Delfim A. Heusler for New York State Assembly – 90th District – Petition.
Click on link to Petition: Independent Nominating Petition-2
If you can collect some signatures, print out petition and send in snail mail to:
Delfim A. Heusler
35 Chase Avenue – Apt 1-A
Yonkers, NY 10703
ASTORINO: BNP PARIBAS MONEY SHOULD GO TO
LONG-TERM CAPITAL EXPENSES, NOT GENERAL FUND
Can Fix Bad Mario Cuomo Decision that Diverted
Thruway Toll Revenue to Canal Corporation
New York–July 2...Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor of New York State, today challenged Governor Andrew Cuomo to dedicate the $2.2 billion windfall from the BNP Paribas bank settlement to long-term capital projects to shore up New York’s decaying rail and highway infrastructure. The money would otherwise go into New York’s general fund where it would be used for day-to-day operating expenses.
Mr. Astorino also proposed a long-term fix to the 1992 Mario Cuomo decision to divert Thruway Authority toll revenue to the Canal Corporation, thus stripping New York’s roads and bridges of their historic stream of infrastructure funding. The County Executive said that $500 million in BNP Paribas settlement funds could be used to cover Canal Corporation costs over the next seven years, an entity whose costs could then be returned to the state’s general fund. Thruway Authority money could then be re-dedicated to highway infrastructure, as it was originally intended to be.
“The BNP Paribas settlement presents New York with a real opportunity to shore up its aging Thruway and MTA infrastructure and to fix a bad policy decision that has robbed New York’s roads of badly needed repairs,” County Executive Astorino said. “Fixing bridges and roadways may not be a sexy endeavor — it may not come with ribbon cuttings — but it is of critical necessity to the economic future of this state and to the safety of New York motorists. This is an enormous amount of money, and we have an opportunity to spend it wisely, rather than to put it into the hands of a government that is already spending New York to death.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use
|Governor, Did You Divert Sandy Relief Money from
Victims to TV Ads?
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York almost two years ago, thousands of New Yorkers saw their homes and possessions destroyed. Twenty months later, many families are still out of their homes.
But what about the billions Sandy aid that was supposed to help them? Where did it go? Shouldn’t that have been enough money to get people back on their feet?
A lot of people have been asking Governor Cuomo that question, but his office won’t tell them.
So let me ask you directly, Mr. Cuomo: Is it true that you diverted Hurricane Sandy and other relief money into TV commercials to help your re-election? Did you actually take money that could have gone to hurricane victims and put it into television ads?
If that’s true, governor — and I’m told it is — how much did you spend? And how much of that money is left?
Families are still in need Mr. Cuomo. Are your free TV ads really more important than them?
Statement from Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on
today’s tragic news of the deaths of the three kidnapped boys
June 30, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use
|Andrew Cuomo needs our help|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
This HD Video May be Downloaded for Television Use
|The Truth About Property Taxes|
Gov. Cuomo - your latest attack ad against me is on property taxes.
This issue isn‘t going away governor - meet with your local assessor and pay your full share of taxes just like everyone else has to.
And regarding my record on property taxes, here are the facts:
In every year I have been in office we have either reduced or held flat the county‘s property tax levy. According to the Comptroller‘s office, no county in the state has reduced their tax levy as much as Westchester has.
I was elected by a 15-point margin in 2009, in 2-1 democratic Westchester, when I said I would stop the tax madness and I was re-elected last fall by a 13-point margin. Westchester taxpayers know they can trust me.
Can they trust you Andrew Cuomo?
Besides not paying your own taxes, you refuse to do anything to rein in the unfunded mandates from Albany that crush local governments and school districts who have no say in the programs but must pay the bill you send them.
In Westchester, 85 cents of every tax levy dollar we spend goes to pay for your mandated programs. In some counties, it‘s much higher.
Stop the nonsense TV ads governor. Pay your property tax bill and deliver the mandate relief that New Yorkers really need to lower theirs.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ASTORINO JOINS HOMEOWNERS BEING TOLD TO
OPEN THEIR DOORS TO TAX ASSESSORS, WHILE
GOVERNOR CUOMO REFUSES TO OPEN HIS
“The Governor Needs to Set the Example”
|No Double Standards, Governor|
Westchester–June 26…Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, today joined with Westchester County homeowners who are refusing to open their doors for tax reevaluations until Governor Andrew Cuomo agrees to open his.
Governor Cuomo has been the subject of an multi-part investigative report by The Journal News over his failure to report significant internal renovations to his home that were discovered by his town assessor only after they appeared in national magazines. Those renovations were done without permits — or insurance, so it seems — as is required by local law. The governor, who shares the property tax bills with his live-in partner, has therefore been significantly underpaying his fair share of taxes for at least four years to the Town of New Castle, where he lives. The New Castle town assessor estimates that the Cuomo household has been paying 29% less in property taxes than it should be — adding extra tax burden to his neighbors — and has said that an accurate property tax assessment cannot be made because Governor Cuomo refuses to open his door for an inspection.
“Homeowners in towns and villages around this state are being asked to open their doors to assessors for property tax reevaluations, while the state’s chief executive is refusing to open his,” County Executive Astorino said. “These homeowners are rightly upset that there seems to be two sets of rules in this state; one for governor and one for everyone else. Governor Cuomo has a responsibility as the top elected official in this state to set an example, and the example he is setting is clear. Local officials statewide are going to have an awful time convincing homeowners to do something the governor won’t do himself.”
The Astorino campaign maintains that Governor Cuomo is refusing to open his doors because it will a.) prove that he has been cheating on taxes, and b.) reveal blatant mistruths that have been made by members of his administration about the nature of the work completed.
Statement from Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on
Andrew Cuomo’s Tappan Zee Bridge Tricks
June 26, 2014
“Governor Cuomo just doubled down on the financial shell games that we’ve seen dating back to the first Cuomo administration. His newly approved $511 million gimmick takes money from a fund specifically earmarked for environmental projects, like clean drinking water, to plug a massive budget hole in his plan for the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Mr. Cuomo’s sleight of hand trick is directly reminiscent of the financial shenanigans that led to Governor Mario Cuomo’s 1994 re-election defeat.
“That Cuomo Administration infamously raided the State Insurance Fund, sold state-owned prisons back to itself, and diverted highway toll money into the Canal Corporation, which, ironically, is part of the reason why infrastructure projects like the new Tappan Zee Bridge are short money today.
“Andrew Cuomo’s fiscal gimmick involving clean drinking water funding is an attempt to cover up shortfalls in the Thruway Authority that will result in punitively high toll prices for Hudson-River crossers. In Albany, this is called ‘Cuomo Accounting.’ In the private sector, it’s called ‘cooking the books.'”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use
|Cuomo’s Albany Fails to Address Major Issues|
And so another legislative session in Albany is ending, without a thing being done to turn this state around.
For struggling New Yorkers there was nothing. Zero. Zilch.
We have the highest property taxes in America because of Albany’s unfunded mandates, yet there was no mandate relief.
We have the worst economic outlook in America, yet nothing was done to grow the economy;
We have the second highest electric rates in America, but natural gas beneath our feet remains untapped.
We have an insanely high gas tax. Too bad for you, they say.
Cities like Syracuse and localities statewide are buckling under the pressure of passalong costs from Medicaid and pension benefits. No relief there.
So what was Albany working on?
Lowering the speed limit in a traffic-choked city where you’re lucky to go 5-miles-an-hour; a debate over whether to kill a couple hundred Mute Swans — I’m not sure where that one ended up — and passing new regulations on “light pollution,” whatever that is.
Now, these may all be very good bills, but where are the priorities? Where is the real help you promised, Mr. Cuomo?
New York is systematically losing to every other state in this country and we’re talking about Mute Swans.
That’s Andrew Cuomo’s Albany.
We can do better than this, New Yorkers. When I get to Albany, it’s the urgent priorities, the real priorities, that will come first.
Nothing will happen in Albany, until we get tax relief, job growth, energy production, Common Core repeal, term limits, and ethics reform.
All else will have to wait.
And if the mute swans could talk, I’m sure they, especially would agree.
Have you seen the New York State GOP commercial that hit the airwaves this week? Governor Cuomo has been spending millions of taxpayer dollars on false political ads instead of spending his time trying to fix the mess in Albany. Did you know that under Governor Cuomo, New York State ranks dead last 50th in all the important categories? Worst economic outlook, highest property taxes, worst state to retire, the list goes on and on.
We need your help to spread the message. Contribute $25 today and let’s put New York back in the winning column together.
Astorino For Governor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement from the Astorino Campaign on Latest Cuomo Attack Ad
June 19, 2014
“Governor Cuomo, who was just caught red handed cheating on his own property taxes, is now running television ads across New York State about Westchester’s status as the county with the highest property taxes in America. We are thrilled that the governor is finally bringing this up, because those high taxes are directly driven by his failure as governor.
“County Executive Astorino has shrunk the size of Westchester’s government, frozen or lowered its tax levy every year he’s been in office, and lowered the size of its budget in real dollars. Westchester County spends less today than it did four-and-a-half years ago when Mr. Astorino was elected.
“So if Astorino shrunk government, reduced spending, and cut the tax levy, how can property taxes be going up? The answer is simple: Governor Cuomo’s Albany.
“Governor Cuomo’s state mandates raid the resources of counties, cities, towns, villages, and school districts. The cost of Cuomo’s unfunded mandates are rising by the year and it is stretching to the point of breaking the ability of local governments to provide basic services.
“In Westchester County today, 85 cents of every tax dollar goes to pay for Mr. Cuomo’s mandates. In other places, like Rockland County, that percentage exceeds 100%. So when Governor Cuomo talks about high property taxes, he is talking about his own record, except, of course, in paying his own fair share of taxes in the Town of New Castle.” –Jessica Proud, Astorino for Governor spokeswoman
Press Note: Governor Cuomo is on record saying he splits the cost of property taxes with his partner, Sandra Lee. Any failure to pay their fair share is, itself, shared.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Everyday New Yorkers Tell Governor Cuomo: Pay Your Taxes, Andrew!
New York–June 17th….New Yorkers have a message for Andrew Cuomo in a newly released campaign video telling the Governor to pay his taxes.
Recently published reports detail extensive renovations that were done to Governor Cuomo’s home without obtaining necessary building permits, as well as his refusal to allow the tax assessor inside to properly value the home. New Yorkers–who pay the highest property taxes in the country–are speaking out against Governor Cuomo’s failure to pay his fair share.
|Pay Your Taxes Andrew|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement from Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on
Andrew Cuomo’s Financial Shell Game
June 17, 2014
“The dangerous and inappropriate financial shell games we saw in another Cuomo administration are back. Yesterday it was revealed that Andrew Cuomo is engaged in a $511 million gimmick taking money from a fund specifically earmarked for environmental projects, like clean drinking water, to plug a massive budget hole in his plan for the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Mr. Cuomo’s sleight of hand trick is directly reminiscent of the financial shenanigans that led to Governor Mario Cuomo’s 1994 re-election defeat.
“That Cuomo Administration infamously raided the State Insurance Fund, sold state-owned prisons back to itself, and diverted highway toll money into the Canal Corporation, which, ironically, is part of the reason why infrastructure projects like the new Tappan Zee Bridge are short money today.
“Andrew Cuomo’s fiscal gimmick involving clean drinking water funding is an attempt to cover up shortfalls in the Thruway Authority that will result in punitively high toll prices for Hudson-River crossers. In Albany, this is called ‘Cuomo Accounting.’ In the private sector, it’s called ‘cooking the books.'”
ASTORINO RELEASES FIRST CAMPAIGN AD:
New Yorkers don’t like losing.
So why accept being dead last in America under Andrew Cuomo.
The Worst Economic Outlook…
Most people leaving a state…
Cuomo has struck out for New York
We don’t have to live this way.
With bold reforms we can get New York winning again.
I did it as County Executive.
I’ll do it as Governor.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use
|Astorino to Cuomo: Take a Stand on Silver|
Chalk one up for the good guys in New York.
Yesterday, federal judge Analise Torres ruled that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver can be held liable for covering up sex crimes in the state legislature, and doing so using hundreds of thousands of tax dollars over a period of 19 years.
Sheldon Silver created a culture “in which [an Assembly member] believed he could sexually harass the women on his staff with impunity,” Justice Torres said.
She called Silver’s failure to protect women from Silver’s political buddies “actionable” and said that “plaintiffs have a plausible claim that Silver participated in and caused the deprivation of their rights. ”
“Silver could not have believed that his actions were reasonable under state or city law,” Judge Torres said.
Those of us who truly want ethics reforms in New York State couldn’t agree more. We applaud Judge Torres for her firm ruling.
Yet Governor Cuomo continues to stand behind Sheldon Silver even after this ruling, even after the New York Times and other newspapers around the state called on Silver to step down as Speaker.
Governor Cuomo keeps giving the same, pat, copout answer that he doesn’t vote for who the Assembly Speaker should be.
That’s not good enough any more, Mr. Cuomo. It’s not good enough in light of this ruling and it’s not good enough for the victims of sex crimes in Albany.
It’s time that you took a real stand for ethics in this state. It’s time you took a stand on Shelly Silver.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Statement from New York Gubernatorial Candidate
Rob Astorino on the Passing of Senator Roy M. Goodman
June 4, 2014
“Senator Roy Goodman was a powerful and articulate voice in New York politics for decades. He will forever be remembered as the ‘Statesman of the State Senate’ for his gentle demeanor and willingness to work across party lines. New York politics would be greatly improved today if more people in government borrowed from Senator Goodman’s demeanor and temperament.”
STATEMENT FROM WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROB ASTORINO
“Governor Cuomo is using $150 million in tax dollars to spread a mistruth about New York’s business climate in order to help himself get re-elected. It is one of the grossest examples of misused tax dollars in modern history.
“The truth is that New York ranks dead last 50th in America in economic outlook under this governor and 48th in business climate. We are the highest taxed state in America, and we were just rated the worst state in America in which to retire, largely because our nation-leading property taxes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Statement from Governor Cuomo Spokesman
Hank Sheinkopf on Andrew Cuomo
April 12, 2002
Andrew Cuomo is “willing to say anything, do anything — including distorting the facts — to win election.” (link)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CUOMO BREAKS NO-TAX-HIKE PLEDGE AGAIN
Astorino Calls for Full Accounting of Siphoned Energy Tax Funds
New York–June 9…Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly broke his 2010 pledge not to raise taxes on New Yorkers, and now he’s doing it again, Westchester County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino today charged.
“Governor Cuomo made a solemn vow to overtaxed New Yorkers four years ago not to raise taxes, and he quickly reneged on that pledge once he got into office,” County Executive Astorino said. “Now, Governor Cuomo has created a new, underhanded energy tax on every New Yorker and New York business under the auspices of an emergency that does not exist. I call on Governor Cuomo today to stop this new tax and to account for the millions of tax dollars that already have been taken from New Yorkers under false auspices.”
At issue, is the “temporary” “18-a Assessment” surcharge on utility customers that was created in 2009 ostensibly as an emergency measure to fund New York’s Public Service Commission which oversees utilities. It raised New York’s tax on utility customers from .33% to 2%. That “temporary surcharge” was supposed to expire — or “sunset” — on March 31, 2014, but Governor Cuomo quietly renewed it in his new budget — even though the Public Service Commission is fully funded and doesn’t need the revenue.
Governor Cuomo famously said in 2010 when the issue of another “temporary surcharge” was raised: “It was supposed to sunset. If it doesn’t sunset, it’s a tax.”
“New Yorkers are the highest taxed people in America, and our state was just ranked as the worst place to retire in the country because of its high taxes,” Mr. Astorino continued. “We also have the second highest electric costs in the country, and an AARP poll released last weekend reported that 74% of New Yorkers age 50 and over are significantly struggling with utility costs. Mr. Cuomo’s new tax hurts families and small businesses least able to afford it. He must get rid of this new energy tax and explain where taxpayer dollars have been going now that the Public Service Commission is fully funded.”
The Public Service Commission meets this week in Albany.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ASTORINO CAMPAIGN: “GOVERNOR CUOMO IS
ENGAGED IN PROPERTY TAX EVASION”
“Open Your Doors to Inspectors to Show Otherwise”
New York–June 12, 2014…The Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, has knowingly been engaged in property tax evasion for the past four years, and he is refusing to allow a town inspector into his home in an attempt to cover it up, the campaign of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino today charged.
“We want to be crystal clear on what we are saying about Governor Cuomo today,” said Astorino campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud. “We are directly suggesting that Andrew Cuomo hid renovations to his home in order to evade the higher property taxes he would have to pay if those renovations had been properly permitted, as is required of other citizens. We are further suggesting that the Governor is intentionally barring home access to his town assessor to conceal the amount of work that was done. We are also accusing Governor Cuomo and his government staff of not telling the truth in press reports about the extent of work done in the home.”
Governor Cuomo, who shares the house and splits the property taxes at Four Bittersweet Lane in New Castle with his partner Sandra Lee, according to news reports, has been the subject of a Gannett news investigation into their doing work on the home without building permits as is required. Ms. Lee detailed renovations to the home in national magazines, according to Gannett, but Governor Cuomo through spokespeople tried to play down the extent of those renovations after Gannett called the tax issue into question, claiming that work only involved “decorative” work — “window treatments.” Mr. Cuomo then barred the New Castle assessor from entering his home to determine the truth, as is Mr. Cuomo’s legal right. That assessor is now estimating that Mr. Cuomo and his partner should be paying a full 29% more in property taxes than they do now, but it is impossible to determine the actual fair tax value without home access.
“The governor of New York has to pay his fair share of property taxes, just like everyone else in this state,” Ms. Proud continued. “And the only way we’re going to know what that fair share is is for Governor Cuomo to open his doors. What’s he hiding?”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STATEMENT FROM ROB ASTORINO ON
ANDREW CUOMO’S PROPERTY TAX EVASION ISSUE
June 13, 2014
‘Now that you know that the town tax assessor wants
access to your home, will you let him in?’
“Andrew Cuomo dubiously claimed ignorance yesterday about his town tax assessor being refused entry into his home. The assessor wants to look at renovations widely described in national news magazines that were done without building permits and went unreported to the Town of New Castle.
“Mr. Cuomo’s own government staff has been involved in dealing with the Town of New Castle in this regard, so I find it difficult to understand how he could not know that the assessor was refused access. But, irregardless, Mr. Cuomo now knows with absolute certainty that the assessor’s request to enter Mr. Cuomo’s premises has been rejected, so it begs the question, ‘now that you know that the town assessor wants access to your home to see if if you have been paying your fair share in property taxes, will you let him in?’
“New Yorkers pay the highest property taxes in America. They deserve to know if their governor has been cheating on his.”
The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use
|Governor Cuomo, Pay Your Fair Share!|
New Yorkers pay the highest property taxes in America. And we feel it.
Across this state, thousands of senior citizens have had to go back to work to pay those taxes.
Young people have been shut out of buying homes.
And small business have closed because of property taxes, putting more people out of work.
Property taxes are a key reason why so many New Yorkers are packing up and moving out of state — 400,000 of them under Governor Cuomo.
It is especially disturbing then to learn that Mr. Cuomo is not and has not been paying his fair share of property taxes the entire time he’s been governor.
More than that, it looks like Mr. Cuomo has intentionally been evading his fair share of property taxes by not reporting major renovations to his home as required by law. Those renovations have even appeared in national news magazines.
Now, Mr. Cuomo is barring his town tax assessor for entering his home. He won’t let the assessor in to see the work that was done.
Does that sound on the level to you? It doesn’t to me.
