreement are the attorneys general of Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

 

 

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING SHUTS DOWN DECEPTIVE HOMELESS VETERANS CHARITY

~ Settlement involves Center for American Homeless Veterans, Inc., Circle of Friends for American Veterans and Brian Arthur Hampton, will shut down the organization and $100,000 will be distributed to help homeless veterans; the charity allegedly misused more than $13 million that was supposed to go to homeless veterans ~

RICHMOND (March 5, 2020) – As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that he has shut down an allegedly deceptive organization that exploited goodwill towards those in the military and misused more than $13 million that was supposed to go towards homeless veterans. The settlement involves Center for American Homeless Veterans, Inc. and Circle of Friends for American Veterans, two Virginia-based organizations, and their founder Brian Arthur Hampton that raised funds across the country through telemarketers ostensibly to provide education and assistance for homeless veterans, but a majority of which actually went towards paying telemarketers and the salaries of the founder and staff. The settlement shuts down the organizations, permanently bars Brian Hampton from soliciting charitable contributions and holding a fiduciary position with any charitable organization, and requires the organization to distribute $100,000 to charities that provide real assistance to homeless veterans including Virginia Supportive Housing in Richmond, the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation, and Homes for our Troops.
 
Following an extensive investigation, Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section found that the organizations had violated the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions (VSOC) law by misleading donors into believing that the funds they collected would be used for veterans’ assistance programs and organizations. Additionally, the organizations made other false statements in state and federal filings.
 
“It is despicable that there are organizations out there that will deceive kind-hearted Virginians who just want to help homeless veterans in our communities,” said Attorney General Herring. “My office will vigorously go after these bad actors who take advantage of the kindness of Virginians to benefit themselves. I would encourage Virginians to remain vigilant when donating to charities and make sure you are donating to trustworthy, legitimate organizations.”
 
The Attorney General’s complaint, filed in Circuit Court in Falls Church, alleges that both organizations engaged in a number of acts and practices in violation of the VSOC law. Through telemarketers that generally retained 90% of funds raised, the enterprise allegedly led donors to believe that their donations would help homeless veterans with food and shelter or job training and support, when in reality, only tiny amounts of donated money benefitted homeless veterans. Funds that ultimately made their way to the organization primarily went to salaries for the founder and other staff, among other things not related to programming. Millions of dollars remained with the telemarketers that the organization hired.
 
Additionally, solicitation literature and other materials from the organization led donors to believe that it provided direct services to veterans, and that it gave funds to transitional facilities that get veterans off the streets and into productive lives. Attorney General Herring’s complaint alleges that the organization did not operate any transitional facilities, and provided only the smallest amount of direct funding for that purpose. Literature from the organization claimed that donated funds would help provide “our hungry and homeless war heroes food and shelter,” when that was not the case. Appallingly, the cost of the organization’s telemarketing campaigns with the problematic solicitation scripts was misleadingly characterized in the charities’ financial disclosures as program expenses to inflate those numbers and lead prospective donors to believe that the organization was providing more support to homeless veterans than it actually was. Moreover, the organization allegedly also had a host of troubling internal processes and business practices with no real board oversight.
 
The settlement includes:
  • Dissolution of the entities
  • A monetary payment in the amount of $100,000 to be provided to three charities which provide real support and assistance to homeless veterans. The three charities that will receive funding are:
  • Virginia Supportive Housing - $33,333.33
  • Bob Woodruff Family Foundation - $33,333.33
  • Homes for our Troops - $33,333.34
  • Injunctive relief in the form of a ban on the founder from engaging in charitable solicitations or holding any fiduciary position with any charitable organization
  • Suspended judgments of $10,000 for civil penalties, $10,000 for attorneys’ fees, expenses in investigating this matter, and costs, and $3,711,965.17 for the use and benefit of charities assisting homeless veterans, and as disgorgement of funds solicited nationwide over a period of time by one of CAHV’s professional solicitors, which can be enforced if the other terms of the settlement are not complied with
 
Virginia’s settlement is in the form of a Consent Judgment, which has been filed for approval with the Falls Church Circuit Court.
 
Tips to remember when donating to charities and other organizations:
  • 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
  • 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
 
Who to Contact
You can report charitable solicitation fraud to the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP) and the Office of the Attorney General at the following addresses and telephone numbers:
 
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.
 
  
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. 
 
Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Complaint Form

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING CONTINUES TO FIGHT FOR VIRGINIA STUDENT BORROWERS

~ Herring joins bipartisan coalition in asking Secretary DeVos to extend federal student loan forgiveness to all former Dream Center Students, including students of schools previously operated by Education Management Corporation ~

RICHMOND (February 4, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a bipartisan coalition of 26 attorneys general in requesting that U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos use her authority to discharge the federal student loans of all students who were enrolled in now-closed schools operated by Dream Center Education Holdings, LLC (DCEH). Attorney General Herring and his colleagues previously called on Secretary DeVos in October 2019 to extend the timeframe for student loan forgiveness for schools that were operated by DCEH. DCEH took over Virginia schools previously operated by Education Management Corporation (EDMC) following a $2.9 million settlement EDMC reached with Attorney General Herring.

