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Archive for July 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

***MEDIA ADVISORY***

COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROB ASTORINO WILL BE ENDORSED FOR RE-ELECTION BY THE LABORERS’ INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, LOCAL 60 ON MONDAY, JULY 29TH AT 10:30 A.M. AT 140 NORTH BROADWAY IN HAWTHORNE (UNION HEADQUARTERS.)

MR. ASTORINO, A FORMER RADIO EXECUTIVE, IS A LONGTIME UNION MEMBER.

DATE: MONDAY, JULY 29, 2013

TIME:10:30 A.M.

PLACE:140 NORTH BROADWAY, HAWTHORNE, NY

COUNTY EXECUTIVE ASTORINO ENDORSED BY
WESTCHESTER HISPANIC LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATION.

“County Executive Astorino has been a true friend and supporter of both the hispanic and law enforcement communities”

White Plains, NY–July 16th….County Executive Rob Astorino was today endorsed by the Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association for re-election. The July endorsement was unprecedented for the organization, which historically has waited until the fall to announce its preferred candidate. Astorino was joined by members of the association to announce the endorsement at Don Coqui restaurant in White Plains.

“The Hispanic Law Enforcement Association wholeheartedly endorses County Executive Astorino for re-election,” said Vice President Hector Lopez. “County Executive Astorino has been a true friend and supporter of both the hispanic and law enforcement communities. Westchester residents have been well-served by his leadership, and working together, we can continue to crack down on crime and enhance our quality of life.”

“I’m honored to receive the support of the Hispanic Law Enforcement Association,” said County Executive Astorino. “They are on the frontlines, working to keep us safe and protect our communities. We must make sure that they continue to have the support and resources they need to do their jobs and make it home safely to their families. Estoy agradecido por su apoyo y espero seguir trabajando junto a Ustedes durante otros cuatro años.”

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My State of the County Address on Tuesday, I pledged to deliver the fourth straight budget with no property tax increase while also preserving essential services, promoting economic growth, and protecting our municipalities against federal efforts to dismantle local zoning.

 

WATCH STATE OF THE COUNTY

 

 I announced:

  • A partnership with the Business Council of Westchester, the Westchester County Association and the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association to stop Albany’s unfunded mandates;
  • A new food rescue initiative to redistribute unused food from our schools, hospitals, hotels, and restaurants to our food pantries and soup kitchens;
  • My leadership to ensure that the new Tappan Zee Bridge has mass transit the day it opens; and,
  • Support for expanding cleaner and cheaper natural gas to the Westchester County Airport and the Material Recovery Facility in Yonkers.

I also presented an update on several of our initiatives, including:

  • The County’s new Local Development Corp., which has already approved $128 million in low-cost and tax exempt financing to nonprofit agencies at no risk to county taxpayers;
  • Reinventing Playland for the 21st century with an investment of $34 million in private money and a management agreement with a team of world-class operators who will restore the park as a year-round destination for Westchester’s families;
  • “Safer Communities,” which has built a coalition among our schools and municipalities to share resources and best practices as part of the County’s ceaseless effort to keep our kids, our schools and our communities as safe as they can be;
  • The County is a year ahead of the annual benchmarks for facilitating the construction of 750 units of affordable housing under the 2009 housing settlement with HUD; and
  • A bi-partisan joint action with the Board of Legislators to prevent HUD from re-allocating $7.4 million in federal funds already promised to Westchester’s communities in 2011.

From day one, our goal has been to deliver results. But results don’t come easy. Priorities must be set. Hard choices must be made. Partisanship must give way to partnership. Rhetoric must yield to leadership.

 

Westchester County continues to move forward carefully and steadily. We pledged to protect taxpayers, and we did just that. We pledged to preserve essential services, and we did just that. We pledged to promote economic growth, and we did just that. And working together, we will continue moving Westchester County toward an even brighter future.

 

Sincerely,

rob signature

Statement from the Campaign of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

April 24, 2013.

“We congratulate Mr. Bramson on his nomination tonight and look forward to a healthy debate in the fall election season, based on the issues. County Executive Astorino has delivered on the promises he made to Westchester voters four years ago — like his no tax increase pledge — and he is laying the groundwork for a healthy and economically vibrant Westchester going forward.  It is a record anyone would be proud to discuss.” — Jessica Proud, spokeswoman, Friends of Rob Astorino.

From Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick.

Come See Noam in Yonkers.

This week, folks in the Yonkers area
have a great opportunity to meet
and hear my good friend New Rochelle Mayor and Democratic Westchester County
Executive Candidate Noam Bramson
at two Town Hall meetings.

The first Town Hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 29, at 7:00 p.m. at Will Library.

The second meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 1, at 7:00 p.m. at Riverfront Library.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick.

Last night, I attended a vigil in Peekskill held in memory of Trayvon Martin. It was a good event, attended by an impressive cross section of the surrounding community, and featuring speeches from religious and civic leaders. This morning, I feel inspired to share a few thoughts, but I do so with caution and humility, because I can’t claim any special or original wisdom on such a difficult subject.

As a father, I can only imagine the pain that Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, must now feel. When a case is the topic of such extensive commentary and has such broad social significance, the person at its center can be reduced to an abstract symbol. It is important to remember that he was a human being, flesh and blood, loved and now mourned.

As a policy-maker, I believe that so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws encourage a dangerous shoot-first mentality. Except in the rarest of circumstances, we are much better off working to deescalate conflict and leaving deadly force to public safety professionals. The success of the gun lobby in promoting these laws around the country offers a dispiriting parallel to the gun lobby’s equally harmful obstruction of common sense gun safety standards in Congress and elsewhere. I genuinely respect the right of responsible citizens to keep and bear arms, but I will never comprehend the logic that says the answer to gun violence is more guns, with more firepower, in more hands.

Finally and most importantly, as a citizen, the verdict and the myriad discussions that followed remind me of how much race relations in America have advanced . . . and of how far we will still have to go.

Several years ago, as I was preparing to leave home to attend the annual MLK breakfast in New Rochelle, I asked my boys, half-jokingly, what I should say to the crowd. Jeremy replied: “why don’t you talk about how people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.” Jeremy had just learned about Dr. King in kindergarten and was simply repeating the lesson, but, still, I was floored and moved. When a little white boy growing up in the suburbs learns those words literally before learning how to add and subtract, there is no doubt that something is going right.

But there is also a sort of false comfort in such little anecdotes. Knowing the words is easier than living them. And celebrating equality in theory, although certainly a good thing, is no substitute for wrestling with the persistence of inequality, in all its uncomfortable complexity. Trayvon’s death and the disparate responses to the verdict, starkly divided by race, reveal a nation still struggling with its original sins. All of us need to try harder to reach beyond the confines of our own personal interests and experiences and better understand our neighbors and fellow Americans.

I am an optimist by nature, so I will close with another famous quote from King: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Good words to remember. Let’s also remember that the arc of justice bends with our help.

My thanks to the organizers of last night’s vigil for giving us a chance to come together.

Sincerely,

Noam Bramson

July 16th, 2013.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

In response to attacks on Mayor Noam Bramson’s positions on gun safety leveled by Assemblymember Kieran Lalor today, Bramson campaign spokesman Barry Caro issued the following response:

“Our campaign is happy to debate far right extremists like Kieran Lalor and Rob Astorino any day of the week on gun safety legislation. There’s a reason Westchester County voters, in a swing district, only gave Lalor 37% of our vote during his unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2008 – because his views are badly out of step with our own.”

“Noam Bramson believes we need to ban assault weapons, limit high capacity magazines, and ensure we have truly universal background checks. Astorino brought gun shows back to the County Center and opposes common sense gun safety legislation. That difference is one reason why the radical right – personified today by Kieran Lalor – is rallying to Astorino’s side.”

We’ve just closed out this campaign finance filing period with a total of about $1.1 million raised.

Wow.

That’s an incredible number, shattering previous records for a County Exec challenger at this stage of the race, and it shows the great enthusiasm that Noam has inspired throughout the county.

To be sure, our fundraising efforts are far from done. We know that Rob Astorino will raise even more (incumbents always do.) And executing our campaign plan will take about $2 million.

But let’s save that for another day. For now, I want you to know that Noam is working incredibly hard to justify our trust, that he is humbled by the confidence of every contributor, and that he will be an effective and visionary leader for all of Westchester.

Great job!

Sincerely,

Kim DiTomasso
Finance Director

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Noam Bramson for County Executive

Andrea Stewart-Cousins

may 8, 2013

When my State Senate district was redrawn last year to include a large portion of New Rochelle, Mayor Noam Bramson could not have been more welcoming. In the time since, he has been a strong partner in my work to pass common-sense gun safety laws, provide essential assistance to municipalities and school districts, and promote a comprehensive agenda for New York’s women, from reproductive rights to pay equity.

In order to make even more progress on the challenges facing our region and state, it is critical that policy makers at all levels of government share our priorities and values. That’s why it is so important to make sure Noam is our next County Executive.

 

Help Elect Noam Bramson — Contribute Now


There will be many opportunities in the weeks and months ahead to participate in Noam’s campaign — he will be reaching out to voters in every corner of the county, and he will need your help knocking on doors and making calls to friends and neighbors.

But right now, the top campaign priority is raising the financial resources to take on a well-funded incumbent. So I’m asking you to make a contribution to Noam’s campaign today of $2,500, $1,000, $500, or whatever is appropriate for you.

 

Make a Contribution Online


As a former County Legislator — and now as the Democratic leader of the State Senate — I can say firsthand that having the right person serve as County Executive makes a critical difference. I know that Noam will take action to attract new jobs, end the wasteful duplication in government, and make necessary investments in infrastructure, so that all residents of Westchester have a chance to succeed.

We need Noam to be our County Executive — and he needs your help to win.

 

Please Contribute Today


 

Warm regards,

Andrea Stewart-Cousins (signature)

Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Democratic Leader, New York State Senate

 

May 2, 2013

After his victory at last week’s Democratic convention — and with the full and gracious support of Ken Jenkins and Bill Ryan — Noam now leads a united and determined Westchester Democratic Party.

Our team is not taking a break because we know that the next step will be harder. This is the moment for everyone who supports Noam to rally to his side. So I am appealing to you: please make a contribution today.

Rally to Noam's Side. Donate Now.

During these past few months, I’ve watched Noam inspire people throughout Westchester with his commitment to our progressive values, and with his forward-looking plan for positive change. If Noam could have a personal conversation with every voter, I know he would win the general election in a landslide.

But in a county with nearly a million residents, personal conversations aren’t enough. An effective campaign depends on television, direct mail, social media, and a robust field operation. And all of that takes money … lots of money.

Noam has already raised more than $500,000 — a record for a County Executive challenger at this stage. But incumbent Rob Astorino has over $2 million on hand, and is raising much more. We have to close the gap, and we have to close it fast.

Help Us Close the Gap

If you have been waiting for the Democratic nomination to be settled before contributing, now is the time to join our campaign. Please make a contribution today of $500, $250, $100, $50, or whatever you think is appropriate.

To contribute online, please click here:

Contribute to Noam's Campaign

Or you can make a check payable to “Friends of Noam Bramson” and mail it to: PO Box 1556, New Rochelle, NY 10802.

Noam is doing his part — working his hardest every day to justify the trust so many have placed in him. Let’s do our part. Let’s launch the general election campaign with an overwhelming demonstration of support and enthusiasm for our great candidate.

With sincere thanks,

Kim (signature)
Kim DiTomasso
Finance Director
Friends of Noam Bramson

P.S. It is critical that we begin the general election with a resounding show of strength and enthusiasm, so we’ve set a goal of raising at least $100,000 in the next ten days. Please help us reach this target.

April 29, 2013

First of all — thank you for your support and advocacy during the past four months. I could not have won the Democratic nomination last Wednesday without your encouragement and enthusiasm, and I am so proud of what we have already accomplished together.

But now I need your help again. As one stage of the campaign ends and another begins, please take this opportunity to reaffirm our partnership by making a contribution to my campaign.

Our message is clear and persuasive: we have a forward-looking plan of action to grow our economy, create jobs, provide real leadership for taxpayers, and strengthen families and communities; and Westchester shares our mainstream values on choice, marriage equality, gun safety, and more.

But without the resources to communicate, our message will never be heard. That’s why your contribution is so essential.

Rob Astorino knows that the people of Westchester don’t subscribe to his right-wing views and don’t approve of his record of neglect. So our opponents will run a campaign of fear and distortion, funded by a huge war chest. We cannot let them drown out the truth with a flood of mail and television.

So help us level the playing field. Give us the tools to communicate our positive vision. We are aiming to raise at least $100,000 in the next ten days, and we need your help to reach this target. Let’s begin the general election together with a resounding demonstration of support and determination.

Westchester faces big challenges, but when I think of the diversity and talent of our county and of all the assets we can enlist to build a better future, I am filled with hope … and, with you at my side, I can’t wait to get to work.Sincerely,

Noam

APRIL 27, 2013

On Thursday, Noam joined Andrew Whitman on RNN for his first full television interview since receiving the Democratic nomination. I didn’t want you to miss it:

Bramson interviewed on RNN

I’m very proud to work for a candidate who makes our case so well.

Best,

Js-signature-s
Jeremy Sherber
Campaign Manager

APRIL 25, 2013

Earlier tonight, I was honored to receive the Democratic nomination for Westchester County Executive.

Our victory at the Democratic convention is a credit to the hard work of an amazing campaign staff, dedicated volunteers, generous donors, and good friends. Catie and I could not be more grateful for all who labored on our behalf.

I am grateful also to Ken Jenkins and Bill Ryan, strong competitors, with whom it was an honor to share the campaign trail. Both were exceptionally gracious at the convention, and I am delighted to have their support.

Competing for the nomination has been an extraordinary experience, and we can take a moment to savor our success – but not more than a moment, because now the really tough challenge begins. To bring positive change to Westchester, we must win in November, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility to justify the trust placed in me tonight.

I will have much more to say about this campaign in the weeks and months ahead. For now, I want to share with you the remarks I prepared to make tonight to accept the Democratic nomination (before the hour grew so late that I decided to spare the die-hard delegates and cut it down).

With gratitude and determination,

Noam

I know the hour is late, but I hope you’ll permit me to say a few words to this convention and to all the people of Westchester.

And I want to begin by recognizing two extraordinary public servants, two men who have proven their strength and skill and dedication to the values of our party, and who tonight showed the generosity of spirit and sense of common purpose that are the hallmarks of true leadership.

I ask every person in this hall to please stand – please stand up – and join me in saluting Ken Jenkins and Bill Ryan.

Ken and Bill, we began this journey as friends. We are ending this journey as friends. And, as we move forward together, I will be proud to call you partners.

To all who supported us tonight, and labored so hard for this milestone, Catie and I are honored beyond words by your trust.

And to all who supported others, please take well-earned pride in your service to a good cause.

We may have arrived here on different teams, but now – strong, united and determined – we go forth as one team.

And, together, for the hundreds of thousands of people who count on us to be their advocates and their champions, we will win a resounding victory this November.

My friends, that is much more than a partisan political objective. Because what’s at stake in this election is nothing less than the character, and the future, of our County.

And our choice this year is different from any we’ve faced before.

Here in Westchester, as long as any of us can remember, Democrats and Republicans have stood side by side to deliver good government – to provide value for our dollar, to strengthen public services . . . to invest in tomorrow.

These haven’t been partisan questions. We’ve never been a county of extremists or ideologues, on either the right or the left. We believe in balanced priorities, and we measure our actions by their practical effect on real people and real communities.

So when the people of Westchester elected Rob Astorino four years ago, many of us assumed that he would govern in that moderate, mainstream tradition.

Four years later, our eyes have been opened, and the hard truth is all too clear.

Rob Astorino may campaign like Nelson Rockefeller, but he governs like Newt Gingrich, and this is the most partisan, right-wing and short-sighted administration of our lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Rob. This isn’t about personal character. This is about the character of our leadership.

And he really believes the less we do, the better.

So there’s no strategy for growth, no goal for reforming government, no vision for expanding opportunity, no plan to cut waste, no effort at all to come to grips with the great challenges of land use, and transportation, and human capital that will define the future of our economy and environment.

And every one of us is paying the price in tax bills that go up, a quality of life that goes down, and opportunities that pass by.

This is a time when every public servant needs to rise to the occasion, and accept the full responsibility of their office. And we deserve a County Executive who will show up for work.

And there’s more. Because it’s not just the laws we pass, it’s also the values we uphold.

In this day and age, why on Earth does Westchester have a County Executive who won’t trust women to make their own decisions about reproductive health? Why does Westchester have a County Executive who thinks two committed adults should be denied their right to marry? Why does Westchester have a County Executive who can’t say – straight and plain – whether he supports common sense gun safety laws?

Those aren’t the values of this community.

And if every person in Westchester has full knowledge of the record, views and plans of the candidates, we will win this election in a landslide. We know this.

Problem is, our opponents know this, too. So they will try to win this campaign through fear and distortion.

If you doubt that for a second, just take a look at the State of the County Address that Rob Astorino delivered last night. The heart of the speech? A promise to fight tooth and nail against the quote-unquote “new” federal requirements for fair and affordable housing.

Now, you might ask, exactly what are these new requirements?

Well, to hear Rob tell it, it’s: 11,000 housing units, up from 750, at a cost of a billion dollars, paid for with a 200% tax increase, plus an end to all of our local zoning codes, so the feds can put a high-rise on every block. He really said this.

All very scary.

And all completely made up. Not a little made-up – like they kind of fudged it. Made-up, from beginning to end, from A to Z.

So while I’m sure we all appreciate Rob’s heartfelt pledge to protect us from this imaginary, make-believe threat.

Would it be too much to ask for a little calm, deliberative leadership to solve the actual problem that exists in the real world?

When you lose every court case, when your defiance and mismanagement is costing the County millions of our dollars, when editorial boards are comparing Westchester in 2013 to Alabama in 1963. When even the U.S. Attorney is threatening to hold you in contempt, then the last refuge of a political candidate is to scare people into voting against their own interests.

Enough already.

If this County Executive can’t offer the constructive leadership and sense of responsibility to finally get this expensive and divisive mess behind us, then please step aside for someone else who will.

On this issue, on every issue, we know we can do better. This isn’t rocket science.

Don’t tell me the only way to balance our budget is by cutting child care and neighborhood health centers.

Don’t tell me that a region with so many strengths can’t shape its own economic and environmental future.

We have no shortage of talent and creativity. All we’re missing is leadership, leadership equal to the task.

I’ve seen it.

As parents, Catie and I appreciate every day the difference that a healthy community makes in the lives of our children.

As a mayor, I brought people together to face tough challenges head-on, brought new investment and hope to a struggling urban center, and delivered millions in savings for taxpayers.

As a New Yorker, I was proud of our Governor for giving every one of us the right to marry.

As a citizen and a leader, I stand firmly in support of gun safety, and I will always fight for a woman’s right to choose.

And as County Executive, with your help, we will take action to grow our economy, create new jobs, end the waste and duplication in government, provide real leadership for taxpayers, and invest in our shared future.

The choice in this election is between a plan of action that honors the mainstream values of Westchester . . . or a record of neglect that honors only the extreme agenda of the Tea Party.

So I repeat. Four years later, our eyes have been opened, and the hard truth is clear.

But you know the old saying: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. And ladies and gentlemen, today, on behalf of all the people of Westchester, we say in a strong, clear voice: we will not be fooled again.

During the course of this campaign, many of you have heard me speak of my parents, who became refugees during the Second World War and then came to this country with almost nothing.

Of the sacrifices they made to give their four sons every opportunity to succeed. And of their profound gratitude for our nation’s freedoms.

My father died nearly twenty years ago. My mother is here tonight. And I am very proud of both of them.

But the truth is that, here in Westchester, there’s nothing remarkable about our family’s story, because there are so many other stories that are just as compelling.

The immigrants who work three jobs to give their kids a better chance.

The volunteers who devote untold hours to libraries, and parks, and soup kitchens and schools.

The doctors and lawyers, entrepreneurs and artists, who make Westchester a global icon of talent and culture.

And the men and women who do the people’s business, who keep our streets clean and safe, who respond bravely to emergencies, and accept the duties of defense, with solemn dedication and not an ounce of boastful pride.

All of us are Westchester. Each contributing to the whole. Going up or down together. And we deserve leadership that appeals to our best instincts.

I know we face big challenges today. But when I consider who we are, what we have done, and what we can do, I am filled with determination. And I cannot wait to get to work.

So with humility and gratitude, with a full and hopeful heart, and with faith that we will together shape a better future in which everybody has a chance to succeed and everybody counts, I accept your nomination for Westchester County Executive.

APRIL 18, 2013

It has been a pleasure to speak with hundreds of Democratic leaders in the last few months. I’ve been grateful for the chance to share my own views, and also to hear your perspective on challenges and opportunities throughout Westchester.

But some of us still haven’t met. That’s why our campaign produced a video to summarize my background, record, and plans. Please click below to watch. (Even if we have already spoken, check it out — it’s only about four minutes long.)

Noam Bramson Video - Right Now

When you’re done, please consider sharing the video with your friends and fellow district leaders. It’s important for all of us to make an informed choice at Wednesday’s Democratic convention, so that we select the strongest candidate and then unite for victory in the general election.

Sincerely,

Noam

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 4, 2013.

Latimer Throws Support to Bramson.

New Rochelle Mayor wins coveted endorsement from State Senator and former County Democratic Chair.

APRIL 4, 2013 — In a letter emailed to Democratic district leaders today, State Senator George Latimer endorsed Mayor Noam Bramson of New Rochelle and called him “best positioned for success” in a general election matchup with Rob Astorino for Westchester County Executive.

Latimer, a former Chairperson of the Westchester County Democratic Party who was elected to the State Senate last year, is highly regarded among Democrats. He had been neutral in the Democratic contest for County Executive until now, and his endorsement signals a move to Bramson with less than three weeks remaining until the Democratic convention on April 24th.

Acknowledging the “Democratic credentials” and “core values” of all three candidates, Latimer nevertheless offered Bramson his “full support.” He said, “I am convinced that Noam Bramson is the right person to represent our party in November and to lead our County come January.”

Latimer stressed Bramson’s record of accomplishments in New Rochelle, saying, “Noam has guided his hometown with vision, perseverance, and a good dose of practicality. He’s pursued effective economic development, promoted sound environmental practices, and approved responsible budgets with balanced priorities.”

Latimer raised the image of his own challenging campaign for State Senate in 2012 to make the case that Bramson is the Democrat with the best chance to defeat incumbent Rob Astorino in the general election. “I know what the GOP attack machine looks like,” he said, “and I know what it takes to win.” He called Bramson “a spirited campaigner, a powerful communicator, and a capable fundraiser.”

Latimer closed on a more personal note, praising Bramson for his idealistic pursuit of good policy, his integrity, and his commitment to his community. “I endorse Noam Bramson,” said Latimer, “but more importantly, like many others who have worked with him, I admire Noam Bramson.”

Latimer’s endorsement bookends a month of statements from current and past elected officials in support of the Bramson campaign. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, State Assembly Members Amy Paulin, Sandy Galef, and Tom Abinanti, as well as local mayors, supervisors, council members, and trustees from all parts of the county have been joining the Bramson campaign in recent weeks.

George Latimer represents the 37th Senate District that stretches from Yonkers to Port Chester to Katonah. Prior to his election to the State Senate in 2021, Latimer was a member of the State Assembly; before that he served as Chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators.

Media;

George Latimer: http://www.noambramson.org/uploads/2013/04/Latimer.jpg

Noam Bramson: http://www.noambramson.org/uploads/2012/12/NB-flag.jpg

Links:

Latimer statement: http://www.noambramson.org/2013/04/george-latimer/

All endorsements: http://www.noambramson.org/endorsements/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 14, 2012.

Noam Bramson Enters Race for County Executive.

New Rochelle Mayor Pledges a Campaign of “Substance and Ideas”.

December 14, 2012 — New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson announced today he will seek the Democratic nomination for Westchester County Executive in 2013. Bramson, who won reelection last year with a record-setting 79% of the vote, gives Democrats a top-tier contender to take on Republican incumbent Rob Astorino.

“We need a County Executive with a coherent vision for growing our economy and attracting new jobs, for cutting government waste and inefficiency, and for making good on our commitment to seniors, children, and working parents,” said Bramson. “As the Mayor of a diverse and complex community, I have brought people together to achieve positive change. As County Executive, I will act with innovation and energy to shape a stronger, healthier, and more inclusive Westchester.”

Continued Bramson, “It is time for a serious debate about our future, and I intend to offer a campaign of substance and ideas.”

In a letter mailed this week to Democratic leaders throughout the County, Bramson cited several of his objectives for Westchester:

growing the economy, attracting new jobs, and delivering greater value for every tax dollar by adopting forward-looking development, land use, transit, and environmental plans;

confronting duplicative government bureaucracy in order to reduce waste, decrease our regional tax burden, and make room for essential investments in the future; and

upholding our commitment to seniors, children, working parents, and the vulnerable, on the principle that we move forward when all people in our community have a chance to succeed.

“During the past three years, these priorities have been neglected,” said Bramson. “For Westchester to remain a vibrant place to raise a family, find a job, and enjoy a rewarding life, the County Executive must be willing to lead.”

During his seven years at the helm of Westchester’s second largest city, Bramson has compiled a record of achievement on issues directly relevant to County leadership. Bramson spearheaded successful economic development, creating new jobs and spurring hundreds of millions in investment; adopted responsible budgets that have given New Rochelle the lowest city tax rate among Westchester’s urban centers, while meeting essential service priorities; and produced an award-winning sustainability plan that serves as a detailed twenty-year blueprint for environmental conservation, smart growth, and social progress.

Bramson Wins Early Support from County Leaders

Bramson has already earned the support of prominent County leaders, including Congresswoman Nita Lowey. “Noam is one of the most effective, smart, and principled public servants I have known, “ said Lowey. “He has the talent and determination to make a significant, positive difference for Westchester. I am very proud to endorse him.”

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a former Executive Director of My Sisters’ Place, said “Noam is the right person to take on the tough challenge of county leadership. He has proven his competence, intelligence, and ability in New Rochelle, and all of Westchester will benefit from his service.”

New Rochelle City Council Member Jared Rice, who has teamed with Bramson to promote job training and affordable housing initiatives, lauded the Mayor’s leadership. “Noam is respected throughout the community for his hard work, clear vision, and personal commitment to fairness and inclusion,” said Rice. “He is a terrific colleague, who reaches across lines and shares credit to get things done.”

Bramson has been active in regional planning, development, and environmental efforts, and is highly-regarded beyond New Rochelle.

Mamaroneck Supervisor Nancy Seligson, a past President of Save the Sound, has worked with Bramson on a regional trail and park network and has supported his efforts to improve the Long Island Sound waterfront. Seligson said, “Noam is creative and collaborative, and he understands firsthand the impact of County government on every community. By pursuing regional solutions to regional problems, he will be a great chief executive for Westchester.”

And Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla, the current President of the Westchester Municipal Officials Association, said, “Noam is an extremely competent and very bright guy who always puts doing what’s right ahead of being political. His strong organizational and leadership skills are just what Westchester needs.”

Voters Will Have A Clear Choice On Social Issues.

The matchup between Bramson and Astorino presents Westchester voters with a clear choice between a social progressive and a social conservative. Bramson supports a woman’s right to choose and favors marriage equality. By contrast, Astorino stands against reproductive rights and opposed New York’s marriage equality law, positions that place him far to the right of most County residents.

Francine “Frankie” Stein, past President/CEO of Planned Parenthood of Hudson-Peconic, said, “Choice will be on the ballot in 2013, and the women of Westchester deserve a County Executive who trusts us to make our own healthcare decisions. Noam supports family planning and access to reproductive health care, and he understands that strong, happy families are the backbone of successful communities.”

Noam Bramson, 43, is a lifelong Westchester resident and a product of the New Rochelle public schools. Bramson is married to Catherine (“Catie”) Stern, Ph.D., a clinical pediatric neuropsychologist, affiliated with Family Health Associates of White Plains and Manhattan. Their young sons, Jeremy and Owen, are both students in the New Rochelle public schools.

Bramson has served on the boards of numerous civic organizations, including the New Rochelle Campership Fund, the Castle Gallery, the Fund for Educational Excellence, the New Rochelle Council of Community Services, the Westchester Jewish Council, and the United Way of New Rochelle. He attended Harvard University, where he completed his undergraduate degree in three years, and then received a Masters degree in Public Policy.

First elected to New Rochelle City Council in 1995, Bramson has served as Mayor since 2006.

Mayor Noam Bramson

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Noam and Catie, with their sons Jeremy and Owen

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We endorse Michael Rotanelli for Yonkers City Council President.

We announce our Endorsement of Michael Rotanelli for Yonkers City
Council President.

We support and like, Mr Rotanelli’s Platform of him being supportive of Affordable Housing, for creating Smart Development in Our City and also the jobs that go along with those Development Projects and also how the Yonkers City Budget impacts the Quality of Life for the Youth of our City, since they are the future of Yonkers.

Rotanelli is tested in the political arena with the last race he ran
under his belt for Yonkers City Council 3rd District from 2 years ago,
that campaign was a very grassroots, active and run with the spirit of
returning our City of Yonkers back to the City of Gracious Living once
again.

This City needs a proven leader as our next City Council President,
someone who knows the issues and most importantly knows our city
inside and out.

We need a City Council President who will be the voice of the people
and also will be someone who will stand up no matter what issue and
always make sure that Council President put our city above politics as
usual and also above any self promotion and on the Democratic Side of
the Aisle, the candidate who you think about with those qualities in
spades is Michael Rotanelli and that is why we endorse him in the
strongest terms in this race for Yonkers City Council President.

The thing that separates Rotanelli from the other Candidates in this race is his passion, fire in the belly, being a life long resident of Yonkers and also his love for our City and his belief that the City of Yonkers greatest days are still ahead of us in the future.

We endorse Michael Rotanelli as the Yonkers City Council President in
the strongest terms, Rotanelli is the leader with business sense who believes that Yonkers City Government should be run like a business.

We also feel that Rotanelli is the best hope for the Dems to keep the
Office of Yonkers City Council President and the Majority of The
Yonkers City Council in the hands of the Yonkers Democrats.

We need to Elect Michael Rotanelli as our Yonkers City Council President and bring new leadership to the office of The Yonkers City Council President. It is time to put our City first ahead of Politics as Usual.

This Editorial is the sole opinion of The Yonkers Insider.

The Yonkers Insider

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 18, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

Statement From A.G. Schneiderman Urging Congress to Restore Core Provision of the Voting Rights Act.

NEW YORK – Today, the United States House Judiciary Committee is conducting a hearing focused on restoring the Section 5 preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act following the Supreme Court’s June 25, 2013 ruling in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. The hearing, which follows a similar hearing held yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, marks an important first step in the effort to restore a core provision of this federal civil rights law. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has submitted a letter to the Committee urging swift and careful Congressional action to ensure the continuing vitality of the law. The following statement may be attributed to Attorney General Schneiderman regarding the restoration of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act:

“I urge the House Judiciary Committee to restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which has played a vital role in combating discrimination against voters for decades. As my office has argued in the Supreme Court, Section 5 has been a crucial tool for the protection of voting rights in areas covered by the law, including in parts of New York. I applaud Congress for taking this important step to ensure that the important protections provided by this law remain in place.”

A.G. Schneiderman led a coalition of covered states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve the protections afforded by Section 5, which requires states and state subdivisions with a history of voting discrimination to obtain federal review of voting changes to ensure that those changes were not adopted with a discriminatory purpose, and will not negatively impact minority voter participation.

In 2006, Congress conducted extensive hearings to determine whether the protections provided by Section 5 remained necessary in covered jurisdictions, compiled a record of ongoing discrimination throughout the covered jurisdictions and voted overwhelmingly by a margin of 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House to renew the law. The preclearance provision has applied to Kings, Bronx and New York Counties and has provided important protections for minority voters in New York State.

The New York State Attorney General’s Office is committed to ensuring equality in opportunity for all voters. To report complaints of voting discrimination, contact the Office’s Civil Rights Bureau at 212-416-8250 or Civil.Rights@ag.ny.gov.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman, MLB Commissioner Selig & MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner Announce New Code of Conduct Strengthening Protections Against Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation.

After Meeting With AG’s Office, League And Players’ Union Strengthen Efforts To Protect Current & Prospective Gay Players.

Schneiderman, Selig & Weiner: “Together We Will Make Our National Pastime A National Leader In Equality And Inclusion”

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig and Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) Executive Director Michael Weiner today announced new efforts to protect current and future MLB players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. Following discussions with the Attorney General’s office, MLB and MLBPA agreed to undertake new actions to reinforce its workplace discrimination policies, including the creation and dissemination of a Workplace Code of Conduct to be distributed to every Major and Minor League player and posted in each locker room conveying MLB’s non-discrimination policies. The League also agreed to implement new training opportunities for team officials and create a centralized complaint system for reporting incidents involving harassment and discrimination.

In November 2011, MLB and the MLBPA added sexual discrimination language into their collective bargaining agreement. Earlier this year, the Attorney General announced an agreement with the National Football League on new efforts to promote inclusion and protect players from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In a joint event this afternoon before the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field, Attorney General Schneiderman, Commissioner Selig and MLBPA Director of Player Services Tony Clark unveiled a copy of the Workplace Code of Conduct at the T-Mobile All-Star Fan Fest celebration at New York’s Javits Center. The Code will also be distributed individually to professional baseball players at every level of the game.

“No one should face harassment or discrimination, whether their workplace is an office park or a baseball diamond,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “By making a clear stand against discrimination in the workplace, our National Pastime is showing national leadership in the fight to promote equal justice for all. I am committed to using every tool at my disposal to ensure equal protection under the law for all employees no matter where they work, and I applaud Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for working cooperatively with our office to promote a culture of inclusion and equality.”

“I expect all those who represent Major League Baseball, as a social institution that has important social responsibilities, to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that our game’s diverse players, employees and fans deserve,” Commissioner Selig said. “We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins. Both on the field and away from it, Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Executive Director Michael Weiner said, “The Major League Baseball Players Association supports and promotes a discrimination-free workplace, and firmly believes that every individual is entitled to pursue his or her career in an environment that is free of any type of harassing behavior. Additionally, the MLBPA embraces diversity and supports a workplace environment that welcomes all regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation.”

As a result of MLB’s and MLBPA’s cooperation with the Attorney General’s office, the League has committed to additional steps to ensure that “America’s pastime” is open to all players, regardless of sexual orientation. Among these steps, MLB has agreed to develop and disseminate materials on sexual orientation non-discrimination to all Club Scouting and Farm Directors involved in the acquisition of amateur talent. This will help to create a culture of acceptance early in the process. In addition, MLB’s Office of the Commissioner will conduct training sessions for Club and League officials and staff at the bi-annual industry meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for November 2013 in Orlando, Florida and will include training on sexual orientation non-discrimination principles.

Furthermore, the Office of the Commissioner will centralize the process for filing complaints involving discrimination and harassment for both players and Club personnel by designating a lead point of contact at the Commissioner’s Office to whom any complaints of sexual orientation harassment or discrimination can be made. In accordance with the Workplace Code of Conduct, MLB has also agreed to take steps to protect from retaliation any person who makes or assists in making such a complaint, or who assists in the investigation of a complaint.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Justin Deabler and James Katz, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke, Executive Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN & STATE COMPTROLLER DiNAPOLI ANNOUNCE ARREST OF NOT-FOR-PROFIT EXECUTIVE IN FIVE-YEAR PUBLIC CORRUPTION SCHEME.

Ongoing Criminal Investigation Shows More Than $85K In Taxpayer Dollars Stolen From Charity Linked To Former State Senator Shirley Huntley.

Schneiderman & DiNapoli: Our Investigation Will Crack Down On Public Officials And Charity Bosses Who Stole Funds Intended To Serve The Public.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the arrest of a nonprofit executive accused of pocketing tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds intended for public services in New York City. The joint investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and the State Comptroller’s office revealed that Van R. Holmes — the president of the Young Leaders Institute, Inc. — stole more than $85,000 by creating dozens of false records and forged documents which he filed with State and City agencies in order to obtain public money.

The joint investigation by the Offices of the Attorney General and State Comptroller, with the assistance of the New York City Department of Investigation, is looking into the funds directed by former New York State Senator Shirley Huntley and others to charities like the Young Leaders Institute.

Mr. Holmes was arrested and arraigned in Queens County Court today. The complaint charges Holmes with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Forgery in the Second Degree, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. The maximum penalty for the top count charged in the complaint is up to 15 years in prison.

“Van Holmes pocketed tens of thousands of State and City taxpayer dollars meant to help low-income students and their families,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The men and women elected to public office and put in charge of public service organizations have a special responsibility to protect the public interest. Working together with Comptroller DiNapoli, we intend to use every tool in our arsenal to crack down on anyone who abuses the public trust.”

“My office has found far too many instances where public money is abused for personal use,” Comptroller DiNapoli said. “Taxpayer dollars meant to create a better future for New York teens at the Young Leaders Institute were instead used to purchase men’s wear, car repairs, and theater tickets. It’s shameful. My office will continue to work hand in hand with Attorney General Schneiderman to ensure that those who betray the public’s trust are punished and that those efforts yield results.”

“Thousands of City dollars earmarked for schoolchildren were misdirected to a nonprofit executive who double-dipped and padded the bills, according to the criminal complaint,” said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn. “We joined forces with our State partners to coordinate the investigation of allegations of fraud in an organization that received State and City discretionary allocations and to take action to root out fraud where it is found.”

The complaint accuses Holmes of engaging in a fraudulent scheme to steal member item funds and city discretionary awards. From 2007 to 2010, Holmes obtained three member item grants sponsored by former New York State Senator Shirley Huntley. He created dozens of false record which he submitted to the State in support of his fraudulent claims for reimbursement. He received a total of approximately $80,000 from the State, roughly $77,000 of which he stole.

For example, the defendant created false invoices and payment records to make it appear as though he took 50 youths on a two day and two night trip to a retreat center. No such trip occurred and the defendant pocketed the funds instead.

The defendant also fraudulently claimed that he spent a $70,000 member item grant on a “Youth Enterprise/Learn to Earn/Leadership Program.” The defendant claimed that this program offered youths aged 14 to 19 the opportunity to go on trips to Wall Street and Albany, to receive mentoring and training in “job readiness and running their own business,” and to participate in a “stipend program funded by State Senator Shirley Huntley,” among other things.

As alleged in the complaint, however, the program never took place. Instead, the defendant submitted falsified records for purchases he never made, including the alleged purchase of a dozen laptop computers. Furthermore, the defendant submitted records of payments he claimed to have made to consultants of the grant program, but which he actually made to employees of his afterschool programs and summer camps in Queens – programs for which the defendant charged parents a fee.

In 2011 and 2012, the defendant received five discretionary awards from City Council Members. As a result of these awards, the defendant entered two contracts with the Department of Youth and Community Development, the city agency that administered the grants. The defendant received approximately $30,000 as a result of these discretionary grants, of which he stole over $11,000. As with the state member item thefts, the defendant created false business records and forged documents in order to support his fraudulent requests for reimbursement from the City.

For example, in 2011, the defendant put on a “Saturday Academy” for school children. While the Young Leaders Institute did provide this program, the defendant forged employee personnel records and tax forms and altered nearly every timesheet submitted to the City for reimbursement in order to inflate the hours of his employees and conceal the fact that he was not paying payroll taxes. The defendant stole over $4,000 in this manner.

In 2012, the defendant provided an afterschool program in Queens that was supposed to be funded by the discretionary awards. The defendant was prohibited from charging a fee for participation in the program, but he continued to charge parents the regular fee, even encouraging parents to pay him cash whenever possible. The defendant also submitted fraudulent claims for reimbursement to the City, including payments he allegedly made to himself and to another employee that were not related to the afterschool program. The defendant stole over $7,000 in this manner.

Individual disbursements of public funds are not themselves evidence of any wrongdoing, and it would be inappropriate to presume that any particular public official has engaged in misconduct simply by directing funds to a non-profit. The subject of this particular case was Mr. Holmes’ theft of tens of thousands of dollars of public funds from the Young Leaders Institute.

Prosecuting the case are Senior Counsel Emily Bradford and Assistant Attorney General Jerrold Steigman, with assistance from Senior Litigation Counsel Gary Fishman, under the supervision of Public Integrity Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz, Chief William E. Schaeffer, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. The Investigation was handled by Investigator Gerard Matheson and Investigative Analyst Brian Selfon of the Investigations Bureau, Supervising Forensic Auditor Edward Keegan, and Analyst KerryAnn Rodriguez. New York City’s Department of Youth & Community Development also cooperated and assisted with the investigation.

The joint investigation was conducted by the Comptroller’s Bureau of State Expenditures and Legal Services Division’s Investigations Unit.

Chanterelle Sung, Ivette Morales, and Kerasha Campbell of the Nonprofit Vendor Unit of the New York City Department of Investigation assisted with the investigation.

Anyone with additional information on this matter or any other public corruption is encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-996-4630 or the Comptroller’s office by dialing the toll-free fraud hotline at 1-888-672-4555; filing a complaint online at investigations@osc.state.ny.us; or mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller Investigations Unit, 110 State Street, 14th floor, Albany, NY 12236.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES SENTENCING OF NYC and Hudson Valley Oxycodone kingpin.

Oxy Dealer John Bland Sentenced To Five Years In State Prison For Ring That Used Forged Prescriptions At Pharmacies In Manhattan, Bronx, Kings, Queens, Dutchess And Orange Counties To Obtain And Sell Tens Of Thousands Of Oxycodone Pills.

Schneiderman: We Will Use Every Tool At Our Disposal To Fight The Epidemic Of Prescription Drug Abuse And Prosecute Those Who Illegally Profit From It.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the sentencing of John Bland, who previously pleaded guilty to running a major oxycodone trafficking ring in New York City and Dutchess and Orange Counties. The ring used forged prescriptions to obtain and sell close to 16,000 of the highly-addictive pain pills with a street value of approximately $470,000. Bland was sentenced to five years in state prison today by Orange County Court Judge Jeffrey G. Berry.

“My office will do everything in its power to crack down on the criminals who use fake prescriptions to fuel dangerous addictions and illegally traffic in prescription narcotics,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Cases like this are exactly why my office fought to pass New York’s historic I-STOP prescription drug abuse prevention law. The state prison sentence that this kingpin will serve should be warning to all who are tempted to capitalize on other peoples’ addictions.”

Last June, the state legislature unanimously passed the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP, which was then signed into law. First introduced by Attorney General Schneiderman, I-STOP requires doctors to review a patient’s prescription drug history and update it through a real-time database when writing prescriptions for certain controlled substances. The bill will eliminate most paper prescriptions by August of 2014. Had the system been in place, Bland’s illegal activities could have been spotted earlier by law enforcement officials.

John Bland, a/k/a “Nugget,” 49, of the Bronx, who pleaded guilty in June, admitted to being the director of a controlled substance trafficking ring in which he supplied other members of the organization with forged prescriptions for the narcotic drug oxycodone and directed them to present the prescriptions to pharmacies in New York City and Dutchess and Orange Counties. Bland admitted that he paid members of his ring between $150 and $400 for each prescription they successfully filled. He also admitted to selling the oxycodone pills in bulk to other drug dealers, for $10 a pill, and that between February 1, 2011 and January 4, 2012 he possessed and sold 15,670 oxycodone pills which had a street value of $470,100.

Six other members of Bland’s controlled substance organization, Carl Canty, 49; Paul Perez, 42; Mario Aragona, 49; Michelle Kaplan, 42; Darrell Harrison, 50; and Kimberly Augustus, 31; all of the Bronx; were each previously arrested and charged with four counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, (B felony); two counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, (D felony); and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (E felony), for their participation in the ring’s activities. They are all scheduled to appear in the Town of Newburgh Justice Court on September 10, 2013. The charges against these defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Bland pleaded guilty to one count of Attempted Operating as a Major Trafficker and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree.

The investigation into Bland’s ring was conducted by the New York State Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the NYC Human Resources Administration, Investigation, Revenue & Enforcement Administration. Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement for their assistance in this investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Christopher Borek, under the supervision of Regional Director Anne Jardine of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul Mahoney, Special Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. The investigation was conducted by Senior Special Investigator Dennis Johnston, Senior Special Investigator Frank Bluszcz, and Special Auditor Investigator Christopher Giacoia, under the supervision of Chief Regional Auditor John Regan and Deputy Chief Investigator Thaddeus Fisher.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     May 29, 2013.

 

 

A.G. Schneiderman & SENATE MAJORITY COALITION LEADER KLEIN HIGHLIGHT Foreclosure Relief Bills.

 

Bills Before State Senate Will Ensure New Yorkers Are Protected From Irresponsible, Or Even Criminal, Behavior.

 

Schneiderman: Legislation Will Keep Homeowners Out Of The Legal Limbo & Ensure Their Rights Are Honored.

 

MINEOLA — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State Senate Majority Coalition Leader Jeff Klein today highlighted the “Certificate of Merit” bill (A. 5582) and the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act (A.7395), two important pieces of legislation to protect New York homeowners facing foreclosure. Both bills passed the New York State Assembly last week, and will be soon be decided on by the New York State Senate. Many homeowners in New York are still fighting to stay in their homes, and these bills would ensure that families are protected from careless, or irresponsible, or even criminal behavior.

 

The “Certificate of Merit” bill would ensure homeowners have a chance to participate in court-supervised mediation sessions that could help them keep their homes. The Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act would impose criminal penalties on residential mortgage lenders, servicers and their agents who intentionally engage in fraudulent or deceptive conduct in the preparation, execution or filing of false foreclosure documents. This legislation was proposed by Attorney General Schneiderman and are being sponsored in the Senate by Senator Klein.

 

“On Long Island and all across New York State, wrongful foreclosure and the growing ‘shadow docket’ are preventing thousands of families from even getting a chance to keep their homes,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Both the ‘Certificate of Merit’ bill and the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act address these critical problems by proposing common-sense reforms to keep homeowners out of the legal limbo and ensure their rights are honored. The Assembly has already acted to empower hardworking New Yorkers fighting against foreclosure. It is now time for the Senate to do the same.”

 

Senate Majority Coalition Leader Jeff Klein said, “Any family that is facing the loss of their home deserves a fair day in court. But right now, unnecessary delays and incomplete paperwork are denying thousands of families this opportunity every day. These reforms can help change all of that, by ending the stalemate and bringing these homeowners the peace of mind that they deserve. That’s why I’m proud to support these measures and look forward to ushering them through the Senate.”

 

“With these new laws, we will hold criminals accountable for their abusive foreclosure practices and deter them from unlawfully removing New Yorkers from their homes, and eliminate the “shadow docket” in the courts”, said Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman have recognized the problems in foreclosure and have put forward corrective legislation, to protect New York’s homeowners. I look forward to the Senate passing this much needed legislation.”

 

Village of Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall said, “The law gives homeowners in foreclosure the right to a settlement conference with their bank to try to save their home, and the sooner they can schedule a conference, the more likely they are to be successful. Attorney General Schneiderman’s legislation will ensure that homeowners can exercise their rights, and give them a fighting chance to keep their home.”

 

Long Beach City Council President Scott J. Mandel said, “Abusive foreclosure practices and the needless ‘shadow docket’ place huge burdens on homeowners already struggling to keep their homes and avoid displacement. But these bills will assist ongoing efforts to bring relief to New Yorkers and stop the foreclosure crisis threatening so many Long Island communities. Thank you to Attorney General Schneiderman for introducing this legislation, and to Senator Klein for sponsoring it in the Senate.”

 

“Too many older New Yorkers are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure because some banks and their lawyers are exploiting administrative loopholes which are denying homeowners a chance at affordable settlements – all the while continuing to charge interest and fees. This needs to change,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York. “AARP applauds Attorney General Schneiderman and Senator Klein for proposing a common sense solution to stop banks’ delay tactics and help homeowners get the resolution they deserve – and the chance to keep their homes.”

 

Elie Hecht, Director of Labor and Industry for Education (LIFE), said, “In working with underserved communities on Long Island, we’ve seen numerous cases of homeowners left waiting for lenders to adhere to legal requirements, struggling while their loan interest and legal fees pile up. Such injustices should simply not be allowed to happen. This legislation will put an end to the harmful delays that prevent New York homeowners from finally moving past the foreclosure crisis.”

 

Josh Zinner, Co-Director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Agency (NEDAP), said, “Abuse by lenders in the foreclosure process has caused great harm to communities throughout the state. The proposed legislation would be an important step toward reforming the process – it would ensure that lenders don’t file foreclosures based on invalid information, and it would speed up the time it takes homeowners to get to court-supervised mediation. These reforms would enable more homeowners to get loan modifications and save their homes.”

 

Kristen Brown Lilley, Director of Policy Advoacy at the Empire Justice Center, said, “This bill addresses a real problem for homeowners who are stuck in legal limbo because lenders aren’t filing the required paperwork. If enacted, foreclosure cases will move more swiftly through the foreclosure process, giving homeowners a better chance of saving their homes, and returning vacant properties to the housing market more quickly.”

 

Homeowners’ foreclosure cases regularly languish for months, or even years, when financial institutions delay in filing critical paperwork that affirms the basis for the foreclosing bank’s right to foreclose on the property and ultimately triggers a settlement conference – the mandatory process under New York law that provides borrowers an opportunity to negotiate alternatives to foreclosure, such as loan modifications or short sales.

 

The delays and subsequent backlogs, often referred to as the “shadow docket,” have become a major burden on both homeowners and the judicial system. This legislative fix will require banks to file the necessary paperwork, which ultimately triggers the settlement conference, simultaneously with the filing of any foreclosure action, thus avoiding future delays. The Office of Court Administration issued a report in July of 2012 which found that 25,000 families are trapped in this legal foreclosure limbo.

 

In 2009, Senator Klein authored landmark foreclosure legislation aimed at protecting homeowners and preserving property values in communities stricken with high rates of foreclosure. Senator Klein’s legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Paterson, requires banks to maintain foreclosed properties, creates new ways for homeowners to stay in their homes after foreclosure proceedings, and guarantees every homeowner the right to a settlement conference prior to any court proceeding.

 

The Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act would impose both misdemeanor and felony-level penalties for lenders and servicers who knowingly engage in fraudulent residential mortgage foreclosure practices. These fraudulent activities include falsifying mortgage foreclosure documents–a practice that came to be known as “robo-signing,” which was rampant in New York and across the country during the early part of the foreclosure crisis.

 

An investigation of robo-signing conducted by the Office of the Attorney General with 48 State Attorneys General, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, led to the signing of the National Mortgage Settlement, a $25 billion agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers and provides for billions in mandated consumer relief including mortgage refinancing and principal reductions.

 

The bill will create a legal definition for residential mortgage foreclosure fraud, which will apply to mortgage lenders and servicers, and extend both to their lower level employees and “high managerial agents.” This aspect of the bill is particularly significant because it carries the potential to bring criminal charges against law firms and servicers that specialize in high-volume residential foreclosure cases and knowingly engage in fraud.

 

Attorney General Schneiderman has made protecting homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure a top priority. In June 2012, he announced the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), a three-year, $60 million initiative to fund housing counselors and legal services across New York State. The program strives to ensure that every family facing foreclosure has access to a knowledgeable and qualified professional advocate.

 

Throughout New York State, 34 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies will receive over $16.1 million this year to provide free foreclosure prevention services. An additional $3.9 million has been allocated for training, technical assistance, and other support services to assist homeowners in foreclosure. In part because of the advocacy of HOPP funded housing counselors and legal services providers, over 4,300 New York homeowners have completed, or have active trial modifications for approximately $540 million worth of first mortgage principal reduction.

 

For more information on Attorney General Schneiderman’s efforts to support New York families caught in the foreclosure crisis, visit www.AGHomeHelp.com.

 

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 28, 2013.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN secures AGREEMENTS with two regional bus companies to ensure EQUAL ACCESS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.

United Coach Lines And Omega Express Will Ensure That New Yorkers With Disabilities Receive The Same Access To Bus Service As All New Yorkers.

Schneiderman: My Office Is Committed To Ensuring Equal Access For Individuals With Disabilities.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced settlements with two New York City-based charter bus companies, United Coach Lines, Inc., and Omega Express, Ltd., under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both companies operate in New York and several neighboring states. After conducting an investigation into the practices of United Coach Lines and Omega Express, the Attorney General concluded that both had failed to provide services to individuals with disabilities as required by the ADA. Today’s agreements will ensure that, going forward, both companies provide access to transportation in accordance with the law.

“Twenty-three years following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, equity in access to transportation remains an important civil rights issue,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office is committed to achieving full compliance with accessibility laws and requirements to help ensure that all New Yorkers are able to lead full and independent lives. These agreements put all providers of transportation service on notice that they must comply with the law in New York State.”

Nationally, adults with disabilities are twice as likely as those without disabilities to have inadequate access to transportation (31 percent vs. 13 percent), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of the nearly 2 million people with disabilities who are largely confined to their homes, 560,000 almost never leave home because of difficulties related to transportation access, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. As part of his continuing efforts to close these gaps and ensure transportation access, the Attorney General has been actively investigating the accessibility of inter-city bus companies across New York. The ADA requires that charter bus companies provide the same service to all customers, regardless of their disability status. Specifically, companies must generally be able to provide accessible transportation to customers with disabilities who request service at least 48 hours in advance.

The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that United Coach Lines and Omega Express did not have accessible buses and could not provide buses with wheelchair lifts within the time periods required by law. The ticket agents further failed to make referrals to another bus company who could provide wheelchair accessible service.