New Yorkers are sick of two sets of rules, one for Albany politicians and one for them.
You and I are paying our fair share of taxes, and it’s breaking our backs.
Why hasn’t Governor Cuomo been paying his?
Open the door, Governor Cuomo. Let the inspector in. I thought you were going to bring transparency to this state…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Astorino Unveils Plan to Clean Up Albany’s Corruption
Derides Cuomo’s Handling of Moreland Commission
Comprehensive Agenda Will Combat New York’s Status as
Most Corrupt in Nation
New York, NY–June 16, 2014….New Yorkers are paying a stealth corruption tax due to the state’s status as the most corrupt in the nation today charged Westchester County Executive and Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino in the unveiling of his comprehensive, 10-point ethics plan.
County Executive Astorino has made Albany’s corruption a key tenant of his campaign and has frequently criticized Mr. Cuomo for his alleged interference in the Moreland Commission, where he reportedly tampered with criminal investigations involving political allies, prompting an investigation by the U.S. Attorney. Mr. Astorino has also cited Mr. Cuomo’s protection of Speaker Silver, who has helped cover up sex crimes in the state Assembly, as well as the Mr. Cuomo’s recent scandal involving potential property tax evasion as further proof the governor has directly contributed to New York’s corruption problems.
“The corruption by government officials in New York has reached a staggering level
of embarrassment,” said Mr. Astorino. “The culture of corruption does not just affect the perpetrators, but average New Yorkers end up paying a stealth corruption tax as a result of these insider deals. Andrew Cuomo–who is a lifelong Albany insider–not only failed to keep his promise to clean up Albany, but his handling of the Moreland Commission makes him a direct contributor to New York’s status as the most corrupt state in the nation.”
He continued, “This is a bold plan, but the only way to crack down on this corruption epidemic is through proposals that ruffle the feathers of the political establishment. We will never move New York back into the winning column until we address this growing problem and Sheriff Moss and I will make this a top priority. Our plan lays out a blueprint for cracking down on corruption once and for all.”
The Astorino/Moss Plan to Clean Up Albany
Term Limits – Limit statewide elected officials to two terms (8 years) and state legislators to four terms (8 years).
Limit Legislative Session – Convene regular session the first week in January and end on April 1, when the budget is due; Special session throughout the year can be called by a petition request from two-thirds vote of both legislative houses or by the Governor as defined in the State Constitution.
Independent State Commission on Public Ethics (I-SCOPE) to replace J-COPE. Five members appointed by judiciary with independent budget to receive and investigate complaints of official misconduct, including sexual harassment and assault.
Strengthen FOIL – Require proactive online posting of records and information required for release under FOIL requests; Information would be posted on single statewide database managed by State Comptroller.
Defined Contribution Plan for Newly Elected – Require all newly elected officials to join SUNY’s Defined Contribution Plan instead of the existing pension system.
Pension Strip -Loss of taxpayer-funded pension for any elected official convicted of public corruption.
Prohibit Personal Use of Campaign Money – Establish clear guidelines to limit donations solely to election-related activities.
Ban Conflict of Interest Member Items – No “member items” to any non-profit or business affiliated with a state elected official or an immediate family member.
Replace Per-Diem System and require receipts for travel, lodge and food.
End Taxpayer-funded Vanity – Prohibit any building, facility or capital project that was paid for with taxpayer money to be named for any current elected official.
In 2012, the University of Illinois released their anti-corruption report that showed New York State was the #1 state in the nation for federal public corruption convictions.
The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use
|Governor Cuomo, Don’t Let The Kids Down|
The legislative session in Albany is almost done but one piece of business can’t be ignored.
It’s a bill that will help thousands of low-income school kids get a great education, whether they attend Catholic and parochial schools or public schools.
This education tax credit will create new scholarships for lower income and working families, and generate millions in donations to public education.
It’s literally a life-changer for thousands of children and families. Education is the key to having a good life. The education tax credit makes it happen – especially in our cities and for families hungry to see their children grow up strong and smart.
Governor Cuomo, you assured Cardinal Dolan and the Catholic Bishops that you’d get this done this year – to help children everywhere. Show some leadership. Don’t let these children down.
The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use
(May 28, 2014)
Governor Cuomo‘s Moreland Commission has lawyered up.
It almost doesn‘t shock us — things have become that ugly in Albany. But when the Commission that was supposed to clean up corruption is itself corrupted, something‘s got to be done.
We need new faces and fresh ideas in state politics, and it‘s become clear that‘s not going to happen without term limits.
Even the best elected officials become compromised over time in Albany — not all, but enough to drag us down.
When officials become compromised, special interests take control, and the people suffer. We end up with the highest taxes in America and the worst economic climate, both of which we have.
So today, I am announcing that one of the first pieces of legislation I will send to the Legislature as Governor will be a term limits bill that limits statewide elected officials to two four-year terms and the state legislature to four two-year terms. Eight years is enough for anyone to serve in state government.
It‘s time to clean house in the state capital.
STATEMENT FROM WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROB ASTORINO.
STATEMENT FROM WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROB ASTORINO.
At the midpoint of 2014, it is a good time to review the goals and accomplishments of the Westchester County Board of legislators. A mid-term report card, if you will.
The goal of the Board remains the delivery of essential services on a cost-effective regional basis. The means to achieve this goal is to work within a structure of bipartisan government utilizing reason, negotiation and compromise to forge consensus. So far, that model is delivering successful results.
All 17 county legislators are either in a leadership position or chair a critical committee, giving all legislators “skin in the game”. Democrats and Republicans are working well together, committees are meeting jointly and difficult issues are being resolved around the conference room, not in the courtroom. Working together in this bipartisan fashion, approximately 78 capital budget items have been approved with over $128 million in critical infrastructure projects moving forward, creating significant numbers of permanent and temporary jobs.
The Board has taken real steps to make the legislature more efficient while saving taxpayers money. On day one as Chair of the Board of Legislators, I refused the free county car and gasoline available saving over $3600 per year. We have eliminated over 50% of staff Blackberries, reduced service contracts for photography and news clipping services and saved significant money through reduced personnel costs. The final Legislative cost for 2014 will be less than originally budgeted.
We have taken on a number of challenging issues in the first six months of this term. First, we never forget our primary charge remains to deliver essential county services while finding ways to cut costs and keep the county budget under control. Critically, for the fourth year in a row, the county tax levy, approved by the BOL has not gone up. Second, we have tackled the review process of the suggested Playland public/private partnership as put forth by the County Executive. Our thorough and fair due diligence efforts showed the weakness of the proposal originally put forth by the non-profit group Sustainable Playland Inc. and their disconnect with the citizenry of the immediate community as well as the greater Westchester community. The Board will continue to focus on alternative plans for Playland and we look forward to working with the County Executive to re-imagine Playland and make it more financially viable.
The Board successfully resolved an airport leasing issue that threatened to harm both the airport’s financial viability as well as the municipal budgets of entities near the airport. We continue to pursue strong quality of life initiatives such as strengthening our agri-business community, establishing an energy point person to save us money while reducing our carbon footprint, and purchasing vehicles that are more environmentally and cost friendly. In conjunction with the business and labor community, the county has established a Local Development Corporation that has incented half a billion dollars of economic activity. And working with the County Executive, the Board reached agreement with, and helped welcome, the New York Knicks to the county center with the Westchester Knicks starting their D league operations this coming fall.
We have not shied away from difficult issues, either. Our county charter Revision Commission has recommended 16 items for consideration and change, items such as county ethics code changes, modifications to the budget process and reforming legislative confirmation procedures. These recommendations are being seriously debated with the goal of better and more open county government.
The biggest and most contentious effort undertaken this term, however, relates to the issue of resolving the ongoing dispute between the county and the federal government relating to the 2009 housing settlement. The settlement requires that the county build 750 units over seven years, promote a source of income law and submit an Analysis of Impediments (AI) acceptable to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the building of fair and affordable housing in Westchester county.
The county through the combined efforts of the Board and the Country Executive is actively working on building the units. After strenuously fighting the source of income law, the County Executive did ultimately promote a source of income law as required. That leaves the AI. After eight failed submissions by the county planning department, and upon notice from HUD that $5.2 million of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies for 2012 (and equal amounts for 2013 and 2014) are at risk of being reallocated away from Westchester, the Board of Legislators stepped in to help resolve the dispute.
Our more active role in the process has been welcomed by HUD and the housing Monitor tasked with overseeing the settlement agreement. As a result of our efforts, HUD has withheld the funding reallocation through the end of the summer and the Monitor has stepped forward and has initiated the analysis ultimately required for the county to file an acceptable AI. If we are successful, we hope not only to secure the $15 million dollars of CDBG monies, but also forestall penalties, fines, interception of other federal monies and even, potentially, reopening of the 2009 settlement that could result in a loss of over $500 million, potentially bankrupting the county itself. In a further positive way, if we are successful the 2009 settlement will finally be satisfied with no added requirements.
Much work remains. Rest assured all 17 county legislators are up to the task and look forward to serving all of our county residents. Our goal remains to have the best and most responsive county government possible; check us out at westchesterlegislators.com or call us at 995-2800 and let us know how we can help.
Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID
Presents Jazz & Blues at Dusk Summer
Concert Series at the Waterfront
This critically acclaimed, free summer concert series highlights a robust summer schedule of family events
YONKERS, N.Y. (June 2014) The Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID and Domino Sugar are proud to once again present the weekly Jazz & Blues at Dusk Summer Concert Series this year at the Yonkers Waterfront amphitheater.
Now in its eighth season, the concert series—free of charge to the public— provides high quality musical entertainment by some of the New York metropolitan area’s top jazz and blues artists. The Friday night concerts will take place starting July 4th from 6:30 to 8:00pm.
The Summer of Downtown Yonkers kicks off on July 4th. Performing on opening night is Roxy Perry, once named Artist of the Year by the Westchester Arts Council. Roxy Perry, the “New York Blue Queen”, is a legend, performing the blues for over 30 years. Roxy launched her blues career in the late ‘80’s, when she quickly became known for her exciting live performances at clubs, concert halls and festivals throughout the U.S. and abroad and won her reputation as “the real deal” through her riveting live performances.
“The Friday Night Jazz series attracts thousands of people each summer from all over the region. It is the perfect mix of a relaxed summer evening on a gorgeous waterfront and amazing live music. This year, the BID is presenting a diverse variety of proven favorites and also showcasing the next generation of stars.” said Dan Lipka, Executive Director of the Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID.
The Jazz, Blue &and more series is just the beginning of an amazing summer schedule. The BID is also producing the Riverwalk Wednesday free music series in Van Der Donck Park, and we are bringing back Movies on Main Street each Tuesday evening. Partners in the Yonkers Downtown community are also hosting a variety of family events throughout the entire summer. There is literally something to do every single day in Downtown Yonkers. Visit www.YonkersDowntown.com to download your entire summer calendar.
The Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID was created to promote and implement the economic revitalization of the District and the City of Yonkers. The BID is also designed to maintain the downtown streets, contribute to public safety, landscape the district, market special events and create promotional opportunities to highlight the area. Additionally, the BID will preserve and encourage the cultural, historic, tourist and civic interest of the District and the City of Yonkers. For more information, visit www.YonkersDowntown.com. Domino Sugar is a proud sponsor of this music series, and their support is critical to keeping this a free event.
The Yonkers Brewery family has launched a kickstarter to help build their tasting room so they can bring the community together with local, hand crafted brews.
You can join their passion for beer, innovation, growth and the City of Yonkers by supporting their Kickstarter campaign. When completed, the Yonkers Brewing Co. will open to the public in the former Yonkers Trolley Barn, located at 92 Main Street in downtown Yonkers, New York. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is another great job-creating project that the Council has been proud to support, and their kickstarter is a way for you in the private sector to show your support.
Remember to celebrate the summer with Westchester’s Ridge Hill at Movie Mondays for Frozen in Town Square on Monday and to bring your beach chairs or blankets for the free screening. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or complaints, you can contact my office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (914) 377-6060.
Liam J. McLaughlin
Schools out and summer is here! Congratulations to all of you who have children, neighbors relatives and friends who are graduating this year.
The Green Policy Task Force
As part of the Cross County Shopping Center’s 60th Anniversary celebration, a series of SummerFest events have been planned. Activities include a concert series, children’s activities, a sidewalk chalk art festival, and a fireworks extravaganza on July 3rd. For more information on these fun events, please click here.
Everyone was excited to watch Team USA face-off against Germany yesterday in the World Cup. Although they weren’t successful in that individual match, they did earn a slot in the Final 16. Make sure you tune in next Tuesday to see the USA face Belgium. Make sure to hashtag #IBelieveThatWeWillWin if you’re posting about the World Cup!
Liam J. McLaughlin
Many of you have said how much you enjoy reading this newsletter, so we’ve decided to begin issuing it on a weekly basis once again. If you have any input on how we can improve the newsletter format, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Council holds special meeting
The request was sent to Albany and passed yesterday by the Assembly. The Parcel to be discontinued as parkland was identified by the Parks and Recreation Department as a dismantled former neighborhood park. The neighborhood is presently served by two active parks to the north and west.
Happy 50th, Bernice and Harry!
County Legislator Bernice Spreckman put on her annual Senior’s Show this week and as always, it did not disappoint. This year, her event was even more special, as Bernice and her husband Harry are celebrating fifty years of marriage this week.
The members of the City Council were able to join them during the show and recognize the couple on this joyous occasion. The longevity of this marriage is not only a milestone and a personal triumph, but serves as an example to us all. Bernice and Harry do so much for the Yonkers community and deserve this recognition. Congratulations you two!
Liam J. McLaughlin
This $1 million revenue stream would help plug the budget gap without going into the pocketbooks of Yonkers taxpayers…if Albany allows it.
Providing the highest quality education for the children of Yonkers is of the utmost importance to me, and the City’s contribution increases in the budget proposal from $231 million to $233 million. In fact, by assuming $10 million in costs through the consolidation of the district’s non-academic functions with City agencies, we have freed up even more money to be spent educating our children.
As it is, the City is struggling to find a way to close the $44 million budget deficit that was created by the Board of Education’s poor accounting practices. Instead of providing funding to close the gap, the State has said we can borrow some of that money, and assuming for argument’s sake that the City has the financial wherewithal to pay the $6 million per year debt service it would cost to borrow the $44 million the State has authorized us, it still does not rectify the long-standing underfunding of education in Yonkers by Albany.
As you’ve heard ny now, 51.1% of our City’s budget goes to education, in contrast with Buffalo, where only 7.8% of the City budget goes to education. Let’s not forget that Syracuse, a City with a nearly identical population and pupil enrollment to Yonkers receives $290 million in state funding, while that same ‘formula’ provides us with only $235 million. Even on the local level, the White Plains school district saw a school funding increase of nearly 25 percent this year, while Yonkers received only a 7.67 percent increase.
Albany has cut our school funding by $90 million through the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). That is why on Tuesday the City Council authorized the City’s intervention into litigation to recoup these monies so our children’s rights to a basic education are met. This lawsuit is known as New Yorkers for Students Educational Rights (NYSTER) vs. the State of New York, which is in addition to the other legal challenge we have initiated against the Deficit Act.
Release of these funds would more than close the budget deficit and provide us with additional monies to invest in the classroom.
New financial controls
Although we would never have been in this mess if the State had funded our schools properly in the first place, at the same time the Council majority is not going to sit idly by and allow a $55 million accounting error to occur. We are still waiting for the Inspector General to issue his report on exactly how this happened and who is responsible. In the meantime, we are working to pass sensible legislation so situations like this never happen again.
This week, the Council majority passed a local law by Council member John Larkin requiring the City Finance Commissioner to publish an annual four-year financial plan on April 15th and quarterly financial reports on January 1st, April 1st, July 1st and October 1st of each year, publicly, on the internet. These new financial controls will provide badly-needed sunshine on the City budget.
We have also taken steps by having the City Finance Department provide interim consulting to the Board of Education Finance Department, and as part of the City budget, we may permanently assume control of these functions.
Liam J. McLaughlin
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND FTC OBTAIN ORDER HALTING DEBT COLLECTORS’ DECEPTIVE, ABUSIVE PRACTICES
Order Also Freezes Collectors’ Assets And Appoints Receiver To Run Companies
Schneiderman: My Office Will Keep Fighting To Protect Consumers And End Financial Bullying
BUFFALO – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that at the request of his office and the Federal Trade Commission, Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara issued a preliminary injunction halting a debt collection operation charged with violating New York State and Federal law, including New York’s consumer protection and debt collection statutes. The debt collectors falsely accused consumers of committing check fraud, then threatened consumers with arrest, imprisonment, wage garnishments, and civil suits. The court order stops the illegal conduct, freezes the operation’s assets, and appoints a temporary receiver to take over the defendants’ businesses.
“All too often, innocent New Yorkers are relentlessly harassed by predatory, abusive debt collectors,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office, along with partners like the Federal Trade Commission, will keep fighting to protect hardworking consumers and put a stop to unfair financial bullying once and for all.”
As part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s continuing crackdown on rogue debt collectors that target consumers in financial distress, the lawsuit charged three individuals – Joseph C. Bella III and Luis Shaw, both of Buffalo, New York, and Diane Bella, who resides in Florida, and 9 interrelated companies. The defendants allegedly bought debts and collected them, most often debts that had originated from payday loans. Going by various names including National Check Registry, according to the complaint, the operation began using another name – eCapital Services, LLC – to evade detection and continue its illegal behavior after Joseph Bella signed an agreement with New York State authorities in October 2013 that prohibited him and his debt collection companies from violating Federal and State debt collection laws.
Operating the scheme since at least February 2010, the defendants misrepresent that consumers had committed check fraud or some other unlawful act related to the purported debt. Defendants then threatened consumers with dire consequences – such as lawsuits, arrest and imprisonment, or seizure of assets – unless they paid the debt immediately. The defendants repeated these deceptive claims to consumers’ family members, friends, coworkers, and employers, and revealed the consumers’ debts to these third parties as well, the complaint stated.
Also, according to the complaint, the defendants:
- told one consumer in Washington State that they would have the “Washington County Police” issue a warrant for her arrest, and another serving in the military that they would bring an action against him under the Uniform Code of Military Justice;
- said the only way to avoid arrest, imprisonment, lawsuits, wage garnishments, and seized assets would be to make an immediate payment over the phone;
- continued to accuse consumers of check fraud and other crimes even after they produced evidence showing they didn’t owe the debts in question;
- contacted friends, family members, and co-workers of consumers whom they claimed owed a debt, and in some cases, not only revealed the supposed debt but also said the consumers had committed check fraud and would be arrested or imprisoned if the debt was not paid;
- added an illegal $8 “processing fee” when consumers made payments on supposed debts over the phone;
- failed to provide consumers with debt collection notices and disclosures that are required under State and Federal law, making it difficult for consumers to determine whether they owed the debt and how they could dispute its validity; and
- continued trying to collect a debt from a consumer who had discharged the debt in bankruptcy.
“These debt collectors continued to harass consumers and violate the law after the validity of the debt was called into question, and after the New York Attorney General’s office ordered them to stop,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “By working together with our state partners, we can leverage our resources to stop these illegal tactics.”
According to consumers interviewed by Attorney General Schneiderman and the FTC, the defendants routinely refused to provide information about the debts, as required by federal law, or to investigate the debts’ legitimacy – even after some consumers explained that they did not owe the debts, the debts had been paid in full, or the defendants did not have the authority to collect on the debts. The defendants allegedly collected millions of dollars from consumers using these unlawful tactics.