“Virginia student borrowers are the victims of DCEH’s misconduct and mismanagement and they deserve to have their student loan debt forgiven,” said Attorney General Herring. “Secretary DeVos should do the right thing and make sure that all Virginians who were cheated out of an education by this deceitful organization are made whole again.”

Dream Center, a California-based nonprofit, went into receivership in January 2019. Under the federal “closed school discharge” regulation, former students may be eligible for a 100 percent discharge of their federal student loans if they were unable to complete their program because their school closed. Closed school discharge is only allowed for students who were enrolled at the time the school closed; were on an approved leave of absence when the school closed; or withdrew within 120 days of the school’s closure, unless Secretary DeVos approves a longer period.

In a letter sent to Secretary DeVos in October 2019, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues asked Secretary DeVos to exercise her legal authority to expand the group of students eligible for “closed school discharge” to account for Dream Center’s extraordinary misconduct and mismanagement. In November 2019, Secretary DeVos announced that she would extend the closed school discharge only for a very small number of former Dream Center students who were not previously eligible.

In today’s letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues urge Secretary DeVos to go further and provide debt relief to all Dream Center students unfairly strapped with burdensome debt for which they have little to show. The coalition again outlined Dream Center’s misconduct and mismanagement that prevented students from obtaining degrees and unfairly left them to repay federal student loan debt that they contracted to attend the failed schools.

DCEH took over schools that had previously been operated by Education Management Corporation (EDMC) following a 2015 settlement EDMC reached with Attorney General Mark Herring and other state attorneys general over their alleged deceitful practices. Under the terms of the settlement, EDMC forgave more than $2.29 million in loans for approximately 2,000 former students in Virginia. EDMC operated four education systems including Argosy University, The Art Institutes, Brown Mackie College, and South University, offering programs both online and at branch campuses in Virginia cities including Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Arlington.

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FIGHTS TO PRESERVE STATES’ AUTHORITY TO PROTECT STATE WATERS

~ Herring joins coalition of 23 states in opposing the EPA’s proposed rule that undermines the Clean Water Act and would degrade water quality and infringe on states’ rights ~

RICHMOND (October 22, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring, as part of a 23 state coalition, has filed a comment letter opposing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule which would unlawfully curtail state authority to protect their waters. In the Clean Water Act, Congress recognized and preserved states’ broad, pre-existing powers to protect their state waters and the EPA has no statutory authority to limit state powers under Section 401 of the Act.

The proposed rule is an unlawful and misguided policy that would degrade water quality and infringe on states’ rights. Consistent with the plain language of the Clean Water Act and the clear legislative intent, the EPA’s acknowledgement of state authority spans three decades and four administrations. The proposed rule is a dramatic departure from the prior agency position and the states demand that the EPA withdraw it.

“Once again, the Trump Administration is trying to undermine the states’ ability to protect their environment, and in this case their water,” said Attorney General Herring. “This proposed rule is not only illegal under the Clean Water Act but it infringes on the states’ authority and it would create dirtier water across the country. I will continue to join my colleagues in standing against the Trump Administration’s unlawful attempts to take power away from the states and especially in such important areas like protecting our environment.”

In the letter, the coalition asserts that the proposed rule conflicts with the Clean Water Act’s language, Congressional intent, and applicable case law interpreting the Clean Water Act’s language. The proposed rule:

  • Unlawfully limits the scope of state certification authority only to certain types of discharges;
  • Illegally restricts state conditions on Section 401 certifications to a narrow set of EPA-approved water quality standards;
  • Purports to authorize federal agencies to illegally disregard state-issued denials and conditions on certification applications; and
  • Unlawfully restricts the timing and scope of state review of certification applications.

 The EPA’s unlawful action is the product of President Trump’s April 2019 Executive Order issued to undermine state authority and not to protect water quality. The proposed rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, because the rule is also contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious, and an abuse of discretion. The rule violates the plain language of the Section 401 and the Clean Water Act. Moreover, the EPA fails to consider any water-quality related factors in its decision, fails to explain why it is changing its position from the prior Section 401 regulations and guidance, and fails to analyze the effects of the proposed rule on the states. Because the rule conflicts with Section 401 and limits state authority, the EPA does not have the authority to issue it.

Attorney General Herring filed the comment letter as part of a coalition including the attorneys general of California, New York, Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. 

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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FIGHTS FOR EQUAL PAY

~ Herring joins coalition in filing an amicus brief to maintain data collection practices that are critical in combating pay discrimination ~

RICHMOND (October 28, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a nationwide coalition of state attorneys general and government agencies in fighting for equal pay by filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit that would maintain data collection practices that are critical in combating pay discrimination. In 2017, the Trump Administration announced that they would stop collecting pay data from certain private employers that would be used as part of the effort to address the wage gap between men and women and people of different races and ethnicities. In an amicus brief in National Women’s Law Center, et al. v. Office of Management and Budget, et al., Attorney General Herring and his colleagues explain how collecting that information is critical to tackling pay discrimination.