Under the settlement, Omega Express agreed to purchase and retain a wheelchair accessible bus — the first and only such bus among its fleet. Omega Express also agreed to train its employees to comply with the company’s ADA obligations. United Coach will contract with a third party bus company to provide accessible service and pay a penalty of $5000 to the State of New York. United Coach will also create new policies consistent with the company’s obligations under the ADA and train its employees on the new policy and on complying with the requirements of the ADA.

Omega Express, Ltd., is headquartered at 424 Hoyt Street in Brooklyn. United Coach Lines’ main offices are at 708 Third Avenue in Manhattan. The bus charter and rental companies operate in the New York Tri-state area and across the country.

 

Chris Hilderbrant, Chief Operating Officer of the Center for Disability Rights, Inc., said, “Individuals with disabilities have the right to the same transportation services that all New Yorkers receive, and promoting accessible transportation and policies that ensure accessible transportation are important goals that our state must continue to work towards. Attorney General Schneiderman’s leadership and work to enforce the ADA are helping to make transit accessibility a reality for persons with disabilities across New York State.”

As part of his push for equal access, Attorney General has secured two other settlements with bus companies in New York in the past year. Please see the following links here and here for further information.

The case is being handled by Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Ajay Saini, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

The Civil Rights Bureau is committed to combating discrimination faced by and promoting accessibility for individuals with disabilities across New York State. To file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at 212-416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov, or visit http://www.ag.ny.gov.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   May 28, 2013.

A.G. Schneiderman Cracks Down On more Gas Stations That Engaged In Hurricane Sandy Price Gouging.

 

Settlements With Five Service Stations In Suffolk And Westchester Counties For Gouging Customers During Historic Storm Bring Total Agreements So Far To 30.

 

Schneiderman: We Will Continue To Protect New Yorkers From Gougers.

 

 NEW YORK – As part of an ongoing probe of high gasoline prices in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he has reached monetary settlements with five more service stations for violations of the New York State Price Gouging statute. The five new settlements are with three stations in Westchester County and two stations in Suffolk County. The agreements come on the heels of 25 previous settlements announced earlier this month and bring total penalties going to the state to $185,000 so far.

Beyond the 30 settlement agreements, the Attorney General’s office filed lawsuits against four gas stations early this month and investigations remain pending against dozens of other station.

“As thousands New Yorkers sat in line waiting for hours to buy critical supplies of gasoline during the state of emergency created by Hurricane Sandy, some unscrupulous business owners dramatically and illegally increased their retail prices,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Today, we are continuing our enforcement actions against those who broke the law while their fellow citizens suffered. My office will make sure that businesses that rip off New Yorkers in a time of crisis are held accountable.”
In the days after the storm, areas of New York saw some of the largest jumps in gas prices in state history. The price jumps resulted in hundreds of complaints received by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office and showed that prices were changing at the pump, not only overnight but several times a day.

In Suffolk County, one service station increased its margin by as much as 98% during the storm-related state of emergency.

New York State’s Price Gouging Law (General Business Law § 396-r) prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive price” during natural disasters. The price gouging law covers New York State vendors, retailers and suppliers. The law specifically says that a price may be considered excessive if there is a “gross disparity” between the prices charged immediately before and after the emergency and the disparity is not attributable to higher costs imposed upon the seller.

The latest settlements were reached with the following service stations:

 

Suffolk County:

 

USA Gasoline, 1080 Main Street, Holbrook, NY

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.45
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $0.89
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 98%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.69

Pars Auto Service, 540 Sunrise Highway, West Islip, NY 11795

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.83
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.35
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 62%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.29

Westchester County:

 

Sunoco of RBJ Service Station, 500 Halstead Avenue, Harrison, NY

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.35
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.91
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 37%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.79

Shell of DJ’s Auto Delicious, Inc., 905 North Broadway, North White Plains, NY

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.13
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.52
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 35%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.39

A&S Texaco, Inc., 1061 Nepperhan Avenue, Yonkers, NY

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.36
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.82
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 34%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.59

For information about lawsuits filed and settlements reached previously by Attorney General Schneiderman related to Gas Gouging during the emergency, please click here.

These settlements are being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Sandra Giorno-Tocco and Rachael Anello, under the overall supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Martin J. Mack.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   May 27, 2013.

STATEMENT BY A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN IN OBSERVATION OF MEMORIAL DAY.

 NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released the following statement today in observation of Memorial Day:

“On this Memorial Day, we honor the generations of courageous Americans who sacrificed their lives to defend our country. Today we are reminded that, although they lost their lives in the performance of their service, our fallen patriots were also mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Words cannot express the profound depth of thankfulness we owe to them and their families.

“Let us honor the sacrifice of our fallen heroes and to share the burden of grief collectively in the hope that we can offer a small measure of peace to the families who have lost so much. Let us commemorate their service by honoring the brave men and women in uniform who continue to serve our country every day, and by observing our moral obligation to fight for the wounded warriors here at home.
“It is our duty to protect those who have protected us with outstanding courage, integrity and professionalism, and give back all they have given to this great nation.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  May 23, 2013.

A.G. Schneiderman Releases TIPS To Protect Consumers from SUMMER scams.

 Schneiderman Urges New Yorkers To Report Scams To The A.G.’s Consumer Hotline At: 1-800-771-7755.

NEW YORK – With Memorial Day fast approaching, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today released a guide listing some of the most common summer frauds targeting the state, and offered tips to protect New Yorkers from abuse. A growing problem during warm-weather months, unscrupulous scam artists prey on New Yorkers as they embark on home improvement projects and plan family vacations. Attorney General Schneiderman urged New Yorkers to notify his office of any summer scams designed to dupe unsuspecting consumers.

“It’s appalling that anyone would prey on New Yorkers looking to use the summer months to get ahead on home improvement projects or enjoy a family vacation,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office is committed to alerting, educating and protecting consumers by ensuring they are aware of these seasonal schemes before any serious damage is done. Any consumer who has been victimized by a scam should report it to the authorities immediately so that we can hold wrongdoers accountable.”

Among the most common summer scams are those related to unsolicited home improvement projects, including paint jobs and weatherproofing. Vacation rental and timeshare fraud are also common scams that target consumers in the summer months. Attorney General Schneiderman urged consumers who believe they have been victimized by a summer scam to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Complaint Hotline at: 800-771-7755 or online at: ag.ny.gov.

Below is the Attorney General’s guide to protecting New Yorkers from summer scams, it is also available online here.

HOME IMPROVEMENT SCAMS

The Drive-Bys

“I’m painting a house (or a barn or a garage) in the neighborhood. I am paving a driveway (or patching a roof) around the corner. I have material left over and can do yours for next to nothing.”

Too often this kind of offer results in a watered down stain instead of paint, inferior shingles on half the roof, and a thin smear of blacktop on the driveway. These scammers typically demand a payment upfront and, if they actually finish the job, it probably won’t last through the next rainstorm. Their guarantee? Good luck finding them.

“I was passing by and noticed you had some branches down…your trees really need a trim.”

Frequently, the branches are down because the scammer broke them off. If hired, they do work on “unexpected problems” that run up exorbitant charges.  Too often, the scammers threaten consumers if the extra charges are disputed, and sometimes follow the owners to the bank for cash payments.

Weatherproofing Scams: $15,000 Solutions to $150 Problems

“Free Basement Inspections!”

When a community has been hit by a series of rainstorms, you can bet the offers for “free basement inspections” will start rolling in. The answer? It’s usually an expensive pump or excavating the foundation to waterproof, when the problem was really clogged gutters or a drain blocked by root growth.

“Free Chimney Inspections!”

Same thing. This money saving coupon will usually result in a recommendation for a new chimney or a “cleaning” that involves the sweep spreading soot around to make it look as though the work was done.

Tips To Protect Yourself

  • ·         Be suspicious of any unsolicited offer to work on your home. Taking the time to do some research now could save you time and money in the long run.
  • ·         Checkout the contractor with the local Better Business Bureau.
  • ·         Get references, particularly about jobs completed a while back.
  • ·         Use local companies whose addresses you can verify.
  • ·         Get more than one written estimate that includes details about the materials to be used.
  • ·         Check with your town or city to see if permits are required. Don’t let a contractor work without the necessary permits.
  • ·         Don’t assume the lowest estimate is the best deal. Check the quality of the materials.
  • ·         Be clear that you won’t pay for any work not included in the estimate, unless it’s agreed upon in writing.
  • ·         Always be sure the contractor has valid insurance.
  • ·         Check with your local Department of Consumer Affairs to see if the contractor is licensed. Licenses are required in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties, as well as in the City of Buffalo.
  • ·         Always report a scam to local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Office.

VACATION SCAMS

Whether it’s to escape the heat of summer or the chill of winter, everyone considers finding a good deal on a vacation a big win. Except when the good deal isn’t so good. As consumers search the internet looking for a good price on a dream vacation, scammers are trolling for victims to make a quick buck.

Here are some common vacation scams, and what you can do to make sure you’re not caught in the net.

Vacation Rental Scams

The setup: It’s just what you wanted! A cottage overlooking a quiet lake; a beachfront condo; an apartment in the heart of the city.  The problem?  It doesn’t really exist. Especially prevalent on listing sites like Craigslist, consumers are drawn in by a great deal, they pay upfront and arrive to find that no such address exists.

Tips To Protect Yourself

  • ·         Make sure the seller has a valid address and phone number.
  • ·         Use a mapping website to verify that the address exists and looks like the photos.
  • ·         Ask for references before signing any agreements or making a payment.
  • ·         Use verified payment sources such as PayPal or a major credit card, which can be traced in the event something goes wrong.
  • ·         NEVER make a payment using a wire transfer service such as Western Union or Money Gram.

Vacation Certificate Scams

The set up: you buy a certificate entitling you to deep discounts on flights, hotels or other vacation opportunities. The problem?  There are many. You are paying in advance for a vacation at an unspecified time. The companies frequently are out of business before you use the voucher, or there are so many restrictions that it is nearly impossible to make reservations. And, use of the certificates is often dependent upon using specific, high-priced facilities that negate any other savings, or the facilities are not the quality they claim to be.

Tips To Protect Yourself

  • ·         Check to see if the seller is registered with NYS and with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
  • ·         Check out reviews of the facilities available to the certificate users.
  • ·         Read the purchase agreement carefully, looking for cancellation policies and making note of blackout dates and other restrictions.

Timeshares and Vacation Club Scams

Although a timeshare or vacation club may be a legitimate enterprise, the marketing techniques frequently involve high pressure sales that trap people into long term financial commitments they can’t afford and may not use.

The set up: Firms offer free vacations if you agree to attend a presentation.  Potential buyers are offered “discounts” if they sign up “right now” for a multi-year membership.  The problem? The supposed discounts are frequently more expensive than regular offerings, the advantages and protections offered in the pitch are not the same as what’s in the contract, and future costs and fees can escalate without notice.

Tips To Protect Yourself

  • ·         Never consider this an “investment.” There is little market demand for resale and you will almost certainly lose money on it. In addition, the resale market place is rife with fraud.
  • ·         Never sign a contract for a multi-year commitment on the day of the pitch. Take the time to read it carefully, perhaps asking a lawyer to review it.
  • ·         Look carefully at how costs can change over the life of the membership or ownership.

If you believe you have been victimized by a summer scam, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Complaint Hotline at 800-771-7755, or online at www.ag.ny.gov.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:       May 23, 2013.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN JOINS PETITION URGING NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION TO FIX GAPS IN EVALUATION OF LONG-TERM STORAGE OF RADIOACTIVE WASTE.

Current Scope Of NRC’s Review Of Hazards Posed By Allowing Long-Term Nuclear Waste Storage In Our Local Communities Contains Critical Omissions.

Schneiderman: New York Communities That Serve As Long-Term Radioactive Waste Repositories Deserve A Full And Detailed Accounting Of The Dangers And Consequences.

NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that he has joined a coalition of states petitioning the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to fix critical omissions in the proposed scope of its review of the hazards of allowing the long-term storage of nuclear waste to linger in communities that are home to nuclear power plants. The petition also calls on the Commission to make necessary changes to its regulations to ensure states and other affected parties are able to raise site-specific concerns about long-term nuclear waste storage at particular plant sites, such as the unique setting of the Indian Point nuclear facilities in Westchester County.

“We are petitioning the NRC to order staff to comply with the court’s order and federal law by fixing critical omissions in the scope of its review of on-site storage of nuclear waste,” saidAttorney General Schneiderman. “NRC staff is continuing to ignore serious public health, safety and environmental risks related to long-term, on-site storage. The communities that serve as de facto long-term radioactive waste repositories deserve a full and detailed accounting of the risks.”

In response to a lawsuit brought by Attorney General Schneiderman, a federal circuit court last year ordered the NRC to complete a full review of the public health, safety and environmental hazards before allowing the long-term storage of radioactive waste at the nation’s nuclear power plants and deciding that such storage is safe and has no adverse environmental impacts. This landmark decision means that the Commission cannot license or re-license any nuclear power plant, including the Indian Point facilities, until it fully examines the dangers and consequences of long-term, on-site storage of nuclear waste.

The coalition’s petition identifies key gaps in the proposed scope of the review prepared by NRC staff. The petition calls on the NRC to require staff to assess how public health, safety and environmental hazards in communities would be affected if nuclear power plants were not authorized to generate additional radioactive wastes until a permanent national repository (along the lines of the canceled Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada) is available. In addition, the petition calls on the Commission to require an assessment of how these hazards would be affected by speeding the transfer of nuclear waste from densely-packed storage pools to more stable dry cast storage. Although, currently, waste at nuclear power plants is typically stored in pools, the pools require a constant supply of water and electric power to cool the waste and to prevent it from overheating and releasing radioactive elements into the surrounding communities.

The petition also calls on the NRC to modify its regulations to allow states and other affected parties to raise significant site-specific environmental impact issues regarding long-term nuclear waste storage at particular plant sites. The Commission has stated that it will address “generic” waste storage issues in this environmental impact statement, but has not made clear how or whether it will allow plant-specific issues to be raised in licensing or relicensing proceedings. To implement that decision, the NRC needs to modify its current regulations.

In addition to New York, the states joining in the petition filed today are Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General John Sipos and Deputy Chief Monica Wagner of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation, Janet Sabel.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    May 23, 2013.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ISSUES CONSUMER ALERT WARNING NEW YORKERS OF ROBO-CALLING MEDICAL ALERT DEVICE SCAM.

Under Guise Of Providing Free Medical Alert Equipment, Scam Artists Attempt To Obtain Consumers’ Billing Information For “Monitoring” Fees.

Schneiderman: Elderly New Yorkers And Their Relatives Should Be Aware Of And On The Alert For Scams.

ALBANY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a warning to New Yorkers today after receiving information from multiple consumers about a scam targeting senior citizens with robo-calls advising that they have been “approved” for medical alert equipment at “no charge.” The message uses scare tactics to induce consumers to respond to the offer, warning of a “significant rise in the number of senior citizens suffering death and serious life-threatening injuries from a delay in response times for medical emergencies, fires, burglaries or even a simple fall.” The robo-call identifies the business as “Senior Medical Alert” or “Senior Medical Advisors” and attempts to obtain consumers’ billing information in order to charge those consumers $35 monthly for alleged “monitoring” services.

“Unfortunately, the elderly are disproportionately targeted by scam artists and are often the victims of fraud and abuse,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “To prevent senior citizens from becoming victimized, we must educate them and their loved ones with information they can use to protect themselves.”

Consumers have also reported receiving subsequent, more aggressive and harassing calls from this organization in an attempt to obtain consumers’ billing information. The scammers appear to be operating from the Syracuse or Utica area, using telephone numbers with a 315 area code, including the following number: (315) 294-5936. The Attorney General is urging anyone who receives such a call not to provide the caller with any billing or other personal information.

During an undercover call conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, the representative provided a bogus address in Orlando, Florida, as the main headquarters of the alleged business and also claimed to be affiliated with the insurance company United Health.

Attorney General Schneiderman issued the following tips for seniors and other members of the public so they can avoid becoming victims of fraud:

  • ·         Never give out billing or other personal information over the phone, especially if you receive an unsolicited telephone call from a stranger
  • ·         Never cash a check from an unknown source, especially if you are being asked to wire a portion of the proceeds to a stranger
  • ·         Never wire money to someone you don’t know who contacts you; it’s the same as handing over cash

If you feel you’ve been a victim of this type of scam or any other type of consumer fraud, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline: (800) 771-7755.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  May 23, 2013.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SHUTS DOWN NORTH COUNTRY SHAM “SEIZURE ALERT DOG” BUSINESS.

 Business Owner Who Sold Untrained Dogs Around The Country Permanently Banned From Advertising Or Selling Service Dogs In The Future.

 Schneiderman: The Abuse Of Vulnerable Citizens And Animals Will Not Be Tolerated.

 ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that his office has shut down a sham “seizure alert dog” business and banned its owner, Jon C. Sabin, from advertising or selling service dogs in the future. In a voluminous submission to the Court, Attorney General Schneiderman established that Jon C. Sabin and his for-profit business, Seizure Alert Dogs For Life, Inc., engaged in deceptive business practices, misleading consumers from New York to California, Washington State, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Hampshire into believing that he was screening and training dogs to assist their disabled children and family members in medical emergencies.

“There was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this man took any steps to select or train these dogs as he represented,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “I will not tolerate scams which take advantage of the disadvantaged and that are abusive to animals. This man placed children and dogs at risk through his reckless practices and unfounded representations. Consumer scams come in all shapes and forms and the vulnerable and desperate are often the targets because they desperately want to believe that relief is at hand. My office is here to protect consumers and we will pursue those who do not play by the rules.”

St. Lawrence County State Supreme Court Justice David Demarest, in a May 21 decision, issued permanent injunctions forever prohibiting Sabin and Seizure Alert Dogs for Life, Inc., from advertising or selling “service dogs” alleged to be trained to respond to or assist persons suffering with epilepsy or other medical conditions. Sabin began selling “service dogs” in 2009.

In his decision, the judge highlighted false claims from Sabin and some of Sabin’s illegal business practices: “… the Petition is supported by numerous affidavits of individuals who state that the dogs are not properly trained and lack general obedience skills and temperament to function as a service dog. It should be noted that these sworn statements are from customers, witnesses and dog trainers alike. In these numerous sworn statements, customers allege Sabin delivered an insufficiently-trained dog, drank alcohol to excess and failed to adequately train the family upon delivery. When questioned, he was verbally abusive, swore, became hostile, acted in a threatening manner and abused the service animals by punching, hitting and kicking the dogs.”

The Court found that Sabin produced no evidence in admissible form to challenge the Attorney General’s allegations relating to proper dog selection and training.

The Attorney General’s Office identified victims throughout the United States who had spent thousands of dollars — many times by raising money through fundraisers — to obtain Sabin’s dogs. The deception was only apparent after the dogs arrived and it was realized that they were entirely untrained for service work and unsuited to the task. From the victims, there were accounts of individuals sustaining injuries when they were bitten or toppled by the “service dog” they bought from Sabin. In one case, a “service dog” sold by Sabin attacked and broke the neck of a small family dog. That was after the “service dog” attacked the family cat. In another, a dog that was provided had previously been returned to its breeder for aggression toward children.

 

Earlier this month, Attorney General Schneiderman announced the formation of an Animal Protection Initiative. This new statewide initiative will use civil and criminal remedies to target allegations of animal cruelty and unscrupulous sales of pets and other animals.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General In Charge Deanna R. Nelson, with the assistance of Senior Investigator Chad Shelmidine and under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Martin J. Mack.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   May 22, 2013.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $75 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH PENGUIN GROUP INC. TO RESOLVE E-BOOK PRICE-FIXING ALLEGATIONS.

 33-State Settlement Resolves Claims That Penguin Colluded With Other Major Publishers And Apple Inc. To Fix The Prices Of Electronic Books.

Schneiderman: E-Book Consumers Are Protected By Our Laws, And Efforts To Circumvent Those Protections Will Not Be Tolerated By My Office.

NEW YORK – New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined 32 other states in announcing an antitrust settlement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc. The settlement requires Penguin to pay $75 million to resolve the States’ claims that Penguin colluded with other major publishers and Apple Inc. to fix the prices of electronic books (E-books). NY consumers are eligible for refunds of about 11.7 million from this and previous settlements.

The agreement with Penguin must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Following court approval, consumers nationwide – including those represented by the attorneys general of the 33 states and territories and those represented by private counsel in a related class action – will receive $75 million in compensation. In addition, injunctive provisions included in the settlement ensure that E-book retailers will have greater freedom to reduce prices of E-book titles going forward.

“E-book consumers are protected by our laws and efforts to circumvent those protections will not be tolerated by my office. Today’s and earlier settlements provide restitution to consumers harmed by the price fixing of E-books orchestrated by the five publishers and Apple,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The settlements provide injunctive relief designed to prevent future anticompetitive conduct by E-book retailers and to restore competition to the E-book market.”

It was alleged by the states in the lawsuit that the 5 E-book publishers and Apple agreed in 2010 to go to any agency model for the sale of E-books. By using the agency model the publishers were able to set the prices of E-books and prevent discounting by E-book retailers like Amazon. Amazon had been selling many NY Times bestsellers at a $9.99 price point. The publishers and Apple-who entered the E-book business in 2010 wanted E-books sold at a higher more profitable price point.

The states had previously settled with four other E-book publishers. The settlements reached with Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C., and Simon & Schuster Inc., in August 2012, required the payment of a total of $69 million in consumer compensation. An agreement reached with Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC d/b/a Macmillan earlier this year resulted in a payment of $20 million on behalf of consumers. As a result of these five settlements consumers nationwide will receive a total of $164 million. New York E-book purchasers will receive approximately $11.7 million in compensation from the settlements.

The states’ antitrust action against Apple, Inc. based on the same allegations remains pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York with a trial scheduled in June 2013.

For restitution purposes, most consumers will get a notice directly from their E-book retailers. In fact, as to the first 3 settlements-totaling $69 mill, these settlements have already been approved by the court and consumers have been notified that they are eligible for refunds from the first three settlements.

Additionally consumers can click here for information on the settlement.

States and territories participating in the settlement are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

On behalf of New York State Attorney General’s Office, this case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Linda J. Gargiulo and Robert Hubbard, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    May 22, 2013.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN COMMENDS ASSEMBLY FOR PASSING FORECLOSURE RELIEF BILLS.

 Bills Will Help Prevent New York Homeowners From Getting Trapped In The Growing “Shadow Docket” Of Frozen Foreclosure Cases.

Schneiderman: These Bills Will Help Protect Homeowners From Wrongful Foreclosures And Keep More New Yorkers In Their Homes.

NEW YORK- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today praised the New York State Assembly for passing two important pieces of legislation aimed at protecting homeowners in New York. The “Certificate of Merit” bill (A. 5582)would help more New York families avoid foreclosure by enacting common sense reforms to bring greater integrity to the foreclosure process and expedite homeowners’ participation in court-supervised mediation sessions where they can negotiate workable alternatives to foreclosure with their lender. This joint program bill was proposed by the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Court Administration.

The Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act (A. 10629) is a program bill proposed by Attorney General Schneiderman that would impose criminal penalties on residential mortgage lenders, servicers and their agents who intentionally engage in fraudulent or deceptive conduct in the preparation, execution or filing of false foreclosure documents. It would also impose criminal penalties on those who, as “high managerial agents” of these businesses, are aware of such conduct by their employees below and fail to stop it.

Both bills are sponsored in the Assembly by Judiciary Committee Chair, Helene Weinstein, and in the Senate by Senate Co-Leader and Independent Conference Leader, Jeff Klein.

“With these new laws, we will hold criminals accountable for their abusive foreclosure practices and deter them from unlawfully removing New Yorkers from their homes, and eliminate the “shadow docket” in the courts”, said Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. “The filing of foreclosure cases by lenders and their refusal to bring cases before a judge has left thousands of homeowners in legal limbo without knowing whether the lender even has a right to bring the action. “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman have recognized the problems in foreclosure and have put forward this corrective legislation, to protect New York’s homeowners.” Weinstein continued, “sending a clear message: going forward, fraud will no longer be tolerated in foreclosure actions in New York.”

Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein said, “Long delays and incomplete paperwork have become the living legacy of our nation’s foreclosure crisis. These measures can change all of that, by ensuring that hard working New York homeowners get their day in court. That’s why I’m proud to carry this reform package in the senate and look forward to passing it this year.”

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said, “The new legislative package will ensure the accuracy of court documents in residential foreclosure filings at the outset of these cases, thereby enabling homeowners to modify their loans before it is too late. I commend the State Assembly for passing this vital legislation, which will bring much-needed relief to thousands of New Yorkers struggling to remain in their homes. I also wish to extend my gratitude to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for his strong commitment to this issue and tremendous efforts to help restore the integrity of New York’s judicial foreclosure process.”

The legislative package is a top priority for Attorney General Schneiderman, who has been an advocate for homeowners who bore the brunt of the financial crisis caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. Many homeowners in New York are still fighting to stay in their homes, and these bills would ensure that families are protected from careless, or irresponsible or even criminal lender behavior.

Homeowners’ foreclosure cases regularly languish for months — and often years — when mortgage lenders delay in filing critical paperwork that affirms the basis for the foreclosing bank’s right to foreclose on the property and ultimately triggers a settlement conference — the mandatory process under New York law that provides borrowers and their lenders an opportunity to mutually negotiate alternatives to foreclosure, such as loan modifications or short sales.

The delays and subsequent backlogs, often referred to as the “shadow docket,” have become a major burden on both homeowners and the judicial system. This legislative fix will require banks to file the necessary paperwork, which ultimately triggers the settlement conference, simultaneously with the filing of any foreclosure action, thus avoiding future delays. The Office of Court Administration issued a report in July of 2012 which found that 25,000 families are trapped in this legal foreclosure limbo.

“This relatively small change will make a huge difference for families who are trying desperately to hang on to their homes,” said Kirsten Keefe of the Empire Justice Center, a statewide advocacy group that supports the legislation.

The Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act would impose both misdemeanor and felony-level penalties for lenders and servicers who knowingly engage in fraudulent residential mortgage foreclosure practices. These fraudulent activities include falsifying mortgage foreclosure documents–a practice that came to be known as “robo-signing,” which was rampant in New York and across the country during the early part of the foreclosure crisis.

An investigation of robo-signing conducted by the Office of the Attorney General with 48 State Attorneys General, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, led to the signing of the National Mortgage Settlement, a $25 billion agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers and provides for billions in mandated consumer relief including mortgage refinancing and principal reductions.

The bill will create a legal definition for residential mortgage foreclosure fraud, which will apply to mortgage lenders and servicers, and extend both to their lower level employees and “high managerial agents.” This aspect of the bill is particularly significant because it carries the potential to bring criminal charges against law firms and servicers that specialize in high-volume residential foreclosure cases and knowingly engage in fraud on behalf of the mortgage lender.

Attorney General Schneiderman has made protecting homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure a top priority. In June of 2012 he announced the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), a three-year, $60 million initiative to fund housing counselors and legal services across New York State. The program strives to ensure that every family facing foreclosure has access to a knowledgeable and qualified professional advocate.