In addition to Joseph Bella, Diane Bella, and Luis Shaw, the complaint names as defendants National Check Registry, LLC; Check Systems, LLC; American Mutual Holdings, Inc.; Goldberg Maxwell, LLC; Morgan Jackson, LLC; Mullins & Kane, LLC; Buffalo Staffing, Inc., and eCapital, LLC.
Attorney General Schneiderman has been tough on abusive debt collectors, sending a clear message that harassing hardworking consumers will not be tolerated. Since January 1, 2011, his office has led the charge on investigations that have yielded $722,345.20 in penalties and $281,867.34 in restitution. As a result of his no-nonsense approach, at least 11 individuals and their companies have been permanently barred from the debt collection business, two companies have been shut down, three have been barred from attempting to collect on payday loans from New Yorkers, and 12 companies have agreed to refuse requests to repossess the vehicles of New Yorkers when the underlying loan is a payday loan.
The Attorney General thanks Colin Hector, Nikhil Singhvi, and Thomas Widor of the Federal Trade Commission for their assistance with this case.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey and Karen Davis, Senior Consumer Fraud Representative in the Buffalo Regional Office, which is led by Michael Russo, Assistant Attorney General In Charge. The Buffalo Regional Office is part of the Division of Regional Offices, led by Marty Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices.
UPDATED: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $2.2 MILLION RESTITUTION FUND FOR VICTIMS OF IMMIGRATION SCAM
A.G. Opens Claims Process To Compensate Victims Defrauded By International Immigrants Foundation And International Professional Association
Schneiderman: Victims Of Immigrations Services Scams Deserve Compensation
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that thousands of victims who were defrauded by two immigration services organizations, the International Immigrants Foundation, Inc. (IIF) and the International Professional Association, Inc. (IPA), could begin applying for compensation from a $2.2 million restitution fund. The fund was created by the Attorney General as part of a settlement of claims that the two organizations held out fraudulent promises of citizenship while engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The process for distributing compensation, which will be administered by the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), will allow former IIF and IPA clients to submit claims for restitution for fees they paid to the organizations for immigration services that were never lawfully rendered. IIF and IPA have also been prohibited from providing immigration-related legal services in the future.
“Thousands of immigrants who had their trust abused and their money stolen by these organizations deserve to receive compensation, and now they can,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “By making more than two million dollars in restitution available for the victims of these unscrupulous organizations, we are taking an important step toward justice in this case. I urge all eligible individuals to participate in the claims process, without fear of reprisal. Today’s announcement should send the message that my office enforces one set of rules for everyone, and we will continue to fight immigration services fraud whenever and wherever it occurs.”
Victims of IIF’s and IPA’s misconduct suffered both financial and legal consequences. In one instance, an individual was eligible to obtain a Green Card, but lost his opportunity due to the organizations’ delay and negligence, despite paying more than $18,000 in fees and costs to them. Other clients were subject to deportation. Still others overpaid for services by thousands of dollars.
The claims process is the final phase of a settlement agreement that resolved a lawsuit by the Attorney General against IIF and IPA for misleading clients about their legal credentials and ability to obtain guaranteed immigration results, and for charging excessive fees inconsistent with the charitable purpose for which they were formed.
To be considered for restitution, former clients who paid for and received legal services from IIF and/or IPA must submit a claim form by October 23, 2014. Copies of the claim form, instructions for completion, and submission information are available at the claims administrator’s website, www.nylag.org/IPA. Questions relating to the completion and submission of a claim form should be directed to the claims administrator via email to email@example.com or the fund hotline at 212-514-4265. The amount of each individual restitution payment shall be determined after receipt and review of all eligible claims forms.
“As an organization who routinely sees the devastating impact that fraudulent immigration services providers inflict upon immigrants, we applaud Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for ensuring that those who were victimized by the International Immigrants Foundation and the International Professional Association will be able to seek restitution. The creation of the restitution fund sends the message loud and clear that those who engage in the unauthorized practice of law will not be tolerated and will be compelled to indemnify those they defrauded,” said Angela Fernandez, Esq. Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.
“Immigration fraud is a stain on the inclusive values that have made New York home to more immigrants than any other city in the nation – individuals and families who have contributed so much to our culture and our prosperity,” said Yisroel Schulman, of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), Administrator of the Restitution Fund. “NYLAG is proud to be able to continue to play a role in bringing at least a small measure of justice to those who have been harmed – and shining the light on the continuing travesty of immigration fraud.”
This matter is being handled by Steven Shiffman and Anjana Samant, Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke, Charities Bureau Chief James Sheehan and Senior Enforcement Counsel Chief David Nachman. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.
The Attorney General’s Office is committed to protecting the civil rights of all New Yorkers and combatting fraud faced by immigrant communities. To file a complaint, contact the Civil Rights Bureau at 212-416-8250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SECURES LANDMARK AGREEMENT PERMANENTLY SHUTTERING TWO OF THE NATION’S LARGEST IMMIGRATION SERVICES ORGANIZATIONS FOR DEFRAUDING IMMIGRANTS
Fraudulent Immigrant Services Organizations Will Be Dissolved, Provide Restitution For Victimized Immigrants
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement agreement shuttering two of the nation’s largest immigration services organizations, and their principal. The organizations and their principal defrauded immigrants with false promises of citizenship and residency, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, illegally charged exorbitant fees for services, and violated laws governing not-for-profit corporations. The agreement brings to a close a lawsuit that had been filed against the two New York City organizations , the International Immigrants Foundation, Inc. (“IIF”) and the International Professional Association, Inc. (“IPA”), both 501(c)(3) entities, and their President Edward Juarez.
In addition to shutting down both organizations, the settlement requires that all remaining assets of the entities, approximately $2 to $3 million, be used to provide restitution to immigrants who were defrauded or overcharged by the organizations, with any amount remaining going to organizations providing immigration legal services. IPA will shut down immediately. IIF will shut down over the next two years, and is prohibited from providing immigration legal services during that period. In addition, the agreement prohibits the organizations’ former President, Edward Juarez, from engaging in immigration legal services or serving as a fiduciary for any not-for-profit corporation in New York or any entity that solicits charitable contributions. The agreement is subject to final approval by the court.
“In shutting down organizations that defrauded thousands and obtaining restitution for the victims, justice has been done for many immigrant communities of the State of New York,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Organizations like IIF and IPA prey upon vulnerable individuals who seek a better life in this country, siphoning their hard earned money and sometimes destroying chances to regularize their legal status. My office is committed to eradicating fraudulent immigration services scams that prey on the hopes and dreams of immigrants in our State.”
The Attorney General’s Office will soon issue a statement providing information on the restitution process, and outline the process for submitting claims and supporting documentation for restitution.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit alleged that IIF and IPA misrepresented their ability and qualifications to provide immigration-related legal services, made false promises guaranteeing specific legal results, and illegally charged excessive fees for their services. In addition, the lawsuit alleged that the entities and Mr. Juarez violated various laws governing the operations of not-for-profit corporations by wasting the entities’ assets and engaging in self-dealing transactions. The Attorney General’s Office found that IIF lured immigrants to purchase “memberships” with the organization by promising members they would receive special privileges such as free or low cost legal fees. Individuals were required to pay a $100 registration fee plus $30 per month. Once members requested legal representation, however, they were directed to IPA, where they were generally required to pay at least several thousand dollars more to have immigration papers prepared and filed – often by non-attorneys who were unqualified to do such work.
The illegal actions of IIF and IPA caused disastrous – and sometimes irreversible – problems for New York’s immigrant families. In addition to paying substantial fees, clients were put at risk of permanent damage to their and their families’ status as a result of receiving incorrect immigration-related legal advice. IIF and IPA solicited victims through newspaper advertisements, articles, conferences, and television and radio shows, amassing thousands of clients for this scheme.
In one instance, an individual was eligible to obtain a Green Card, but lost his opportunity due to the organizations’ delay and negligence, despite paying more than $18,000 in fees and costs to them. Other clients were subject to deportation. Others paid thousands of dollars more than necessary for services.
New York State law prohibits a non-lawyer from practicing law, appearing as or purporting to be an attorney-at-law, or providing legal advice of any kind. Non-lawyers can only provide clerical services, such as translating or mailing documents, unless they have been accredited and their organization has been recognized by the federal Board of Immigration Appeals. IIF and IPA engaged in all such prohibited conduct. Further, by charging excessive fees for the services purportedly provided, IIF and IPA acted inconsistently with the charitable purpose for which they were formed, in violation of the New York State Not-For-Profit Corporation Law.
Angela Fernandez, Esq., Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said, “This settlement agreement sends the message loud and clear to fraudulent immigration services providers that the unauthorized practice of law will not be tolerated. The Attorney General’s ongoing effort to combat immigration fraud continues to protect immigrant communities throughout this State, and warns other would-be predators that the costs of such illegality will be high.”
To date, the Office of the Attorney General has conducted numerous investigations and filed several lawsuits against organizations that have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and defrauded immigrant communities, helping to shutter fraudulent businesses across the state.
The case against IIF, IPA, and Mr. Juarez is handled by Assistant Attorney General Anjana Samant and Chief Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Bureau, as well as Assistant Attorney General Steven Shiffman, Enforcement Section Chief David Nachman and Chief James Sheehan of the Charities Bureau. The Executive Deputy Attorney General of Social Justice is Alvin Bragg and the First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.
The Attorney General’s Office is committed to combating unlawful immigration service’s fraud carried out by organizations and individuals. If you have been a victim of immigration fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline at (212) 416-6149 or email email@example.com.
If you are in need of an attorney or BIA-accredited representative in an immigration matter, please contact either the New York State Bar Association at 1-800-342-3661 (www.nysba.org) or the American Immigration Lawyers Association at 202-507-7600 (www.aila.org) for a referral. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for low-cost or free immigration legal services.
WEEK IN THE NEWS
July 14 to July 18, 2014
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SETTLES WITH APPLE IN E-BOOK PRICE-FIXING CASE
Settlement With Apple Could Result In Payments To Consumers Of Up To $400 Million
Schneiderman: This Settlement Proves That Even The Biggest, Most Powerful Companies In The World Must Play By The Same Rules
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with Apple Inc. arising out of Apple’s participation in a price-fixing conspiracy that a federal court in New York found raised the prices of E-books sold to consumers in New York and throughout the country. The settlement agreement, which must be approved by the court, has the potential to result in payments to consumers of $400 million, and would resolve claims for consumer damages and civil penalties brought by New York and 32 other states and territories.
“This settlement proves that even the biggest, most powerful companies in the world must play by the same rules as everyone else,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “In a major victory, our settlement has the potential to result in Apple paying hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers to compensate them for paying unlawfully inflated E-book prices. We will continue to work with our colleagues in other states to ensure that all companies compete fairly with the knowledge that no one is above the law.”
Under the settlement, the amount that Apple must pay E-book consumers is contingent on what happens in Apple’s appeal of the court’s July 2013 finding that Apple violated antitrust laws by orchestrating a conspiracy with five publishers to artificially raise E-book prices. Consumers nationwide (including those represented by private counsel in a related class action) will receive $400 million if the Court’s ruling that Apple violated antitrust laws is ultimately affirmed. If the Court’s ruling is not affirmed, the settlement provides for a smaller recovery of $50 million if liability must be retried, or no recovery if Apple is determined not to have violated antitrust laws. New York consumers are expected to receive approximately 7 percent, or as much as $28 million, from any amount that Apple is ultimately required to pay. In the event that the Court’s decision is upheld on appeal, Apple will also make payments to the 33 states of $20 million to resolve the states’ claims for costs, fees, and civil penalties.
Any amount received by consumers pursuant to the settlement with Apple will be in addition to those amounts already recovered from several E-book publishers. E-book purchasers nationwide have already received compensation from $166 million in settlement funds paid by the five publishers involved in the conspiracy – Penguin Group (USA), Inc. (now part of Penguin Random House); Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC d/b/a Macmillan; Hachette Book Group Inc.; HarperCollins Publishers LLC, and Simon & Schuster Inc. Many E-Book consumers received these funds through automatic credits sent by Amazon and other E-book retailers.
The E-book antitrust cases involved lawsuits brought by the state attorneys general, a related action by the U.S. Department of Justice, and a related class action brought by private counsel representing consumers in 18 additional states. New York, together with Texas and Connecticut, played a leading role in the state AG cases during the damages phase of the litigation. Apple has also agreed to make a payment of attorneys’ fees to counsel in the class action in the event that there is a consumer recovery under the settlement.
For New York, this matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Bob Hubbard and Linda Gargiulo; Acting Antitrust Deputy Bureau Chief Geralyn Trujillo; Antitrust Bureau Chief Eric Stock, and Executive Deputy Attorney General Karla G. Sanchez.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN & ILLINOIS A.G. MADIGAN URGE FCC TO STRENGTHEN PROTECTIONS FOR NET NEUTRALITY
Net Neutrality Is Essential To Preserving The Benefits Of Competition And Innovation On The Web For All Americans
Schneiderman: We Are Standing Up For The New Makers, Thinkers And Entrepreneurs Who Seek To Better The Online Marketplace
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to strengthen rules to safeguard democracy on the Internet and preserve net neutrality. In comments submitted to the Commission and a letter to Chairman Tom Wheeler, Attorney General Schneiderman and Attorney General Madigan argue that the FCC must ensure the continued “dynamism of the Internet” by protecting its low barriers to entry and equal treatment for all content providers, which can be upheld only through the principles of an Open Internet, or net neutrality.
“Preserving one set of rules for everyone includes protecting the right of every business or organization seeking to access customers through the web to do so on a level playing field. It also includes ensuring that everyone has free and open access to the Internet and the essential services it provides,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “With our letter and comments to the FCC, we are standing up for the new makers, thinkers and entrepreneurs who seek to better the online marketplace, who must be allowed to continue to innovate on the same terms as established businesses.”
“The Internet was built upon a simple but powerful concept that ensured equal access to everyone,” Attorney General Madigan said. “That standard must be maintained to ensure that the Internet continues to be a driver of innovation and economic opportunity for businesses and an open marketplace for consumers.”
In their letter and comments, the attorneys general emphasized the role that net neutrality and non-discrimination principles play in furthering vigorous competition and innovation on the web. Currently, startups are able to provide new content to consumers at the same speed as established providers, a system that empowers consumers to access, on demand, any online application or service that they would like to use. However, the attorneys general noted that, without net neutrality, commercial interests would be permitted to outpace the best interests of the marketplace, with the broadband industry charging content providers for priority treatment, or access to an Internet “fast lane.”
“The Internet is the public square of the 21st Century, and the voices of the digital haves, who can afford to pay for preferential treatment, will drown out the digital have-nots,” the attorneys general wrote. “In effect, the Information Superhighway will become a toll road. Those who pay will rapidly reach their audiences, while newcomers, startups, and others with limited resources will be left behind.”
In the comments submitted to the FCC, the attorneys general encouraged the Commission to change its classification of broadband Internet access from an “information service” to a “telecommunications service.” This would enable the Commission to apply common carrier obligations to broadband providers. The attorneys general argued that such a move would protect net neutrality principles by obligating broadband providers to deliver traffic of all users “indifferently,” without depriving them of the ability to efficiently manage their network operations to accommodate “the different costs, functions, and burdens imposed by various users.”
The full text of today’s letter is below.
July 15, 2014
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20554
Dear Chairman Wheeler:
We have filed a Comment on Proceeding Number 14-28, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet, to strongly urge the Federal Communications Commission to strengthen rules to safeguard democracy on the Internet and preserve “net neutrality.” An Open Internet has been the foundation for unprecedented innovation and growth over the past two decades and the FCC must ensure this foundation is maintained.
Principles of openness and freedom have propelled the Internet from a tiny government research project into the world’s most important platform for innovation, commerce, and social change. It is the launching pad for new ideas, new industries, and new movements. But the dynamism of the Internet depends on its low barriers to entry. Unlike television and other broadcast media, reaching an Internet audience requires little more than a computer and a broadband connection. This is thanks in no small part to the non-discrimination principle that can only be upheld through net neutrality. The Internet we know today was built upon the notion that all content is created equal—whether provided by an independent blogger or by YouTube—and this content must receive equal treatment from broadband providers.
On today’s Internet, a startup business has the opportunity to reach its customers at the same speeds as Amazon. A new thinker can compete in the marketplace of ideas on the same terms as an established one. Consumers are ultimately in the driver’s seat, with individual users, not broadband providers, choosing the content they receive on demand. Under the existing rules, Internet service providers have advanced alongside content providers, with the dial-up service of yesterday yielding to the broadband access of today.
Any move away from net neutrality and from the non-discrimination principle would represent a serious blow to fair competition and innovation on the web. It would hand the keys to this vital platform over to narrow commercial interests, allowing the broadband industry to charge content providers for preferential treatment or “prioritization.” Content providers who agree to pay will receive access to a more reliable Internet “fast lane.” Meanwhile, broadband providers will have no incentive to upgrade or even maintain non-premium service. As they seek to convert more content providers into paying customers, the “slow lane” will only get slower.
In a world without net neutrality, new Internet ventures will not be able to compete with established companies who can shoulder the added costs to deliver content on demand—regardless of whether they offer a better product. Startups that depend on reliable access to their user base might never be funded, with investors deterred by the extra expense. The Internet is the public square of the 21st Century, and the voices of the digital haves, who can afford to pay for preferential treatment, will drown out the digital have-nots.
In effect, the Information Superhighway will become a toll road. Those who pay will rapidly reach their audiences, while newcomers, startups, and others with limited resources will be left behind.
Fortunately, this result is entirely avoidable. In your rulemaking, we urge you to strengthen provisions that protect net neutrality and to preserve the Internet as an open and vibrant platform for innovators, thinkers, and entrepreneurs.
Eric T. Schneiderman
STATEMENT BY A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON NY SUPREME COURT DECISION DISMISSING CHALLENGES TO STATE REVIEW OF HYDROFRACKING RISKS
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued the following statement on two decisions by New York State Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough dismissing two lawsuits seeking to force the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to terminate its ongoing review of the environmental impacts related to high-volume hydrofracking:
“The court’s decision to allow the state review of hydrofracking risks to continue is an important victory in our effort to ensure all New Yorkers have safe water to drink and a clean, healthy environment. New Yorkers are rightly concerned about studies showing the environmental risks associated with hydrofracking. We should not allow hydrofracking to begin in New York until the Department of Health completes its analysis of its impact on public health. Given the risks of contamination to wells and the aquifer that supplies drinking water to many New Yorkers, we need to make sure we can safeguard our water before we move forward.”
Last year, the trustee of the bankrupt gas development company Norse Energy and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York brought suit in New York State Supreme Court in Albany County against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York State Department of Health (DOH), and Governor Cuomo. Both suits asked the Court to compel the DEC to terminate its environmental review of hydrofracking.
Attorney General Schneiderman’s office represented the State defendants in the cases, asking the Court to dismiss the lawsuits. In his ruling, Supreme Court Justice McDonough dismissed the two suits in their entirety.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Morgan Costello and Stephen Nagle of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. The Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel Srolovic and Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Burianek.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH NATIONAL STAFFING COMPANY TO PROTECT WORKERS’ RIGHTS
Labor Ready Agrees To Implement A Nationwide Public Work Training Program For Its Job Placement Staff To Ensure That Eligible Workers Receive Prevailing Wages
Schneiderman: It Is Unacceptable That Labor Ready’s Job Placement Employees Are Unaware Of Basic Prevailing Wage Laws That Exist To Protect Workers
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Labor Ready, which operates offices, across New York and other states, that provide temporary-staffing services to a wide range of employers. The agreement requires Labor Ready to implement a nationwide program to train its job placement employees about laws that require payment of at least the “prevailing wage” rates to workers on public work projects, including construction or maintenance of public buildings. In addition, the agreement requires Labor Ready to pay $10,000 in restitution to two workers, and to pay $10,000 in penalties.