“It is inexcusable that such large gender and racial pay disparities continue to exist,” said Attorney General Herring. “Good data is key to identifying problems and crafting solutions, but instead of embracing the data, the Trump Administration is trying to stifle it. I am proud to stand with my colleagues and continue the fight for equal pay.”

Inequality in earnings between women and men and people of different races and ethnicities has been a widespread, persistent flaw of the American labor market. Although the gender pay gap has been slowly decreasing, in 2018 women still only earned approximately 85 percent of what men earned. Over the last 30 years, Latinos and African-Americans have been estimated to earn around 70 percent of what white men earned over the same period. For women of color, the pay gap has been consistently worse. For instance, in 2015, Latinas earned approximately 58 percent of what white men earned.

Federal law directs the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to work with Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPA) to investigate and resolve claims of employment discrimination. The EEOC relies on pay data to inform its investigation and civil rights enforcement efforts, publish reports on pay disparities to help close the wage gap, and identify trends that help employers better evaluate their pay policies and practices to ensure their compliance with the law. As a result, the agencies’ efforts to address pay discrimination are directly affected by the Trump Administration’s decision to halt the collection of crucial employment data.

If you believe you have been the subject of pay discrimination in Virginia you can file a complaint with Attorney General Herring’s Division of Human Rights:

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Herring joins the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. The coalition also includes state civil rights agencies including California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, Illinois Department of Human Rights, Maine Human Rights Commission, Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Nevada Equal Rights Commission, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, and Washington State Human Rights Commission. Additionally, the coalition includes local civil rights agencies including the Baltimore Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, New York City Commission on Human Rights, and Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING URGES CFPB TO UPHOLD DEBIT CARD OVERDRAFT FEE RULE

RICHMOND (July 2, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 25 state attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, in urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to maintain the current Overdraft Rule that stops banks from hitting consumers with hidden overdraft fees. The current rule permits banks to charge fees to consumers for overdraft services on ATM and one-time debit transactions only after consumers have been provided with important information about those services and fees in a model notice, and only after those consumers have made the affirmative choice to opt in to such services.Before the Overdraft Rule was put in place, banks could enroll individuals in their overdraft programs automatically and slap them with a fee – usually $35 per transaction – if they overdrafted.

“As Attorney General, it is my job to protect consumers and that includes making sure that banks do not have the ability to hit their customers with hidden fees,” said Attorney General Herring. “Before this rule went into effect banks were able to enroll someone into an overdraft fee program without that person’s consent, allowing them to make even more money on an overdraft transaction. I hope the CFPB will make the right decision and keep this overdraft rule in place so Virginians can make their own banking decisions.”

The Overdraft Rule — which went into effect in 2010 — recognized that many consumers received overdraft services by default, but were never given clear information about their options and the fees their financial institutions charge. In fact, some studies released by the CFPB have shown that median fees can cost as much as 68% of median overdrafted transactions. For example, when the median overdrafted transaction was $50, the median fees charged were $34.

The CFPB’s data shows that only about 16-percent of consumers have chosen to affirmatively opt into overdraft services under the Overdraft Rule, which has benefitted millions of Americans and led to a significant reduction in the total number and amount of overdraft fees.

In their letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues specifically emphasized that there is no basis to believe that the Overdraft Rule would place any additional economic burden or cost on small financial institutions, and that compliance has both been straightforward and used a model form designed for simplicity and cost-savings. In contrast, the CFPB has not published any data or research to demonstrate any economic burden as a result of the Overdraft Rule. 

Joining Attorney General Herring in submitting comments to the CFPB were the Attorneys General of New York, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the Executive Director of the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection. 

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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING ANNOUNCES DISTRIBUTION OF RECOVERED FUNDS TO CANCER CENTERS AFTER LANDMARK LAWSUIT AGAINST SHAM CANCER CHARITIES

~ $2.5 million to be distributed across the nation to cancer centers eligible to apply such as those at Virginia Commonwealth University or the University of Virginia; the Virginia Office of the Attorney General served on the Executive Committee for this multistate lawsuit ~

RICHMOND (June 20, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced that $2.5 million will be distributed to cancer centers across the country as a result of a multistate lawsuit brought against sham cancer charities. The $2.5 million was recovered through settlements of a landmark lawsuit that Attorney General Herring filed along with all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against four affiliated sham charities – Cancer Fund of America, Inc., The Breast Cancer Society, Inc., Cancer Support Services, Inc., and Children’s Cancer Fund of America – and their founder James Reynolds, Sr. and other individuals. Additionally, the people responsible for fronting the sham charities have been banned from any charity or fundraising activities for the rest of their lives. This was one of the largest charity fraud actions ever brought by enforcers and the Virginia Office of Attorney General has served on the Executive Committee for this multistate action. 

“False charities that solicit funds from folks who want to help cancer patients are disgraceful and need to be held accountable,” said Attorney General Herring. “I am glad that we were able to shut down these fraudulent operations and recover money that will now actually go towards helping cancer patients as the donors intended. This unprecedented case should serve as a strong warning to those would take advantage of Virginians’ generosity and I want to thank my team for their hard work and cooperation with our law enforcement partners.”