Throughout New York State, 34 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies will receive over $16.1 million this year to provide free foreclosure prevention services. An additional $3.9 million has been allocated for training, technical assistance, and other support services to assist homeowners in foreclosure. In part because of the advocacy of HOPP funded housing counselors and legal services providers, over 4,300 New York homeowners have completed, or have active trial modifications for approximately $540 million worth of first mortgage principal reduction.

For more information on Attorney General Schneiderman’s efforts to support New York families caught in the foreclosure crisis, visit www.AGHomeHelp.com.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  May 21, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN REGARDING THE NATIONAL MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT MONITOR’S REPORT ON CONSUMER RELIEF.

 

NEW YORK –National Mortgage Settlement Monitor Joseph A. Smith, Jr. today released an update on the consumer relief activities of the five banks that are parties to the National Mortgage Settlement, as reported by the banks through March 31, 2013. According to the report, thousands of New York consumers have received over $1.92 billion in relief under the settlement in the first year.

“New York homeowners have received almost $2 billion in financial relief under the National Mortgage Settlement—far more than the federal government projected would flow to our state a year ago,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “While we are pleased that the benefits to homeowners — including reduced debt, lower mortgage payments, and averted foreclosures — have been substantial, our work is not finished.  My office will continue to monitor the banks’ compliance with the settlement.”

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in relief from lenders reflected in today’s report, Attorney General Schneiderman secured over $130 million in hard dollars for New Yorkers as part of the settlement. Of this amount, Attorney General Schneiderman launched the Homeowner Protection Program, a $60 million commitment over three years to fund housing counseling and legal services for struggling New York homeowners. Throughout New York State, 34 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies will receive over $16.1 million this year to provide free foreclosure prevention services. An additional $3.9 million has been allocated for training, technical assistance, and other support services to assist homeowners in foreclosure. In part because of the advocacy of HOPP funded housing counselors and legal services providers, over 4,300 New York homeowners have completed, or have active trial modifications for approximately $540 million worth first mortgage principal reduction.

In January of 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. This joint investigation brings together the Department of Justice (DOJ), HUD, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, several state law enforcement officials, and other federal agencies to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities. It builds upon ongoing state and federal investigations, while also launching new ones.

For additional information regarding the mortgage settlement, please visit:

New York State Mortgage Settlement – Official Website National Mortgage Settlement – Official Website U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Official Website U.S. Department of Justice – Official Website

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  May 16, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN & NYPD COMMISSIONER KELLY ANNOUNCE TAKE DOWN OF MASSIVE EASTERN SEABOARD UNSTAMPED CIGARETTE TRAFFICKING ENTERPRISE.

 

Year-Long Joint OCTF-NYPD Investigation Revealed That Ring Laundered More Than $55 Million In Illegal Proceeds; Dodged At Least $80 Million In New York Taxes.

 

Schneiderman: This Indictment Is The Result Of Our Relentless Fight Against Organized Crime Rings.

 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today announced the indictment of 16 members of a criminal ring that flooded New York City, Albany County and Schenectady County with more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes illegally imported from Virginia. A 244-count indictment, unsealed in Brooklyn Supreme Court, charges 16 co-conspirators with enterprise corruption, money laundering and related tax crimes. Each of the defendants faces up to 25 years behind bars.

During a 12-month investigation, law enforcement seized more than 65,000 forged NYC/NYS cigarette tax stamps that were not yet affixed to packs of cigarettes, and nearly 20,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes. The investigation, which has so far uncovered $55 million in illegal cigarette sales, is continuing. While it hasn’t been established yet where the illicit proceeds ended up, similar schemes have been used in the past to help fund organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah.

 

“By cheating New Yorkers out of tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, this dangerous criminal ring was able to generate astounding profits that we are still continuing to trace,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Not only did this organized crime ring hurt law abiding mom-and-pop shops and other businesses in New York by putting those who do pay taxes at a competitive disadvantage, there is a very real concern about the possibility of violence related to this type of enterprise. I am committed to putting criminals like this behind bars.”

 

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, “The association of some of the suspects in this case to the Ari Halbestram’s killer, the Blind Sheik and a top Hamas official concerns us. While it hasn’t been established yet where the illicit proceeds ended up, we’re concerned because similar schemes have been used in the past to help fund terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. I want to commend Attorney General Schneiderman and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge James Hayes for their outstanding work in this case, as well as our Operation Sentry partners including the States Police of Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey, and of course our own NYPD personnel, including Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati and the lead investigator on the case Detective Sean Foley.”

“The proceeds from this alleged scheme can be used to fund a host of other criminal acts that threaten national security and public safety of Americans at home and abroad,” said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. “We remain committed to working with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to ensure criminals are tracked down and brought before a court of law.”

As search warrants were executed up and down the Eastern Seaboard yesterday, investigators seized three handguns from ring-leader Basel Ramadan. The Attorney General’s Office also grabbed $1.4 million stashed throughout Ramadan’s Ocean City, Maryland, residence, including stuffed into black plastic garbage bags. Investigator seized over 20,000 cartons of cigarettes from defendants’ homes, cars and storage facilities in four states. They seized $200,000 in cash from defendants’ located in New York City.

Sales of non-taxed cigarettes deprive the state of millions of dollars in lost cigarette tax revenues, hurt law-abiding small businesses and undercut public health measures designed to discourage smoking.

This joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the New York City Police Department, and with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations, uncovered the trafficking ring and its connections to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Albany, Schenectady and multiple other states, including Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey.

Through the use of electronic surveillance, physical surveillance and the review and analysis of financial records in conjunction with other investigative tools, the Attorney General’s investigation revealed that the head of the enterprise, Basel Ramadan, and his brother, Samir Ramadan, obtained cigarettes from a wholesaler, Cooper Booth Wholesale, Inc., in Virginia and stored them in a public storage facility in Delaware. Several times a week, co-conspirator Adel Abuzahrieh, of Brooklyn, drove with tens of thousands of dollars in cash from New York to Delaware where he gave the Ramadans the cash in exchange for cigarettes. Beyond the $55 million in purchases to cigarettes, the Ramadans have generated more than $10 million in profits from their illegal activities.

In addition to the Ramadans, the criminal enterprise – all of whose members are Palestinian – consisted of several New York-based cigarette distributors, several New York-based cigarette resellers and Abuzahrieh, who transport of cash, sometimes over $100,000 per trip, and cigarettes between New York and Delaware.

Once the distributors took possession of the merchandise – approximately 20,000 cartons of cigarettes a week – they distributed it to the resellers, who in turn sold the untaxed cigarettes to a myriad of Arab markets and grocery stores in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. One of the resellers, Mohannad Seif, also resold the untaxed cigarettes to various grocery stores in Albany and Schenectady Counties. The sales tax revenue lost to New York State is estimated to be significantly in excess of $80 million.

The Ramadan brothers furthered the criminal enterprise by depositing more than $55 million from their untaxed cigarette sales into small local financial institutions in and around Ocean City, MD., and used that money to purchase additional cigarettes for illegal sale.

The indictment, unsealed before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice William Miller, charged the following individuals with enterprise corruption, and other crimes in relation to their involvement in the untaxed cigarette-based money laundering enterprise. Each defendant faces up to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

BASEL RAMADAN, 42, boss of the enterprise, Ocean City, MD

SAMIR RAMADAN, 40, enterprise treasurer, Ocean City, MD

ADEL ABUZAHRIEH, 42, transporter, Brooklyn, NY

AHMAD ABDELAZIZ, 42, distributor, Brooklyn, NY

YOUSSEF ODEH, 52, distributor, Staten Island, NY

MUAFFAQ D. ASKAR, 46, reseller, Brooklyn, NY

MUFEED ATTAL, 62, distributor, Brooklyn, NY

RIBHI AWADEH, 39, distributor, Guttenberg, NJ

MOHAMED AWAWDA, 47, distributor, North Bergen, NJ

SAAD BADR, 58, distributor, Brooklyn, NY

MURAD BISHARAT, 37, reseller, Ridgewood , NY

MUNTHER MAHMOUD, 52, distributor, Brooklyn, NY

IZZAT NIMER, 46, distributor, Brooklyn, NY

MOHANNAD SEIF, 39, reseller, Brooklyn, NY

ISSA SULieman, 44, distributor, Brooklyn, NY

BASSAM TWAM, 47, reseller, Brooklyn, NY

Members of the criminal enterprise are set to be arraigned before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice William Miller beginning today.

Attorney General Schneiderman said that all packs of cigarettes sold in New York City must bear a joint New York City/New York State tax stamp and only a licensed stamping agent can possess untaxed cigarettes and affix the tax stamps on the cigarette packs.

None of the members of this untaxed cigarette distribution and money laundering operation are authorized to sell tobacco products in New York City or New York State.

Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the following agencies for their partnership in the investigation. The New York National Guard Counterdrug Taskforce; the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance; the New York City Sheriff’s Office; the Albany Police Department; The New York State Police; the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office; the Delaware and Maryland State Police Departments; and the United States Attorney’s Offices in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey and especially the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York which is working together with us on the forfeiture aspect of this case.

The investigation was directed by OCTF Senior Investigators Jeffrey Sauter and Peter Odiot. They were supervised by OCTF Supervising Investigators William Charles and Arthur Schwartz, Upstate Deputy Chief Eugene Black, Downstate OCTF Deputy Chief Christopher Vasta and under the overall supervision of Investigations Bureau Chief Dominick Zarrella. From the NYPD, Detective Wafkey Salem worked under the supervision of Sergeant Robert Olson and Lieutenant James O’Sullivan of the Intelligence Division and under the supervision of Deputy Commissioner David Cohen. From Homeland Security, Special Agent Andrew Borra, supervised by Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge Anthony Scandiffio.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Jonathan Sennett and Tarek Rahman, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff and under the overall supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice 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.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    May 14, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN, SENATE AND ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE CHAIRS PROPOSE GROUNDBREAKING LEGISLATION TO REFORM NEW YORK’S CHARITIES LAWS.

 

Legislation Introduced By Key Committee Chairs: Sens. Ranzenhofer And Marcellino, Assembly Members Brennan, Weinstein And Englebright.

 

AG’s Nonprofit Revitalization Act Would Improve Governance And Oversight While Cutting Red Tape

 

Executive Compensation Reform Act Would Help Rein In Excessive Pay To Charity Executives, And Restore Public Trust.

 

ALBANY — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined Senators Michael Ranzenhofer and Carl Marcellino and Assembly Members Jim Brennan, Helene Weinstein, and Steve Englebright in proposing sweeping, bipartisan legislation to overhaul the laws governing New York’s nonprofit sector.

The product of more than a year of legislative deliberation and negotiation, the Nonprofit Revitalization Act and the Executive Compensation Reform Act would be the first major reforms to the state’s charities laws in over 40 years. Together, they would make New York a model for nonprofit governance in the country, while cutting unnecessary red tape to better enable nonprofits to perform.

“Nonprofit organizations provide critical services to New Yorkers across the state and represent a powerful engine for economic growth and stability,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We must work together with the nonprofit community to cut red tape while strengthening governance and oversight, and that’s exactly what this legislation does. Our goal is to revitalize New York’s charitable organizations and, at the same time, put a stop to the financial abuses that have come to light. I am grateful to Senators Ranzenhofer and Marcellino and Assembly Members Brennan, Englebright, and Weinstein for their leadership and commitment to reform.”

Nonprofit organizations operating in New York generate hundreds of billions of dollars in annual revenue and are responsible for one in seven jobs in the state. The lingering recession and slow economic recovery, as well as a continuous series of weather-related disasters, present unprecedented financial, strategic, and governance challenges for nonprofits. At the same time, the public’s trust in the nonprofit sector has eroded, as stories of public officials and other people abusing charities have been uncovered.

Attorney General Schneiderman first proposed charities reform last spring, just before the close of last year’s legislative session. Over the last twelve months, key committee chairs in both houses of the legislature and the Attorney General have worked closely with stakeholders in the nonprofit community to strengthen the reforms and shape the legislation being introduced today.

The Nonprofit Revitalization Act (S.5198) is being sponsored by Senator Mike Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst) and Assembly Members Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn) and Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn). The Executive Compensation Reform Act (S.5197) is being sponsored by Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Suffolk/Nassau) and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Suffolk)

 

Senator Mike Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst), Chair of the Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, said: “Our charities laws have not been updated in over 40 years, and it shows. The time is right to cut the red tape and make New York a truly business friendly environment for nonprofits. The need to reform governance and oversight is also clear. I look forward to working with the Attorney General in proposing these comprehensive, common-sense reforms, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to work with us to pass them before the close of this session.”

 

Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions said: “We’ve tried several times in recent years to reform our charities laws. This time is clearly different. The charities community, regulators, and the legislature all understand that the need for reform is crucial. The burdens New York law places on nonprofits are too high, and the need for clearer guidance on governance is great. Attorney General Schneiderman is to be commended for bringing all of the interested parties together to develop these comprehensive and forward-looking proposals. I look forward to working with the Attorney General, the Speaker, and my colleagues in the Assembly to pass these reforms this session.”

 

Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, said: “New York unnecessarily burdens nonprofits by requiring multi-level reviews by government, including the courts. Procedures must be streamlined without sacrificing oversight so that nonprofits and the courts can focus time and resources on their core missions. It is important to enact legislation to accomplish these goals.”

Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Long Island), Chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee, said: “A few egregious cases of excessive compensation have made it clear that we need improved laws to govern compensation across the entire nonprofit sector. Attorney General Schneiderman has put forward a sensible, flexible approach that places the onus on active board oversight, while taking into account diverse sizes of organizations and minimizing burdens on smaller ones.”

 

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Long Island), Chair of the Assembly Government Operations Committee, said: “Excessive pay in any sector is a problem, but at charities that act in the public interest, it is an even bigger concern. At the same time, most nonprofit employees aren’t overpaid — they are underpaid. We need common sense solutions that will rein in abuse but do not overburden small agencies that perform vital public services. The Attorney General’s Executive Compensation Reform Act is exactly that kind of solution. I support it and will push for its passage.”


Susan Hager, President and CEO of the United Way of NYS, said: 
“This legislation results from a study by a task force of legal and philanthropic experts, convened by the Attorney General that has been open for public discussion and review for over a year – a model of policymaking transparency. These bipartisan proposals strike the right balance in two important ways, by achieving a comprehensive modernization of state law to assist charitable organizations and requiring common sense Board of Directors oversight and governance so as to ensure donor confidence.”

 

Mike Stoller, Executive Director of the Human Services Council of New York, said: “Meaningful reform to New York’s charities laws is long overdue. The Attorney General’s Nonprofit Revitalization Act strikes the right balance between cutting unnecessary red tape so nonprofits can more effectively serve the public, and enhancing governance through active and engaged nonprofit boards. I support the Attorney General’s bill, and I urge my colleagues in the nonprofit sector to do the same.”

Marylou Borowiak, President and CEO of the Food Bank of Western New York, 
said: “The Food Bank of Western New York is in strong favor of nonprofit laws that promote good governance practices and improve oversight. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s leadership on this issue and Senator Michael Ranzenhofer’s sponsorship of this important legislation.”

 

Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo said: Attorney General “Schneiderman’s bill is the product of the Leadership Committee for Nonprofit Revitalization, which I was proud to co-chair. The Attorney General’s committee was a first-of-its kind chance for New York’s nonprofit organizations — upstate, downstate, large and small — to make their voices heard in reshaping New York’s charities laws. I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for facilitating the open and inclusive process in which these reforms were developed.”

Lucia Gomez-Jimenez, Executive Director of La Fuente, said: “La Fuente, a tri-state Worker and Community Fund, works to ensure that traditionally underserved communities have fair access to resources and services — on the job, in the voting booth, and in their communities.  Sometimes, government is our opponent; sometimes it can be our ally.  Today, Attorney General Schneiderman has again shown he is an ally to the nonprofit community.  We strongly support the Attorney General’s Nonprofit Revitalization Act.”

The Nonprofit Revitalization Act is based upon recommendations from the Attorney General’s Committee on Nonprofit Revitalization, a group Attorney Schneiderman convened in April 2011 consisting of 32 leaders of nonprofit organizations large and small from across the state.

The Nonprofit Revitalization Committee’s Report is available here: www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/press-releases/2012/NP%20Leadership%20Committee%20Report%20%282-16-12%29.pdf

 

Summary of the Nonprofit Revitalization Act

 

  • The Nonprofit Revitalization Act will bring reform in two main areas:

o   Enhancing nonprofit governance and oversight to prevent fraud and improve public trust; and

o   Reducing unnecessary and outdated burdens on nonprofits.

  • The Nonprofit Revitalization Act will give New York the strongest nonprofit governance regime in the country. These bills will:

o   Ensure sound financial management by requiring that charities’ boards perform active oversight over financial audits. Boards will be responsible for retaining independent auditors and reviewing results of the audit. At larger charities (over $1 million in annual revenue), the board or audit committee will be required to follow additional oversight procedures.

o   Prevent conflicts of interest by requiring that transactions between a nonprofit and insiders who stand to benefit be fully disclosed and that nonprofit boards determine they are fair, reasonable, and in organizations’ best interests. When a charity engages in a substantial transaction with an insider, the board will have to consider alternatives and document its basis for choosing the insider transaction.

o   Strengthen the Attorney General’s power to police fraud and abuse by granting clear power to bring judicial proceedings to unwind interested-party transactions.

o   Ensure board independence by prohibiting any employee of a nonprofit from also serving as chair of its board.

o   Promote good governance by requiring all nonprofits to adopt conflict of interest policies and those with over $1 million in annual revenue and 20 or more employees to adopt whistleblower policies.

  • Attorney General Schneiderman’s Nonprofit Revitalization Act will also streamline and modernize New York law to remove unnecessary burdens, save taxpayer dollars, and help nonprofits focus resources on providing services by:

o   Streamlining procedures for nonprofit mergers, property sales and corporate dissolutions, so that funds needed for ongoing charitable programs are not wasted on unnecessary red tape;

o   Modernizing laws to allow nonprofits to conduct their affairs more efficiently, such as permitting nonprofits to use email and video technology for meetings and allowing boards to delegate the approval of small transactions to committees; and

o   Eliminating unnecessary and costly requirements for nonprofits forming in New York, saving nonprofits money and time and allowing them to commence charitable programs more quickly.

 

Summary of the Executive Compensation Reform Act

The Executive Compensation Reform Act will:

  • Rein in excessive compensation by requiring that boards of nonprofits review compensation and determine it is fair, reasonable and justified. All organizations will have to review and approve CEO compensation.
  • Require Additional Oversight at Large Organizations: Charities with annual revenue of over $2 million will also have to review the compensation of the top five highest paid officers or key employees and compare it to that paid at similar organizations.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Justin Berhaupt and James Katz, under the supervision of Charities Bureau Chief Jason Lilien and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    May 13, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN REGARDING THE PASSAGE OF MARRIAGE EQUALITY LEGISLATION IN MINNESOTA.

NEW YORK – Today, the Minnesota Senate voted 37-30 to pass a bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in that state, and Governor Mark Dayton will sign the bill into law tomorrow afternoon. The Minnesota House passed the bill on May 9. Minnesota becomes the twelfth state, plus the District of Columbia, to permit gay and lesbian couples to marry. The following statement may be attributed to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman regarding the passage of marriage equality in Minnesota:

 “After today’s vote, Minnesota will become the twelfth state in the union, and the third in the span of a month, to allow gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. This remarkable series of victories in a matter of weeks is one more sign that the ground has shifted in our country in favor of equal justice under law for gay and lesbian Americans. In the wake of these legislative advances, it is time for the Supreme Court to overturn the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. As my office has argued in the Supreme Court, DOMA undermines the efforts of states like New York, and now Minnesota, to provide equal rights and protection under the law for same-sex couples.”

A.G. Schneiderman led a coalition of 15 states and the District of Columbia in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which refuses to recognize for all federal purposes same-sex marriages valid under state law. A copy of the Attorney General’s amicus brief filed in the case of United States v. Windsor can be read here.

In a separate case affecting the marriage rights of same sex couples, Hollingsworth v. Perry, Attorney General Schneiderman joined a friend-of-the-court brief filed by Massachusetts, and joined by 12 other States, urging the Supreme Court to hold that California’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. For more information on the two friend-of-the-court briefs in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perryclick here.

A.G. Schneiderman also successfully defended New York’s marriage equality law from legal challenge in New York State’s highest court. On October 23, 2012, the New York State Court of Appeals sided with A.G. Schneiderman’s office in a rejecting a challenge to the Marriage Equality Act.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   May 13, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES PHARMACEUTICAL GIANT TO PAY $500 MILLION PENALTY FOR SELLING DRUGS THAT FELL BELOW FDA STANDARDS.

New York State To Receive $44 Million From Settlement Of Whistleblower Case With India-Based Ranbaxy.

 A.G. Schneiderman: We Will Continue To Hold Big Pharma Accountable And Recoup Dollars Stolen From New York’s Medicaid Program.

 NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that New York helped lead the negotiation of a national, $500 million settlement with a giant generic pharmaceutical manufacturer based in India. The settlement with Ranbaxy resolved civil and criminal allegations that introduced generic drugs that lacked necessary active ingredients due to poor quality control standards into interstate commerce. As part of the settlement, Ranbaxy will return $44 million to New York’s Medicaid programs.

 “Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute worthless pills harm patients and abuse our Medicaid programs,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Under this national settlement, Ranbaxy’s flagrant violation of America’s drug standards will stop, they will pay civil and criminal penalties, and their US subsidiary has pled guilty to numerous felony charges in federal court.”

The investigation stemmed from a whistleblower lawsuit filed in federal court in Maryland under the federal False Claims Act and various state false claims statutes. The whistleblower’s complaint alleged that Ranbaxy knowingly manufactured, distributed and sold generic pharmaceutical products in the United States and that the strength, purity and quality of those drugs fell below standards required by the FDA. The products at issue consisted of 26 generic pharmaceutical drugs manufactured at Ranbaxy’s facilities in India at various times between April 1, 2003 and September 16, 2010. The drugs included Amoxicillin, a common antibiotic, and Fenofibrate, used to reduce high cholesterol.

The whistleblower suit was filed 2007 in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.

Ranbaxy has agreed to pay the states and the federal government $350 million dollars in civil damages and penalties to resolve civil allegations of poor manufacturing practices in two Indian manufacturing plants, in Paonta Sahib and Dewas. Of this amount, $266,729,715.10 will be returned to the state Medicaid programs, which are funded jointly by the states and the federal government. The remaining $83,270,284.86 is designated for other federal health care programs affected by Ranbaxy’s conduct. The total portion of the settlement amount recovered by New York is $43, 882,807.70.

Additionally, Ranbaxy USA, a subsidiary, has pled guilty to seven felony counts alleging violations of the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and has agreed to pay $150 million dollars in criminal fines and forfeitures in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Ranbaxy entered into a consent decree in January 2012 with the federal government to address outstanding current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) and data integrity issues in the two Indian manufacturing plants at issue. These provisions include a wide range of actions to correct its violations and to ensure that the violations do not occur again

A team from the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units (NAMFCU) conducted the settlement negotiations with Ranbaxy on behalf of the states and included representatives from the Offices of the Attorneys General for the states of New York, California, South Carolina, Maryland and Oregon.

The New York team consisted of Jay Speers, Counsel to MFCU and Meghan Collins, Associate Special Auditor Investigator. It was supervised by Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin, Director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    May 13, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN REQUESTS INFORMATION, SEEKS COOPERATION FROM CELL PHONE INDUSTRY TO CRACK DOWN ON “APPLE PICKING”.

Letters To Four Largest Companies Seek Information On Expanding Black Market For Stolen Products And Efforts To Ensure Customer Safety.

 Schneiderman: “Industry Should Help Crack Down On Cell Phone The

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today sent letters to the Chief Executive Officers of Apple, Google/Motorola, Microsoft, and Samsung seeking information about their efforts to protect customers from the rise in violent street crimes known as “Apple Picking.” Recent reports have demonstrated a spike in the theft of mobile phones and other electronic devices. The thieves wipe the devices’ memories clean and resell them for hundreds of dollars on the secondary market. Too often, those crimes turn violent, and even deadly.

In his letter, Attorney General Schneiderman noted his responsibility to enforce New York’s Executive Law §63(12) and General Business Law §349, which address deceptive trade practices. He asked these four companies – which together account for at least 90 percent of U.S. smart phones sales – to provide information related to efforts and representations they make to consumers regarding safety. Attorney General Schneiderman also asked the companies to collaborate with his office to help identify solutions that could minimize the economic incentives for theft. Attorney General Schneiderman has enlisted Lookout, Inc., an industry expert in mobile security, to advise his office on a pro bono basis on these issues.

“Cracking down on violent and dangerous cell phone thefts is important for New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The companies that dominate this industry have a responsibility to their customers to fulfill their promises to ensure safety and security. This is a multi-billion dollar industry that produces some of the most popular and technologically advanced consumer electronic products in the world.  Surely we can work together to find solutions that lead to a reduction in violent street crime targeting consumers.”

In New York City, theft of Apple products has driven much of the increase in the theft of electronics. Between January 1 and September 23, 2012, a total of 11,447 cases of stolen “iDevices” (iPhones and other iOS devices) were reported to the New York City Police Department (NYPD), a rise of 3,280 over 2011. The problem, however, is not limited to Apple. A 2011 NYPD analysis found that companies other than Apple manufactured roughly 30% of all electronic devices stolen on subways and buses.

In too many cases, these incidents turn violent. Consider some recent examples:

  • ·         On April 19, 2012, a 26-year-old chef at the Museum of Modern Art was killed for his iPhone on his way home to the Bronx.
  • ·         In April 2012, twenty-year-old Alex Herald was stabbed during an iPhone theft.
  • ·         In September 2012, in three separate incidents, women were violently attacked for Apple and Samsung devices.
  • ·         In February 2013, three people were stabbed on a subway platform in Queens in a fight over an iPhone.
  • ·         Earlier this month, a woman was mugged at gunpoint in Crown Heights for her Android device.

In his letter, Attorney General Schneiderman asked the companies to designate representatives to work with his office to collaborate in developing a comprehensive approach to discourage theft and protect consumers.

The letter also seeks information about whether companies have seen any financial benefit as a result of customers purchasing replacements for stolen devices. A recent study found that lost and stolen cell phones cost consumers over $30 billion last year.

For copies of the letters sent to the CEOs of Apple, Microsoft, Google/Motorola, and Samsung, click on the links below:

Apple Letter

Microsoft Letter

Google/Motorola Letter

Samsung Letter

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   May 8, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

 A.G. Schneiderman Op-Ed: PRESIDENT SHOULD REPLACE FHFA ACTING DIRECTOR TODAY TO FURTHER THE HOUSING RECOVERY.

Schneiderman: President Can Deliver Foreclosure Relief To Thousands Of Families By Appointing A New FHFA Acting Director Today.

NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today published an op-ed in the New York Daily News urging President Obama to appoint a new acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency to replace current Acting Director Edward DeMarco, whose policies have stifled the delivery of relief to thousands of Americans facing foreclosure. The op-ed notes that, while the President awaits the confirmation hearings of his nominee for FHFA Director, he can replace Acting Director DeMarco with a deputy director. The following are excerpts of the article:

  • ·         ON DEMARCO’S LEGACY: Since 2009, Edward DeMarco has served as acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He should have been a critical figure in setting policy to get us out of the foreclosure crisis. Instead, DeMarco’s most notable achievement has been blocking programs to help struggling homeowners.
  • ·         ON THE PROMLEM OF NEGATIVE EQUITY: In the fourth quarter of 2012, 10.4 million properties — 21.5% of all homes with mortgages — had “negative equity,” owing more on their mortgages than their properties were worth…. In many cases… foreclosures can be avoided by simply reducing the amount that homeowners owe. Very modest reductions can often enable families to keep their homes and continue to pay off their loans.
  • ·        ON THE COST OF FAILING TO REDUCE MORTGAGE PRINCIPLE: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that without a policy change to provide principal reduction for Fannie and Freddie mortgages, an additional 600,000 homeowners will go into default over the next two years.
    • ·         ON THE NOMINATION OF MEL WATT: President Obama’s nomination last week of Rep. Mel Watt as permanent director signals that he’s ready for a confirmation fight that should result in better housing policy. But the outcome of that fight is far from certain. And even if the President succeeds, how long will it take, and how many more homeowners will lose their homes, before Watt takes office?
  • ·         ON THE ABILITY TO REPLACE DEMARCO IMMEDIATELY: There is a quicker way to get rid of DeMarco now, and pave the way for a new policy direction for the Federal Housing Finance Agency. He can be replaced as acting director by one of the agency’s three deputy directors — today.
  • ·         ON THE NEED FOR A NEW ACTING DIRECTOR: With a new acting director, the agency can quickly move to stanch the bleeding and bring relief to struggling homeowners. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans would no longer have reason to hold up Watt’s nomination. The President will have taken their leverage away and ensured responsible leadership for the agency.

The full op-ed by Attorney General Schneiderman can be read here: ag.ny.gov/press-release/op-ed-obamas-underwater-rescue.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    May 7, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN REGARDING THE ENACTMENT OF MARRIAGE EQUALITY LEGISLATION IN DELAWARE.

NEW YORK – Today, the Delaware State Senate voted 12-9 to pass a bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in that state, and Governor Jack Markell signed it in to law. The Delaware House passed the bill on April 23. Delaware becomes the eleventh state, plus the District of Columbia, to permit same-sex couples to marry. The following statement may be attributed toAttorney General Eric T. Schneiderman regarding the passage of marriage equality in Delaware:

“Today, Delaware became the eleventh state to allow gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. This important civil rights victory only strengthens the case for the Supreme Court to overturn the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. As my office has argued in the Supreme Court, DOMA undermines the efforts of states like New York, and now Delaware, to provide equal rights and protection under the law for same-sex couples.”

A.G. Schneiderman led a coalition of 15 states and the District of Columbia in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which refuses to recognize for all federal purposes same-sex marriages valid under state law. A copy of the Attorney General’s amicus brief filed in the case of United States v. Windsor can be read here.

In a separate case affecting the marriage rights of same sex couples, Hollingsworth v. Perry, Attorney General Schneiderman joined a friend-of-the-court brief filed by Massachusetts, and joined by 12 other States, urging the Supreme Court to hold that California’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. For more information on the two friend-of-the-court briefs in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perryclick here.

A.G. Schneiderman also successfully defended New York’s marriage equality law from legal challenge in New York State’s highest court. On October 23, 2012, the New York State Court of Appeals sided with A.G. Schneiderman’s office in a rejecting a challenge to the Marriage Equality Act.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    May 3, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

 STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN REGARDING NYC SUPREME COURT DECISION TO UPHOLD CITY’S CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION LIMITS.

Schneiderman: Today’s Decision Preserves Idea Of “One Person, One Vote” For New York City Elections.

NEW YORK – Today, a New York City Supreme Court Justice issued a decision in the case of George McDonald v. NYC Campaign Finance Board and the City of New York, upholding New York City’s campaign limits on contributions to candidates, including those who “opt out” of the City’s public financing program. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, whose office filed a friend-of-the-court brief in defense of the City’s laws, issued the following statement in response:

“In the post-Citizens United world, the majority of Americans agree that unlimited election spending is bad for our democracy. New York City’s common-sense campaign finance laws have helped stem the flood of money into city elections. Today’s decision preserves the integrity of those laws, and of the idea that political influence should not be tied to wealth. This is a great victory for the public financing of elections and for the people of the City of New York.”

In George McDonald v. NYC Campaign Finance Board and the City of New York, the plaintiffs sought a declaration that the City’s rules setting campaign finance contribution limits for candidates who do not receive public funds are preempted by State Election Law. The Attorney General’s Office filed an amicus brief arguing that New York State election law does not operate in the field of public financing of elections, which was followed by the Court.

The case was handled for the Attorney General’s Office by Assistant Solicitor General Leslie Dubeck and Deputy Solicitor General Richard Dearing, under the supervision of New York Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    May 3, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman Obtains court Decision Shutting Down Major Charitable Fundraiser for Defrauding the Public.

One Of Largest NYS Fundraisers Reaped Millions For Sham Breast Cancer Charity Using Deceptive Tactics; Sham Charity Also Closed.

Schneiderman: I Will Protect New York Donors Against Unscrupulous Fundraisers Who Exploit Breast Cancer And Other Charitable Causes For Their Own Benefit.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office obtained a landmark decision shutting down Campaign Center, Inc., one of New York’s largest professional fundraising firms, for defrauding the public out of millions of dollars in the name of fighting breast cancer. The decision requires Campaign Center and owner Garrett Morgan to pay restitution for the fraud, the full amount of which will be determined at an upcoming hearing. It also bars Morgan and Campaign Center from any further charitable fundraising in New York State.

The directors of the now-shuttered sham charity, Coalition Against Breast Cancer (CABC), separately reached an agreement with Attorney General Schneiderman’s office last month requiring them to pay $1.55 million in restitution and prohibiting them from ever again running a New York charity.

“Sham charities and professional fundraisers who line their pockets by tricking New Yorkers into thinking they are donating their hard earned money to fund breast cancer research and other charitable causes have no business operating in our state, and we will take action to shut them down,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This important decision reaffirms my office’s determination to use the powers available under New York law to ensure honesty and integrity in the field of charitable fundraising, and to protect New Yorkers.”

The decision, issued yesterday by New York Supreme Court Justice Emily Pines in Suffolk County, found that Campaign Center and Morgan deceived thousands of donors into making charitable contributions to CABC based on false representations that CABC helped women fight and survive breast cancer through research, education and early detection. In reality, despite raising nearly $10 million from the public from 2005-2011, CABC did not engage in any research, it did not carry out any public education and it supported mammograms for only 40 women over this 7-year period. The decision held that Campaign Center and Morgan’s deceptive fundraising constituted repeated violations of New York law.

The decision permanently barred both Campaign Center and Morgan from any further charitable fundraising in New York State and ordered that Campaign Center be dissolved. The court set a May 20 hearing date for the limited purpose of determining how much in restitution Campaign Center and Morgan will be required to pay. Prior to the court’s decision, the Attorney General entered into a settlement agreement with CABC and its directors, Andrew Smith, Debra Koppelman and Patricia Smith. Under the settlement, CABC will be dissolved and its directors permanently barred from serving as officers or directors of a New York charity and from engaging in charitable fundraising in the State. In addition, the directors have been ordered to pay a money judgment totaling $1,555,000 in restitution.

Attorney General Schneiderman sued Campaign Center, Morgan and CABC and its directors in June 2011, charging them with violations of New York State not-for-profit and charitable fundraising laws. The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that CABC and Campaign Center exploited breast cancer as a national charitable cause and made false claims about the activities and services it provided. CABC’s website featured stock photos of children and mothers, played emotional music and asked donors to help achieve the “dream” of “eradicating breast cancer,” though the organization itself directed virtually none of the funds it raised to that cause. Donors were misled into believing that their money would be used to fund breast cancer research, mammogram screenings through a mobile van, and seminars and forums for survivors and their families.

Morgan is a longtime associate of CABC’s founding director, Andrew Smith, and controlled CABC’s fundraising operation. His company, Campaign Center, was CABC’s principal outside fundraiser and, under a deal with CABC, kept up to 85 percent of the money it raised for CABC.

The Attorney General’s investigation determined that CABC was not affiliated with any cancer institution, and spent virtually nothing on breast cancer programs. According to the lawsuit, CABC spent less than one-half of 1 percent of donations raised for mammograms or any other purpose related to breast cancer prevention or detection. In 2010, a year in which CABC raised more than $1.1 million from the public, it spent a mere $632 on mammograms. In total, CABC spent only 4 percent of all donations on any of its alleged charitable programs.

This case has been handled by Charities Bureau Enforcement Section Chief David E. Nachman, Scott R. Wilson, Special Counsel to the Attorney General, and Assistant Attorneys General Rose Firestein and Kerin E. Coughlin, under the supervision of Charities Bureau Chief Jason Lilien and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

A copy of the decision can be found here: www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/judge_pines_order.pdf.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   May 2, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN Cracks Down on Gas Stations that Engaged in hurricane sandy Price Gouging.

Attorney General Announces Lawsuits Against Four Service Stations, Settlements With 25 More For Gouging Customers In Westchester, NYC And On Long Island After Storm .

Schneiderman: We Will Continue To Protect New Yorkers From Gougers.

NEW YORK – As part of an ongoing probe of high gasoline prices in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he is filing lawsuits against four service stations for violations of the New York State Price Gouging statute and has reached monetary settlements with 25 other service stations totaling $167,850. Investigations are pending against dozens of other gas stations.

The lawsuits, filed in Kings, Nassau and Suffolk County Supreme Courts accuse the stations of charging consumers unconscionably excessive prices in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy last November. In the days after the storm, areas of New York saw some of the largest jumps in gas prices in state history. The settlements require that those gas stations pay penalties to the state.

“Six months ago this week, as New Yorkers were sitting in lines waiting for hours to buy critical supplies of gasoline, some shady business owners were trying to make a fast buck at their expense,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today, we are sending a powerful message that ripping off New Yorkers during a time of crisis is against the law and we will do everything in our power to hold them accountable.”
Gasoline price jumps in the wake of the hurricane resulted in hundreds of complaints received by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office and showed that prices were changing at the pump, not only overnight but several times a day.

New York State’s Price Gouging Law (General Business Law § 396-r) prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive price” during natural disasters. The price gouging law covers New York State vendors, retailers and suppliers. The law specifically says that a price may be considered excessive if there is a “gross disparity” between the prices charged immediately before and after the emergency and the disparity is not attributable to higher costs imposed upon the seller.

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman said, “It’s appalling that gasoline stations in the areas decimated by Superstorm Sandy were price-gouging their customers, many of whom were without heat or electricity. We cannot tolerate this outrageous business practice and I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for taking the lead in holding the gas station owners accountable.”

New York State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh said, “Swift justice in this case means that those who broke the law in our time of need will be held accountable. The people of New York deserve better than to be socked by price gougers in their time of greatest need.”

 

City Councilman Dan Garodnick said, “We New Yorkers applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for taking swift and decisive actions to go after gas station owners who ripped off New Yorkers in a time of great need. People in my district were swamped by Sandy and were desperate for aid. Help came from many corners, but was blatantly ignored by dozens of service station owners.”

David Yassky, the chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, said, “The transportation provided by taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers  in the days before the MTA was back up and running was vital to our city’s recovery from Sandy, and to see some of these hardworking men and women fall victim to fuel gougers was unjust and frankly offensive.  I am grateful to the Attorney General and his staff for making sure that violators will be held accountable for their actions.”

Livery Base Owners Spokesperson Cira Angeles said, “Livery drivers provided essential services before and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In addition to the problems created by the gas shortage, our drivers suffered the abuse of some unscrupulous individuals that took advantage of this crisis to make an extra buck, making it more difficult for New Yorkers to get alternative transportation. We commend Attorney General Schneiderman for holding price gougers accountable and sending a strong message that natural disasters are no excuse to rip-off our fellow New Yorkers.”

(All prices are for regular gasoline. The spread is the difference between the wholesale price paid by the operator and the price charged at the pump.)
The four gas stations named in lawsuits today are:

 

Greenpoint Truck Stop, Inc/Sonomax, 278 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.98
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.85
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 88%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.59

AGIP Gas, LLC/USA Petroleum, 11 East Main Street, East Islip, NY 11730

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.07
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.45
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 35%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.59

Mena Inter Inc./USA Petroleum, 630 Main Street, Farmingdale, NY 11735

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.04
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.80
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 73%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.59

The 900 N. Broadway, LLC/BP, 900 N. Broadway, Massapequa, NY 11758

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.78
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.18
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 51%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.29

 

Settlements have been reached with the following service stations:

In New York City:

Alliance Energy/Lukoil, 600 Pelham Parkway, Bronx, NY 10462

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.82
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.93
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 135%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $5.39

E-Z Station, Inc./Mobil, 40-40 Crescent Street, Long Island City, NY 11101

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.03
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $2.08
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 102%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.89

 

On Long Island:

 

SJM Petroleum/BP, 1009 State Rt. 109, Farmingdale, NY 11735

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.93
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.65
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 77%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.59

BP/Lightning Petroleum, 1007 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, NY 11787

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.92
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.54
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 67%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.48

BP/King of Sunrise, Inc., 700 W Sunrise Highway, Valley Stream, NY 11580

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.95
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.59
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 67%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.59

Broadway Auto Care, 351 Scranton Avenue, Lynbrook, NY 11563

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.10
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.54
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 40%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.34

Citgo, 1090 Portion Road, Farmingville, NY 11738

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.93
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.44
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 55%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.29

United Technical Group Inc./ Sunoco, 900 Atlantic Avenue, Baldwin, NY 11510

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.77
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.13
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 46%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.19

Greenvale Oil Inc./BP, 724 Elmont Road, Elmont, NY 11003

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.82
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.23
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 50%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.20

Citgo, 1050 Udall Road, Bay Shore, NY 11706

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.05
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.63
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 55%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.49

East End Marketing, 2670 North Jerusalem Avenue, North Bellmore, NY 11710

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.07
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.52
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 42%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.31

 

East End Marketing Corp, 235 Merritts Road, Farmingdale, NY 11735

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.08
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.53
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 41%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.32

Road Ready, 2786 North Jerusalem Road, North Bellmore, NY 11710

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.03
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.39
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 34%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.20

Greenvale Service Station, 120 Northen Boulevard, Greenvale, NY 11548

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.20
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.62
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 35%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.40

Setauket Food Mart/BP, 728 Rte 25A, East Setauket, NY 11733

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.95
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.45
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 52%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.39

BP, 1577 Merrick Road, Merrick, NY 11566

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.92
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.20
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 30%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.12

Virgin International/Coastal, 1575 Route 112, Port Jefferson, NY 11776

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.37
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.77
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 29%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.59

S&Z Best Inc/Citgo, 1338 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, NY 11003

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.09
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.38
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 27%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.12

3300 HT Corp, 3300 Hempstead Turnpike, Levittown, NY 11756

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.10
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.41
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 28%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.52

Al’s One Stop Auto/Shell, 516 Merrick Road, Rockville Center, New York 11570

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.83
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.08
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 30%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.05

Hill Enterprise, Inc/Citgo, 3818 Sunrise Highway, Seaford, New York 11783

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.20
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.78
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 48%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.59

267 East Main Street Realty Corp./Coastal, 267 East Main Street, Patchogue, New York 11772

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $.041
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $0.62
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 51%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.09

In Rockland County:

 

Citgo/ Enterprises, Inc., 162 E. Rte 59, Spring Valley, NY 10977

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $0.79
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.57
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 98%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.59

In Westchester County:

 

Shell/JB Auto Center Limited, 1069 Yonkers Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10704

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.11
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.55
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 40%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.48

Shell/City Limits, 143 Bronx River Road, Yonkers, NY 10704

  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price prior to storm: $1.07
  • Difference between wholesale price and retail price immediately following storm: $1.53
  • Increase in wholesale/retail spread before-and-after the storm: 43%
  • Retail price immediately following the storm: $4.47

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Nassau Regional Office Valerie Singleton, Assistant Attorney General Sandra Giorno-Tocco of the Westchester Regional Office, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Westchester Regional Office Gary Brown, Assistant Attorney General Judith Malkin of the Syracuse Regional Office, Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey of the Buffalo Regional Office, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Eubank of the Brooklyn Regional Office, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Brooklyn Regional Office Lois Booker-Williams, Assistant Attorney General Michael Danaher of the Binghamton Regional Office, under the overall supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Martin J. Mack. These cases were also handled by Assistant Attorneys General Mary Alestra and Melissa O’Neill of the Bureau of Consumer Frauds & Protection, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine, Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   May 1, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LAUNCHES NEW ANIMAL PROTECTION INITIATIVE.

 Statewide Effort Will Promote Enforcement Of Consumer Protection Laws, Target Animal Fighting & Animal Cruelty.

Schneiderman: I Am Committed To Protecting New York Consumers And The Right Of Every New Yorker To Live In Safe Communities.

 NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the formation of a new Animal Protection Initiative aimed at shutting down criminal animal fighting rings, ensuring compliance with New York State’s Pet Lemon Law, charging those who abuse or neglect animals, and cracking down on the abuses of so-called “puppy mills” in order to protect the welfare of the animals being sold and the consumers. Drawing on resources from the Office of the Attorney General’s regional offices as well as many of the Office’s bureaus, this new initiative will use civil and criminal remedies to target allegations of animal cruelty and unscrupulous sales of pets and other animals.

In announcing the new Animal Protection Initiative, Attorney General Schneiderman also highlighted a string of recent successes in combating animal cruelty and related issues. Today, he announced a civil settlement with a Yonkers pet store that was keeping animals in unsafe and inhumane conditions. The settlement includes a $20,000 fine and an agreement that the store cease its illegal activities.

“Fighting animal cruelty is both a consumer protection issue and a public safety issue,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “There is a direct correlation between the dog fighting rings and other criminal enterprises, including gangs, gambling and illegal drugs, that put our communities at risk. At the same time, New Yorkers spend millions of dollars each year on the companionship a pet can provide. I am committed to enforcing our state’s consumer protection laws and protecting the right of every New Yorker to live in a safe community.”

Protection of Consumers from Unscrupulous Pet Sellers

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, more than 50 percent of New York households include at least one pet. In addition to the cost of purchasing pets, the average pet owner spends hundreds of dollars to care for them. New York’s Pet Lemon Law is aimed at ensuring the good health of cats and dogs sold in the State.

New York Law grants consumers very specific rights when they purchase dogs and cats from pet stores. For example, consumers have the right to know the source of the dog or cat they are considering for purchase, and the history of vet treatments. If a consumer purchases a sick dog or cat and a veterinarian certifies the animal as unfit within 14 days of a sale, the consumer has the right to a refund, exchange, or reimbursement of veterinary costs up to the cost of the pet.

Consumers have the right to ask questions about the breeders used by pet stores and receive accurate information in return. For example, if a breeder is a large scale breeder – commonly referred to as “puppy mills” – the consumer has the right to know. The OAG will monitor whether pet stores are being honest and following the law and bring civil or criminal prosecutions where appropriate.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

The OAG’s Initiative will also target those who abuse or neglect animals. One example of such types of abuse is dog fighting, which is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. New York has multiple statutes addressing animal abuse, including animal fighting. For example, an animal fighting conviction can result in up to 4 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.

In addition, animal abuse can be a “gateway crime” that destabilizes communities. Many communities report growing involvement of juvenile and other offenders in dog fighting or animal abuse, often as a part of gang involvement. This has created an underground environment that often includes other criminal activities, such as illegal gambling, possession of illegal weapons and drugs. Raids on dog fighting rings often result in the arrest of many offenders with outstanding warrants.

The Attorney General’s Animal Protection Initiative will promote public safety by cracking down on individuals or groups that abuse or neglect companion animals; pursue criminal animal fighting enterprises; and protect consumers who do not wish to purchase sick or diseased animals from in-state or out-of-state “puppy mills” by ensuring compliance with New York’s consumer protection laws.

The Initiative is comprised of Investigators and Assistant Attorneys General across the entire state, from the OAG’s Regional Offices, the Consumer Fraud Bureau, the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, the Organized Crime Task Force and the Investigations Bureau, who will work to bring the perpetrators of these and other animal crimes to justice.

“We are thankful to Attorney General Schneiderman for his persistent leadership in combating some of the worst forms of animal cruelty and protecting both the animals and people of New York State,” said Stacy Wolf, vice president and chief counsel of the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement and Legal Advocacy departments. “The new Animal Protection Initiative sends a clear message that perpetrators who engage in animal cruelty will be held accountable for their actions.”

“Animal protection laws are only meaningful if put to use, and Attorney General Schneiderman’s commitment to robust enforcement can make New York State a national leader in the effort to protect animals from willful cruelty,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “This initiative says loud and clear, to everyone, that there’ll be a zero tolerance policy for animal abuse.”

In recent months, the Attorney General’s office has conducted several successful efforts related to animal cruelty and animal abuse. Today, Attorney General Schneiderman announced that his office has reached a settlement with the owner of a Yonkers pet store that was keeping animals in unsafe and inhuman conditions, selling sick puppies, and engaging in a variety of deceptive and illegal business practices. Pursuant to the agreement, Louis Gaudio, owner of Exotic Pet Warehouse, Inc., doing business as Puppies Puppies Puppies at 650B Central Park Avenue in Yonkers, will be required to maintain clean and safe animal housing, to properly vaccinate animals and closely monitor animal health, and to comply with laws that protect animals against inhumane treatment. He is also required to cease selling sick animals, to make restitution to any consumers who purchased sick animals, and to pay $20,000 in penalties and costs.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Schneiderman announced that his office arrested Mary Jo Garlo and Peter Francese and charged them and their business — Great American Auction Service, Inc. — with Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife for offering two footstools made from the feet of endangered elephants for sale at their Dutchess County business. New York State’s Environmental Conservation Law prohibits the sale of elephant parts, including ivory, without first obtaining a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Permits can only be obtained for items that pre-date the listing of the elephant as an endangered species in 1978. The defendants each face up to a year in jail and fines of $5,000.

Last year, following reports that Angel’s Gate – a high profile animal hospice center that was receiving donations from around the country to support injured or disabled animals – was neglecting the animals in its care, Attorney General Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Angel’s Gate, Inc. for consistently violating New York law by failing to file and make publically available the financial reports required by charitable organizations. Angel’s Gate, a Delaware County animal hospice, allegedly took in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in donations from the public without publicly accounting for any of those funds. Angel’s Gate was subsequently shut down.

New Yorkers seeking to report consumer complaints, animal abuse or give anonymous tips about potential animal fighting rings are asked to call 1-800-771-7755 and press 1.

For more information on Attorney General Schneiderman’s Animal Protection Initiative, visit: www.ag.ny.gov/feature/animal-protection-initiative.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   May 1, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman Delivers Law Day Keynote Address On The Theme Of “Realizing The Dream: Equality For All” Marking 50 Years Since Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech, A.G. Highlights Dr. King’s Commitment To Overcoming Economic Inequality.

Schneiderman: Honor Dr. King By Carrying On His Work For Equal Justice Under The Law, And To Abolish The “Twin Evils Of Discrimination And Economic Deprivation” .

ALBANY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today delivered a keynote address at the 2013 Law Day Celebration at the Court of Appeals in Albany, along with Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and New York State Bar Association President Seymour James. The Law Day Celebration is hosted annually by the Attorney General and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.  In honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s celebrated “I Have A Dream” speech, the theme of Law Day this year is “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.”

In his remarks, Attorney General Schneiderman recalled Dr. King’s legacy of challenging economic inequality, as well as racial inequality. He highlighted efforts by the Attorney General’s office to reduce economic inequality by enforcing labor laws, aiding distressed homeowners, and increasing access to the political process for working people.

He praised Chief Judge Lippman’s efforts to increase access to legal services for low income people, and urged audience members to honor Dr. King’s life by carrying on his work against both racial discrimination and economic inequality.

The following quotes are from Attorney General Schneiderman’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

On Chief Judge Lippman “All of us here are indebted to you for your tremendous leadership, particularly in the cause of closing the Justice Gap. Justice Lippman [is]… a national leader in the movement to ensure equal justice for all by expanding legal services.”

On Dr. King’s Commitment to Overcoming Economic Inequality “The occasion on which he delivered the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech is widely remembered simply as the ‘March on Washington.’ But the official name was the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,’ and it was aimed at overcoming, quote, the ‘twin evils of discrimination and economic deprivation.’”

On the Growth in Economic Inequality “One year before King delivered that famous speech at the March on Washington, a family in the top one percent of U.S. households had approximately 125 times the wealth of the median household. And Dr. King was appalled by that.… In 2010, a household in the top one percent averaged 288 times the wealth of the median household.”

On Labor Law Enforcement “Enforcing labor laws is really an essential part of our mission to advance equal justice under law. People who work hard deserve to be paid every dollar they earn to provide for themselves and their families.… We’re going after companies that refuse to pay prevailing wages and minimum wages, not only harming their workers, but also making it harder for honest employers to compete.”

On Protecting Homeowners From Foreclosure “No one should lose their home just because they can’t afford a lawyer. That’s not equal justice…. I’m pleased to report to you that we have committed an additional $60 million dollars over three years to create a homeowner protection program. This program funds 34 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies in every corner of the state to help homeowners negotiate mortgage modifications, and fight foreclosure proceedings.”

On Access to the Ballot Box “My office is committed to ensuring that the voices of all New Yorkers are heard in the political process…. It is a sad reality that the right to vote remains under attack, particularly for young people and historically disenfranchised communities.” On Public Financing of Campaigns “To ensure meaningful political participation for all, we must enact a strong public financing system in New York State…. Without public financing, only candidates who command the support of 5- and 6-figure donors have a realistic chance to compete. This not only invites corruption; in creates a dynamic where economic inequality and political inequality and mutually reinforcing.”

On Honoring Dr. King’s Legacy “As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King this year, we honor his life not just by quoting his speeches, but by carrying on his work: for equal justice under the law, and to abolish the ‘twin evils of discrimination and economic deprivation.’”

Law Day was established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958. He proclaimed: “I … hereby designate Thursday, May 1, 1958, as Law Day — USA.

I urge the people of the United States to observe the designated day with appropriate ceremonies and activities; and I especially urge the legal profession, the press and the radio, television and motion picture industries to promote and to participate in the observance of that day.”

Each year, bar associations, the courts and other law-related organizations and educational institutions sponsor events to recognize the important role the law and our justice system play in our democratic society.