“Labor Ready is a large corporation that dispatches thousands of workers to a wide range of worksites across the country every year,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “It’s unacceptable that Labor Ready’s job placement employees would be unaware of basic prevailing wage laws that exist to protect workers on our most important public work projects, such as building schools, hospitals, and other public buildings.”
In summer 2012, Labor Ready’s Hempstead branch office dispatched two workers to a school construction site in Bellmore, Long Island without identifying the job as a public work project. Instead of paying the required prevailing wage rates, Labor Ready paid the workers $8 per hour. Federal and state prevailing wage laws seek to ensure that contractors on government projects pay wages and benefits that are comparable to the local norms for a given trade, typically well above the minimum wage.
In addition to the violations related to these two employees, the investigation by the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau revealed that not only were Labor Ready job placement employees at the Hempstead branch office inadequately trained about prevailing wage requirements, but also that Labor Ready overall lacked an effective system to ensure that its job placement staff could appropriately identify prevailing wage jobs. Labor Ready has previously been cited and/or investigated for violations of state and federal prevailing wage laws in, among other locations, Oregon, Missouri, and Illinois.
Under the Attorney General’s agreement, Labor Ready will implement a nationwide training program that will educate its job placement employees about public work legal requirements on at least an annual basis, and will send regular reports to the Attorney General regarding employee trainings. Labor Ready will also require employers seeking workers in New York State to certify that they will comply with the law, and will not work with employers who Labor Ready knows are subject to an unsatisfied court or agency decision concerning unpaid wages. Also, for prevailing wage jobs, Labor Ready will not place employees at any companies which are on publicly available debarment lists. In addition, Labor Ready must establish a system for remedying prevailing wage violations in a timely fashion, including through payment of back wages to affected workers, or face considerable fines.
“This settlement is simply groundbreaking in its scope and will help to ensure that workers across the country are protected from wage theft,” said James W. Versocki of Archer, Byington, Glennon & Levine, LLP, a labor law firm in Melville, N.Y. that represents construction trade unions and referred the case to the Attorney General’s office. “We are thankful that the Attorney General and the Labor Bureau saw the merit of this referral and turned a local problem into a national solution; this type of innovative approach to law enforcement is a model that should be emulated.”
In a joint statement, workers Lance and Lloyd Brown said, “Our family believes in hard work. But no matter how hard you work, it’s difficult to keep up with expenses and take proper care of our family, especially in these tough times. The fact that we got paid just a fraction of the salary of others who did exactly the same work is insulting and unfair. We are very grateful that Attorney General Schneiderman is taking on the tough fights to protect the wages we deserve for our hard work”.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Haeya Yim, Labor Bureau Section Chief Andrew Elmore, and Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $182 MILLION FOR NEW YORKERS AS PART OF $7 BILLION CITIGROUP SETTLEMENT
RMBS Task Force, Co-Chaired By Schneiderman, Produces Second-Largest Settlement Ever Levied Against A Financial Institution In United States
Schneiderman: “Today’s Settlement Is A Major Victory In The Fight To Hold Those Who Caused The Financial Crisis Accountable”
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined members of a state and federal working group he co-chairs to announce that $182 million – $92 million in cash, and at least $90 in consumer relief – would be allocated to New York State as part of a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup. As part of the settlement, Citigroup acknowledged it made serious misrepresentations to the public – including the investing public – arising out of the packaging, marketing, sale and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) by Citigroup. The resolution also requires Citigroup to provide relief to underwater homeowners, distressed borrowers, and affected communities through a variety of means including financing affordable rental housing developments for low-income families in high-cost areas.
The settlement requires Citi to pay $4.5 billion in hard dollars and provide $2.5 billion in consumer relief. New York State will receive at least $182 million: $92 million in cash and a minimum of $90 million in consumer relief for struggling New Yorkers. The settlement was negotiated through the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a joint state and federal working group formed in 2012 to share resources and continue investigating wrongdoing in the mortgage-backed securities market prior to the financial crisis. Attorney General Schneiderman co-chairs the RMBS working group.
“Since my first day in office, I have insisted that there must be accountability for the misconduct that led to the crash of the housing market and the collapse of the American economy,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This settlement will build upon our work bringing relief to homeowners around the country and across New York, and is exactly what our working group was created to do. Systemic frauds harmed thousands of New York homeowners and investors, and today’s result is a major victory in the fight to hold those who caused the financial crisis accountable.”
The settlement includes an agreed-upon statement of facts that describes how Citigroup made representations to RMBS investors about the quality of the mortgage loans it securitized and sold to investors. Contrary to those representations, Citigroup securitized and sold RMBS with underlying mortgage loans that it knew had material defects. As the statement of facts explains, on a number of occasions, Citigroup employees learned that significant percentages of the mortgage loans reviewed in due diligence had material defects. In one instance, a Citigroup trader stated in an internal email that he “went through the Diligence Reports and think[s] [they] should start praying . . . [he] would not be surprised if half of these loans went down. . . It’s amazing that some of these loans were closed at all.” Citigroup nevertheless securitized the loan pools containing defective loans and sold the resulting RMBS to investors for billions of dollars. This conduct, along with similar conduct by other banks that bundled defective and toxic loans into securities and misled investors who purchased those securities, contributed to the financial crisis.
Attorney General Schneiderman was elected in 2010 and took office in 2011, when the five largest mortgage servicing banks, all 50 state attorneys general, and the federal government were on the verge of agreeing to a settlement that would have immunized the banks – including Citigroup – from liability for virtually all misconduct related to the financial crisis. Attorney General Schneiderman refused to agree to such sweeping immunity for the banks. As a result, Attorney General Schneiderman secured a settlement that preserved a wide range of claims for further investigation and prosecution.
In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the formation of the RMBS Working Group. The collaboration brought together the Department of Justice (DOJ), other federal entities, and several state law enforcement officials – co-chaired by Attorney General Schneiderman – to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities. The negotiations for settlement, which were led by Associate Attorney General Tony West of DOJ, were part of the RMBS Working Group.
Under the settlement, Citi will be required to provide a minimum of $90 million in direct consumer relief to struggling consumers, which will include principal forgiveness on first and second mortgages, mortgage refinancing at lower interest rates and financial assistance for down payments and closing costs for first-time or returning home-buyers.
The settlement also includes a series of new mandates, which are intended to assist local governments with their community revitalization efforts. These include requirements for Citi to provide direct funding to support land banks and similar community development agencies working to revitalize distressed and underutilized housing, and a program that will create low-cost rental housing for low- and moderate-income families.
The settlement also requires Citi to provide direct funding to support legal services and housing counseling agencies that provide no cost representation to struggling homeowners. In New York, Attorney General Schneiderman has made significant investments in these services under his Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP). Attorney General Schneiderman’s program funds roughly 90 organizations across the state under the HOPP program, and they have served a combined total of nearly 30,000 families since the program launched in October of 2012.
As a result, families in New York have reaped significant benefits from previous Agreements like the National Mortgage Settlement. Where as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) initially estimated that New York homeowners would receive approximately $600 million in benefits under that settlement, thanks in large measure to the HOPP network and its proactive representation of homeowners, families in New York ultimately received more than $2 billion in mortgage benefits.
Compliance with the settlement will be overseen by a federal monitor who will be responsible for ensuring that targets under the settlement are met and that quarterly reporting requirements which will measure how relief is being allocated at a Census Tract level are made available to the public.
WEEK IN THE NEWS
July 7 to July 11, 2014
STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement today regarding the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
“Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act, one of the most significant milestones in our nation’s ongoing effort to ensure equal justice under the law and one set of rules for all Americans. Passed in the face of fierce opposition, the act was a monumental victory for civil rights activists in their fight to eradicate Jim Crow laws — which had long perpetuated widespread discrimination based on race. For fifty years, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has protected New Yorkers from institutionalized inequality. It establishes the right to fair treatment in employment, in housing, in education and in accessing places of public accommodation and transportation.
“While we have made great progress, we also know that the struggle to end discrimination on the basis of race is not yet won — and that the strong medicine provided by the Civil Rights Act remains as crucial to the protection of equal justice today as it was then. My office is committed to ensuring equal justice for all New Yorkers by enforcing one set of rules for everyone. We will continue to use the Civil Rights Act as a tool to combat discrimination and ensure equal access for all New Yorkers in housing, education, employment and public accommodations.”
The Civil Rights Bureau Chief is Kristen Clarke. The Bureau is part of the Social Justice Division, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $25 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH NATIONAL VETERANS CHARITY AND ITS DIRECT MAIL FUNDRAISERS
Agreement Provides $10 Million To Support Medical Research For Disabled Veterans; Disabled Veterans National Foundation To End Misleading Fundraising Appeals And Reorganize Board; Direct Mail Vendors Required To Reform Business Practices
Schneiderman: Charities, Direct Mail Companies Must Not Mislead Donors In The Name Of Our Brave Veterans
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has secured a $24.6 million settlement of his Charities Bureau’s investigation into direct mail fundraising abuses at what has become one of the country’s largest veterans’ charities, the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF). The abuses, the investigation found – including misleading solicitations and failure to disclose conflicts of interest –were perpetrated by DVNF’s two outside, for-profit direct mail vendors, Quadriga Art and Convergence Direct Marketing.
Under the settlement, Quadriga, which produced and sent out the mailings and played the dominant role in running DVNF’s fundraising efforts, will pay $9.7 million in damages, and Convergence, which designed the solicitations and provided other advice, will pay $300,000 in damages. This $10 million will go to help support and improve the lives of disabled American veterans. In addition, Quadriga will forgive $13.8 million in debt that DVNF owes to Quadriga, and adopt a number of significant reforms to improve transparency and set a higher ethical bar for the direct mail charitable solicitations industry. Quadriga will pay an additional $800,000 to the State of New York for costs and fees.
“This investigation sheds light on some of the most troublesome features of direct mail charitable fundraising as it is practiced in the United States today,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Taking advantage of a popular cause and what was an unsophisticated start-up charity, these direct mail companies used cleverly designed but misleading mailers to raise tens of millions of dollars in donations from generous Americans, nearly all of which went to the fundraisers and their agents, and left the charity nearly $14 million in debt. Charities and their fundraisers that rely on direct mail campaigns can and must do better — and this settlement is an important milestone on the path forward.”
The settlement with Quadriga and Convergence is believed to represent the largest amount of financial relief ever obtained in the U.S. for deceptive charitable fundraising. In addition to forgiving DVNF’s current debt of approximately $13.8 million, these for-profit direct mail companies will pay $10 million to assist the disabled vets who were supposed to have been helped by the DVNF’s nationwide appeals. Those funds will be used to support federally conducted research into technological advancements, new treatments, and innovative rehabilitation and service-delivery practices designed to improve the lives of disabled veterans. For example, $1 million of the funds will be directed to support cutting-edge spinal cord research at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx; $1,250,000 will go to support research on mental health issues; and $750,000 will be directed to support research into medical issues confronting disabled women veterans.
DVNF, the Louisiana-incorporated, Washington, D.C.-based charity in whose name millions of misleading mailings were sent to the public, was founded in late 2007 by a board with no direct mail fundraising experience. The charity is required by the settlement to reorganize its board, including replacing all of its founding directors; appoint a committee to re-examine its business model; terminate Quadriga and Convergence as fundraising advisers, and discontinue in all of its nationwide fundraising appeals the use of certain messaging, such as fictional stories of wounded veterans supposedly helped by the charity, that the New York Attorney General’s Office found to be misleading to the donating public.
Through the end of 2013, DVNF had raised over $116 million in charitable donations from members of the public who generously responded to the mailings and product inserts that Quadriga and Convergence designed, manufactured and shipped. Many of those mailings were false and misleading, the investigation found. Some highlighted a moving story about a wounded veteran who was never helped by DVNF; others falsely claimed that DVNF had a robust “network” of veterans’ advocates and benefit coordinators throughout the country; and still others claimed that for every dollar donated, the DVNF would be able to deliver $10 in goods and services to disabled veterans, when in reality over 90 cents of every dollar went to cover DVNF’s direct mail costs. Indeed, despite having already paid its fundraisers over $104 million, DVNF still owed them another $13.8 million.
DVNF was founded in November 2007 by the board of the National Association of State Women’s Veterans Coordinators, another Louisiana not-for-profit corporation. From the beginning, the investigation found, DVNF failed to maintain adequate independence from its principal fundraiser, Quadriga. Quadriga’s lawyers got the charity up and running and drafted the fundraising counsel agreement that DVNF signed with Brick Mill Studios, a Quadriga affiliate; Quadriga selected DVNF’s auditor; Quadriga’s agent, Larry Rivers, a veteran with deep ties to the DVNF board, served as a highly influential “unpaid financial consultant” to that board, even while earning over $2.3 million in undisclosed commissions from Quadriga on the business that the fundraiser did with DVNF; and, when the media asked probing questions about these relationships, it was Quadriga that managed DVNF’s public relations response.
The Attorney General’s investigation determined that Quadriga took advantage of the DVNF board’s lack of fundraising experience to sign the charity up for a “funded model” direct mail solicitation campaign far larger in scale than the DVNF board ever imagined. Under the “funded model” arrangement, the fundraiser assumes the up-front printing, packaging and mailing costs of the direct mail campaign, and is paid only out of the revenues brought in by the campaign. In exchange, the fundraiser obtains effective control over the charity’s donated revenues, as well as a lien on the charity’s donor list. In this case, the investigation found, DVNF was not adequately informed, and did not ask, about many critical elements of such a campaign, including its projected revenues and costs, the projected break-even point for the charity, the price of particular items used in the campaign or potential conflicts of interest. Here, there were multiple conflicts of interest, including among the Quadriga affiliates, between Convergence and Quadriga, and between Larry Rivers, Quadriga’s commissioned sales agent, and DVNF, where Rivers served as a consultant and which then hired his daughter as chief administrative officer.
Since its founding, DVNF’s principal program activity has been its “gift-in-kind” program. Under this program, DVNF paid a third-party vendor, Charity Services International (CSI) of South Carolina, to obtain donated goods from corporate or institutional donors, document the supposed value and transfer of title to the donated goods and transport the goods to recipients such as veterans’ homeless shelters and “stand-downs” (sites where goods are distributed to needy veterans and their families). The investigation found that DVNF’s board provided minimal oversight of its “gift-in-kind” program, failing in many cases to ensure that the donated goods were being directed to disabled veterans, as the fundraising appeals suggested, or had any useful purpose at all. The investigation also showed that, without telling its charity client, Convergence received commissions from CSI linked to the amount of goods that DVNF obtained from CSI.
Under the settlement agreement, DVNF has terminated its relationship with CSI and will establish a board-level gift-in-kind committee to re-evaluate this program and, if it is continued, improve its administration.
The settlement affords DVNF, which hired a new executive director while the investigation was ongoing, the opportunity to make a fresh start: It is relieved of its enormous debt burden; all of its original board members must step down by the end of 2014; at least five new qualified directors must be added to its board; and, in addition to the gift-in-kind committee, the board must establish a new, independent audit committee. Furthermore, after a transition period winding down its existing direct mail campaign, DVNF is prohibited, for three years, from using Quadriga or Convergence to design or manage its charitable fundraising appeals, and it must permanently cease and desist using the fundraising claims the Attorney General’s office found to be false and misleading.
Attorney General Schneiderman’s settlement also requires Quadriga and Convergence to adopt a comprehensive set of reforms that will serve as important rules of conduct for the charitable fundraising industry going forward. Among other things, the reforms agreed to by Quadriga and Convergence require full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest, prohibit dealings with a start-up charity that does not have independent counsel, and require the direct mail vendors to exercise due diligence concerning the factual accuracy of the fundraising appeals they send out in a charity’s name. To ensure that its “funded model” charity clients fully understand the scope and costs of their fundraising campaigns, Quadriga is also required to provide these clients with a complete written description of the elements of the proposed campaign, the costs and rate structure associated with each such element, and the annual and total costs and revenues the campaign is projected to generate.
The parties to the settlement have neither admitted nor denied the Attorney General’s findings. A copy of the settlement is available here.
The investigation was conducted by Assistant Attorneys General Michael Torrisi and Elizabeth Fitzwater of the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau and Senior Enforcement Counsel David Nachman of the Executive Division, together with Research Analyst Liam Arbetman. The Charities Bureau is led by Bureau Chief James Sheehan. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN OP-ED: CRACK DOWN ON WORKPLACE RETALIATION
ON WORKPLACE RETALIATION AT A NEW YORK MCDONALD’S: Imagine you work in a restaurant kitchen. You detect a gas leak and report it to your supervisor, who does nothing. When you call 911, the fire department finds the gas leak and closes the place for the night. And instead of a raise or praise for potentially saving lives, you get … fired. This is what happened in an upstate New York McDonald’s last year.
ON WHAT RETALIATION MEANS FOR WORKPLACES: The case demonstrates many aspects of today’s workplaces: the absence of job protections for low-wage workers, the capriciousness with which an employee’s livelihood can be whisked away, the importance of a strong labor movement, and the critical role for protective statutes and muscular labor law enforcement. But the case also exemplifies something fundamental that is missing from the current debate about today’s workplace: the extent to which labor rights affect more than just employees. Workers’ ability to speak out without fear of retaliation creates a safer society for everyone.
ON WHAT WORKERS’ RIGHTS MEAN FOR PUBLIC SAFETY: Workers’ rights and public safety are inextricably intertwined. When workers cannot speak up, the potential consequences are dire: tainted food, unsafe water, harm to the environment, hazardous roads, gas leaks that are ignored.
ON PROTECTIONS FOR WORKERS: State and federal laws do provide some protection for workers who report violations and unsafe conditions. In the case of the McDonald’s worker who reported the gas leak, our office got involved. Because the employee did not want to be reinstated, we obtained a year and half of “front pay” in lieu of reinstatement for him; as a part-time minimum-wage worker, even a year and a half of front pay totaled just $10,000.
ON CHANGING THE PUBLIC DEBATE: Laws prohibiting retaliation could certainly be strengthened. But the public debate needs to be changed as well. Workers are not just another interest group whose rights are somehow distinct from the well-being of society as a whole. We are all substantially healthier — both figuratively and literally — when workers have a voice.
The full op-ed by Attorney General Schneiderman can be read here.
STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON MOVE TO PROHIBIT BURNING OF COAL AT DANSKAMMER POWER PLANT IN HUDSON VALLEY
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today hailed a decision by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to prohibit the burning of coal at the Danskammer Generating Facility, located in the Town of Newburgh. The half-century-old power plant has been dormant for two years, and plans are in the works to reopen the facility. With the DEC’s decision to prohibit the burning of coal, the facility will instead use natural gas. Oil will be used as a backup energy source.
Attorney General Schneiderman issued the following statement on the DEC’s decision:
“The decision by the Department of Environmental Conservation to prohibit the future use of coal at the Danskammer facility is a major victory for every New Yorker who shares my commitment to fighting for clean air. The burning of coal poses a real threat to public health, contributes directly to climate change and creates coal ash waste containing toxins. I’m pleased the DEC recognized these concerns and issued a decision that will benefit all New Yorkers.”
STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON INDEPENDENCE DAY
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today released the following statement in honor of Independence Day:
“Today we join together to commemorate the tireless hope and wisdom of those individuals who gave rise to this great nation. Our nation was built on the fundamentally American value that there should be one set of rules for everyone, no matter how rich or powerful. Our task as a nation has been to make that vision closer to reality, and I am committed to using every tool in my office’s disposal to fight for equality for every New Yorker.