The distribution of funds marks the conclusion of the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in May 2015. The suit was the first time that all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the FTC joined together to shut down sham charities.

The complaint alleged that the so-called charities, led by Reynolds and his family members, bilked the public out of more than $187 million dollars between 2008 and 2012. The defendants used telemarketing calls, direct mail, and websites to portray themselves as legitimate charities with substantial programs that provided direct support to cancer patients in the United States, such as providing patients with pain medication, transportation to chemotherapy, and hospice care. But these claims were deceptive and, as alleged in the complaint, the charities “operated as personal fiefdoms characterized by rampant nepotism, flagrant conflicts of interest, and excessive insider compensation, with none of the financial and governance controls that any bona fide charity would have adopted.” Of the money collected, only about 3% was directed to cancer patients in the United States and most of it was either paid to professional fundraisers or squandered by the defendants. 

Cancer Fund of America also claimed to supply patients with pain medications and transportation to chemotherapy treatments, when it provided no such services. The charities also participated in a “gift-in-kind” program in which they sent drugs that had nothing to do with cancer to other countries. The complaint alleged that the purpose of this program was to make the organizations appear larger than they were and to hide their high fundraising costs.

The complaint also alleged that the defendants used the organizations for lucrative employment for family members and friends, and spent consumer donations on cars, trips, luxury cruises, college tuition, gym memberships, jet ski outings, sporting event and concert tickets, and dating site memberships.

The money will be transferred to Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) who, under a services agreement with the plaintiffs, will distribute the funds to select health and medical programs targeting breast and pediatric cancer. Eligibility will be determined through an invitation-only application process, and is limited to NCI-designated Cancer Care Centers, a designation bestowed by the National Cancer Institute on institutions and programs recognized for their scientific leadership, resources, and the depth and breadth of their research. RPA CEO Melissa Berman noted, “We are pleased to be part of this landmark process of ensuring that the philanthropic intent of donors is coming to fruition, despite the conduct of bad actors.” RPA will ensure that the funding will serve patients in all 50 states, and will monitor, ensure compliance and provide detailed reporting for all grants awarded.

As NCI-designated Cancer Centers, both Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia Cancer Center will be eligible to apply for funds.

Overall, Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $301 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators. The Section has transferred more than $33 million to the Commonwealth’s General Fund, and following a major reorganization and enhancement in 2016 the Section has been even more effective in fighting for Virginia consumers.

Before giving to a charity, remember these tips:

  • Give to charities you know and trust

  • Watch out for groups with names that sound like other well-known, reputable charities

  • Don't give to someone pressuring you to make a quick donation or requiring that you give cash or wire money

  • Ask for detailed information about programs and services in writing

  • Find out how much of your donation will go to the charity's programs and services

  • Check if the charity and its fundraiser are registered with the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - (804) 786-1343 orhttp://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/food-charitable-solicitation.shtml

 

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STATEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL MARK R. HERRING ON SUPREME COURT WIN IN REDISTRICTING CASE

~ Court agrees with Attorney General Herring that the House of Delegates lacked standing ~

RICHMOND (June 17, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring issued the statement below following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill. The Court agreed with Attorney General Herring that “the House lacks standing, either to represent the State’s interests or in its own right” and dismissed House Republicans attempt to protect racially gerrymandered districts:

“This is a big win for democracy in Virginia. It’s unfortunate that House Republicans wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and months of litigation in a futile effort to protect racially gerrymandered districts, but the good news is that this fall’s elections will take place in constitutionally drawn districts. I’m really proud of the work my team and I did to protect the new, constitutional districts, and to protect the voting rights of all Virginians.”

Writing for the Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said: “In short, the State of Virginia would rather stop than fight on. One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process.”

In June 2018, a three-judge panel found that eleven House of Delegates districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. In July 2018, Attorney General Herring announced that the Commonwealth of Virginia would not appeal the decision, citing the seriousness of the constitutional violation, the low likelihood of success, and the considerable time and more than $4.5 million in taxpayer money spent by House Republicans to defend racially gerrymandered districts.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING URGES FCC TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST ROBOCALLS AND SPOOFING

~ Coalition of 42 attorneys general press FCC to act further to reduce spoofed calls and texts ~

RICHMOND (May 6, 2019) – Today, Attorney General Mark R. Herring joined 41 other attorneys general in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take further action to stop the growing proliferation of illegal robocalls and spoofing. In formal legal comments, the attorneys general urged the FCC to adopt its proposed rules on enforcement against caller ID spoofing on calls to the United States originating from overseas, while also addressing spoofing in text messaging and alternative voice services. These provisions are included in the FCC's appropriations authorization bill also known as the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018.

The number of spoofed calls and the consumer financial losses tied to these scams have increased by nearly 50 percent in recent years. 