The full text of the Attorney General’s Law Day remarks can be read here: www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/AG%20Law%20Day%20Remarks%20as%20Prepared%20for%20Delivery%205%201%202013.pdf.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   May 1, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

Statement by A.G. Schneiderman on the Nomination of MEL WATT to Head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Schneiderman: Nomination A Good First Step, But Struggling Homeowners Cannot Afford To Wait For The Senate.

President Should Appoint New Acting Director In Interim.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today applauded President Obama for nominating Mel Watt as the permanent head of Federal Housing and Finance Agency (FHFA), the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but called on him to take immediate action to replace acting FHFA Director Edward DeMarco with a new acting director who will allow principal relief for struggling homeowners.

“I applaud the President for finally moving to nominate a permanent head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “As I have consistently said, the FHFA’s refusal to allow principal write-downs that would result in more loan modifications is a direct impediment to our economic recovery and stands in way of our efforts to provide much needed assistance to homeowners in New York and across the country.

This nomination is a good first step, but struggling homeowners cannot afford to wait for the Senate to complete the confirmation process. The President should use his legal authority to replace Edward DeMarco with a new acting director who will start the effort to put FHFA on the side of working families immediately.” Every day that passes, thousands of American homeowners are at greater risk of entering foreclosures because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have refused to allow principal write-downs for underwater mortgages under DeMarco’s leadership.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, every three months, 250,000 new families enter into foreclosure. Roughly 60 percent of all mortgages in the United States are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Last month, Attorney General Schneiderman led a multi-state coalition of state Attorneys General who wrote the President and Congressional leaders urging swift action to replace DeMarco with a new FHFA director.

Principal write-downs are a central component of the national settlement, and continue to bring meaningful relief to distressed borrowers, spurring our nation’s economic recovery. Principal reduction is a form of loan forgiveness that would help “underwater” borrowers whose mortgages are worth more than their homes.

The FHFA’s continued position that principal forgiveness conflicts with its goal of asset preservation is “not supported by reality,” the attorneys general assert in the letter. The agency’s current policy actually reduces the value of its holdings portfolio. It is far more profitable for any financial institution to hold a portfolio of performing $200,000 mortgages that lets families keep their homes than a portfolio of non-performing $250,000 mortgages headed toward default.

Last year, Attorney General Schneiderman led the negotiation of a National Mortgage Settlement under which the five largest mortgage servicers have agreed to a $25 billion penalty under a joint state-national settlement structure. A minimum of $17 billion goes directly to borrowers nationally through a series of homeowner relief efforts, including principal reduction. Servicers have also committed $3 billion to an underwater mortgage refinancing program for homeowners whose mortgages are worth more than the value of their homes.

To date, 21,535 New York homeowners have received $1.8 billion in assistance, including $1.2 billion in principal reductions on 1st and 2nd mortgages and mortgage refinances that lower interest rates on their loans.

The National Mortgage Settlement is the largest joint state-federal settlement in history and it is the result of a massive civil law enforcement investigation and initiative by state attorneys general, state banking regulators, and nearly a dozen federal agencies. The agreement was with the nation’s five largest servicers: Bank of America Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Company, Citigroup, Inc., and Ally Financial, Inc. (formerly GMAC). Collectively, the five banks service nearly 60 percent of the nation’s mortgages.

Using a portion of New York’s share of the National Mortgage Settlement, in June 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman announced the launch of the Homeowner Protection Program, his office’s commitment of $60 million over three years to fund housing counseling and legal services for struggling New York homeowners.

Throughout this program, 35 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies statewide will receive funding to provide free foreclosure prevention services. By supporting the work of direct service providers who specialize in delivery of assistance to at-risk homeowners affected by foreclosures, this effort will minimize homeowner displacement and foster the stabilization of neighborhoods across the state for the benefit of the public and the State as a whole.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 30, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

Office of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

ASSEMBLY TO PASS EARLY VOTING LEGISLATION.

 Measure Will Increase Access For Voters.

ALBANY – In order to encourage greater voter participation, shorten waits and lines at polling places, and expand voting access for all New Yorkers, Speaker Sheldon Silver and Chair of the Election Law Committee Michael Cusick today joined with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to announce the Assembly’s intention to pass legislation (A.689-A) instituting early voting in New York State.

 “Democracy thrives when as many citizens as possible participate in the electoral process. Yet New Yorkers can only vote for a candidate or a ballot proposition during a set number of hours on a single day. For the health and vitality of our Democracy, our election law must be changed,” said Silver. “We believe all New Yorkers, regardless of their personal or professional time commitments, should be able to vote in each and every election. Early voting will make voting easier, more convenient and more accessible in our State.”

The measure, which is expected to pass the Assembly today, would institute early voting for all General, Primary, and Special elections in New York. Under the provisions of this legislation, a 15-day early voting period for general elections and an eight day early voting period for primary and special elections would be established.

“In recent years, we have seen increasingly aggressive efforts to make it harder for millions of Americans to vote. Here in New York we are pushing back,” said Schneiderman. “Early voting will reduce barriers to participation that particularly impact working people, and ensure that all New Yorkers have an opportunity to participate in our democratic process. The time has come for New York to join the dozens of states around country that allow early voting.”

“Currently, 32 other states along with the District of Columbia have some form of early voting in place. If you look at the history of low voter turnout and, certainly, the problems caused by Superstorm Sandy during this past Election Day, it only makes sense to institute early voting. This legislation will make it more convenient for workers with long commutes as well as seniors. It will also alleviate confusion and strain at the polls on Election Day evidenced by the fact that almost 30 percent of voters, nationally, chose to utilize early voting in presidential elections,” said Cusick.

Voter participation in November 2012 was approximately 59.5 percent in New York. This is among the lowest in the nation. It is lower than the 64.2 percent turnout rate for the 2008 general election.

According to the US Census Bureau, of registered non-voters, 18 percent reported that they did not vote because they were too busy or because of conflicting work or school schedules. An additional 15 percent reported they did not vote because of an illness, disability or family emergency.

Under the bill, each local Board of Elections (BOE) must designate at least four polling places for voters to cast an early ballot, in addition to a site at the local BOE, for a total of at least five polling places. The bill allows the BOE the flexibility to add additional early voting sites as needed. The sites must be geographically located to provide voters equal access.

Early voting polls would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each week day and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday during the early voting period. Ballots cast during the early voting period will be counted at the close of the polls on Election Day and included in the election night tally.

Early voting would be conducted in the same manner as takes place on Election Day. Protocols for polling places would be the same. BOE’s are required to provide election inspectors and poll clerks at all early voting locations. Voters will be notified by mail of the days, hours and locations of early voting sites.

Dick Dadey, executive director for Citizens Union said, “It is good to see the Assembly poised to pass Speaker Silver’s early voting legislation that will reform our election process by making voting more accessible to New Yorkers. This marks the first time any house in the New York State legislature has passed early voting, a reform already implemented in more than 30 other states, which is critical to modernizing our elections. Early voting will make it more convenient for voters to cast their ballot and encourage participation in our democracy which is sorely needed since New York State ranks 48th among states in voter turnout.”

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, said, “Early voting is a proven success. More than half the country has some form of early voting, and there’s no reason New Yorkers can’t have the same expanded access to their polling place. It’s a safe, efficient, and sensible solution to the much reported chaos which can occur on Election Day. The need is even more apparent after Hurricane Sandy when the Board of Elections in the affected counties scrambled to assist thousands of displaced voters, many of whom were not able to execute their constitutional right to vote. New Yorkers faced long lines lasting up to several hours at many poll sites across the state on Election Day, deterring voters from exercising their right to vote. In Maryland, many voters took advantage of early voting in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy and voted before the storm hit. New Yorkers should have the same flexibility. We praise Speaker Silver for taking steps to make voting more convenient for all New Yorkers and urge the Senate to follow suit. Efficient, secure, reliable, and open elections should be a top priority for all of our government officials.”

Diana Kasdan, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, said, “After Hurricane Sandy strained voters and poll workers last November, we all recognize that change to our election system is vital. Fortunately, one part of the solution, early voting, has a proven track record. It is already available in more than half the country, hugely popular, and benefits election officials and voters alike. New Yorkers deserve the same. Early voting can help ease the burdens of Election Day administration and give more New Yorkers more opportunities to make their voices heard at the ballot box. We urge both the Assembly and the Senate to work together to bring early voting reform to New York.”

Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director for the New York State League of Women Voters, said, “The League applauds Speaker Silver and the Assembly for passage of this early voting legislation. This will encourage better voter participation. And we look forward to making this proposal law.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 29, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $11 MILLION NATIONAL SETTLMENT WITH BIOTECH GIANT THAT INFLATED MEDICAID BILLS .

Amgen Inc. To Pay NYS $3.3 Million For Inflating Prescription Drug Price Data, Causing NY And Other States’ Medicaid Programs To Overpay For Those Drugs.

Settlement Brings Total NYS Recoveries From Amgen To $19.2 Million.

A.G. Schneiderman: Drug Companies Will Be Held To Account When They Rip Off Taxpayers.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that New York along with 35 other states reached an $11 million settlement with the drug manufacturer Amgen, Inc. The agreement resolves claims that the company inflated pricing data for six of its prescription drugs in a way that caused New York and the other settling states’ Medicaid programs to overpay for those drugs.

“There are no excuses for ripping off New York State taxpayers and defrauding our Medicaid programs,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. At a time when state budgets are already strained, I am committed to going after any company that rips off our taxpayers – no matter how big they are. With this settlement the message we are sending is clear: Biotechnology giants are not above the law and my office will continue to ensure that those who cheat the system are held accountable.”

The drug pricing data at issue in this settlement concerns the “Average Wholesale Price” (AWP) and “Wholesale Acquisition Cost” (WAC), benchmarks used by most states’ Medicaid programs, including New York, to set pharmacy reimbursement rates for pharmaceuticals dispensed to state Medicaid beneficiaries. New York and the 35 other states alleged that Amgen reported inflated AWP and WAC pricing data, thereby creating an artificially inflated “spread” between the price at which Medicaid providers dispensed the named drugs and the price at which the states reimbursed providers for the drugs. After creating the inflated spread, Amgen marketed that spread to Medicaid providers in order to boost Amgen’s sales of Aranesp, Enbrel, Epogen, Neulasta, Neupogen, and Sensipar. These drugs are used to treat kidney disease and cancer patients.

This settlement was part of a larger investigation into allegations of illegal marketing practices, which included promoting the drugs for unapproved uses, and illegal kickbacks schemes by Amgen. The investigation resulted in a misdemeanor guilty plea in federal court by Amgen for introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce. The company has now paid a total of more than $647 million in damages related to the investigations, with New York’s Medicaid program recovering over $19.2 million of the money.

New York’s recovery pursuant to this national, multi-state settlement is $3.3 million.

In this instance, as in the previous settlements, New York lead a national team made up of state attorneys and analysts from California, Illinois, Indiana and North Carolina and worked through the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

The New York team was headed up by Jay Speers, Counsel to the New York MFCU; Carolyn Ellis, Special Assistant Attorney General; Michael LaCasse, Chief Auditor for MFCU’s Civil Enforcement Division; Meghan Collins, Associate Special Auditor Investigator; Matthew Tandle, Senior Special Auditor Investigator; Karin Flynn, Associate Special Auditor Investigator; Colin Ware, Special Auditor Investigator and Nicholas Furnari, Computer Programmer Analyst. The team was supervised by Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin, Director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 27, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN MARKS 6TH ANNUAL NATIONAL PRESCRIPTION DRUG TAKE-BACK DAY BY ENCOURAGING USE OF YEAR-ROUND Rx DROP BOXES.

A.G. Schneiderman’s I-STOP Program Created Year Round Rx Drop Boxes Across New York State, Modeled On Take-Back Day.

 Schneiderman: Rx Drug Abuse Is Fueled By Easy Access To Unused Drugs; New Yorkers Should Dispose Of Unused Drugs On Take-Back Day, And Year-Round.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today marked the 6th Annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day by visiting Take-Back sites at the Crossgates Mall in Albany, and the Yonkers Police Department – 2nd Precinct in Yonkers and urging New Yorkers to disposed of unused drugs at these sites, and at drop boxes that are now available across the State of New York year-round. Attorney General Schneiderman was joined in Albany by Mayor Gerald R. Jennings, and in Yonkers by Mayor Mike Spano. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in America, and 70% of youth get their prescription drugs from family and friends. More than 2 million pounds of prescription medications were removed from circulation at Take-Back Days over the last five years.

To combat the prescription drug epidemic, A.G. Schneiderman led the effort to enact the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP, a comprehensive law to fight prescription drug abuse. I-STOP expanded on the model of the take-back day to make medication drop boxes available year round in New York State, starting last August, for the safe and legal disposal of unused prescription drugs.

“One of the keys to stemming the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse is cutting off easy access to unused drugs in home medicine cabinets,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.  “That’s why New York’s groundbreaking I-STOP law expanded on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day to make medication drop boxes available year round all across the state.  I encourage all New Yorkers to dispose of unneeded drugs at a local site today, and to visit the Department of Health website to locate a year-round drop box.”

Take-Back Days are organized by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in conjunction with state and local officials to provide a safe, convenient, and legal way to dispose of unused prescription drugs so that they are not susceptible to diversion or abuse. Drop-off sites for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day can be found on the Drug Enforcement Administration website. Year-round drop boxes can be located on the New York State Department of Health website.

The I-STOP law was first introduced by A.G. Schneiderman in 2011 and passed unanimously by the Legislature in 2012. Among the features of this groundbreaking legislation:

  • I-STOP makes New York the first state in the nation to mandate that physicians consult a database of a patient’s prescription history before prescribing a schedule II, III, or IV controlled substance. Substances are placed in their respective schedules based on whether they have a currently accepted medical in the United States, their relative abuse potential, and likelihood of causing dependence when abused. For example, oxycodone, a frequently abused prescription painkiller, is schedule II. Accurate patient histories and better training will help physicians detect doctor shoppers and better serve patients at risk of addiction. Doctors can also use this information to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.
  • I-STOP makes New York the largest, and only second state in the nation, to require real-time reporting by pharmacists when schedule II, III, IV or V prescriptions are filled.
  • I-STOP makes New York one of the first states to schedule the universal mandate of e-prescribing for controlled substances in December of 2014. This will nearly eliminate the problem of forged or stolen prescriptions—used both by addicts, and criminal organizations obtaining pills to resell on the street.
  • I-STOP rescheduled hydrocodone to Schedule II, ending automatic refills for this highly abused drug.
  • I-STOP scheduled tramadol, a ‘drug of concern’ to Schedule IV (it was previously unscheduled).

I-STOP also deters fraud against private health insurers and the state government. Taxpayers have been paying for a substantial portion of the over-prescribed pills through the Medicaid program. Each ring of collusive patients and prescribers prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit represented a loss to the State of at least $1 million.

In the run-up to I-STOPs passage, the Attorney General released a report detailing the scope of the prescription drug epidemic in New York State and demonstrating the need for action by the Legislature. According to the Attorney General’s report:

  • Statewide prescriptions for hydrocodone have increased 16.7 percent, while those for oxycodone have increased an astonishing 82 percent between 2007 and 2009;
  • In Buffalo, New York’s largest methadone clinic outside of New York City, Catholic Health System, has begun to reorganize its service to accommodate an increase in care needed to treat the number of opiate-addicted expectant mothers and newborns;
  • In Western New York, nine “prescriptions drop-offs,” whereby households can dispose of unwanted and unnecessary drugs, were held  over two years between October 2008 and November 2010. In total, these drop-offs yielded 652 pounds of controlled substances, comprised of 124,050 doses of narcotics, including 48,883 doses of hydrocodone, 16,393 doses of oxycodone, and 2,287 doses of fentanyl.

I-STOP vastly enhances the effectiveness of New York’s prescription tracking system. Its goal is to enable doctors and pharmacists to provide prescription pain medications, and other controlled substances, to patients who truly need them. At the same time, it arms them with the necessary data to detect potentially dangerous drug interactions, identify patterns of abuse by patients, doctors and pharmacists, help those who suffer from crippling addictions, and prevent potential addiction before it starts.

A. G. Schneiderman thanked the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and the New York State Department of Health for organizing National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events across New York State.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 25, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman ROLLS OUT Public Service Announcement HighligHting Homeowner Protection Program.

 PSA To Inform Struggling Homeowners That Free Housing Counseling And Legal Assistance Are Available Through A.G.’s $60 Million Homeowner Protection Program.

 Television And Radio Spots In English And Spanish To Air Across The State.

 Schneiderman: HOPP Is Working To Help New Yorkers Keep Their Homes And PSAs Will Enable More Homeowners To Access Help They Need.

 NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced his office’s rollout of a new series of public service announcements aimed at highlighting free legal assistance and housing counseling available to New Yorkers who are struggling to fight foreclosure. The statewide advertisements are intended to publicize the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program, a $60 million initiative to support housing counselors and legal services providers working with homeowners statewide.

 “Providing a struggling family with legal counseling to navigate the foreclosure process can mean the difference between that family keeping their home or being displaced. That’s why my office has prioritized funding free legal services and mortgage counseling for distressed New Yorkers in need of support,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Through these announcements, we’re empowering at-risk homeowners with the knowledge of how to connect with professionals who can help them assert their rights. My office will continue to do everything in its power to put homeowners first, including making sure they have the resources available to say ‘No’ to foreclosure.”

The Attorney General office’s public service announcement, titled “Signs,” informs homeowners of the free foreclosure counseling and legal representation available through the Homeowner Protection Program to aid those who are at risk of foreclosure. The ad also encourages homeowners to call the statewide foreclosure hotline at 855-HOME-456 and visit www.AGHomeHelp.com to connect with organizations and agencies in their area who can provide foreclosure prevention services. It will air statewide in both English and Spanish for an indefinite period.

Using a portion of New York’s share of the National Mortgage Settlement, in June 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman announced the launch of the Homeowner Protection Program, his office’s commitment of $60 million over three years to fund housing counseling and legal services for struggling New York homeowners. Through this program, 35 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies statewide have received funding to provide free foreclosure prevention services

HOPP counselors provide at-risk homeowners with a range of services, including direct advocacy with lenders, financial counseling and assistance preparing the complex documentation that homeowners need in order to submit applications for loan modifications; an outcome that usually results in lower monthly mortgage payments and prevents foreclosures from going forward but which can take more than a year to negotiate.

In just the first five months of reporting on the HOPP program, roughly 7,400 New York homeowners have been counseled through the HOPP program. Of the total number of families receiving assistance, 2,570 homeowners ‑ or close to 35% ‑ have pending or formally approved loan modifications thanks to assistance from one of the HOPP organizations.

“Attorney General Schneiderman is helping to level the playing field for homeowners who are struggling to stay in their homes. The HOPP initiative and the Consumer Hotline are a huge resource for struggling homeowners across the state. Thanks to the Attorney General’s commitment, these families will have swift access to high quality advocates, which in turn, will greatly improve their chances at negotiating the preservation of their homes,” said Kirsten Keefe, Foreclosure Prevention Coordinator at the Empire Justice Center.

This past January, Attorney General Schneiderman also announced the launch of a statewide consumer hotline to assist those in need of mortgage counseling and Sandy support. By calling 1-855-HOME-456 consumers will be connected with a qualified HOPP counselor or legal service provider within 24 hours. The hotline is based on a model program administered by the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN) that has been operational in NYC for the past 3 years. During that time, the Hotline has generated more than 15,000 calls from consumers struggling to stay in their homes. The Attorney General has subcontracted with CNYNC to assist in managing the statewide hotline.

“The Attorney General continues to tackle the foreclosure crisis from all sides” said Christie Peale, Executive Director of the CNYCN. “We must have qualified professionals who can guide families through the mortgage modification process, and homeowners need an easy way to access those services.  HOPP and the hotline are two essential tools that can help New Yorkers fight foreclosure.”

Today’s announcement is the latest part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s multi-pronged strategy to stem foreclosures, provide relief to struggling homeowners and hold accountable those responsible for the mortgage crisis. In 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman introduced the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act, which would impose criminal penalties for knowingly filing false documents in a foreclosure proceeding, or overseeing employees who engage in such activity.

Last year, Attorney General Schneiderman was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. This joint investigation brings together the Department of Justice (DOJ), HUD, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, several state law enforcement officials, and other federal agencies to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.

A transcript of the English version of the public service announcement is below:

All across New York, there are signs of hope because other signs are coming down. Signs like ‘short sale’ and ‘bank owned.’ More New Yorkers are saying “No” to foreclosure. The New York State Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program offers free housing counseling and legal services to assist those at risk of foreclosure. Call 855-HOME-456. That’s 855-466-3456. Or visit AGHomeHelp.com. More New Yorkers are keeping their homes. That’s what we call a great sign.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  April 24, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN MARKING 6TH ANNUAL NATIONAL PRESCRIPTION DRUG TAKE-BACK DAY.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today marked the approach of the 6th Annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, April 27th, by urging New Yorkers to disposed of unused drugs at Take-Back Day sites, and at drop boxes that are available year-round. More than 2 million pounds of prescription medications were removed from circulation at Take-Back Days over the last five years.

A.G. Schneiderman led the effort to enact the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP, a comprehensive law to fight prescription drug abuse that created year-round medication drop boxes modeled on the success of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. I-STOP expanded on the model of the take-back day to make medication drop boxes available year round, starting last August, for the safe and legal disposal of unused prescription drugs.

“One of the keys to stemming the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse is cutting off easy access to unused drugs in home medicine cabinets,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “That’s why New York’s groundbreaking I-STOP law expanded on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day to make medication drop boxes available year round all across the state. I encourage all New Yorkers to dispose of unneeded drugs at a local site on Take-Back Day, and to visit the Department of Health website to locate a year-round drop box.”

Take-Back Days are organized by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in conjunction with state and local officials to provide a safe, convenient, and legal way to dispose of unused prescription drugs so that they are not susceptible to diversion or abuse. Drop-off sites for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day can be found on the Drug Enforcement Administration website. Year-round drop boxes can be located on the New York State Department of Health website.

The I-STOP law was first introduced by A.G. Schneiderman in 2011 and was passed unanimously by the Legislature in 2012. Among the features of this groundbreaking legislation:

  • ·         I-STOP makes New York the first state in the nation to mandate that physicians consult a database of a patient’s prescription history before prescribing a schedule II, III, or IV controlled substance. Accurate patient histories and better training will help physicians detect doctor shoppers and better serve patients at risk of addiction. Doctors can also use this information to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.
  • ·         I-STOP makes New York the largest, and only second state in the nation, to require real-time reporting by pharmacists when schedule II, III, IV or V prescriptions are filled.
  • ·         I-STOP makes New York one of the first states to schedule the universal mandate of e-prescribing for controlled substances in December of 2014. The regulations will be promulgated by December 2012. This will nearly eliminate the problem of forged or stolen prescriptions—used both by addicts, and criminal organizations obtaining pills to resell on the street.
  • ·         I-STOP rescheduled hydrocodone to Schedule II, ending automatic refills for this highly abused drug.
  • ·         I-STOP scheduled tramadol, a ‘drug of concern’ to Schedule IV (it was previously unscheduled).

I-STOP also deters fraud against private health insurers and the state government. Taxpayers have been paying for a substantial portion of the over-prescribed pills through the Medicaid program. Each ring of collusive patients and prescribers prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit represented a loss to the State of at least $1 million.

In the run-up to I-STOPs passage, the Attorney General released a report detailing the scope of the prescription drug epidemic in New York State and demonstrating the need for action by the Legislature. According to the Attorney General’s report:

  • ·         Statewide prescriptions for hydrocodone have increased 16.7 percent, while those for oxycodone have increased an astonishing 82 percent between 2007 and 2009;
  • ·         In Buffalo, New York’s largest methadone clinic outside of New York City, Catholic Health System, has begun to reorganize its service to accommodate an increase in care needed to treat the number of opiate-addicted expectant mothers and newborns;
  • ·         In Western New York, nine “prescriptions drop-offs,” whereby households can dispose of unwanted and unnecessary drugs, were conducted over two years between October 2008 and November 2010. In total, these drop-offs yielded 652 pounds of controlled substances, comprised of 124,050 doses of narcotics, including 48,883 doses of hydrocodone, 16,393 doses of oxycodone, and 2,287 doses of fentanyl.

I-STOP vastly enhances the effectiveness of New York’s prescription tracking system. Its goal is to enable doctors and pharmacists to provide prescription pain medications, and other controlled substances, to patients who truly need them. At the same time, it arms them with the necessary data to detect potentially dangerous drug interactions, identify patterns of abuse by patients, doctors and pharmacists, help those who suffer from crippling addictions and prevent potential addiction before it starts.

A.G. Schneiderman thanked the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and the New York State Department of Health for organizing National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events across New York State.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  April 24, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE TO STRENGTHEN POLICIES AGAINST DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION.

After Meeting With AG’s Office, League Strengthens Efforts To Protect Current & Prospective Gay Players.

Schneiderman: My Office Is Committed To Ensuring Equal Protection For All Employees And Job Applicants No Matter Where They Work.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced new efforts underway within the National Football League (NFL) to promote a culture of inclusion and protect players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. Following discussions with the Attorney General’s office, the NFL will undertake new actions to reinforce its policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation, including the development and dissemination of posters to be displayed in locker rooms throughout the league conveying the NFL’s anti-discrimination policies.

 The NFL will also take steps to distribute the policy to all 32 teams in the league, conduct training across the league around the policy — including for rookies and individuals involved in hiring and recruitment of new players — and strengthen protocols concerning the reporting of complaints of discrimination or harassment by players.

“My office is committed to ensuring equal protection under the law for all employees and job applicants no matter where they work, and I applaud the NFL for working cooperatively with our office to address these issues,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today, we are sending a powerful message that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated in any form.”

Earlier this year, media reports indicated that at least three prospective NFL players were asked questions related to their sexual orientation at the league’s national recruitment Scouting Combine held in late February 2013 in Indianapolis. According to one prospective player, representatives of NFL teams asked prospects if they had a girlfriend, were married, or liked girls.

Following those reports, the Attorney General’s office opened an inquiry into the matter, which included a review of the NFL’s existing prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation reflected in the League’s 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement governing employment relationships between NFL teams and active players. Following its review, the Attorney General’s office asked the NFL to undertake additional action to ensure that its policy is well-communicated, widely disseminated and effectively implemented.

As a result of the NFL’s cooperation with the Attorney General’s office, the NFL will take steps to implement and communicate its policy league-wide. This commitment includes developing and widely distributing an anti-discrimination policy document that will be posted in all team locker rooms across the NFL and disseminating the policy to Club managers, human resource executives and other NFL employees.

In addition, the NFL has incorporated a Commissioner-issued statement into the policy, and will conduct training around the policy during its annual Rookie Symposium and Football Operations Meeting, and host other periodic training meetings throughout the year. The NFL’s efforts make clear that the league’s existing policy also applies to prospective players.