“Today we also honor the men and woman who have risked everything and continue to sacrifice for our freedom and safety. Let us celebrate our past achievements and recommit to improving our country with each generation, in pursuit of greater justice and equality.
“I wish every New Yorker, and all Americans, a memorable and joyous 4th of July.”
WEEK IN THE NEWS
June 23 to June 27, 2014
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES FRAUD CHARGES AGAINST BARCLAYS IN CONNECTION WITH MARKETING AND OPERATION OF ITS DARK POOL
Investigation Into Barclays’ Dark Pool And Electronic Trading Business Uncovered An Alleged Pattern Of Fraud And Deceit, Misrepresentations to Investors
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced a lawsuit against the international bank Barclays, arising from the operation of Barclays’ dark pool and other aspects of its electronic trading division. The complaint alleges Barclays has dramatically increased the market share of its dark pool through a series of false statements to clients and investors about how, and for whose benefit, Barclays operates its dark pool. Contrary to Barclays’ representations that it has implemented special safeguards to protect clients from “aggressive” or predatory high-frequency traders, Barclays is accused of operating its dark pool to favor high-frequency traders.
“The facts alleged in our complaint show that Barclays demonstrated a disturbing disregard for its investors in a systematic pattern of fraud and deceit,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Barclays grew its dark pool by telling investors they were diving into safe waters. According to the lawsuit, Barclays’ dark pool was full of predators – there at Barclays’ invitation.”
The complaint alleges that Barclays falsified marketing material purporting to show the extent and type of high frequency trading in its dark pool. For example, Barclays removed from a marketing document intended for institutional investors the dark pool’s then-largest participant – a high frequency trading firm Barclays knew engaged in predatory behavior in the dark pool. In response, one employee stated: “I had always liked the idea that we were being transparent, but happy to take liberties if we can all agree.”
Barclays heavily promoted a service called Liquidity Profiling, which Barclays claimed was a “surveillance” system that tracked every trade in Barclays’ dark pool in order to identify predatory traders, rate them based on the objective characteristics of their trading behavior, and hold them accountable for engaging in predatory practices.
Contrary to those promises, the complaint alleges that:
- Barclays has never prohibited any trader from participating in its dark pool, regardless of how predatory its activity was determined to be;
- Barclays did not regularly update the ratings of high-frequency trading firms monitored by Liquidity Profiling;
- Barclays “overrode” certain Liquidity Profiling ratings – including for some of its own internal trading desks that engaged in high-frequency trading – by assigning safe ratings to traders that were otherwise determined to be toxic.
The complaint further alleges that, contrary to Barclays’ representations that it protects clients from aggressive or predatory high-frequency trading in its dark pool, Barclays in fact operates its dark pool to favor high-frequency traders and has actively sought to attract them by giving them systematic advantages over others trading in the pool. As alleged in the complaint, this included:
- Falsely underrepresenting the concentration of aggressive high-frequency trading in its dark pool;
- Misrepresenting its “Liquidity Profiling” service – which Barclays claimed protected investors from predatory behavior – by failing to provide many of the benefits marketed with the service; and
- Claiming that Barclays does not favor its own dark pool when routing client orders to trading venues, while in fact doing just that. As alleged in our Ccomplaint, Barclays falsified an analysis of how it routed a major client’s orders.
Today’s complaint results from Attorney General Schneiderman’s Insider Trading 2.0 initiative and an intensive investigation into Barclays’ practices. The investigation was aided significantly by a number of former Barclays’ employees, who observed much of the conduct described in the complaint. These witnesses helped advance the investigation by providing meaningful information and testimony.
“No regulator – no matter how broad their authority – can succeed on its own,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I want to personally thank those that have courageously reported wrongdoing to our office and encourage others to do the same.”
Attorney General Schneiderman launched his Insider Trading 2.0 initiative over one year ago, and began examining the multitude of special relationships and early access to market-moving information that are far too prevalent in today’s electronic markets. Since that time, Attorney General Schneiderman has cracked down on early peeks at market-moving data on consumer and analyst sentiments, and he has worked to end the distribution of corporate earnings releases directly to high-frequency traders ahead of the investing public.
The Barclays investigation and litigation is led by Chad Johnson, Chief of the Investor Protection Bureau; Nicholas Suplina, Senior Advisor and Special Counsel; and Assistant Attorneys General John Castiglione, Jordan Salberg, and Rebecca Reilly. Karla G. Sanchez is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN RELEASES CONSUMER ALERT ON FIVE COMMON PHONE SCAMS TARGETING SENIOR CITIZENS
A.G. Offers Tips To Seniors As Scams Spike During Summer Months
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued a consumer alert on five common telephone scams targeting senior citizens. These common scams, identified by complaints and other evidence collected by the Attorney General’s Office, typically spike during the summer months. In a move to raise awareness about these scams and to help keep seniors safe, Attorney General Schneiderman is also participating in a Tele-Town Hall on elder abuse being hosted by AARP.
“My office will use every legal tool at our disposal to protect senior citizens and hold scammers accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “To prevent senior citizens from becoming victims of fraud and abuse, we must empower them with information they can use to protect themselves.”
“Identity theft and other forms of fraud rank high among the concerns of the 50+ in New York, threatening to rob them of their life savings and destroy their fragile kitchen table economies,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State. “AARP established a Fraud Watch Network, which provides free of charge to Americans of all ages information to help them protect themselves and their families while also offering assistance to victims.”
“It’s estimated that fraud cost older Americans $2.9 billion in 2011 alone, and as society ages and people live longer this problem threatens to get worse,” said Finkel. “So we’re delighted that Attorney General Schneiderman will be joining thousands of our members across New York during our Tele-Town Hall today to discuss what they can do to avoid fraud and what his office can do to help them if they need it.”
Common Telephone Scams Targeting Seniors:
Grandparent Scam – Typically, this scam comes in the form of an urgent phone call. The caller claims to be “your favorite grandson” or just says “it’s me”… prompting the grandparent to supply the needed name. While the emergencies vary, the scenario is usually this: tThe “grandson” is out of town and needs money fast — to make bail, or to pay for automobile repairs or medical expenses. The caller begs the grandparent not to tell his parents, just wire the money immediately. Scammers know that parents and grandparents fear a call that tells them their loved one is in trouble. Each year, thousands of Americans get caught in the Grandparent Scam. Increasingly, scammers use actual relatives’ names and information gleaned from social media and other internet sites.
Jury Duty Scam – The caller will claim to be an officer of the court and say there’s a warrant for the arrest of the victim for failing to report for jury duty. The scammer will also claim that there is a fine for failing to show up for jury duty, and that unless the fine is paid immediately, the police will be sent to the victim’s home to make an arrest. The scammer will request that the “Jury Duty Warrant” be paid with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram. The scam has been around for years and surfaces periodically in New York. In one recent case, the calls were traced to a Georgia prison.
Lottery Scam – The caller says you’ve won a foreign lottery and requests that you, as the “winner,” send a check or to wire money to cover taxes and fees. Legitimate contests never ask for money upfront. The caller may request your banking information in order to electronically direct deposit your winnings. This is an attempt to steal your identity and will wipe out your bank account.
The callers often use a name that sounds like a government agency or official-sounding authority. The name can be invented, like the “National Sweepstakes Bureau,” or “The National Consumer Protection Agency.” Sometimes they will use an actual name of a government agency, like the Federal Trade Commission. The scammers claim that the government “oversees” the integrity of foreign lotteries. This is a scam.
IRS Scam – The caller will claim to be an agent or police officer from the Internal Revenue Service calling about a past due tax balance that is owed. The caller will tell the victim that unless the debt is paid immediately, a team of officers will come to the victim’s home that day to arrest the victim. The scammer will also request that the “IRS Tax Warrant” be paid with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram. These scammers often use caller ID spoofing so that the victim’s caller ID box says “Internal Revenue Service” or displays the phone number of the Internal Revenue Service.
Utility Scam – The caller claims to be a representative of a local utility provider. In some cases, the scammer has the victim’s correct account number. The scammer will then advise the resident that the utility bill is past due and must be paid immediately to avoid termination of service. The scammer will also request that the delinquent bill be paid with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram. Suspects committing this scam have often obtained personal information via the internet, Facebook, Instagram or other social media.
Tips For Seniors to Avoid Falling Victim:
Think Of The Telephone As A “One Way Street”
It’s okay to give out information over the phone if you made the call to a number you know and trust (such as your own bank). However, never give out personal information when you receive an unsolicited call. If you receive a call soliciting personal information, just hang up the phone, no matter what the caller ID says. If the caller says he’s from your bank and is checking on possible unauthorized withdrawals from your account, hang up the phone and then call your bank. If it was your bank that was trying to call, then it will be happy to confirm the call and will often provide requests to you in writing. If your bank says it wasn’t trying to reach you, that means the caller you hung up on was a scammer.
Beware If A Caller Ask To Keep A Conversation A Secret
A legitimate caller will never request that a conversation remain a secret, and you should immediately be suspicious. Whether the caller claims to be from the government, a bank, or a family member, requests for confidentiality should raise a red flag.
Just Say No!
You don’t have to be polite when you receive unsolicited phone calls. The safest thing to do is to say “no” and hang up. Legitimate callers will typically also provide requests in writing. It is better to be guarded than to fall victim.
Remember the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Be wary of any offers or deals that sound too good to be true, as they likely are too good to be true.
Attorney General Schneiderman reminds New Yorkers that in addition to being vigilant consumers, they should also report instances of fraud to his office.
STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON SUPREME COURT’S RULING ON MASSACHUSETTS LAW CREATING A PROTECTIVE BUFFER ZONE AROUND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH FACILITIES
NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley:
“While we are pleased that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that states may protect their strong interest in ensuring that citizens have full and safe access to necessary reproductive health care services, we are disappointed that the Court rejected the particular approach adopted by Massachusetts. New York’s clinic protection laws are not implicated by today’s decision, but my office remains committed to supporting the ability of a state to provide other kinds of protection as required by its own experience.”
Massachusetts’s Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act creates a protective buffer zone within 35 feet of the entrances of designated reproductive health facilities. In today’s decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Massachusetts Act serves a significant governmental interest in a content neutral way, but burdens more speech than is necessary to achieve the Act’s purposes.
Attorney General Schneiderman led a coalition of thirteen states and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case. The brief argued that states require latitude to craft appropriate responses to the unique factual circumstances their citizens face, and that the Massachusetts law was a reasonable restriction on the time, place and manner of speech. In addition to New York, the states joining in the filing with the Supreme Court were California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
New York’s amicus brief was prepared by New York Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood, Deputy Solicitor General Andrea Oser and Assistant Solicitor General Zainab A. Chaudhry, with assistance from the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau.
A copy of today’s brief can be viewed here.
A.G. SCHNEIDMERMAN ANNOUNCES NATIONAL SETTLEMENT WITH HARD-TACTIC TELEMARKETERS THAT RETURNS $16 MILLION TO CONSUMERS
Twenty-Six New Yorkers And Consumers Nationwide To Receive Restitution; Company Took Millions From Entrepreneurs Seeking Help Launching Small Internet-Based Businesses
Schneiderman: Hard-Sell Telemarketing Tactics Are Often Illegal
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office, along with the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General of Florida, have reached a $15.6 million settlement with The Tax Club, Inc., which operated out of the Empire State Building, related to deceptive business practices and false advertising seen in telemarketing schemes that targeted consumers operating internet-based businesses. The settlement agreement, entered in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this month, prohibits future misconduct. The settlement money will be returned to consumers across the country as restitution, including to 26 New Yorkers.
“As a result of this settlement, former Tax Club executives will be giving up a substantial chunk of their personal assets,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Before turning over your hard-earned money to telemarketers, it’s important to make sure they have a reputation for delivering what they promise.”
Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “Before you put money into a work-at-home business opportunity, ask questions to determine if it is legitimate. We encourage consumers to read our consumer information to learn how to recognize schemes that promise more than they deliver.”
Information about telemarketing fraud and tips to avoid becoming a victim can be found here.
The investigation into The Tax Club, which also does business as Success Merchant Services, Corporate Tax Network, and Corporate Credit, adversely affected consumers nationwide, including senior citizens. New Yorkers targeted by the company filed complaints with Attorney General Schneiderman’s office beginning in 2010 and continue to come in. The victims lived across the state, including in Binghamton, New York City and on Long Island; and in Cattarangus, Erie, Monroe, Onondaga, Orange, Putnam, Renssealer, Rockland, St. Lawrence and Westchester counties.
The operators of The Tax Club’s telemarketing schemes took millions of dollars from consumers by allegedly misleading them into believing that its purported services would help consumers’ home-based businesses succeed. According to a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court in January 2013 by Attorney General Schneiderman, the FTC and the Florida Attorneys General, The Tax Club, which purchased lists of small business owners from companies that offered internet-based business opportunities, called consumers and falsely claimed to be affiliated with companies that they had already bought services or products from. The lawsuit alleged that the telemarketers pitched business development services, including business coaching services, corporate formation services, and credit development services.
The suit further charged that, after an initial hard-tactic sale, the telemarketing companies called consumers repeatedly to sell other services they claimed were “essential,” typically for several thousand dollars per service. The schemes charged a large initial fee, between approximately $1,000 to $3,000, with a restrictive refund policy and recurring monthly “membership” payments of at least $19.99 a month. Many of the services offered were actually unnecessary—and were never provided.
Under the settlement, the defendants are banned from selling business coaching services and work-at-home opportunities, subject to certain exemptions. They are permanently prohibited from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, selling or otherwise benefitting from consumers’ personal information and violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which established the federal Do Not Call Registry and which prohibits abusive and deceptive telemarketing acts. They must also clearly disclose the seller’s identity, that the purpose of a call is to sell a good or service, and the nature of the good or service.
The settlement includes judgments against three of the former company’s executives. The order against Edward B. Johnson, the company founder, bans him from selling credit development, business planning, and merchant account processing services. He is personally required to pay $2.6 million. The assets to be turned over include bank and brokerage accounts, and proceeds from the sale of real and personal property. Brendon A. Pack, the former director of marketing at The Tax Club, and Michael M. Savage, the former president of The Tax Club, are required to jointly pay $13 million. They are banned from selling business coaching services, credit development services and work-at-home opportunities and are prohibited from calling consumers unless they have express written consent from a consumer to receive calls, or they are fulfilling or providing services previously purchased by the consumer.
In New York, Investigators Robin Womack and Mike Ward assisted with this investigation. The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Judy S. Prosper, Guy H. Mitchell, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Harlem Regional Office, and Jane Azia, Bureau Chief of the Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds Bureau. Marty Mack is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices. Karla G. Sanchez is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES LAWSUIT AGAINST CONTINUUM HEALTH PARTNERS, BETH ISRAEL MEDICAL CENTER AND ST. LUKE’S-ROOSEVELT
Lawsuit Alleges False Claims Act Violations Against Continuum Health Partners, Beth Israel Medical Center And St. Luke’s Roosevelt
Schneiderman: Those Who Fail To Return Funding That Isn’t Rightfully Theirs Will Be Held Accountable
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has filed a lawsuit alleging that Continuum Health Partners, Inc., Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, headquartered in New York, failed to return money to the New York State Medicaid Program that they knew they had no right to have received.
“This lawsuit sends the message that those who violate the New York State False Claims Act and fail to return funding that isn’t rightfully theirs will be held accountable,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. “My office will continue working diligently on all fronts to protect the integrity of the Medicaid Program.”
The complaint in intervention alleges that between 2009 and 2010 Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, submitted improper claims to Medicaid for services rendered to Healthfirst enrollees as a result of a computer error. In 2010, the New York State Comptroller’s office informed Continuum (which at the time of the conduct operated Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt) that it had identified a handful of improper claims stemming from the computer problem. After learning of this from the Comptroller’s Office, Continuum conducted an internal investigation.
The complaint also alleges that in February of 2011, Continuum identified over 900 potentially improper claims to Medicaid, totaling approximately $1,000,000. It also alleges that nonetheless, Continuum failed to take steps to repay all of the affected claims within 60 days after these claims had been identified, and that Continuum proceeded to repay only small batches of affected claims, some of which were brought to its attention by the Comptroller, over the next two-plus years. Final repayments were not made until March 2013, and repayments were made for more than 300 of the claims only after the United States, through the United States Attorneys’ Office for the Southern District of New York, issued a Civil Investigative Demand to Continuum concerning these payments in June 2012.
The complaint against Continuum, Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt was filed under the New York False Claims Act and other statutes in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the United States Attorneys’ Office for the Southern District of New York coordinated on the investigation. The New York investigation was conducted by Special Auditor-Investigator Elliot Hirshon and Special Auditor Investigator Deowattie Persaud.
The matter is being handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Jacob M. Bergman of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, led by Acting Director Amy Held, and Executive Deputy Attorney General of the Division of Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES ARREST AND INDICTMENT OF ALLEGED SERIAL FRAUDSTER
Court Papers Charge That Victims Paid Cash For A Wide Variety Of Services That Were Never Delivered
Schneiderman: Those Who Defraud New Yorkers Will Face Justice
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and indictment of Sonia Vertucci, for operating a long-running scheme to steal from Queens residents. As alleged in the indictment, Vertucci falsely promised a wide range of services to her predominantly immigrant clients and collected more than $38,000 in upfront cash payments, but never delivered any services or refunded any money.
“Scam artists who prey on immigrants, or other hardworking New Yorkers, with false promises will not be tolerated in our state,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “No matter how elaborate their schemes, those who defraud New Yorkers will face justice.”
The indictment, filed in Supreme Court in Queens County, charges Vertucci, age 42 of New Rochelle, with two counts of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class “E” felony), three counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class “D” felony), two counts of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (a class “E” felony) and four counts of Petit Larceny (a misdemeanor). If convicted, Vertucci faces up to 7 years or more in prison.
The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that between 2012 and 2013, Vertucci operated an elaborate scheme to defraud New Yorkers, allegedly promising a wide variety of services she could not, and did not deliver. She promised immigrants Social Security cards and help obtaining legal residency status. She promised truck drivers she would clear up tickets and license suspensions to allow them to get back to work. In each case she demanded money up front, usually in cash, and then did nothing. Her alleged fraud cost victims more than $38,000.
Vertucci went to great lengths to cloak her scam with an appearance of legitimacy. The investigation revealed that she rented retail storefronts on busy avenues, with awnings and signs advertising “Express DMV Services,” “Mailbox Rentals,” “Auto Insurance,” “Immigration,” and other services. The stores had plausible sounding names, such as “Multi-Service Center” and “Tristate Business Center,” and were populated with administrative staff. Customers were falsely told that Vertucci had lawyers on call to assist her, and were given official-looking receipts for payment. In reality, Vertucci had no businesses on file with the New York Department of State. She obtained leases for her commercial spaces by passing bad checks, and vacated – with victims’ money – just before being evicted. She then set up a new store and defrauded new victims.
Vertucci most recently moved from Queens to New Rochelle. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of Vertucci is urged to call the Attorney General’s immigration fraud hotline at 1-866-390-2992.
This investigation was initiated by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau. The Attorney General thanks the New York State Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for their cooperation on this case. The investigation was handled by Investigator Sixto Santiago, Senior Investigator Luis Carter, Deputy Chief Investigator Vito Spano, and Chief Dominick Zarrella of the Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau.