“Robocalls and spoof phone calls are not only annoying but they are also potentially dangerous and could scam Virginians out of hundreds or thousands of dollars,” said Attorney General Herring. “As Attorney General, it is my job to protect Virginia consumers, which is why I have joined my colleagues today to call on the FCC to take further actions against these obnoxious and illegal scam calls.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Virginia was the 7th highest state in the nation for Do Not Call Registry complaints with 181,936 complaints in 2018. Additionally, Virginians made more than 118,000 complaints to the FTC about robocalls alone.

Americans received almost 18 billion scam robocalls in 2018 and overall, robocalls increased in the U.S. by 57 percent from 2017 to 2018. The FCC reports that imposter scams have reportedly cost consumers $488 million just in 2018.

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending the comments to the FCC were the attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

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Most Virginians Don’t Want Officials to Resign, Poll Finds

HERRING WARNS VIRGINIANS ABOUT SCAMS RELATED TO GOVERNMENT SHUT DOWN

RICHMOND (January 22, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring is warning Virginians who have been furloughed because of the government shutdown, or those who wish to help federal workers, to be vigilant and look out for scams related to the shutdown. Shutdown related scams could include fake employment offers for “side jobs”, predatory lenders taking advantage of temporarily unpaid Virginians, and fake charities that claim to be working on behalf of federal workers.
 
“As the government shutdown enters its fifth week, it is important for Virginians, especially those who work for the Federal Government, to be vigilant and pay close attention to potential scams,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, individuals will capitalize on federal workers’ vulnerabilities and lack of income during this time and try and take advantage of them. People who are affected by the government shutdown have enough to worry about and should not also have to worry about a scammer preying on them. My consumer protection team and I will continue to do all we can to protect Virginians from getting ripped off and taken advantage of.”
 
Virginians are encouraged to remember the following tips during the Federal Government shutdown:
 
Fake Employment Offers
  • Be wary of emails that appear to be from major retailers offering positions at local stores unless you've applied for a position, use caution when proceeding.
  • Cross reference any emails with the company's website to see if they have openings.
  • Watch out for imposters using the names of real employees at legitimate businesses.
  • Be wary of interviews conducted through Hangouts, Skype, or Facetime.
  • If using sites like Craigslist to find a job, use the "too good to be true" rule of thumb. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are a few warning signs to look for:
  • High pay rates for simple tasks
  • Receiving a Job offer without an interview
  • Requesting up-front payments and personal information
  • Contact information and address are missing and an online search doesn't turn up the company's name   
  • Never provide your Social Security number or personal information unless you are certain the company and job offer are legitimate.
  • Most legitimate companies do not ask for personal information over email or by unsolicited phone call.
  • Never reply to a suspicious email or provide personal information to an unsolicited phone call.
 
Predatory Lending
  • Familiarize yourself with the risks associated with small-dollar loans including payday, auto title, open-end, and online loans, and understand your rights when taking out one of these potentially risky loans.
  • Payday Loans
  • Limitations on interest and other fees—Interest on a payday loan is generally capped at 36% annually. Lenders may not charge more than 20% of the loan proceeds as a loan fee, and may only charge a $5 verification fee for checking the state’s payday loan database prior to issuing a loan. For a one-month loan of $500, the total APR will be 288%.
  • Length of loans—The term of a payday loan must be at least twice the borrower’s pay cycle so they have a better chance of repaying it. After that time, lenders cannot charge interest of more than 6% per year.
  • Loan amount—Lenders cannot loan more than $500 to a borrower. 
  • Number of loans—Lenders cannot issue more than one loan at a time to a borrower.
  • Number of loans in a 180-day period—If a borrower receives and pays off 5 payday loans in a 180-day period, there is a mandatory 45-day cooling off period when a lender cannot issue another loan to that borrower.
  • Loans to military personnel—Lenders cannot make a payday loan to a borrower who is a member of the armed forces or one of his or her dependents.
  • Auto Title Loans
  • Interest—Title lenders can charge interest based on the following sliding scale:
  • 22% per month on the first $700 in principal;
  • 18% per month on any amount above $700 up to $1,400; and
  • 15% per month on any amount above $1,400.  
  • For a one-month loan of $500, the total APR of the loan will be 264%.
  • Length of a loan— The loan term must be between 120 days (four months) and one year. 
  • Number of loans—Only one loan may be issued at a time to each borrower, or on each title.
  • Amount of loan—The amount loaned cannot exceed 50% of the value of the vehicle. 
  • Post-repossession protections—After default, a lender generally may only repossess the vehicle. They cannot continue to charge interest on the loan.
  • Loans to military personnel—Lenders cannot make a title loan to a borrower who is a member of the armed forces or one of his or her dependents.
  • Open-End Credit Plan Loans
  • Lenders are increasingly exploiting a loophole and steering borrowers towards open-end credit plans that afford borrowers very few consumer protections and can expose borrowers to unlimited interest rates.
  • These loans can be offered by both online and brick-and-mortar lenders, often using phrases like “line of credit” and “cash advance.”
  • While open-end credit loans might look like more traditional loans, open-end credit lines can stay open for an unlimited amount of time and lenders can often charge unlimited interest.
  • One of the few consumer protections in this area is a 25-day “grace period” during which the borrower has an opportunity to pay off the loan without interest or other finance charges, but once the 25-day grace period expires, a lender can charge an unlimited interest rate.
  • Online Loans
  • Online loans are generally subject to Virginia’s “usury statutes” which limits them to a 12% interest rate. If the interest rate is higher than 12% you should avoid taking out a loan and report the lender to Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section.
  • Be wary of closed-end installment lenders that operate online and make loans to Virginia consumers because they are not required to be licensed by the SCC under current law.
  • Alternatives to Predatory Loans
  • Before obtaining a potentially predatory loan from a non-traditional lender, consumers should consider their other alternatives.
  • Traditional lenders—See if you can meet your needs through a traditional lender such as a bank, credit union, or consumer finance company, which typically will have a longer term and lower interest rates. Even if it is a small amount, a community bank or credit union may be willing to loan you the money you need.
  • Credit card cash advance—If you have a traditional credit card with remaining credit available, obtain a credit card cash advance, which will often have a lower interest rate than that offered by a payday or motor vehicle title lender.
  • Negotiation with creditors and companies—If you need money because you are having temporary trouble keeping up with routine bills, speak with your creditors, explain the financial difficulties you are having, and see if they will let you enter into a payment plan to take care of what you owe them.   
  • Personal connections—Consider whether you can get a temporary loan from family, friends, your congregation or place of worship, or a local charity.
  • Military options—If you are in the military, check with the applicable military aid society to see if they have any financial assistance programs that could be of use.
  • Authorized overdraft—Some banks will allow an authorized overdraft that may be preferable to taking out a risky loan that could saddle you with debt for months or years. If you utilize this option, be sure you understand the associated limitations, rates, or penalties.
 