Moreover, the NFL will ensure that complaints concerning discrimination based on sexual orientation are reviewed and investigated, and take steps to ensure the confidentiality of complainants and supporting witnesses. Finally, the NFL agreed to report periodically to the Attorney General’s office on the league’s progress in maintaining its zero-tolerance approach to discrimination in the workplace.

“The NFLPA appreciates Attorney General Schneiderman’s leadership to ending discrimination and to hold the NFL owners accountable to the highest professional standards in our workplace,” said Domonique Foxworth, President of the NFL Players Association.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General James Katz, Clare Norins and Anjana Samant, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Marty Mack and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 24, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN FAULTS U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT FOR FAILING TO FULLY ANALYZE CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT OF KEYSTONE XL AND RELATED PIPELINES ON NEW YORK STATE.

 Complete Analysis Would Reveal Oil Pipelines Responsible For 14 Times More Climate Change Pollution As The Entire State Of New York Emits In One Single Year.

By Ignoring Full Brunt Of Projects’ Impact On Climate Change, Federal Environmental Assessment Fails To Account For All Economic, Safety And Health Dangers.

A.G. Schneiderman:  New Yorkers Have Experienced First-Hand The Devastation That Will Only Worsen With Unabated Climate Change — We Deserve Better.

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman faulted the U.S. State Department for failing to fully analyze the impacts that climate change pollution from the proposed Keystone XL and related oil pipelines will have on New York and across the United States. The Attorney General’s submitted his official comments earlier this week criticizing the current federal environmental assessment of the project. His comments aim to ensure that the full climate-change impacts of the project are considered before the project can be approved.

“Climate change is the single greatest environmental threat of our time and one that poses a real and present danger to New Yorkers,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.  “It is indisputable that Keystone XL and related tar sand oil transportation projects will result in the emission of tremendous amounts of climate change pollution.  It is inexcusable then that the federal government’s assessment of the project would fail to account fully for this pollution and its impact on climate change. Without a full assessment of the climate change impacts of this and associated pipelines, the feds cannot possibility judge whether Keystone XL is in the public interest.  New Yorkers have experienced first-hand the kind of economic, safety and health devastation that will only worsen with unabated climate change — we deserve better.”

The proposed pipeline would transport heavy crude oil extracted from tar sands located in Alberta, Canada, approximately 875 miles across the United States to Nebraska. (The oil would then be sent, via other pipelines, to the Gulf of Mexico for refining and sale). The project requires federal approvals and permits.  Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), federal decision-makers must consider the environmental impacts of the project in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before deciding whether to grant these approvals and permits.  The project EIS was prepared by the U.S. State Department.

The Attorney General’s comments focus on a major flaw of the draft EIS: A failure to recognize and fully address the amount of climate change pollution that will be emitted if tar sands oil is moved to market via present and future pipelines, including the proposed Keystone project. On a lifecycle basis, tar sands crude oil produces approximately 17% more climate change pollution than other forms of crude.

NEPA requires that an EIS examine the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of a proposed project.  Since many impacts do not occur in isolation, the Act uses “cumulative impacts” to account for how an individual project’s impacts combine with and add to the impacts of “other past, present or reasonably foreseeable future actions.”  In submitted comments, Attorney General Schneiderman argues that the State Department’s draft supplemental EIS has failed to address the reality that climate change pollution emitted by the Keystone XL project will add to what is emitted by other pipelines or means of transporting tar sands oil into the U.S. In fact, the Attorney General points out that the State Department has ignored cumulative impacts in assessing applications for two other major transnational crude oil pipeline projects. For this reason, Attorney General Schneiderman argues that the EIS — as currently drafted — is contrary to NEPA and needs redrafting and additional public comment before it can be used as a basis of determining whether the project is in the public interest.

Attorney General Schneiderman estimates that if the cumulative impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline and other tar sands oil transport means were accounted for, they would collectively emit 605 to 3,740 million metric tons of additional climate change pollution to the atmosphere over the 50-year lifetime of the project.  These emissions are two to 14 times New York’s 2008 total climate change pollution emissions of 254 million metric tons, and approach the United States’ total 2011 gas emissions of 6,702 million metric tons.

In his comments, the Attorney General emphasizes that the consequences of these tremendous additional emissions could be catastrophic for New York.  For two years in a row, New York faced extreme storms when Tropical Storm Irene hit New York in August 2011 and Superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012.  The intense rains from Irene devastated the Catskills and Adirondacks regions, and Sandy destroyed coastal areas in the State.  Storm surges with associated flooding were experienced in coastal areas of New York City and Long Island.  Highly populated coastal areas were evacuated and thousands of people were displaced.  Approximately 300,000 housing units were destroyed or damaged, two million New York homes and businesses were left without power, numerous roads and subways were flooded, and utility services were disrupted.  Sixty deaths in New York State have been attributed to Sandy.  New York State and local municipalities suffered significant monetary damages as a result of the storm.

Since taking office, Attorney General Schneiderman has established himself as a leader, both in New York and nationally, in the fight against climate change. For example, the Attorney General:

  • ·         Is leading a coalition of states pressing EPA to honor its legal commitment to regulate emissions of climate change pollution from their largest source: fossil fuel-powered electric generating plants. Last week, the Attorney General’s coalition notified EPA of their intention to sue the agency over missing the legal deadline for adopting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel power plants.
  • ·         As leader of a coalition of seven states, has notified the EPA of his intent to sue the agency for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to address methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry, including those resulting from “hydrofracking.” The EPA has determined that methane is a powerful climate change pollutant emitted by the industry in large quantities. Because of this, and the availability of affordable methods for controlling the industry’s methane emissions, our coalition has charged that EPA violated the Clean Air Act when it largely ignored methane in recent updates to air pollution emission standards for the industry.
  • ·         Has successfully defended New York State’s participation in the “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” (RGGI) — a multi-state effort to reduce emissions of climate change pollution — against a lawsuit backed by the out-of-state organization Americans for Prosperity.
  • ·         Has joined California and a number of environmental organizations by intervening in federal court to defend a national program to reduce climate change pollution and improve fuel economy for passenger cars and light duty trucks. This follows on the heels of a successful defense of EPA’s first-ever greenhouse gas regulations. In a landmark decision handed down in June 2012 by a federal Appeals Court, Schneiderman argued on behalf of a coalition of states for the court to uphold these regulations.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew G. Frank and Chief Environmental Scientists Alan J. Belensz and Jodi Feld of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. They are working under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 24, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN REGARDING THE PASSAGE OF MARRIAGE EQUALITY LEGISLATION IN RHODE ISLAND.

NEW YORK – Today a bipartisan majority in the Rhode Island State Senate voted 26-12 in favor of marriage equality in that state. Because the Senate made minor changes to the bill, it has to go back to the Rhode Island House, which previously passed it overwhelmingly. Governor Lincoln Chafee has pledged to sign the bill. Rhode Island will become the 10th state, plus the District of Columbia, to permit same-sex couples to marry. The following statement may be attributed to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman regarding the passage of marriage equality in Rhode Island.

“Today’s vote for marriage equality in Rhode Island represents another milestone in the march toward equal justice under law for gay and lesbian Americans. The growing number of states recognizing marriage equality only strengthens the case for the Supreme Court to overturn the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. As my office has argued in the Supreme Court, DOMA undermines the efforts of states like New York, and now Rhode Island, to provide equal rights and protection under the law for same-sex couples.”

A.G. Schneiderman led a coalition of more than a dozen states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which refuses to recognize for all federal purposes same-sex marriages valid under state law. A copy of the Attorney General’s amicus brief filed in the case of United States v. Windsor can be read here.

In a separate case affecting the marriage rights of same sex couples, Hollingsworth v. Perry, Attorney General Schneiderman joined a friend-of-the-court brief filed by Massachusetts, and joined by 12 other States, urging the Supreme Court to hold that California’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. For more information on the two friend-of-the-court briefs in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, click here.

A.G. Schneiderman also successfully defended New York’s marriage equality law from legal challenge in New York State’s highest court. On October 23, 2012, the New York State Court of Appeals sided with A.G. Schneiderman’s office in a rejecting a challenge to the Marriage Equality Act.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 23, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES BUST OF CENTRAL NEW YORK DRUG-TRAFFICKING RING.

 Operation “Extreme Delivery” Leads To 69 Count Indictment And Seizure Of Six Kilos Of Cocaine, Six Ounces Of Heroin.

 Schneiderman: Operations Like This Get Violent Criminals Off The Street And Protect Our Neighborhoods From The Drug Epidemic.

SYRACUSE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a multi-count indictment resulting in the arrest of 11 Syracuse-area residents on drug trafficking charges. The 69 count indictment includes counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First, Second and Third Degree, as well as Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First, Second & Third Degree, as well as Conspiracy in the Second Degree.

“Drug trafficking is a statewide problem made up of a sophisticated network of dealers and suppliers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Multi-agency investigations like this one help to bring down dangerous drug rings, get violent criminals off the street and protect our neighborhoods from the drug epidemic. Together, we are working to protect our communities and make the streets of Central New York safer.”

The large scale drug network transported cocaine from Puerto Rico, Arizona and the New York City Metropolitan for distribution in Syracuse and Watertown. The defendants also transported heroin from the New York City Metropolitan area to Syracuse. The Attorney General office’s seized in excess of six kilograms of cocaine and approximately six ounces of heroin.

The charges stem from a nine-month, multi-agency investigation code-named “Extreme Delivery,” that included covert surveillance, hundreds of hours of wiretaps and execution of search warrants at several locations. The New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) led several agencies including New York State Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Customs and Border Patrol, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, the Syracuse Police Department, the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office, the Camillus Police Department, the Solvay Police Department, the Metro-Jefferson Drug Task Force, Onondaga County Probation Department, and Public Safety at Syracuse University.

According to the indictment unsealed in Onondaga County Court today, this investigation led to the discovery of a drug distribution network, which impacted the City of Syracuse and neighboring communities. Investigators discovered that Joel Gonzalez was distributing a large volume of cocaine to customers in the City of Syracuse. Investigators discovered a pipeline of cocaine was coming through Elias Diaz-Pizarro from Puerto Rico and Arizona.

The following are some of the recoveries that occurred as part of the investigation:

·         Police recovered a shipment of cocaine from DeJesus Matos to Diaz-Pizarro which resulted in the recovery of approximately 2 kilograms of cocaine.

·         On February 28th 2012, police executed a search warrant, recovering two kilograms of cocaine and $73,000 that Mercado Guadalupe had shipped from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, and was delivered by Maria Ortiz to Diaz-Pizarro in Syracuse.

·         On July 31, 2012, investigators executed a search warrant at Juan Correa’s residence and recovered over two and a half ounces of cocaine. Investigators discovered Nelson Olacio was supplying Correa heroin and investigators kept going up the chain to discover Olacio had multiple suppliers from the New York City area, including Felix Sicard, Gregorio Burgos and Hosman Silfrido Guerrero Pavon.

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “The combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement have delivered a significant blow to the cocaine trade in Central New York. Our streets are now safer with these individuals taken into custody. The coordination and cooperation of the agencies involved resulted in arrests that will severely impact the ability of this drug operation to function. Today’s events send a strong message to dealers throughout the region that we will not tolerate drugs being brought into, or sold in our communities.”

In a series of raids early this morning, law enforcement officers arrested several of the defendants. Those charged in today’s indictment include:

Karnoddrick Anderson, Watertown

Gregorio Burgos, New York City

Alexis Carrasquillo, Syracuse

Marciano Cirino, Syracuse

Juan Correa, Syracuse

Kamar Davidson, New York City

Julio Dejesus Matos, Florida

Elias Diaz-Pizarro, Syracuse

Jose Encarnacion, Syracuse

Deanna Gladle, Syracuse

Joel Gonzalez, Syracuse

Hosman Silfrido Guerrero Pavon, New York City

Jose Jurado, Connecticut

Joseph Leible, Syracuse

Alexandro Mercado Guadalupe, Puerto Rico

Kellon Noel, New York City

Nelson Olacio, Syracuse

Angel Ortiz, Syracuse

Maria Ortiz, Connecticut

Ernesto Rivera, Syracuse

Felix Sicard, New York City

Christopher Wilson, Watertown

Colby Worlds, Watertown

 

The investigation was conducted by OCTF Special Investigator John MacConaghy, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Thomas M. Wolf and Chief Investigator Eugene Black and NYSP Investigator Buenaventura Ruiz-Ortiz.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Irene S. Bardot, under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Prosecutions 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.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 23, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN PROVIDES TIPS TO NEW YORKERS AIDING VICTIMS OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS.

 Tips Help Donors Be Sure They Are Making Contributions To Responsible Charities.

 Schneiderman: I Am Committed To Protecting New Yorkers From Scam Artists Who Prey On Their Generosity After A Tragedy.

NEW YORK –As the country mourns the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and prays for the speedy recovery of survivors, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman encouraged New Yorkers to give and offered the tips for those wishing to donate money to help victims and their families.

“New Yorkers have shown time and time again that they are kind and generous people who rise to the occasion and offer their support to victims of major tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “I am committed to protecting New Yorkers from scammers who might look to take advantage of a tragedy to bilk people out of their charitable contributions. Anyone planning to make a charitable donation should be sure to review these tips to protect themselves and ensure help goes where it is intended.”

 In the wake of media reports of donors being scammed by fake charities, Attorney General Schneiderman offers the following tips:

Check Before Giving. Donate to charities you are familiar with and carefully review information about the charity before you give. Most charities are required to register and file financial reports with the Attorney General’s Office if they are raising money from the public. Check our website, www.charitiesnys.com, for financial reports of charities or ask the charity directly for its reports. Check to see if the charity is a tax-exempt organization. The following websites contain helpful information to evaluate charities:

•         American Institute of Philanthropy – www.charitywatch.org

•         Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance – www.bbb.org

•         Charity Navigator – www.charitynavigator.org

•         GuideStar – www.guidestar.org

Ask How Your Donation Will Be Used. Check how the charity plans to use your donation, including the services and individuals your donation will support. Avoid charities that make emotional appeals but are vague in answering your questions or that will not provide you with written information. Confirm that all of your contribution will be used to help victims of the bombings and whether you are able to restrict your gift to that purpose.

Be Wary of Newly Formed Organizations. Donate to charities you are familiar with, or that have experience assisting victims of tragedies. Often, in the aftermath of tragedies, new organizations are formed with claims that they will assist victims. While some of those organizations may be doing just that, others turn out to be scams. Before making a contribution to a new organization, find out who is running it and how it plans to use donations. If you are not satisfied with the answers or are not familiar with the organizers, consider giving to another charity.

Be Careful When Giving Through Social Media. As with other recent tragedies, social media sites are being used to raise money for victims of the bombings. Before giving through these sites, check out who is behind the fundraising efforts and ask the same questions you would of a charity.

Before You Text A Contribution: Check the charity’s website or call the charity to confirm it has authorized contributions to be made via text message. Keep in mind that donations via text messaging may not reach the charity until after your phone bill is paid. It may be faster to contribute directly to the charity.

Don’t Give Cash. Give directly to the charity either by check made payable to the organization or through the charity’s website.

Be Careful About Personal Information. Avoid giving credit card or personal information over the phone or by text message. In all cases, make sure you are familiar with the organization to which you give such information and check to see that the fundraising campaign is legitimate.

Avoid Unsolicited Spam Emails. These formats are usually not associated with legitimate charities. Check the Department of Homeland Security tips, such as Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks.

Report Suspicious Organizations. If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a scam is taking place, please contact the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau at charities.complaints@ag.ny.gov.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    April 22, 2013.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LEADS COALITION URGING SUPREME COURT TO REINSTATE RULES CUTTING INTERSTATE AIR POLLUTION.

States Ask Court To Affirm EPA Rule Requiring Major Reductions In Soot And Smog.

3.2 Million New Yorkers Live In Counties With Dangerous Soot & Smog Pollution Levels; Rule Would Prevent 2,000 Premature Deaths Annually In New York By 2014.

Schneiderman: EPA Needs To Prevent Out-of-State Power Plants From Polluting New Yorkers’ Air.

NEW YORK — Leading a coalition of 10 states and 5 cities, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the filing of a court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to take prompt action to reduce the amount of air pollution that is currently allowed to cross state lines. The filing is in support of a request by the federal EPA and a group of public health and environmental organizations for the Court to review and reverse a lower court decision that invalidated an agency rule requiring substantial cuts in the interstate transport of pollution.

“The health of millions of New Yorkers continues to be harmed by soot, smog and other air pollution, a large portion of which blows in from states to our south and west,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “We have no way of controlling the amount of the dirty air that flows into New York from out-of-state power plants and we need federal action to stop this pollution. Our coalition is urging the Supreme Court to review this matter and reinstate sensible and legal EPA rules that will help stem the tide of interstate pollution – and protect New Yorkers’ air and lungs.”

The federal Clean Air Act confers dual responsibility on the EPA and the states to improve and maintain air quality both in-state and in downwind states. When states’ efforts to address interstate air pollution are inadequate, the Act specifically requires EPA to address the interstate transport of air pollution.

In July 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision supporting the position that EPA must reduce the interstate flow of air pollution that would enable downwind states, such as New York, to timely meet air quality standards under the Clean Air Act. The Court then sent the prior rule back to the Agency to comply with this mandate. In August 2011, EPA finalized the “Transport Rule,” an air pollution regulation that would reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) air pollution emitted by power plants in 28 states that blows into other states. By 2014, this rule, and other state and federal actions, would reduce power plant emissions of SO2 by 73 percent and NOx by 54 percent, from 2005 levels.

SO2 and NOx are air pollutants that can travel hundreds of miles after they are emitted, with significant consequences for New Yorkers. According to the American Lung Association, in 2012, over 3.2 million residents of the state live in counties where levels of soot and smog pollution endanger health. New York City was ranked by the Association last year as 15th among the 25 U.S. cities most polluted by smog.

By controlling cross-state movement of these pollutants, EPA’s Transport Rule would offer swift and substantial benefits. EPA projected that the Rule would yield up to roughly $17 billion in annual benefits and prevent approximately 2,000 premature deaths a year in New York alone by 2014. Nationally, EPA expected the Rule to yield $120 to $280 billion in annual benefits in 2014 — exceeding the rule’s estimated $2.4 billion total annual cost of compliance by over 50 to 110-times. Many of these annual benefits relate to improved public health — including preventing 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths, 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits and 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma in 2014.

Nonetheless, in August 2012, a panel of the same D.C. Circuit court invalidated the Transport Rule. That court also denied, on January 24, 2013, petitions from New York and other states and cities for a rehearing by the full court.

EPA and the American Lung Association and other public health and environmental organizations have petitioned the Supreme Court to review and reverse the D.C. Circuit’s decision. Today’s filing to the Supreme Court by Schneiderman’s coalition is in support of those petitions.

In addition to New York, the states joining in the filing are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia. The joining cities are Bridgeport, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Andrew Frank and Michael Myers of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel Srolovic and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel and Assistant Solicitor General Simon Heller and Deputy Solicitor General Cecelia Chang under the supervision of Solicitor General Barbara Underwood.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  April 22, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN CELEBRATES EARTH DAY BY ANNOUNCING BRONX RIVER RESTORATION GRANTS, HIGHLIGHTING NEW YORK SUCCESSES PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT.

 

More Than $4 Million In Funding For Green Infrastructure Projects To Ten Bronx And Westchester Entities To Help Improve Water Quality

 
Schneiderman: Successful Projects Around The State Are Protecting New Yorkers’ Right To Clean Air To Breathe, Pure Water To Drink, A Stable Climate And Healthy Communities In Which To Live
 

NEW YORK -- In honor of Earth Day, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today highlighted important environmental protection initiatives taken by his office and announced that more than $4 million is going to local Bronx and Westchester County entities to help them improve water quality in the Bronx River. The Attorney General’s Bronx River Watershed Initiative hasdedicated more than $2.1 million to support local efforts in the Bronx and Westchester Counties focused on restoring water quality in the waterway by controlling storm runoff and snow melt. With matching funds, the initiative is bringing over $4.1 million to ten local entities for “green infrastructure” projects that combat principal causes of the Bronx River’s continuing water quality problems.

 
"I am proud to fight to protect every New Yorkers' right to clean air, pure drinking water, a stable environment and healthy communities,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “From safeguarding Long Island's Pine Barrens, cleaning up the Hudson River, protecting the Adirondack wilderness and waterways in the Southern Tier and securing air quality in Western New York communities, we've made tremendous progress across New York improving our environment. While I am proud of our accomplishments, we will continue to press for much tougher protections, including fighting against climate change pollution and for a tightening of national air quality standards. "
 
The Bronx River Watershed Initiative:
 

Attorney General Schneiderman announced today that his office has dedicated over $2.1 million to join local efforts in the Bronx and Westchester County focused on restoring the Bronx River. The funding from the Attorney General’s Bronx River Watershed Initiative combines with $2 million in matching and leveraged funds to bring over $4.1 million to ten local entities, government and not-for-profit groups, for “green infrastructure” projects.

These project directly combat a principal cause of the Bronx River’s continuing water quality problems: The rainwater and snowmelt that flows into the river over impervious surfaces, picking up raw sewage, litter, gas and oil, pesticides, fertilizers and other harmful pollutants along its path. Projects funded by the Attorney General include a $400,000 storm-water capture and treatment project at the Bronx Zoo, a $260,000 green roof project at the Bronx River Art Center and over $725,000 for rainwater runoff control projects in the Village of Tuckahoe and Town of Greenburgh. The Initiative has brought a total of almost $15 million to Bronx River restoration efforts since funding began in 2007.

 
In the last two years, Attorney General Schneiderman has led efforts to protect our environment around the state. Recent environmental victories include:
 
In Central New York/Hudson Valley, Attorney General Schneiderman:
 
·         Is leading the state's fight to ensure that the relicensing proceeding for the Indian Point nuclear power plant includes a full, fair and open examination of many critical questions about the safety of the reactors before any decisions are made about their continued operations.
 
·         Obtained a felony guilty plea, including a jail sentence, from the operator of a large, un-permitted construction and demolition debris landfill containing ash and slag, which can be carcinogenic. The illegal landfill was located within the New York City Watershed which provides drinking water to nearly one-half of New York State’s population.
 
·         In partnership with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the office created a nearly $450,000 grant program to help the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District transform school buildings into healthy, energy-efficient "high performance" schools at no cost to taxpayers.
 
In New York City, Attorney General Schneiderman:
 
·         Arrested eight motor vehicle inspectors who issued more than 13,000 fraudulent inspection certificates to vehicles they were paid not to test at seven of the city's busiest inspection stations. The inspectors and several of the companies they worked at were charged with numerous felonies and face up to seven years in prison. By flouting state requirements, thousands of substandard vehicles were allowed to remain on New York roads, leading to increased safety risks for drivers and the significant degradation of New York air quality.
 
·         Along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, reached a landmark agreement that will keep the City on track to reduce discharges of nitrogen by municipal wastewater treatment plants' into Long Island Sound by nearly 60%. The agreement also committed the City to cutting its plants' nitrogen discharges to Jamaica Bay by nearly 50%. Because fish and other marine life are significantly harmed when nitrogen reduces the oxygen in coastal waters, the agreement requires the city to fund extensive marshland restoration in the bay.
 
·         Following a criminal investigation, cracked down on the sale of thousands of pounds of contaminated clams purchased out-of-state and sold in Chinatown. Consumption of raw shellfish with the type of extreme contamination found places a person in substantial risk of serious physical injury or even death.
 
On Long Island, Attorney General Schneiderman:
  • ·         Won an important victory for endangered and threatened species by successfully defending State regulations requiring a specific permit be obtained when proposed development activities and other land use changes may cause “significant modification or degradation” to a protected species’ habitat, such as Long Island’s short-eared owls and tiger salamanders.
  • ·         With the state Department of Environmental Conservation, federal agencies and Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, spearheaded legal action that resulted in a $18.5 million settlement from Aloca Inc. and Reynolds Metals Company for natural resources damages to the St. Lawrence River environment. The settlement will provide approximately $7.3 million for wetlands, stream bank, fisheries and other natural resource restoration projects and $8.4 to fund tribal cultural restoration projects, including those promoting Mohawk language and traditional teachings. In addition, the settlement will fund the acquisition of lands valued at $1 million for wildlife protection and projects valued at $1.5 million to increase public access to fishing.
  • ·         Defeated a lawsuit brought by the natural gas drilling company U.S. Energy that sought to block enforcement of New York’s water pollution regulations that protect New York water from pollution originating from the company’s Pennsylvania fracking operations.
 
·         Continues to protect the Long Island Pine Barrens, including its unique ecosystems and critical drinking water supplies, by ensuring the full and fair enforcement of the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act.
 
In the North Country, Attorney General Schneiderman:
 
 
·         In defense of the public's right to travel on navigable waters in the Adirondack Park, joined a successful lawsuit against landowners who used intimidating signs, cameras and steel cables they placed across Adirondack waterways in an effort to prevent kayakers, canoeists and other boaters from traveling through public waterways that traverse their property.
 
·         Provided $400,000 to create the "Adirondack Acid Rain Recovery Program," a grant program to fund projects aimed at restoring hundreds of lakes and streams in the Adirondacks still suffering the damages of acid rain pollution.
 
In the Southern Tier, Attorney General Schneiderman:
 
 
·         Reached a landmark agreement with Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C. to allow over 4,400 landowners who were locked into unfavorable natural gas leases the opportunity to renegotiate with another energy company. The Oaklahoma-based company claimed that, because of New York State's continuing review of fracking prevented it from performing any exploration and development operations for shale wells, the company had the right to unilaterally extend expiring leases. Since executing this agreement, a federal judge ruled that New York’s current fracking moratorium did not give Chesapeake the right to unilaterally extended leases. 
 
In Western New York, Attorney General Schneiderman:
 
·         Reached an agreement with the operator of a Tonadwanda-based funeral home crematory to temporary suspend its operations while pursuing solutions to eliminate odor, particles, smoke and other emissions that have been the source of persistent community complaints.
 
·         The office is participating in the implementation of Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative which was created with $2.1 million from Attorney General Schneiderman's office to fund energy efficiency measures and catalyze health and safety improvements in residential housing in Buffalo's underserved communities.
 
Statewide, Attorney General Schneiderman:
 
·         Successfully defended the State against a lawsuit backed by the out-of-state organization Americans for Prosperity that sought to force New York to withdraw from the "Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative" (RGGI), a multi-state effort to reduce emissions of pollutants that contribute to climate change and harm our health.
 
·         Successfully defended restrictions that New York added to a federal Environmental Protection Agency permit that address the discharge of "biological pollution" by commercial ships. The Agency's permit set specific limits on the number of invasive species that can be released with commercial ship ballast waters. The restrictions were specifically added by New York to ensure New York waters are properly protected from these harmful, non-native species.
 
Attorney General Schneiderman's office is recognized as a national leader for spearheading a number of environmental protection efforts:
 
·         The office won a landmark victory that ensures, for the first time, that the nation's Nuclear Regulatory Commission cannot issue new or renewed operating licenses for nuclear power plants until it thoroughly reviews the public health, safety and environmental hazards posed by long-term storage of nuclear waste at power plants around the country.
 