This case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Brian McDonald and Senior Analyst Jacqui Brown in the Attorney General’s Criminal Division, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. Essential assistance has been provided by Assistant Attorney General Dariely Rodriguez, Special Counsel Jessica Attie, Legal Assistant Shamika Rosario, and Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Civil Rights Bureau is part of the Social Justice Division, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.
The charges are accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES PROGRAM TO HELP HOMEOWNERS AVOID FORECLOSURE
New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (NYS MAP) Will Provide Loans To Families Struggling To Avoid Foreclosure
Program Will Bridge Struggling Homeowners To Affordable Mortgage Modifications
HEMPSTEAD — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the launch of the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program, or NYS MAP, which will provide small loans to families struggling to avoid foreclosure. The loans will assist families in securing mortgage modifications and result in more families staying in their homes. The program is an enhancement to the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) which provides struggling borrowers with free legal and housing counseling services, and has served more than 28,000 homeowners across the state since the launch of the program in October of 2012. Today’s announcement will be detailed at a Nassau County Town Hall in Hempstead and will outline the terms of the program including the decision to roll out NYS MAP in Long Island first; recognizing that the region has been particularly devastated by the foreclosure crisis. Applications from Long Island families will begin being processed on September 15. Borrowers in the rest of the state can apply beginning October 15.
“For many families across New York State, receiving a small loan through this program will mean the difference between a mortgage modification and the loss of a home. It’s hard to imagine a better investment in communities and families still feeling the effects of the housing crisis,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We know that our Homeowner Protection Program has had real results, helping thousands of families keep their homes. I’m pleased to announce that the Mortgage Assistance Program will go even further, providing a lifeline to families still in need.”
In the course of its work mitigating the damaging effects of the housing crisis in New York State, Attorney General Schneiderman’s office discovered that many families are being denied mortgage modifications as a result of small outstanding debts. Even families with reliable income streams are denied modifications due to things like a series of missed mortgage payments, delinquent second or third mortgage liens, or unpaid property tax bills which need to be satisfied before a first mortgage holder will grant a modification. By filling the gap for families, the NYS MAP program will empower consumers to negotiate with their mortgage holders and ultimately remain in their homes.
Eligible loan uses will include, but not be limited to, paying off arrears including mortgage payments or unpaid interests and fees; paying down second or third mortgages; satisfying property tax liens or other liens that might lead to loss of homeownership; and supplying borrowers with a “matching” fund to achieve principal reduction or other beneficial first lien modification terms. Consumers will be eligible to apply for loans of varying amounts not to exceed $40,000 per borrower, and the Attorney General anticipates that the program will have the capacity to disburse several hundred NYS MAP loans over the next 18 months. In all cases, a NYS MAP Loan will result in homeownership retention at the time the loan is made.
To access NYS MAP, homeowners will work with an existing HOPP counselor or legal aid provider to complete the application. Today, the Attorney General’s office launched the website www.nysmap.org where prospective applicants can find out about the program and get connected to a HOPP lawyer or counselor. Consumers can also contact the New York Attorney General Consumer hotline at 855-HOME-456.
The program is modeled after a New York City funded pilot program administered through the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN). The Attorney General Program is working with CNYCN, as well as the Empire Justice Center, to assist in the operations of NYS MAP. Both agencies are contracted by the Office of the Attorney General to assist with the administration of the HOPP program.
“We are proud to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman, the Empire Justice Center, and all of the HOPP partners across the state on the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program,” said Christie Peale, Executive Director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “Despite reports of an improving housing market, communities all over New York are still struggling from the impacts of the housing crisis, and homeowners are still fighting every day to keep their homes in the face of foreclosure. Thankfully, these loans will keep hundreds of families in their homes and in their neighborhoods.”
Ms. Veneta Burton is one example of how the NYS MAP program expects to change lives. Ms. Burton lives with her daughter and three grandchildren in the Bronx. After getting diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms. Burton fell behind on both her mortgage and her condo association payments. Soon after she received a foreclose notice. Fortunately, Ms Burton found her way to Legal Services, Bronx NYC, a HOPP grantee, who connected her with the MAP pilot program. With her $22,000 loan, she was able to pay down her mortgage and her condo association arrears, which also brought down her housing expenses by $300 per month. “We would have lost our home to foreclosure without this program,” said Ms. Burton.
“For homeowners facing foreclosure a MAP loan can provide the extra financial assistance they need to bridge the gap to a successful workout or mortgage modification,” said New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been. “The city’s Mortgage Assistance Program has already helped more than 170 New York City homeowners stave off foreclosure. The New York State Mortgage Assistance Program will be another critical resource in providing the counseling and financial services needed to help New Yorkers keep their homes and find stable financial footing. I thank the Attorney General’s office for their commitment and partnership in our work to combat the foreclosure crisis.”
Housing Counselors and Legal Services providers outside of NYC are anxious to see NYS MAP expanded to their region, particularly those who are working in communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis. On a regional basis, Long Island has the highest distressed mortgage rate– loans that are 90 days or more delinquent but not yet in foreclosure –across New York State at 11.1%. Certain communities on the Island have even higher rates such as Brentwood and Hempstead, whose rates are 24% and 28% respectively. For these reasons, the Attorney General has chosen to roll out NYS MAP in Long Island first.
Other areas across the State which will be eligible for the program later in the fall, continue to suffer the effects of the housing crisis. In the Hudson Valley, distressed mortgage rates in Newburgh and Spring Valley are at 16%, and Middletown is at 19%.
Across upstate and Western New York, the distressed mortgage problem is concentrated in certain communities, with the highest rates in Troy (9%), Rochester (7%) and certain neighborhoods in Buffalo, such as Kensington (10%). Overall, Erie County has the fifth highest distressed mortgage rate in New York State. Monroe County ranks the eighth highest for mortgage distress.
“The NYS MAP funds will provide a safety net for eligible homeowners and will serve as a critical tool for counselors to assist families in obtaining an affordable payment and home-ownership retention,” said Marianne Garvin, President and CEO of the Community Development Corporation of Long Island. “We are privileged to be part of the network of providers under the New York State Attorney General Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) and value Attorney General Schneiderman’s ongoing commitment to New York.”
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN & NYPD COMMISSIONER BRATTON ANNOUNCE TAKEDOWN OF WORLDWIDE KHAT TRAFFICKING RING
Seventeen Indicted For Funneling Several Tons Of Khat Across Four Continents, Distributing The Drug Across New York And Other States
Schneiderman And Bratton: Today’s Indictment Is The Result Of Our Relentless Fight Against Organized Drug Distribution Rings
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner William J. Bratton today announced the indictment of 17 members of a criminal drug ring who allegedly flooded New York City, as well as other parts of New York State and parts of Massachusetts and Ohio, with several tons of khat, a plant containing controlled substances similar to amphetamines. The 215-count indictment unsealed in Brooklyn Supreme Court charges that the defendants obtained khat from Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia; shipped it to the United States through countries including the United Kingdom, China, Holland and Belgium; and trafficked it around New York City and several other New York counties, as well as Massachusetts and Ohio. The ring then laundered the proceeds through operations in Minnesota and wired the money to various locations abroad, including Dubai and England.
“Khat is a dangerous and illegal drug with worldwide reach. As a result of this international takedown, a sophisticated operation accused of bringing drugs into the United States and sending the profits overseas has been shut down,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Trafficking often funds other criminal activity. Traffickers who threaten our communities and inflict untold harm on countless families will be brought to justice.”
“Illegal drugs can find their way into our city from any corner of the world via organized criminal networks,” NYPD Commissioner Bratton said. “Through the far-reaching capabilities of our joint law enforcement partners these criminals can be tracked down and brought to justice wherever they are located, as evidenced in today’s indictments by the New York State Attorney General’s office.”
Khat is a plant cultivated largely in Kenya and Ethiopia. Among its active ingredients are cathinone, a stimulant classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the New York State Public Health Law, and cathine, which is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Users of khat chew the leaves and stems of the plant and swallow the juice, which is most potent when it is fresh. Khat traffickers, therefore, must operate efficiently to transport khat from Africa, where it is cultivated, to users in the United States and elsewhere. Khat became illegal in the United Kingdom on Tuesday.
As part of the investigation, state and local law enforcement agents led by the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the NYPD’s Intelligence Division conducted a nearly year-long investigation. The indictment alleges that England-based defendant Yadeta Bekri, known to his co-conspirators as “Murad,” systematically shipped large quantities of khat to his U.S.-based “managers,” Bayan Yusuf and Ahmed Adem, through multiple U.P.S. stores located in Manhattan. Yusuf and Adem, both of Rochester, NY, would then allegedly deliver the khat to their distributors and direct customers based in Brooklyn, Rochester and Buffalo, as well as Everett, Mass.
Surveillance conducted as part of the investigation revealed that, in each city, the defendants would use various buildings to store large quantities of khat until they were able to distribute the drugs. For example, two of the defendants – Mustafa Sadeq Ali and Sadeq Hassan Ali – were observed on several occasions via electronic surveillance bringing multiple boxes of khat (containing approximately 25 pounds per box) into the Islamic Society of Flatbush on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, which was adjacent to the apartment they shared. Defendants were also repeatedly observed at storage rental facilities including CubeSmart and Storage Deluxe locations in both Brooklyn and Queens.
At Bekri’s direction, Yusuf and Adem allegedly transported the proceeds of these illegal sales by car to Bekri’s fiancée and co-conspirator Ibsitu Hashi in Minnesota who, in turn, sent the money back to Bekri via Dubai and other countries.
The New York State Police, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, and United States Customs and Border Protection all assisted in the investigation.
“ICE Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection dedicate significant resources to identify vulnerabilities in trade and travel systems like those exploited by the criminal syndicate dismantled today,” James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York, said. “HSI is committed to leveraging partnerships across all levels of law enforcement to preserve America’s national security.”
“We are proud to have partnered with the New York State Attorney General’s Office in bringing to justice those involved in this criminal organization,” said Robert E. Perez, Director, New York Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “CBP remains ever vigilant at our ports of entry to ensure the security and safety of our nation.”
Today’s indictment charges 17 co-conspirators with crimes including Operating as a Major Trafficker and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, Money Laundering and Conspiracy to commit those crimes. The Operating as a Major Trafficker statute (§220.77(1) of the Penal Law of the State of New York), authored by Attorney General Schneiderman, went into effect in November 2009 as part of changes to the Rockefeller-era drug laws and is the only felony narcotics charge in the state that carries a possible life sentence.
The defendants charged today are:
Yadeta Bekri (a.k.a. “Murad”), 23, of England
Mustafa Sadeq Ali, 21, of Brooklyn
Sadeq Hassan Ali, 46, of Brooklyn
Noman Saleh Almoflehi, 21, of Brooklyn
Ahmed Khader Sulaiman, 25, of Brooklyn
Al Khader Sulaiman, 29, of Brooklyn
Wail Seidi, 21, of Queens
Nabil Seidi, 35, of Queens
Mohamed Seidi, 26, of Queens
Abubaker Seidi, 39, of Queens
Ali Saleh, 39, of Rochester
Mohamed Mohamed, 54, of Rochester
Bayan Yusuf, 31, of Rochester
Rumiya Osman, 30, of Rochester
Ahmed Adem, 31, of Rochester
Malyun Ibrahim, 49, of Everett, Mass.
Ibsitu Hashi, 34, of Blaine, Minn.
The investigation was directed by OCTF Investigator Brian Fleming and Supervising Investigator Arthur Schwartz, OCTF Deputy Chief Christopher Vasta and Investigations Bureau Chief Dominick Zarrella in the Attorney General’s office, and by NYPD Detective Milton Lopez, Sergeant Scott Mackay and Lieutenant Joseph Sullivan of the Intelligence Division and Deputy Inspector Paul Mauro. The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Deputy Bureau Chief Tarek Rahman, with the assistance of OCTF Analyst Nicole Accurso and Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice is Kelly Donovan.
The charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT TO ENSURE GREATER DIVERSITY IN THE FILM/TV PRODUCTION INDUSTRY
Agreement Offers A Level Playing Field For African-Americans, Latinos, And Other Minorities
Schneiderman: New Yorkers Must Have Equal Employment Regardless Of Race Or National Origin
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with the International Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees, Local 52, concerning the Local’s admissions process and the exclusion of African-Americans and Latinos from the union. Local 52 agreed to an overhaul of its admissions process to ensure equal opportunity for membership without regard to race, ethnicity, or national origin. In addition to injunctive relief, the Local also agreed to pay $475,000 in monetary relief.
“My office is committed to ensuring equal access to employment opportunities in New York State,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “For decades, the film and television production industry has been a cornerstone of the New York economy, an international symbol of our state, and a source of good-paying jobs. I applaud Local 52 for taking steps that will make more of those jobs available to all workers regardless of their race, ethnicity, or national origin.”
Local 52 is one of the labor organizations representing employees in the film and television production industry. Headquartered in New York City, the Local’s active membership totals over 3,500 employees who perform a variety of essential jobs – for instance, electrical, grip, property, sound, and video – on film and television shoots in New York and four other states.
Beginning in 2012, the Attorney General received complaints from experienced African-American and Latino applicants who were denied admission to Local 52 – many of them repeatedly – about irregularities in the union’s admissions process. The investigation revealed that the Local followed a policy of nepotism in admissions and inconsistently applied its application procedures – such as prior work experience and examination requirements – to the benefit of family and friends of mostly white existing members. These policies had a discriminatory effect upon minority applicants and caused significant disparities between the number of African-American and Latino members in the Local and the number of minorities in the available labor pool in New York.
Under the terms of the agreement, Local 52 will:
- restructure its admissions process;
- adopt equal employment opportunity/anti-harassment policies;
- hire a diversity consultant to assist in the creation of a recruitment plan to increase the number of minorities in its applicant pool;
- establish partnerships with educational and community organizations aimed at identifying and preparing African-Americans and Latinos for the industry and for membership in the union;
- hire a full-time human resources director to manage the new admissions and recruiting processes;
- develop EEO/anti-harassment trainings for all union leadership and new members as they join the Local;
- establish new recordkeeping requirements; and
- pay $475,000 in costs, fees, and restitution for complainants who participated in the OAG’s investigation and were denied admission to the union.
“We are pleased to have assisted the Attorney General’s Office in casting a spotlight on certain arbitrary and illegal barriers to local union membership for Latinos and minorities in New York’s lucrative film and cable industry” said Jackson Chin, Senior Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “We are likewise pleased that the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau has looked into the concerns we raised, and has taken action to implement measures that will lead to fair access to union membership and equal employment opportunities.”
Howard Sherman, Interim Executive Director of The Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, said, “For decades, our organization and other advocates have been working tirelessly to diversify the film and television industry, both in front of and behind the camera. I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for working to make this highly visible industry reflect the true composition of America today.”
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Justin Deabler and Dariely Rodriguez of the Civil Rights Bureau. The Civil Rights Bureau, led by Chief Kristen Clarke, is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH WESTCHESTER MUNICIPALITY ENSURING FAIR CONSIDERATION OF ALL APPLICANTS FOR EMPLOYMENT
Town Of Greenburgh Agrees To Amend Town Policy That Unlawfully Denied Jobs To Certain Class Of Applicants With Felony Convictions
Schneiderman: Illegal Barriers Denied Jobs To Felony Offenders
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with the Town of Greenburgh to amend a policy, initially adopted in January, which unlawfully disqualified certain individuals for employment with the municipality based solely on criminal history. The policy required the town to review the criminal convictions of any applicant conditionally hired for municipal employment and automatically disqualify those applicants with certain felony convictions, including anyone with a felony conviction within the last 10 years.
“Every New Yorker looking for work should be fairly considered by employers, and not automatically disqualified or denied access to employment opportunities,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Those who have served their time have a right to re-enter society free of barriers or roadblocks to employment.”
The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an inquiry into the Town of Greenburgh’s policy after receiving complaints from the Osborne Association, an advocacy organization that works to address the needs of individuals recently released from prison. In response, the Town of Greenburgh amended the background check policy, bringing the municipality into compliance with state law. Going forward, the town will consider the mitigating factors required by state law when determining whether an individual’s criminal history is related to the employment opportunities he or she seeks.
The town policy, adopted in January 2014, violated state law, which requires employers to consider several factors before disqualifying an individual based on his or her criminal record, including the nature and gravity of the conviction, its relation to the duties of the job sought, the amount of time which has passed since the conviction, the age of the applicant when the offense was committed, and any evidence of rehabilitation.
The Town of Greenburgh joins the City of Oswego which, in 2013, reversed a local law that prohibited individuals with felony convictions from obtaining taxi licenses, without first considering several factors required by state law. Further information on that case can be found here. This work is part of the Attorney General’s ongoing work to combat barriers to reentry and to ensure that individuals with prior criminal convictions are provided an equal opportunity to reintegrate into society.
Carolina Cordero Dyer of the Osborne Association said, “We applaud the Attorney General for taking action following the complaint that we brought to the attention of his Office’s Civil Rights Bureau. The resulting change better reflects what we know is true about the Town of Greenburgh. That it is a town committed to fairness and doing what is right. We know better than to discriminate based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender; this action by the Attorney General reminds us that we also know better than to discriminate against those with a criminal conviction in their past.”
The Attorney General’s Office is committed to promoting access to equal employment opportunities and combating discrimination in New York State. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ag.ny.gov.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney Generals Sandra Pullman and Ajay Saini of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The bureau is part of the Social Justice Division of the Attorney General’s Office, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 30, 2014
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH REVERSE MORTGAGE PROVIDER OVER MISLEADING ADVERTISING TARGETING SENIORS
Company Misrepresented Itself As A Government Entity, Misled Seniors About Benefits Of Reverse Mortgages
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with New View Mortgage Corp. arising from misleading direct mail solicitations sent to nearly 10,000 New York seniors. The solicitations, advertising reverse mortgages, were designed to look like official government notices from the Federal Housing Administration. Solicitations were mailed in envelopes that read, ‘Economic Stimulus Notice’ and ‘Government Lending Division,’ and the body of the solicitation identified the sender as ‘Federal Housing Administration Home Benefit HECM Program.’ As part of the settlement, the company must pay a penalty of $12,500 and may not misrepresent the features, benefits, and eligibility requirements of reverse mortgages in future solicitations.
“Making New York more affordable for the middle class includes protecting consumers from false and misleading advertising practices,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Our office will hold companies accountable when they seek to rip off or defraud seniors and require them to comply with the letter of the law.”
The solicitations sent by New View Mortgage contained a section called “Facts you need to know” about the HECM mortgages. However, these “facts” presented only the benefits of reverse mortgages and none of the risks. For example, the solicitation emphasized “No Monthly Mortgage Payments Required Ever!” but failed to disclose that consumers who enter into reverse mortgages continue to be responsible for tax and insurance payments. The solicitations also stated that “Your Heirs WILL inherit all remaining equity” but failed to disclose that heirs have to pay off the reverse mortgage loan in order to keep the home. While reverse mortgages may allow seniors to stay in their home without making mortgage payments, they are not necessarily the best option for all homeowners. Fees and other charges can be high in some cases. There are often less costly and more appropriate options available.
New View Mortgage Corp. is a mortgage broker and banker located in Woodbury, New York.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Jeanna E. Hussey and Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia of the Consumer Frauds Bureau. The Consumer Frauds Bureau is part of the Division of Economic Justice led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.
Tips for Homeowners Considering a Reverse Mortgage
- Don’t sign loan documents unless you understand how a reverse mortgage works.
- Shop around and compare your options and the terms various lenders offer.
- Become familiar with the different types of reverse mortgages. Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) are federally insured and backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Proprietary reverse mortgages are private loans offered by individual companies. HECMs generally provide bigger loan advances at a lower total cost compared with proprietary loans. But if you own a higher-valued home, you may get a bigger loan advance from a proprietary reverse mortgage.