Charitable Donations
  • 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.
  • 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-deductibl
  • 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 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 people affected by the government shutdown.

 
Many localities in Northern Virginia have centralized resources for residents who are impacted by the Federal Shutdown.
 
Since 2014, Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $273 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.
 
If you think you have been a victim of a scam, you should contact Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section to file a complaint or to get additional information about any consumer protection related matter:

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Herring Chastises Panel for Rejecting Hate Crime Bill

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING COMBATS OPIOID CRISIS WITH INNOVATIVE NEW PROGRAM FOR TEENS

~ Herring has partnered with the Preventum Initiative to implement FEND, an opioid education and prevention campaign for teenagers; FEND will be an addition to the AG’s existing approach to the opioid epidemic ~

RICHMOND (December 10, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced a partnership between his office and the Preventum Initiative to implement FEND (Full Energy, No Drugs), an opioid education and prevention campaign for Virginia teenagers. FEND will engage youth by rewarding them for learning and taking action against opioids and other drugs. The program will be implemented in conjunction with the Attorney General’s existing multifaceted approach to the opioid crisis.

“The opioid epidemic has taken a devastating toll on communities across Virginia,”said Attorney General Herring. “Partnerships like this one with Preventum Initiative and programs like FEND are critical tools we can use to teach young people about the dangers of addiction, opioids, and prescription drugs so they are better equipped to handle situations. I will continue to make combating the heroin and opioid epidemic a top priority and I look forward to working with Preventum Initiative to help make our communities safer.”

Preventum Initiative developed the FEND Movement to educate young adults about the dangers of heroin and opioid use. FEND will roll out in three stages over a two-year period beginning in 2019. The first stage will engage youth across the state, the second will roll out into high schools with a school-based competition model, and the third will empower youth to take the messages of FEND into their local communities. Additionally, the FEND app, which will be freely available in the Apple and Google Play stores, will reward youth for engaging with the app with streetwear, concert tickets, athletic events and other experiences. 

“FEND gives young people the facts about opioids, prescription drugs, and addiction so they can make informed choices about their health,” said Jacquii Burgess, Executive Director of the Preventum Initiative. “Understanding what an opioid is, why they’re so addictive, and how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose can potentially save a life. We are thrilled to partner with Attorney General Herring to educate Virginia’s young people about opioids and other drugs.”

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 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 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. Most recently, Attorney General Herring announced he was suing Purdue Pharma for their role in helping to create and prolong the opioid epidemic in Virginia.

The Preventum Initiative is a 501(c)(3) that brings together technologists and researchers to solve complex public health problems.

 

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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING LAUNCHES VIRGINIA’S FIRST ONLINE RE-ENTRY PORTAL

~ The site is the first of its kind to come out of an AG’s office and brings re-entry resources directly to sheriffs, jail practitioners, family members, local citizens, and ex-offenders ~

VIRGINIA BEACH (October 23, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced the launch of VirginiaReEntry.org, Virginia’s first ever online re-entry portal, which provides a “one-stop shop” for people involved in every phase of helping Virginians re-enter communities after incarceration. This portal is the first of its kind to come out of an attorney general’s office and offers resources directly to sheriffs, practitioners and citizens who want to help formerly incarcerated individuals return to their communities and lead successful lives. Attorney General Herring made the announcement at his 2018 Statewide Jail Re-entry Conference.
 