- Be aware that reverse mortgages can have high upfront fees.
- Think about the impact of a reverse mortgage on your heirs. A reverse mortgage can use up all or some of the equity in your home and decrease the value of any inheritance for your heirs. Your heirs will have to repay the loan in full to retain ownership of the home.
- You are required to go to counseling before you are eligible for a federally insured reverse HECM mortgage. Visit HUD’s website http://go.usa.gov/v2H to find out more information or call HUD’s housing counselor referral line (1-800-569-4287) to find a qualified reverse mortgage counselor.
- Before deciding to enter into a reverse mortgage, discuss your circumstances with a trusted friend, advisor, or family member. You may want to invite that person to your discussion with the lender and/or HUD approved counselor.
- Resist pressure to use a reverse mortgage to pay for goods or services, like home improvement services, because the total cost of the product or service is tied to getting the reverse mortgage.
- Resist pressure to buy any financial products or services, like annuities or long-term care insurance.
- If you need cash, always consider a less costly option. A home equity loan or a home equity line of credit might be a cheaper way to borrow cash. In addition, there are state and local programs that may help you defer property taxes, lower your heating costs, or save on other bills.
- You can cancel most reverse mortgages within three business days after closing for any reason, without penalty.
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
STATEMENT: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES MULTI-STATE SETTLEMENT WITH SUNTRUST, HAILS BENEFITS TO NEW YORKERS RECOVERING FROM HOUSING CRISIS
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement regarding today’s announcement of a multi-state settlement with SunTrust to remedy mortgage origination, servicing and foreclosure abuses:
“The law applies to everyone equally, no matter how rich or powerful, and our office will continue to hold mortgage servicers accountable when their practices abuse New Yorkers still struggling from the housing crisis. This settlement with SunTrust will result in $7.5 million in direct relief for New Yorkers to address abuses and delays they suffered throughout the mortgage process. Consumers will now be able to secure loan modifications and receive direct payments, and SunTrust will be subject to tough new mortgage servicing standards and oversight from an independent monitor.”
The settlement includes New York and 48 other states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The three-year settlement provides direct payments to New Yorker borrowers for past foreclosure abuses. The agreement’s mortgage servicing terms largely mirror the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement reached in February of that year between the federal government, 49 state attorneys general, including Attorney General Schneiderman, and the five largest national mortgage servicers.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES FUNDING TO EQUIP NASSAU AND SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE WITH LIFE-SAVING HEROIN ANTIDOTE
The AG’s COP Program Has Approved More Than $200K To Equip And Train Police Officers At 18 Long Island Law Enforcement Agencies, Including Nassau And Suffolk County PDs
Schneiderman: Making Naloxone Available To Long Island Officers Will Save Lives
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that the Nassau County and the Suffolk County police departments have been approved for his Community Overdose Prevention (COP) Program. Since the Attorney General’s program was launched just over two months ago, 18 law enforcement agencies on Long Island have been approved for $222,788 in purchases and training for the use of 2,452 naloxone kits. The Attorney General’s $5 million, statewide program aims to put naloxone, an antidote that can instantly reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, into the hands of police officers across New York.
“The COP Program is an essential part of our effort to combat the spike in heroin overdoses that is plaguing communities and families on Long Island and across New York State,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “By providing police officers with naloxone, we are making this life-saving overdose antidote, available in every town, village and hamlet on Long Island.”Long Island had the second largest number of naloxone kit reimbursements in the state, after New York City, and the second largest number of approved law enforcement agencies in the state, after the Mid-Hudson Valley.
Nassau County Acting Police Commissioner Thomas C. Krumpter said, “Although Naloxone kits have been a required piece of equipment on Nassau County Police Ambulances for many years, the impact of it the hands of our patrol force has been tremendous. In the past few months, some Nassau County police officers have been equipped with Naloxone kits, resulting in numerous lives having been saved from accidental heroin overdoses. With the funding from the Attorney General’s office, the entire patrol will now have this life saving tool available to them.”
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Edward Webber said, “The Suffolk County Police Department is grateful to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his office for approving our application for 350 Narcan kits. As the first law enforcement agency in the state to begin using Narcan, we have already saved more than 200 people and trained 1,183 police officers to administer this life saving drug. The additional supply of Narcan from the Attorney General will help us to continue fighting this war on drugs and save lives.”
Long Island had the second largest number of naloxone kit reimbursements in the state, after New York City, and the second largest number of approved law enforcement agencies in the state, after the Mid-Hudson Valley. Suffolk County has the second highest number of approved agencies in the state, with ten. Nassau County has the second largest number of kits, with 1,933.
In Nassau County, the Floral Park Police Department; Garden City Police Department; Glen Cove Police Department; Great Neck Estates Police Department; Lynbrook Police Department; Port Washington Police District and the Rockville Centre Police Department have also been approved.
In Suffolk County, the East Hampton Village Police Department; Huntington Bay Village Police Department;Northport Police Department; Riverhead Police Department; Sag Harbor Village Police; Southampton Town Police Department; Southampton Village Police Department; Southold Town Police Department; and the Quogue Village Police Department are also approved.
Since the COP Program was launched April 3, the Attorney General’s office has approved 117 police departments, and more than $1.72 million, to fund the reimbursement for 26,273 naloxone kits. New York City had the largest number of naloxone kit reimbursements in the state, with five law enforcement agencies, including the New York City Police Department, approved for reimbursement of $1.2 million for the purchase and training for 20,385 naloxone kits. The Attorney General’s Office has approved 35 law enforcement agencies in the Mid-Hudson Valley for reimbursement of $104,780 for the purchase and training for 1,461 naloxone kits.
Almost 200 departments statewide have applied for funding and the Attorney General’s Office has approved enough kits to equip almost half of the state’s police with naloxone. A total of 26 Long Island agencies have applied to the program.
Each naloxone kit consists of a zip bag or pouch containing two prefilled syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal administration, sterile gloves and a booklet on the use of the drug. The cost of a naloxone kit is approximately $60, and the shelf life of each kit is approximately two years.
The success of naloxone in combatting opioid overdoses cannot be overstated. Since the fall of 2010, the police department of Quincy, Massachusetts, the first department in the nation to require its officers to carry naloxone, has used the drug 221 times and successfully reversed 211 overdoses (as of February), a success rate of over 95%. In New York’s Suffolk County, 563 lives were saved last year alone.
Since taking office, Attorney General Schneiderman has fought against the scourge of heroin in New York. He led the effort to rein in prescription opioid abuse by passing unanimous legislation to create I-STOP – the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing. Initial figures indicate that I-STOP has reduced doctor-shopping – the practice of going from doctor to doctor to accumulate prescriptions – by 75% in just the first year. On the criminal side, I-STOP has led to the prosecution of several doctors who willingly participate in doctor-shopping. Separately, the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force has successfully dismantled a number of heroin rings around the state.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES RESOLUTION OF MCDONALD’S FRANCHISE RETALIATION INVESTIGATION
McDonald’s Franchisee In Upstate New York Agrees To Pay $10K To Employee Who Was Fired When He Reported Gas Leak To Fire Department
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with Warrenone, Inc., a franchisee operating four McDonalds restaurants in Wayne and Monroe counties. The settlement resolves the Attorney General’s investigation into the illegal firing of an employee at Warrenone’s Lyons, New York location.
An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office found that on April 8, 2013, a part-time minimum-wage employee of the restaurant made multiple attempts to report a gas leak. When his supervisors did not address the situation, he reported the leak to the Lyons Fire Department. Responding firefighters and local law enforcement both confirmed that there was a gas leak, and the store was temporarily closed to the public for the night. While the firefighters were at the restaurant investigating the leak, two supervisors informed the employee that he was fired.
New York Labor Law Section 740 forbids employers from retaliating against an employee for reporting to a supervisor or to the authorities when an employer violates a law that poses a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. The public health and safety issue reported here — a gas leak — involved a violation of provisions of the New York State Fire Code, among other things.
“It’s outrageous that an employee would be terminated for contacting the local authorities about a serious safety risk. He should be thanked, not fired,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Workers who try to protect the public and their fellow employees deserve protection, and the state should have their back.”
As a result of this settlement, the company will pay $10,000 in restitution which constitutes approximately one and one half years’ worth of front pay in lieu of reinstatement for the discharged employee. Lost compensation was already obtained through enforcement by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on May 17, 2013. Labor Law Section 740 does not provide for additional liquidated damages.
In addition to payment of restitution, Warrenone will create and implement procedures for complaints, and investigation of complaints, regarding health and safety in its restaurants. Warrenone will also report quarterly to the Attorney General about any health and safety complaints, and about the management’s response to those complaints.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Kevin M. Lynch and Special Counsel Patricia Kakalec in the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein. Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND COMPTROLLER DINAPOLI ANNOUNCE SENTENCE OF FORMER MET COUNCIL CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER FOR ROLE IN STEALING $9M IN KICKBACK SCHEME
Friedman Was Integral Part Of Conspiracy To Steal From Publicly Funded Social Services Group
Herbert Friedman Sentenced To 4 Months In Jail And Will Pay $775,000 In Restitution
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the felony conviction and sentence of Herbert Friedman, former Chief Financial Officer of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council). Herbert Friedman, together with other co-conspirators, stole approximately $9 million from the taxpayer-funded nonprofit organization in a 20-year grand larceny and kickback scheme.
“The conspirators in this case abused their positions of trust to help steal millions of dollars from a taxpayer-funded charitable organization – one dedicated to serving some of New York City’s poorest and most vulnerable residents,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “As this case and others have shown, those who rip off taxpayers will be prosecuted and punished. I thank Comptroller DiNapoli for his continued partnership in our efforts to root out public corruption and to ensure that taxpayer money is protected. I also thank the Met Council board of directors for cooperating with our investigation.”
State Comptroller DiNapoli said, “Stealing money meant to aid the needy is just plain wrong. This conviction sends a strong message to those who would violate the public’s trust: you will be caught and prosecuted. My office will continue to work with Attorney General Schneiderman as part of our joint task force to root out corruption and protect public money.”
Met Council is a New York State not-for-profit organization that provides the poor and elderly in the metropolitan New York City area with social, economic, housing, food and emergency financial assistance as well as anti-family violence programs. Met Council receives funding through New York State and New York City grants, legislative member items and contracts.
Friedman, 80 years old, pleaded guilty on May 6, 2014, before the Honorable Michael Obus in New York County Supreme Court to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class D felony) and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (a class E felony). Friedman admitted that between the early 1990s and 2009, he received approximately $250,000 from the grand larceny and kickback scheme. Three other defendants, David Cohen, William Rapfogel and Joseph Ross, previously pleaded guilty in the case. The OAG’s recommended sentence took into account Friedman’s age and medical condition, his cooperation with the investigation and his payment of more than $250,000 in restitution to offset the severe financial loss to Met Council.
Cohen and Rapfogel, previously admitted to their part in the elaborate scheme. The thefts began in 1992, when Cohen devised the scam with Joseph Ross, of Century Coverage Corporation. The company would submit inflated invoices for insurance coverage to Met Council. Met Council would pay the inflated premiums and Ross would then pay cash kickbacks to Cohen, Rapfogel and Friedman, Met Council’s chief financial officer until his departure in 2009. Friedman, was responsible for overseeing all payments to outside vendors such as Century.
This sentence is a result of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Office in conjunction with New York State Comptroller DiNapoli, as part of the Joint Task Force on Public Integrity.
The joint investigation by the Attorney General’s and Comptroller’s offices continues.
Gerard Matheson is the lead investigator assigned to the case. Supervising Investigator Michael Ward of the Investigations Bureau is also working on the case. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarella. Also assisting in the investigation are Supervising Auditor Edward J. Keegan, Associate Auditor Matthew Croghan, and Supervising Investigative Analyst Paul Strocko of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, Legal Support Analyst KerryAnn Rodriguez of the Public Integrity Bureau, and Policy Analyst Liam Arbetman of the Charities Bureau.
This case is being prosecuted by Gary T. Fishman, Chief of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, with Assistant Attorney General Jihee Suh of the Public Integrity Bureau. The Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH NATION’S LEADING RETAILERS TO PROVIDE UNIT PRICING ONLINE
Unit Pricing Information Helps Consumers Comparison Shop Across A Variety Brands And Pricing Options
Schneiderman: Making New York More Affordable For The Middle Class Includes Empowering Consumers To Spend Their Money Wisely
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a first-ever initiative to bring unit pricing information to online supermarkets and drugstores nationwide, including top national and New York retailers. Within nine months, this information will be available on the websites and mobile apps of Walmart, Costco, Walgreens, FreshDirect, CVS and Drugstore.com. Amazon refused to participate in this consumer-oriented initiative.
“As the internet becomes the shopping mall of the 21st century, we need to ensure that consumers have the same robust protections online that they do in brick-and-mortar stores,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.“Making New York more affordable for the middle class includes empowering consumers to spend their money wisely. This agreement, in which government and the private sector worked collaboratively to adapt conventional rules to an evolving marketplace, is a victory for consumers. I commend these retailers for recognizing the need for transparency and promoting openness online.”
Unit pricing benefits consumers by allowing them to quickly compare prices of different items regardless of quantity, manufacturer, packaging size or discounts. For example, a single product category, such as breakfast cereal, can feature a wide array of sizes and packaging combinations from a variety of competing brands. The unit price combines those factors and gives the price per ounce, generally displayed next to the retail price, allowing consumers to make better and faster choices.
According to Forrester Research, online grocery sales are projected to reach $21 billion a year nationwide by 2016. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have some type of unit pricing requirement. New York law requires that large retail stores clearly display the price per unit of measurement for most types of food, cleaning and paper products, toiletries, pet food and over-the-counter medications.
Prior to this initiative, unit pricing information online was rare. Among large retailers, full availability of unit pricing was limited to online grocer Peapod.
Under the agreement, Walmart and Costco will provide unit pricing information on their websites and mobile stores throughout the United States by the end of 2014. Walgreens, FreshDirect, CVS and Drugstore.com will provide unit pricing online by March, 2015. All six chains have agreed to continue providing unit pricing to consumers in the future, including in any online stores they create in the years to come.
“FreshDirect is an industry leader, and we were pleased that the Attorney General asked us to lead the charge to upgrade information to enhance customer knowledge in the online fresh food sector,” Jodi Kahn, FreshDirect’s Chief Consumer Officer said.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau encourages other retailers to recognize the benefits of providing this information to consumers and follow the strong example these chains have set.
Although Amazon displays unit pricing on some of its pages, it does not provide the information uniformly across its platforms. Furthermore, its subsidiaries do not currently display unit pricing. Unfortunately for consumers, Amazon refused to agree to provide this information. The company claims it will extend unit pricing to its subsidiary Quidsi, which operates online stores like Soap.com, but refused to commit to that in a written agreement. It also would not agree to extend unit pricing to pages where that information is absent, nor would it commit to continue providing unit pricing information to consumers in the future.
Attorney General Schneiderman encourages anyone with questions about the unit pricing initiative to call the Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds hotline at (800) 771-7755.
The initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Tristan C. Snell, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection Laura J. Levine, Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND D.A. GASCÓN ANNOUNCE THAT GOOGLE AND MICROSOFT WILL INCLUDE A SMARTPHONE KILL SWITCH IN NEXT OPERATING SYSTEMS
Inaugural Report Also Reveals New Data Showing That Thefts Fell Drastically Following Apple’s Introduction Of A Kill Switch
Schneiderman & Gascón: In Just One Year, The Secure Our Smartphones Initiative Has Made Tremendous Strides Towards Curtailing The Alarming Trend Of Violent Smartphone Theft
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón today announced that, for the first time, Google and Microsoft will incorporate a kill switch into the next version of their respective operating systems. Google’s operating system, Android, runs on more than half of all smartphones used in the United States. Microsoft’s operating system is on all Nokia smartphones. Today’s announcement means that a kill switch will be incorporated into the three dominant smartphone operating systems — Android, iOS, and Windows Phone — which currently encompass 97 percent of smartphones in the United States.
The announcement is part of a new report issued by the Secure Our Smartphones (“S.O.S.”) Initiative, an international partnership of law-enforcement agencies, elected officials and consumer advocates, which will mark its first year tomorrow.
The report also revealed new crime statistics showing that, after Apple added a “kill switch,” robberies and grand larcenies involving iPhones plummeted. Simultaneously, violent crimes against people carrying phones without a kill switch surged. The data is part of a new report issued by the Secure Our Smartphones (“S.O.S.”) Initiative, an international partnership of law-enforcement agencies, elected officials and consumer advocates, which will mark its first year tomorrow.
“The commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety and the statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “In just one year, the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative has made tremendous strides towards curtailing the alarming trend of violent smartphone theft. We will continue the fight to ensure that companies put consumers’ safety first and work toward ending the epidemic of smartphone theft. ”
The new report, “Secure Our Smartphone Initiative: One Year Later,” includes previously unreleased data from the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), as well as the police departments of San Francisco and London. The new statistics describe the scope of the smartphone theft epidemic and validate the kill switch as an effective part of a multi-layered approach to combatting smartphone crimes. The statistics also validate the necessity of a ubiquitous opt-out solution.
In New York City, theft of iPhones fell significantly after the release of Apple’s Activation Lock on September 18, 2013, as indicated in the chart below. In the first five months of 2014, robberies and grand larcenies involving Apple products dropped 19% and 29%, respectively, compared to the same time period from 2013. The decrease in Apple thefts far surpassed the citywide decrease in all robberies (-10%) and all grand larcenies (-18%). Perhaps most tellingly, robberies and grand larcenies from a person involving a Samsung smartphone, which did not have a kill switch during much of this time, increased by over 40%. (Encouragingly, Samsung introduced a kill switch solution in April of 2014 on their Verizon Wireless devices, the impact of which will likely be seen in future statistics.)
Statistics from San Francisco and London show similar outcomes. In San Francisco, iPhone robberies declined 38% while robberies of Samsung devices increased by 12%. In London, Apple thefts declined by 24% while Samsung thefts increased by 3%. (In both cities, data from six months leading up to Apple’s Activation Lock was compared to the six months following its introduction.)
“We can make the violent epidemic of smartphone theft a thing of the past, and these numbers prove that,” saidDistrict Attorney George Gascón. “It was evident from day one that a technological solution was not only possible, but that it would serve as an effective deterrent to this growing threat. This past year we successfully held the wireless industry’s feet to the fire and it’s already having an impact for consumers. In the year ahead we will work to ensure this technology is deployed industry-wide, and in the most effective manner possible.”
“In the year since London joined with our friends and colleagues in the US in the Secure Our Smartphones coalition we’ve made significant progress in reducing the number of smartphone thefts, which have been a shared problem across our cities,” said London Mayor Boris Johnson. “By making the phone manufacturers face up to the responsibility they have to their customers, technology that previously attracted thieves is now being used to deter them. The SOS has shown that the only solutions to these global problems are ones developed globally and Londoners and I look forward to further progress as we enter our second year.”
Richard Aborn, President of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said, “Cell phone theft has become a major public safety issue in New York and across the country. Unfortunately, these robberies often become violent and put innocent people at serious risk. The Crime Commission is proud to have been a part of the S.O.S. Initiative from the beginning, and we are encouraged by the positive impact it has had on this crime trend in such a short time under the leadership of Attorney General Schneiderman. There is still much to do, however, to protect citizens in our city and elsewhere from cell phone theft. Local law enforcement, Congress, and hardware and software companies must work together to make stealing a smartphone a worthless endeavor for criminals.”
In the year since its inception, the S.O.S. Initiative has spurred a major shift in the wireless industry, evidenced by several tangible accomplishments:
- In September, 2013, just three months after S.O.S. began its efforts, Apple unveiled “Activation Lock,” a proof-of-concept kill switch available on all iPhones running the iOS 7 operating system with ‘Find My iPhone’ enabled. In April, 2014, Samsung introduced “Reactivation Lock.”
- Earlier this year, S.O.S. worked with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Jose Serrano to introduce companion federal legislation to require carriers and manufacturers to make kill switch anti-theft solutions mandatory for all smartphones in the United States. On May 15, 2014, Minnesota became the first state to mandate a kill switch on all phones.
- In April, 2014, the industry group CTIA abandoned its long-held opposition to a kill switch and announced a “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” in which AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless and others pledged to implement a kill switch solution on an opt-in basis.
The work of the S.O.S. Initiative continues. With the majority of phones still without a kill switch, smartphone-related thefts and violence remain a tragic reality. Criminals now target devices not likely to be equipped with a kill switch, increasing the importance of immediately implementing the life-saving technology across all manufacturers. Because kill switches are only available on an opt-in basis, not enough consumers are signing-up. This underscores the urgency of S.O.S.’s call to make kill switches a standard opt-out function on all phones.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2014
STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN IN HONOR OF LGBT PRIDE WEEK
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today released the following statement in honor of LGBT Pride Week:
“The United States of America was founded on the principle of equal justice under law, but equal justice did not become a reality when the Declaration of Independence was signed, or when the Constitution was ratified. Instead, it’s been the task of each successive generation of Americans to strive toward ever greater justice and equality. Now, we mark the anniversary of a critical milestone in that struggle. Forty-five years ago this week, after generations of being harassed, abused and even jailed simply for being true to themselves, gay men and lesbians took to the streets in righteous outrage and said, “Enough!” And so, on a summer morning in 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the modern gay rights movement was born.
“This week we honor the countless LGBT heroes who have chosen, over the past four decades, to be part of a powerful movement for equality by living openly and proudly. We honor the LGBT allies who have taken a stand for equality because of someone they know and love. And we honor those friends who are no longer with us, but whom we know would celebrate the tremendous progress that we’ve made in just the past year. All those who have been part of the LGBT rights movement have made America a better country by insisting that we live up to our fundamental values.
“Just days before our last annual celebration of Pride, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. In the months that followed every single court to address the issue has concluded that the government must recognize the right of gay and lesbian couples to equal protection under the law. Last week President Obama announced that he would be signing an Executive Order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by any business that seeks to do business with the US government. It’s been an incredible year of change for a diverse community.
“My office is deeply committed to the essential Constitutional principle of equal protection under the law, and to assuring that all New Yorkers’ civil rights – including LGBT New Yorkers – are vigorously protected. Every day there is more work to be done to move the needle of progress forward, but in that work there is a time and place to pause and reflect upon our victories. Let us take this week to celebrate the LGBT family, friends, and neighbors whose spirit and contributions have advanced the great American project of achieving ever greater justice and ever greater equality with each generation. Happy Pride.”
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2014
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES ELECTION DAY HOTLINE TO HELP ENSURE ACCESS FOR VOTERS ACROSS NEW YORK STATE DURING 2014 ELECTION CYCLE
Attorney General Will Operate Hotline To Address Language Access, Polling Place Barriers, Voter Intimidation On Election Day
Schneiderman: Effort Will Help Ensure Equal Access To The Ballot Box
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an Election Day hotline to help ensure that minority-language voters, people with disabilities and all eligible voters are able to cast an effective ballot during the June 24th federal primary election. The Attorney General urges voters to call the office’s hotline at800-771-7755 or email email@example.com at any time between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday to report issues or problems at the polls. The hotline will be staffed by attorneys and staff in the office’s Civil Rights Bureau. Hearing-impaired voters can call 800-788-9898 for TDD services.
“The right to vote remains one of our most important civil rights. My office remains committed to enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and other federal and state laws that require that all voters be provided equal access to the ballot box,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Our Election Day hotline will help ensure that all eligible voters across our state are able to exercise their constitutionally-protected right to vote on Election Day.”
During the office’s 2012 and 2013 Election Day monitoring efforts, the office fielded hundreds of complaints from voters across the state and worked with local election officials and others to help troubleshoot and resolve a range of issues and barriers encountered by voters at the polls. The Election Day hotline is part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s ongoing statewide initiative to ensure that voters do not encounter language barriers on Election Day.
In addition, the Attorney General’s Office will focus on barriers impacting voters with disabilities, voter intimidation reports, and other issues faced by minority voters. The office will receive and respond to election-related complaints relating to any of the statutes that the office enforces.
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2014
STATEMENT: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LAUDS SUPREME COURT’S BACKING OF CLEAN AIR ACT AUTHORITY TO LIMIT CLIMATE CHANGE POLLUTION FROM MAJOR SOURCES
NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a key authority of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states to limit emissions of climate change pollution by major stationary sources under the federal Clean Air Act:
“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court further solidified the authority provided by the federal Clean Air Act to address the mounting dangers posed by runaway climate change. In its decision today, the high court agreed that a key permitting program applies to limit emissions of climate change pollution from power plants, refineries, and other large industrial facilities. Today’s decision affirmed requirements that large sources control climate change pollution as well as other pollutants. “This is the latest in a line of decisions upholding Clean Air Act authority to address climate change pollution.”
In today’s decision, the Supreme Court ruled that EPA reasonably interpreted the Clean Air Act to require large industrial facilities to limit their emissions of climate change pollution if they are also required to obtain permits due to their emissions of certain other dangerous air pollutants. The Court rejected arguments from industry and other states that these limits on climate change pollution are unworkable. At the same time, the Court held that EPA could not extend permitting requirements to sources that emit only climate change pollution and not other dangerous pollutants.
Attorney General Schneiderman led a coalition of 15 States and New York City in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case. The brief argued that EPA’s interpretation was reasonable and demonstrated that the States’ recent experience with permitting for climate change pollution has proven to be workable and sensible.
In addition to New York, the states joining in the filing with the Supreme Court were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the City of New York.
The industrial facilities at issue in this case are new plants, including power plants, refineries and cement kilns, and plants undergoing major modification that increase emissions.
This matter was handled by Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, Deputy Solicitor General Steven C. Wu, and Assistant Solicitor General Bethany A. Davis Noll. From the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, led by Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Wagner, Assistant Attorneys General Michael Myers and Morgan Costello worked on this matter.
For further background on this issue click here.
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2014
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SECURES OVER $220,000 SETTLEMENT FROM HOBBY LOBBY STORES IN AN INVESTIGATION OF MISLEADING ADVERTISING
Stores Ran Bogus Sales During Two-Year Period, Consumers Deceived Over Supposed Discounts
Settlement Includes $138,600 For Nearly 700 Public Schools Across Upstate New York
ROCHESTER – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that retail chain Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. has agreed to enter into a settlement of his office’s investigation into alleged deceptive advertising practices. Hobby Lobby misled customers into thinking they were receiving steep discounts through deceptive advertising over a two-year period. As part of the settlement, the company will change its advertising practices over the next 60 days, contribute $138,600 in supplies to public schools near Hobby Lobby stores in Upstate New York, and pay $85,000 in civil penalties and other costs.
“When companies mislead customers by advertising never-ending sales, our office will hold them accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Ultimately, a permanent sale is no sale at all.”
As a result of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s settlement, Hobby Lobby, a major seller of school supplies, will be required to give nearly 700 schools a total of $138,600 in gift cards for supplies in addition to paying civil penalties.
The investigation began in 2013, when Attorney General Schneiderman’s office began tracking marketing materials advertising 50 percent off and 30 percent off sales. Hobby Lobby advertised its custom framing, furniture, and home décor products as sale items for more than 52 consecutive weeks. The investigation determined that Hobby Lobby violated New York’s General Business Law (350-D) for False Advertising. Sales that are never-ending are in violation of the false advertising law.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Bruce, and the investigation was handled by Investigator Jennifer Hill of the Rochester Regional Office, which is led by Assistant Attorney General In-Charge of the Rochester office Debra Martin. The Rochester Regional Office is part of the Division of Regional Offices, headed by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Marty Mack.
Number of Schools Eligible to Receive Gift Cards for Student Supplies:
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 16, 2014
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES COMMITMENT BY CAPITAL ONE TO EXPAND ACCESS TO BANK ACCOUNTS FOR CONSUMERS PREVIOUSLY EXCLUDED FROM THE BANKING SYSTEM
Policy Changes Will Help Eliminate Barriers That Unfairly Keep Low-Income New Yorkers And Consumers Nationwide From Opening Checking And Savings Accounts
Schneiderman: New Yorkers Must Have Equal Access To Banking Services
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that Capital One Financial Corporation has agreed to adopt new policies governing its use of ChexSystems, a credit bureau that screens people seeking to open checking or savings accounts, which will allow many more New Yorkers to open bank accounts. Working in cooperation with the Attorney General’s office, Capital One has devised new policies that will allow many thousands more New Yorkers and consumers nationwide to open bank accounts by the end of this year. The change comes amid concerns that screenings by ChexSystems and other credit bureaus, which are used by many of our nation’s biggest banks, adversely affect lower-income applicants and those who fall prey to identity theft.
“No one – least of all struggling New Yorkers – should be forced to rely on high-cost alternatives to banks just because they bounced a check or were a victim of identity theft,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Equal access is the least we can do to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to widely used services such as our nation’s banking system. I commend Capital One for stepping up and working with us to help eliminate an unnecessary barrier to opening a checking or savings account. I would hope other banks will step up and join us to do the same.”
ChexSystems is one of several databases used by some of the nation’s largest banks and credit unions to analyze the banking history of consumers who apply for bank accounts. Customers who are deemed by ChexSystems to present a credit or fraud risk are typically denied the opportunity to open an account. Such databases disproportionately affect lower-income Americans, often punishing them for relatively small financial errors and forcing them to resort to fringe banking services that are more costly than mainstream checking and savings accounts.
Studies show that more than 3 million New York households are either unbanked, meaning that no family member has a bank account, or are underbanked, meaning that they have a bank account but also rely on high-cost alternative financial services. According to one study, the New York State average for unbanked households is 9.8%, higher than the national average of 7.7%. Of counties with more than 100,000 households, the study ranks the Bronx as the second most unbanked county in the country and Brooklyn as the eighth most unbanked county. Of cities with more than 100,000 households, Buffalo ranks as the eighth most unbanked city in the country. Of midsize cities– those with 50,000 to 100,000 households– Rochester is the eighth most unbanked. In New York City, according to a 2010 study, more than 825,000 adults did not have bank accounts and, in two neighborhoods —Jamaica in Queens and Melrose in the Bronx—residents spent more than $19 million per year on check cashing fees.
The Attorney General’s agreement with Capital One comes as part of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights and Consumer Frauds Bureaus into the use of credit bureaus like ChexSystems by major American banks.
Under the terms of the agreement, Capital One will continue screening customers for past fraud but will no longer seek to predict whether customers present credit risks. Capital One also has committed to expanding its support for the Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), a New York City agency that provides financial education and counseling to low-income New Yorkers. Capital One, which has an existing partnership with the city agency, will donate $50,000 to help OFE provide counseling for applicants who are rejected by the bank on the basis of a ChexSystems report. OFE’s services are available to all New Yorkers, regardless of their county of residence. The changes to Capital One’s policies, which are expected to take effect by the end of 2014, will be implemented nationwide.
Marc Morial, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Urban League, said, “Promotion of economic opportunity for minority and low-income families and communities must be a top priority. Too many African-American and Latino communities are denied access to traditional banking products and left vulnerable to costly and predatory check cashing outlets. I thank the Attorney General’s Office for taking action to ensure that banks are extending basic services equally to all communities.”
Justine Zinkin, CEO of Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, said, “Today’s announcement is an important step in the process of reforming how the big banks serve low-income consumers. At Neighborhood Trust our clients are regularly denied basic banking services because of errors in ChexSystems or identity theft, and it is nearly impossible to correct these inaccuracies. The irony is that our clients and millions of other low-income New Yorkers, the majority of whom are underbanked, would be reliable customers. This is not to mention the outsized social impact of getting someone banked. Neighborhood Trust applauds the Attorney General’s office and Capital One. We hope investigations like this one will continue and that other banks will follow Capital One’s example.”
Kleber Santos, Capital One Bank’s Senior Vice President of Retail and Direct Banking, said, “We greatly appreciate the work of the Attorney General’s staff in bringing these concerns to light, and we’re pleased to be able to work together to expand access to critical banking services for all New Yorkers. Capital One is committed to providing the broadest possible access to our banking products and services to consumers across the credit spectrum to help ensure that economic opportunity is available to everyone, in every community.”
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Melvin Goldberg of the Consumer Frauds Bureau and Special Counsel Jessica Attie of the Civil Rights Bureau. The Civil Rights Bureau, led by Chief Kristen Clarke, is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg. The Consumer Frauds Bureau, led by Chief Jane M. Azia, is part of the Division of Economic Justice headed by Executive Deputy Attorney General Karla G. Sanchez.
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 29, 2014.
STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON THE ASSEMBLY’S PASSAGE OF LEGISLATION AUTHORIZING 10 NEW LAND BANKS
NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement in response to the passage today by the New York State Assembly of legislation authorizing ten new land banks in the State of New York:
“I commend Assemblyman Magnarelli and the State Assembly for passing legislation to increase the maximum number of land banks in New York State from 10 to 20. Land banks are a critical tool to help communities that are plagued by vacant and abandoned properties to recover from the housing crisis. My office is already funding eight land banks, from Long Island to the Hudson Valley to Central and Western New York, and more funds will be available in this year. By supporting land banks, we are empowering local communities to rebuild their own neighborhoods, house by house, block by block. I urge the Senate to join with the Assembly in giving more communities the opportunity to revitalize neighborhoods by returning derelict properties to responsible, productive use.”
The Attorney General’s program bill, sponsored in the Assembly by the Chairman of the Committee on Local Governments, William Magnarelli, changes state law to increase the maximum allowable number of land banks from 10 to 20. Many cities do not have land banks, but there is a critical need for the kind of community redevelopment that land banks can make possible.
Following the collapse of the housing market, the New York State Legislature passed a law in 2011 establishing land banks — nonprofit organizations that can acquire vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed properties and choose to rebuild, demolish, or redesign them. By restoring vacant or abandoned properties, land banks lower costs for local governments, benefit public schools, reduce crime and boost the local economy. However, the legislation that authorized land banks in New York did not provide funding for them. Attorney General Schneiderman launched a Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative to fill that gap and allow the land banks to fulfill their purpose. He has dedicated $33 million to fund that initiative. In February of this year, the Attorney General proposed his program bill to expand the number of land banks from 10 to 20.
Following are the first round of awards through the program, which were announced on October 29, 2013:
- The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Corporation was awarded $2.087 million;
- The Rochester Land Bank Corporation was awarded $2.78 million;
- The Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation was awarded $3 million;
- The Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation was awarded $1.5 million;
- The Newburgh Community Land Bank was awarded $2.45 million;
- The Suffolk County Land Bank Corporation was awarded $675,000;
- The Capital Region Land Bank was awarded $150,000; and
- The Broome County Land Bank was awarded $150,000.
Attorney General Schneiderman first announced last June that he would dedicate National Mortgage Settlement funds to support land banks. In July, he opened the first round of the competitive Request for Applications (RFA) process.
The projects selected for funding will carry out a range of vital community development activities, including demolition of blighted, vacant, and abandoned homes; acquisition and renovation of vacant homes, including remediation of environmental hazards; resale of renovated properties as affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families; acquisition of vacant land that will be transferred to existing community residents who will maintain and repurpose the underutilized open space; and environmental pre-development studies and analyses that will eventually lead to remediation and redevelopment of brownfield sites. Proceeds from the resale of renovated properties will go back to the land banks and allow them to continue their work.
Attorney General Schneiderman’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative will particularly benefit cities and counties that have struggled to maintain local services despite significant declines in tax revenue as a result of the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent epidemic of vacant and abandoned properties. The eight land banks funded have committed to return hundreds of properties to productive use and to get those lots back on the local and county tax rolls over the next 24 months.
The land banks are also using Attorney General Schneiderman’s funding to leverage additional resources from both private and public sources in order to expand their community revitalization efforts. A conservative estimate suggests that the land banks will be able to access a combined total of more than $21 million in other public and private funding over the next two years.
Finally, the Attorney General is providing most grantees with funds to hire full-time staff, which will allow the land banks to expand operations and seek long-term sustainable sources of funding.
The second round of the competitive Request for Applications (RFA) process will open this summer.
THIS WEEK IN THE NEWS
May 26 to May 30, 2014
Joined by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, Attorney General Schneiderman announced that the NYPD – the largest police force in the United States – has joined his Community Overdose Prevention (COP) Program, which will provide the force with $1,170,000 funding to equip 19,500 police officers with the extremely effective heroin antidote, naloxone. The COP Program uses funds seized from drug dealers and other criminals to reimburse local police departments for the cost of naloxone kits.
The Attorney General also announced that, in less than two months since the COP Program was launched, more than 150 law-enforcement agencies have applied to the COP Program, with several dozen more in the process of completing necessary steps. The COP Program has now approved the distribution of approximately 25,000 kits to 150 police departments across the state.
Attorney General Schneiderman dismantled a “quick-delivery, high-volume” cocaine pipeline allegedly operating between New York City and the Dutchess County town of Wappingers Falls. According to an indictment unsealed this week, cocaine was packaged and sold out of two apartment buildings in Washington Heights, with deliveries made several times a week to Wappingers Falls, where drugs were also distributed out of a local deli. The ring allegedly funneled the proceeds of its sales to the Dominican Republic.
As a result of the investigation, known as “Operation Snowfall,” eight people have been charged with a combined 140 counts related to the trafficking and possession of cocaine and a ninth person was arrested on drug-related charges. One of the defendants includes a member of a prominent Wappingers Falls family. During the bust, the Attorney General’s Office also seized nearly $10,000 in cash and almost three kilos of cocaine, which has a street value of approximately $200,000.
Attorney General Schneiderman commended the New York State Assembly for passing legislation, sponsored by Assemblymember William Magnarelli, to increase New York’s number of land banks from 10 to 20, doubling the availability of this critical tool to help communities plagued by vacant and abandoned properties recover from the housing crisis. The Attorney General’s Office is already funding eight land banks, from Long Island to the Hudson Valley to Central and Western New York, and more funds will be available in this year. Learn more about this initiative here.
The Attorney General also applauded the passage of the Consumer Credit Fairness Act in the New York State Assembly, and thanked Assemblymember Helene Weinstein for her leadership on this issue. This bill would protect consumers when debt collectors attempt to collect on debt by using the judicial process, ensuring notice is provided when a suit is filed and requiring collectors to prove that the debt is legally owed to them. Similar to Chief Judge Lippman’s proposed reforms to the legal process for consumer credit cases – which the Attorney General praised last month – this legislation will promote an overall fairer system for thousands of New Yorkers.
Schneiderman Arrests Broome County Nurse For Endangering Nursing Home Resident And Falsifying Records
Attorney General Schneiderman announced the arrest and arraignment of a Broome County nurse who allegedly failed to follow nursing home policy after a resident fell and injured himself, lying to the facility about what happened. The Attorney General restated his commitment to ensuring all New Yorkers can trust their loved ones will be appropriately cared for in nursing facilities.