“When folks who are transitioning back into our communities are given the resources they need to be successful, well-adjusted members of society it not only helps them but it also makes our communities safer and saves taxpayer dollars,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “This first of its kind portal offers something for everyone by providing information and resources for sheriffs, re-entry organizations, potential employers, community and family members, and those who are returning to society. I am proud of the work that my office has done over the past few years to help localities build strong re-entry programs and we will continue to help them make sure that their returning citizens are given every opportunity to be successful following incarceration.”
 
Ninety-six percent of incarcerated individuals will eventually return to their communities, which is why strong, comprehensive re-entry programs and resources are so important. When people transitioning back to the community are provided individualized case management, treatment services, and support networks both prior to release and immediately following incarceration, they have a better chance at success. If ex-offenders re-enter their community with the same underlying trauma, addiction, or anger it can make communities less safe and perpetuate a cycle of re-incarceration that costs taxpayers money and strains families.
 
“We know that 96 percent of people in jail will return to our community,” said Norfolk Sheriff Joseph “Joe” Baron. “By utilizing our evidence based Re-entry Programming and innovative programming in partnership with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office Re-entry Program such as the Innovations in Supervision Initiative, we are providing offenders a better path to be successful in the community which will have an major impact on improving our recidivism rates in Virginia.”
 
“The Re-entry portal will give all parties involved in the process an opportunity to have a central location where information can be exchanged, communicated and maintained,” said Arlington Sheriff Beth Arthur. “Having this portal available with established information and services, will ultimately give participants in any Re-entry program more opportunities to be successful as they transition out into our communities.” 
 
The re-entry portal provides something for everyone including sheriffs, jail administrators and staff, non-profit organizations, faith-based volunteers, potential employers, treatment service providers, legislators, judges, media, family members and returning citizens.
 
 
  • Information on best practices in the re-entry field
  • Examples of efforts around Virginia
  • Grant information
  • Training schedules and data input options
  • Printable, regional specific materials
  • Training modules and presentations
  • Resources for families and communities to help their loved ones re-enter society in a productive way.
 
Resources for sheriffs and other jail practitioners
The portal provides information on the Office of the Attorney General’s suggested re-entry model, the Transition from Jail to Community (TJC), which was developed by the National Institute of Corrections in partnership with the Urban Institute. This model achieves the goals of enhancing public safety and reducing recidivism through a systematic and collaborative approach. You can also find the What Works in Re-entry Clearinghouse, a “one-stop shop” for research on the effectiveness of a wide variety of re-entry programs and practices. Additionally, there is information on DMV Connect, a program that was originally created to provide identification cards to incarcerated individuals pending release, as identification is necessary to secure jobs, open bank accounts, enter public buildings, and apply for benefits
 
Resources for families and returning citizens
Re-entry can be a time of both positivity but also stress for both the returning individual and their family. To make the transition as smooth as possible it is important to use every resource available including:
 
 
Employer Advantages
Employment is a pillar to successful re-entry and motivated employees are a lynchpin to successful business. Hiring returning citizens has proven beneficial to employers because:
 
  • Ex-offenders whose crimes are long in the past pose no greater risk than people in the general population
  • Returning citizens have a network of support to aid in their success. 
  • Federal programs add additional security by bonding employees.
  • There are tax incentives to hire returning citizens.
 
When Attorney General Herring began his first term in 2014, he saw that the state had developed a comprehensive plan to address re-entry and recidivism reduction for state inmates who left state prisons, but there was no coordinated programming or assistance for local and regional jails. He made it a priority to provide the first-ever state-level assistance to coordinate, expand, and improve re-entry efforts in local and regional jails, including the hiring of DeVon Simmons as Virginia’s first local jail re-entry coordinator.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FIGHTS TO STOP ILLEGAL ROBOCALLS AND SPOOFING THAT PLAGUE CONSUMERS

~ AG Herring joins bipartisan coalition of 34 attorneys general asking the FCC to let phone companies do more to block illegal robocalls – including neighbor spoofing ~

RICHMOND (October 10, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a bipartisan coalition of 34 attorneys general in calling on the Federal Communications Commission to create new rules to allow telephone service providers to block more illegal robocalls being made to unsuspecting consumers in Virginia and across the country.
 
“It seems today like every Virginian has either received these annoying robocalls or they know someone who has, even I have received them and I am the Attorney General,” said Attorney General Herring. “These robocalls are not just annoying and frustrating to consumers but they are also illegal and folks should not have to worry about being scammed by these types of phone calls. It is my job as Attorney General to protect Virginia’s consumers, which is why I’m joining my colleagues in calling on the FCC to take stronger action and create new rules to protect Virginians from robocalls.”
 
The formal comment to the FCC explains that scammers using illegal robocalls have found ways to evade a call blocking order entered last year by the FCC. Despite the FCC’s order, robocalls continue to be a major irritant to consumers in Virginia and across the United States. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.5 million illegal robocall complaints – two and a half times more than in 2014. The Virginia Office of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section receives numerous complaints each year with respect to illegal calls, including scam calls, telemarketing complaints, and robocalls. 
 
Following last year’s order when the FCC granted phone service providers authority to block certain illegal spoofed robocalls, the attorneys general are now seeking added authority for the providers to work together to detect and block more illegal spoofed robocalls – including “neighbor spoofing.”
 
“Spoofing” allows scammers to disguise their identities, making it difficult for law enforcement to bring them to justice. “Virtually anyone can send millions of illegal robocalls and frustrate law enforcement with just a computer, inexpensive software and an internet connection,” the attorneys general wrote in the formal comment filed with the FCC.
 
One tactic on the rise is “neighbor spoofing,” a technique that allows calls - no matter where they originate - to appear on a consumer’s caller ID as being made from a phone number that has the same local area code and first three digits as the consumer. This manipulation of caller ID information increases the likelihood that the consumer will answer the call.
 
In the formal comment, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues expressed support for a new initiative, which will give phone service providers the ability to authenticate legitimate calls and identify illegally spoofed calls and block them. The added authority sought by the attorneys general will allow service providers to use new technology to detect and block illegal spoofed calls – even those coming from what are otherwise legitimate phone numbers. Service providers will be ready to launch this new authentication method in 2019.
 
To date, the FCC has not issued a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning additional provider-initiated call blocking. The attorneys general anticipate that further requests for comments will take place on this subject.
 
Attorney General Herring was joined on the comment by the Attorneys General of Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.

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HEAD OF VIRGINIA’S MFCU ELECTED PRESIDENT OF NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MEDICAID FRAUD CONTROL UNITS

~ During Attorney General Herring’s time in office MFCU has recovered $91,525,956 ~

RICHMOND (October 2, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that Randy Clouse, Director of the Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), has been elected President of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units (NAMFCU). Randy has been the Director of Virginia’s MFCU for nearly 20 years and under his leadership the unit has grown from 12 to 102 members and recovered over $2 billion in court ordered restitution fines and penalties for the Virginia Medicaid program.
 
“I cannot think of a more worthy and qualified person to serve as President of NAMFCU,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Randy has been the head of our MFCU for almost 20 years, and in that time he has grown the unit exponentially and recovered more than $2 billion for Virginia. I want to congratulate Randy on this honor and thank him for all of his hard work making Virginia’s MFCU one of the best in the country.”
 
“The outstanding results are the direct reflection of the great work of the employees of the MFCU and outstanding relationships we have with our federal counterparts, the United States Attorneys Offices for the Western and Eastern Districts, the FBI, IRS, DEA, FDA and HHS-OIG and the Department of Medical Assistance Services,” said Randy Clouse.
 
About Randy Clouse
 
Randy joined the Virginia Attorney General’s Office in May 1999 as the Director of the Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Prior to joining the MFCU, Randy was a Police Officer with the Richmond Police Department. While in that capacity, he was a Detective assigned to the Organized Crime Division’s Vice Squad infiltrating street level illegal narcotics, prostitution, worked outlaw biker gangs and satanic cults. During Randy’s last three years in the Organized Crime Division, he was the Undercover Coordinator where he supervised multi-jurisdictional undercover sting operations targeting organized crime, organized prostitution rings and human trafficking. During his last two years in the Department, he was assigned to work Violent Crimes and Homicides. He attended California University, in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, majoring in Criminal Justice. 
 
Randy has been a member of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s Executive Committee for five years and served as Vice President for the last year. Randy will be the first non-attorney to be president in the 40 year history of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units. As President of NAMFCU, Randy will continue to work closely with the National Association of Attorney’s General and the NAMFCU Executive Committee to continue their outstanding work overseeing the Association’s training programs and multi-state cases involving health care fraud, the illegal prescribing of opioids and elder abuse and corporate neglect issues. 
 
About Virginia’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit
 
The Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) of the Office of the Attorney General was certified October 1, 1982, by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The Unit is one of 50 units throughout the United States with the same mission. 
 
From the MFCU inception in 1982 through 1999, the Virginia MFCU recovered over $10 million in court ordered restitution, fines and penalties. From 1999 through present, under Randy Clouse’s leadership, the Virginia MFCU has recovered over $2 billion in court ordered restitution, fines and penalties. 
 
The MFCU employs a professional staff of criminal investigators, auditors, attorneys and support staff who work together to develop investigations and prosecute cases. The Virginia MFCU works regularly with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to combat fraud, protect our most vulnerable citizens and to save taxpayer dollars.
 
In 2008, the Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit received the State Fraud Award from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General for achieving the highest amount of monetary recoveries in the history of all state Medicaid fraud control units in fiscal year 2007 with over $500 million in recoveries.
 
In 2013, the Virginia MFCU was named the number one MFCU in the country by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.
 
In 2014, during Attorney General Herring’s first term, Virginia’s MFCU received the State Fraud Award from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General for achieving, again, the highest amount of monetary recoveries in the history of all state Medicaid fraud control units in fiscal year 2013 with over $1 billion in recoveries. To this date, neither of those recoveries has been achieved by any other state MFCU. Also in 2014, Virginia’s MFCU was awarded the “Honest Abe” award from the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund.

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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.



 

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Herring Joins 11 State Attorneys General in Opposing Offshore Drilling

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