·         Leading a coalition of 11 states, Attorney General Schneiderman reached a settlement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency that compelled the agency to update national air quality standards for soot pollution and ensure all Americans, including the most vulnerable, will be protected.
 
·         Leading a coalition of seven states, the Attorney General filed notice of intent to sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency for violating provisions of the Clean Air Act by failing to address methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry, including those from "fracking" operations. The oil and natural industry is the single largest source of man-made methane emissions in the U.S. and the second largest industrial source of domestic greenhouse gas emissions behind only electric power generating plants.


News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 21, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

DOWNSTATE COALITION FOR CRIME VICTIMS LEADS 28TH ANNUAL VIGIL.

 A.G. Schneiderman, D.A. Vance, Other Law Enforcement Officials, Advocates And Community Members Gather To Commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

 Speakers And Victims Reflect On The Theme “New Challenges; New Solutions”.

 NEW YORK – The Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr today hosted the 28th Annual Crime Victims Candlelight Vigil. The Annual Vigil brings together law enforcement officials, victim advocates, community leaders and members to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Reflecting on the theme “New Challenges; New Solutions,” speakers included A.G. Schneiderman, D.A. Vance, New York City Department of Corrections Commissioner Dora Schiro, New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green, and crime survivors expressing the shared mission to end violence and deliver justice for its victims. The Vigil took on special poignancy this year in the wake of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut last December, and the bombing of the Boston Marathon just days before.

 We are proud to partner with so many leading voices at our annual NYC Crime Victims’ Ceremony and Candle Light Vigil,” said Susan Xenarios, co-Chair of the Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims. “This is an opportunity for all New Yorkers to share a moving and healing event together as we honor and commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.”

“In our work to achieve a safer and fairer society, we must honor and learn from those who have suffered most at the hands of injustice,” said Attorney General Schneiderman, whose office co-sponsored the vigil. “As we begin National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, let us remember the lost, celebrate survivors’ strength, and redouble our efforts to keep communities safe.For those of us in law enforcement, we also honor those who have been lost by reaffirming our solemn commitment that we will do everything in our power to ensure public safety in every community.”

“This important annual event promotes awareness about those who suffer from violence and those who have been silenced by it,” said District Attorney Vance. “By coming together to honor this event, we renew our commitment to serving our communities and remembering those who have been affected by crime.”

The Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims Annual Vigil is a forum for community members to share insights, engage in problem-solving strategies and speak as a united voice on behalf of the all victims of crime and violence in New York State. This year’s theme, “Honoring Our Journey,” inspires reflection on the victims we have lost, the survivors we celebrate, and our collective work to promote justice in our society.

The Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims provides a comprehensive range of direct services and advocacy for victims of violence and other crimes, their families and the communities in which they reside. The Coalition’s mission is to inform and educate members and the public about current developments in legislation, our criminal justice and law enforcement systems, victim service and trauma treatment modalities and resources which impact on services and justice for victims and the crime victim movement on a local, state and national level.

With 97 members, including crime victim assistance advocate programs, government agencies and community based programs providers, the Coalition covers the five boroughs of New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester counties.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 17, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

Statement from A.G. Schneiderman On The U.S. Senate Vote To Block Background Check Expansion For Gun Purchases.

Failure Of Congress To Expand Background Checks Is A Disgrace, But The Fight For Gun Safety Continues.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today issued the following statement after the United States Senate voted down legislation that would require background checks for private sales of firearms at gun shows and over the internet:

“The failure to pass even the most basic measures to expand background checks for gun sales, despite near-universal support from the American people, is a disgrace. Expanding background checks is not a partisan or ideological issue, it is a public safety and law enforcement issue. We have shown here in New York that it is easy to expand background checks without infringing on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. Make no mistake– this fight is far from over. While Washington has failed to act, my office has partnered with the gun show industry to develop and implement a set of Model Gun Show Procedures to ensure universal background checks at gun shows in New York, a model that other states can use. ”

Background checks screen out buyers who have been convicted of felonies, involuntarily committed in mental institutions, or who are otherwise legally barred from owning firearms. By supporting the filibuster, Senators from both parties prevented an up-or-down vote on the amendment itself, in effect killing it.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Schneiderman announced that 26 gun show operators have agreed to follow the Model Gun Show Procedures developed by the Attorney General’s Office to promote uniform gun show operations across the state. As a result of these new voluntary agreements, at least 55 gun shows in New York this year will implement model procedures designed to ensure that legally required background checks are completed on every sale of a firearm.

The development of the Model Procedures grew out of Attorney General Schneiderman’s 2011 investigation of gun shows around the state. This investigation uncovered the frequent occurrence of private sales without background checks. Following that discovery, the Attorney General’s Office and several gun show operators worked together to develop the Model Procedures, which balance the rights of the sportsmen and gun collectors with the need to protect the public from the sale of guns to people who cannot pass a background check, also known as a “National Instant Criminal Background Check System” or “NICS.” The Model Procedures require operators to do the following:

  • ·         Post conspicuous signs throughout the shows, and give written notice to all dealers that New York State law requires that a National Instant Criminal Background Check be completed before the transfer of a gun at a gun show, including on the grounds of the show.
  • ·         Require that all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if the guns were sold and a NICS was performed.
  • ·         Provide access to a dealer who is authorized to conduct a NICS at cost.
  • ·         The dealer performing the NICS shall complete and file the ATF Form 4473 and maintain the forms for inspection by law enforcement agencies for ten years, per the Gun Show Law.
  • ·         Limit the number of access doors at the show so that sellers and buyers have to enter and exit through an area where the NICS procedures can be monitored.
  • ·         Use reasonable means to prevent illegal gun sales outside of the building, including the parking lot.
  • ·         Alert local law enforcement that a show will be held in their area, request periodic patrols in the parking lots to deter illegal sales, and call them if illegal sales are observed or suspected.

For more information on the Model Procedures between Attorney General Schneiderman and gun show operators around New York State, visit: www.ag.ny.gov.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    April 17, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

 A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF MAJOR VOTING RIGHTS LANGUAGE ACCESS INITIATIVE.

AG’s Language Access Initiative Includes 8 Boards Of Elections And Will Benefit Almost 40,000 Potential Voters Throughout The State.

 Boards Of Elections To Provide Spanish-Language Materials And Language Assistance Before And On Election Day.

 Schneiderman: The Right To Vote Is One Of Our Nation’s Most Important Civil Rights.

ALBANY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the completion of a major Language Access Initiative aimed at ensuring that Spanish-speaking voters have equal access to the electoral process. The most recent agreement with the Montgomery County Board of Elections marks a milestone in the Attorney General’s 9-month effort to promote and achieve compliance with the language access provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

“Our most recent agreement with the Montgomery County Board of Elections marks a significant moment in our effort to ensure that voters in New York have access to the political process regardless of their proficiency in English,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “My office is committed to ensuring that language does not stand as a barrier in one’s effort to exercise the right to vote in New York State. The efforts now underway will help provide greater access and lead to higher participation rates among countless voters. Our Civil Rights Bureau will actively monitor the agreements that we have secured with Boards of Elections to ensure that all eligible voters have meaningful access to the ballot box in the years ahead.”

The Montgomery County Board of Elections was the last of eight upstate counties to enter into an agreement with the Attorney General’s Office pursuant to his Language Access Initiative. The most recent agreement stands to benefit numerous individuals in the County — 11 percent of Montgomery County residents are Hispanic/Latino and 41 percent of those residents are limited English proficient.

In August 2012, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman undertook a comprehensive examination of the language access efforts of 10 Boards of Elections located in counties with significant Spanish speaking populations seeking information regarding their efforts to reach limited English proficient voters and prospective voters. The Attorney General’s review determined that few Boards of Election were familiar with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act or required greater efforts to ensure meaningful compliance with the law. While two Boards had reasonable plans in place, eight other Boards have agreed to take significant steps to ensure compliance with Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act.

The agreements reached with the Attorney General’s Office will ensure that voters have access to Spanish-language voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications, affidavit applications, public notices, website information, polling place reassignment letters and the Election Day ballot itself. In addition, the Boards have also agreed to recruit and identify sufficient numbers of Spanish-speaking poll workers and agreed to provide enhanced training for poll workers to ensure that quality language assistance is provided on Election Day.

According to 2010 Census data, approximately 5.5 million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language, of whom 45 percent speak English less than very well. These numbers include 2.7 million New Yorkers who primarily speak Spanish at home, of whom 46 percent speak English less than very well. The numbers illustrate rising language needs across our state.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections joins Boards in Sullivan, Putnam, Dutchess, Schenectady, Ulster, Rockland and Chautauqua Counties in implementing new or significantly improved language access programs in compliance with Section 4(e). Together, the eight counties reached through the Attorney General Schneiderman’s Language Access Initiative stands to benefit close to 40,000 New York State residents.

This initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Monica Iyer with the assistance of Vincent Bradley, Gary Brown, Michael Russo, Debra Martin and Thomas Trace of the OAG’s Regional Offices, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office is committed to protecting the voting rights of all New Yorkers and working to promote continued compliance with the Voting Rights Act. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  April 15, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

FEDERAL COURT RULES THAT A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN’S $410 MERKIN SETTLEMENT MAY PROCEED.

Schneiderman: Ruling Is A Victory For Justice & Accountability For Many Victims Of Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme.

NEW YORK – U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff issued a ruling today that paves the way for New York State to distribute $410 million to victims of J. Ezra Merkin, who invested over $2 billion with Bernard M. Madoff on behalf of hundreds of investors, including many New Yorkers and charitable organizations. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman secured the multi-million dollar settlement with Merkin last year.

Judge Rakoff’s decision, which dismisses Madoff Trustee Irving Picard’s entire lawsuit seeking to block Schneiderman’s settlement that recovered million of dollars to Merkin’s victims, comes on the heels of another recent ruling that rejected Picard’s effort to block a settlement to victims of a separate Madoff feeder fund.

“This ruling is a victory for justice and accountability. Many New Yorkers entrusted their investments to Mr. Merkin, who then steered the money to Madoff and received millions of dollars in management and incentive fees,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “By paving the way for my office to disburse over $400 million to the investors and charities that were harmed by Mr. Merkin’s actions, this ruling will help bring justice for these people and institutions that lost millions of dollars.”

In June, 2012, A.G. Schneiderman announced a $410 million settlement with Merkin, who controlled four funds that invested over $2 billion with Bernard M. Madoff on behalf of hundreds of investors, including many New Yorkers and charitable organizations. As a result of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, the investors in the funds, Ariel Fund Ltd., Gabriel Capital L.P., Ascot Fund Ltd. and Ascot Partners L.P. Madoff brokerage liquidator Irving Picard had sought to block A.G. Schneiderman’s settlement with Merkin, delaying disbursement of the funds.

Under the agreement secured by Attorney General Schneiderman, Merkin will pay $405 million to compensate investors over a three-year period, and $5 million to the State of New York to cover fees and costs. This is the first settlement resulting from a government action against Merkin.

Judge Rakoff wrote in today’s opinion, “The Trustee . . . having for more than three years issued empty threats to seek a halt to the Attorney General’s suit, has lost his right to complain.  Even on the merits, moreover, his bluster proves to be without substance. Accordingly, not only this motion but this entire action seeking to derail the Attorney General’s settlement must be dismissed.”

In April 2009, the Office of Attorney General charged Merkin with violations of the Martin Act, General Business Law § 352; and Executive Law § 63(12) for concealing Madoff’s control of the Merkin Funds and for breaches of his fiduciary duty to manage the funds prudently. The lawsuit sought damages, disgorgement of all fees by Merkin, and injunctive relief.

Depending on the size of their losses, eligible investors will be entitled to receive over 40 percent of their cash losses from the Settlement. Pursuant to a claims process, investors who were not aware of Merkin’s delegation to Madoff will receive a defined percentage of their losses, while those who were aware of Madoff’s role will be eligible to receive a smaller recovery. In addition, all investors may receive additional payments at a future date when the Madoff Estate is able to distribute moneys recovered by Irving Picard, the Securities Investor Protection Corporation Trustee for the liquidation of Madoff’s Estate, who is not involved in Attorney General Schneiderman’s settlement.

This case is handled by Senior Trial Counsel David N. Ellenhorn, under the supervision of Karla G. Sanchez, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 15, 2013.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SUES COMPANY FOR TARGETING UNION MEMBERS WITH FALSE CREDIT CARD OFFERS.

 Company Collected Upfront Fees For Scam Credit Card Offers, Ripping Off Hundreds Of Consumers.

 Schneiderman: My Office Will Fight To Protect Workers From Companies That Make False Promises.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office filed a lawsuit against Union Workers Credit Services, Inc., and its President, Joe Malazzo, for false advertising and deceptive business practices in connection with their solicitations for a pre-approved “Platinum” credit card. The company, located in Dallas, targeted union members with advertisements and solicitations claiming to offer a general purpose credit card. Consumers learned after paying an upfront fee of either $37.00 or $95.00 that the card could only be used to purchase items from Union Workers Credit Service’s limited catalog of merchandise. Other consumers paid the upfront fee and never received anything from Union Workers Credit Services at all.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks full restitution for any New Yorker who paid upfront fees to Union Workers Credit Services, a court order prohibiting the company from engaging in false advertising and deceptive business practices, as well as penalties and fees. For every deceptive solicitation the company sent to a prospective customer, the potential penalty is $5,000.

“Targeting and ripping off workers through deceptive advertising is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the State of New York. This company will now pay the price for preying on consumers who were duped into signing up for credit cards that were essentially worthless,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “In these challenging economic times, New Yorkers are working hard to make ends meet and my office will continue to fight everyday to protect them from false advertising and fraudulent business practices.”

After reviewing hundreds of complaints from consumers, Attorney General Schneiderman launched an investigation and determined that Union Workers Credit Services was targeting financially vulnerable consumers through direct mail solicitations and internet advertisements. The solicitations cause consumers to believe that the company is affiliated with their labor unions, making them more likely to apply. Some of these solicitations display pictures of workers that are ordinarily members of labor unions, require consumers to select their labor union from a dropdown menu on the online application form, and display a statement at the top of a user’s web browser that states, “Union Workers Credit Services – providing credit services to the Union Workers of America.” Although the direct mail solicitation and web advertisements promise that consumers could receive refunds within 60 days if not satisfied with the “Platinum Card,” the company routinely failed to provide refunds upon consumers’ requests.

Consumers in cities across New York State, including Long Island, Buffalo, Ithaca and Rochester, received the union member solicitations.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Adam H. Cohen, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 15, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN: AD AGENCY HEAD AND PIMP INVOLVED IN PROSTITUTION-BASED MONEY LAUNDERING RING ENTER FELONY GUILTY PLEA.

Prostitution Ring Generating Millions Of Dollars To Advertise Sex Services Ad Agency Boss And Pimp She Worked With Will Each Go To State Prison For Up To 3 Years.

Schneiderman: My Office Will Continue To Uncover And Punish Those Who Exploit Women And Profit From Exploitation.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the guilty plea of Milagros Katz, the head of Manhattan-based advertising agency Somad Enterprises, Inc., to a felony Money Laundering charge in Queens Supreme Court. Katz, 50, of Jersey City, is charged with Enterprise Corruption and Money Laundering for her role in the illegal operations at Somad, which created, monitored, facilitated and employed online, print and cable television advertisements to knowingly and systematically promote prostitution for large- and small-scale prostitution businesses across the Tri-State area.

The ads ran in a variety of high-profile outlets, including Backpage.com, the Village Voice and the Yellow Pages.  A pimp that worked with Somad, Wei Qu, 51, of Flushing, pled guilty to Enterprise Corruption before Justice Buchter today.

He will be sentenced to a state prison term of 1 to 3 years and be required to forfeit $45,000.

“Today’s guilty pleas are part of our ongoing effort to ensure that those who participate in large-scale, lucrative prostitution based money laundering operations – including advertising bosses who use seemingly legitimate business to hide their roles in these illegal activities – are held accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will continue to work with law enforcement agencies around the state to root out criminal networks that launder money, promote prostitution and exploit women.”

Katz, who is out of jail on $500,000 bail with an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, will be required, as part of her plea deal, to pay $100,000 to settle the lawsuit lodged by the Attorney General’s office targeting the proceeds of Katz’s Money Laundering activities. The ad agency, Somad, also pleaded guilty today before Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter to the same Money Laundering charge.

This plea is the result of a 16-month joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the New York City Police Department that uncovered the illegal operations headed by Somad Enterprises, Inc., that was run out of an office at 150 W. 25th St., Suite 1202, and remote locations in Queens, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Philippines.

The investigation resulted in a Queens County indictment which charged 19 people and the corporate defendant with a variety of crimes, including enterprise corruption, money laundering, falsifying business records, promoting prostitution and top narcotics possession and sales charges. During the course of the arrests and execution of search warrants last fall, investigators found two women who were the victims of human trafficking by two of the ringleaders of the operation. Investigators from the Attorney General’s office and the NYPD rescued the two trafficking victims from locations in Manhattan and, in coordination with Sanctuary for Families, brought them to a safe haven.

The investigation is ongoing. Through the use of electronic surveillance, physical surveillance and the review and analysis of a voluminous number of bank records and tax related documents, in conjunction with other investigative tools, the Attorney General’s investigation identified Somad Enterprises, Inc., which created, monitored, facilitated and employed online and print advertisements, including on Backpage.com and in the Village Voice, and cable television commercials to knowingly and systematically promote prostitution for pimps and for which Somad and its employees, as well as the prostitution business clients, profited handsomely.

According to a review of Somad’s financial documents, between January 1, 2010 and October 2012, prostitution businesses paid in excess of $3 million in advertising to promote their prostitution business. This enterprise utilized numerous shell corporations, created with false information, which were used to process millions of dollars in credit card transactions which hid the true nature of the charges by claiming the corporations services were for cleaning, acupuncture, antiques and party planning rather than for sex and/or drugs.

Each prostitution prong of the enterprise utilized the income derived from their illegal prostitution and drug related businesses to pay Somad for their advertising services, effectively laundering money through Somad, disguising the origin of the proceeds as legitimate advertisement payments.

These payments to Somad were used to both pay Somad employees who ran the advertising business and to place additional ads which promoted their prostitution businesses.  The prostitution groups relied on Somad’s well-established relationships with media to secure discounts for the criminal enterprise’s clients.

The prostitution managers controlled the flow of money from johns, bookers, drivers, house mothers and Somad. Katz was the vice president and principal of SOMAD Enterprises, Inc.– the advertising agency that created, monitored, facilitated and employed online and print advertisements from which Somad employees and prostitution business clients profited.

The agency created customized prostitution advertisements including photos and text for use in various online and print publications. The money came into Somad for the prostitution ads and was then covered up by false documents and passed off as “clean money.”
SOMAD passed itself off as a legitimate advertising agency. Katz had been released upon $500,000 bail and the requirement of wearing a monitoring bracelet upon her ankle.  Wei Qu a/k/a William, a/k/a Andy, 51, Flushing, NY, pled guilty to Enterprise Corruption, a class B felony. He will be sentenced to a state prison term 1 to 3 years and be required to forfeit $45,000.

Katz and Somad each pled guilty to one count of Money Laundering in the Second degree. The charges are the result of a joint investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the New York City Police Department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau Vice Enforcement Major Case Team, with the assistance of the New York State Police, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, U.S. Homeland Security and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Diego Hernandez and Brandi Kligman under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  April 15, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

Statement from A.G. Schneiderman Regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision to Reject a Challenge to New York’s Handgun Licensing Statute.

Today’s Decision Leaves A.G. Schneiderman’s Successful Defense Of State Gun Safety Law Intact.

Schneiderman: New York State Enacted Sensible And Effective Regulations Of Concealed Handguns.

NEW YORK — Today the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the case of Kachalsky, et al. v. Cacace, et al. challenging New York State’s handgun licensing statute, which requires individuals to demonstrate “proper cause” to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns in public. The decision leaves in place a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling upholding the law.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, whose office successfully argued the case in the lower courts, issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s denial of the appeal:  “Every day, my office fights to ensure all New Yorkers are safe and secure in their communities. This means making sure that our state’s gun safety laws are protected and vigorously enforced. New York State has enacted sensible and effective regulations of concealed handguns, and this decision keeps those laws in place.

This is a victory for families across New York who are rightly concerned about the scourge of gun violence that all too often plagues our communities.” In Kachalsky, et al. v. Cacace, et al, five individual plaintiffs residing in Westchester County, and one organization, the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc., argued that the “proper cause” provision of the New York law governing the issuance of licenses to carry concealed handguns in public violates their rights under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as defined in two recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago.

The “proper cause” provision requires a license applicant to show “a special need for self protection distinguishable from that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession.”

The defendants in this case, four State Court judges who also serve as “licensing officers” under the New York statute, were represented by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office, which argued that the “proper cause” provision of the New York law did not violate the Second Amendment as described by the Supreme Court in the Heller and McDonald cases.

The case was handled by Assistant Solicitor General Simon Heller, Deputy Solicitor General Richard Dearing and New York Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 10, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES 10-YEAR PRISON SENTENCE FOR LEADER OF IDENTITY THEFT RING WHO TARGETED HUNDREDS OF NEW YORK CONSUMERS.

Phillip Smith Led Ring That Charged Over $1 Million Dollars In Fraudulent Purchases.

Schneiderman: Businesses And Consumers In New York Are Hurt By Rampant Identity Theft; We Will Seek Out And Punish Perpetrators.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”) Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) James T. Hayes, Jr., today announced the sentencing of Phillip Smith for orchestrating a scheme that swiped over $1 million from the credit cards of hundreds of New York consumers. Smith, who previously pled guilty to felony charges, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by United States District Judge John F. Keenan in Manhattan federal court.

“This defendant victimized businesses and hundreds of New York consumers in a systematic and elaborate scheme to line his own pockets,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office will aggressively crack down on identity theft – and Phillip Smith will spend a decade behind bars for his crimes.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Phillip Smith and his co-conspirators engaged in a ‘soup-to-nuts’ identity theft scheme that ripped off retailers for more than $1 million and had the potential to compromise his victims’ credit ratings. We take identity theft crimes very seriously and will continue to prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”

HSI Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes Jr. said, “The defendant served as the organizer and ringleader of a band of thieves who defrauded hundreds of New Yorkers and dozens of retail businesses. HSI will continue to target those who seek to profit through the use of fraudulent documents and at the expense of law abiding citizens.”

Smith, 55, of the Bronx, pled guilty in November to Conspiracy to Commit Access Device Fraud, Conspiracy to Produce False Identification Documents and Aggravated Identity Theft, all three counts of the indictment filed against him in February 2012. Smith admitted that, in a scheme that ran from 2008 to 2012, he obtained the personal identification information of thousands of innocent people, including their names and social security numbers.

Smith exploited this information to identify victims with existing credit accounts and used them to access their accounts at Home Depot, Sears, Kmart, Kohl’s and other retail chains. Smith passed the personal identifying information of his victims to co-conspirators Mahmoud Abdul Hussein, Ali Abdul Hussein and Fadal Abdul Hussein, brothers who operated out of two storefronts in Greenwich Village and who produced fake drivers’ licenses with that information.

The licenses used the names of the victims but photos of three other co-conspirators, Eugene Smith, Winston Harris and Melissa Morton, who impersonated the victims to steal goods and services. Ring members travelled to stores in at least twelve states, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where they charged expensive merchandise and gift cards to victims’ accounts.

These fraudulently obtained goods were then sold to other members of the ring, including Francis Hidalgo and Randy White, for approximately 60 percent of their face value. In addition to his participation in this identity theft ring, Francis Hidalgo converted two warehouses in the Bronx into hydroponic marijuana growing facilities as part of yet another criminal enterprise.

In June 2012, investigators seized over 400 marijuana plants from one of these warehouses. This investigation has resulted in narcotics charges being filed against three additional individuals. Besides 10 years in prison, Smith was ordered to pay $1,153,000 in restitution to victims and forfeiture to the government in the amount of $404,000.

Francis Hidalgo, Winston Harris and Randy White, were previously sentenced by Judge Keenan. Hidalgo, 45, of Pomona, NY, was sentenced to 6 and ½ years in prison for Conspiracy to Commit Access Device Fraud, Theft of Public Funds in connection with the submission of 99 weeks of false claims to the New Jersey Unemployment Insurance Fund and Conspiracy to Distribute or Possess with Intent to Distribute Marijuana Plants.

He was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $557,816 and forfeiture in the amount of $111,000.  Harris, 58, of Brooklyn, was sentenced to four years in prison for Conspiracy to Commit Access Device Fraud, Conspiracy to Produce False Identification Documents and Aggravated Identity Theft.

He was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $70,000 and forfeiture in the amount of $24,000. White, 57, of the Bronx, was sentenced to time served for Conspiracy to Commit Access Device Fraud. He was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $46,000 and forfeiture in the amount of $30,000.

Defendants who are awaiting sentencing are: Eugene Smith, 59, of the Bronx, pled guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Access Device Fraud, Conspiracy to Produce False Identification Documents and Aggravated Identity Theft.  Mahmoud Abdul Hussein, 28, Ali Abdul Hussein, 34, and Fadal Abdul Hussein, 23, all of Seaford, NY, who each pled guilty to Conspiracy to Produce False Identification Documents.

Charges remain pending against Melissa Morton, 25, of the Bronx. Morton is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the New York State Department of Financial Services, ICE HSI and the New Jersey Department of Human Services Police for their assistance in the investigation of this matter.

Attorney General Schneiderman also thanked the NYPD, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, MAGLOCLEN (a multi-state law enforcement support organization), Home Depot, Citibank and Kohl’s for their valuable cooperation and support in this investigation.

The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph P. Facciponti, Assistant Attorney General Meryl Lutsky, who has been designated a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Assistant Attorney General Tyler Reynolds. AAGs Lutsky and Reynolds work under the supervision of Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

The Attorney General recognizes the diligent work of the OAG’s Criminal Division staff, including Legal Support Analyst Christina Lee and former Legal Support Analyst Minji Reem; Investigators Vincent Gisonti, Steve Pratt, and David Negron; Senior Investigator Dennis Maddalone; Supervising Investigator John Sullivan; and Deputy Chief Investigators John McManus and Greg Stasiuk.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SUES NYC SECURITY GUARD TRAINING COMPANY THAT SCAMMED UNEMPLOYED CONSUMERS.

Company Posts Phony Job Listings, Makes False Promises Of Employment To Trick Thousands Of Consumers Into Paying For Expensive Training Courses.

Schneiderman: Fraudulent And Deceptive Advertising Practices Are Illegal.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that he filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against a company and its owner for using phony job listings and false promises of employment to con consumers into paying for expensive security guard training courses.  The New York City-based 1st Security Preparation & Placement, Inc. and its owner, Allen Haft, may have scammed more than 15,000 consumers since 2008.

The Attorney General’s office also secured a temporary restraining order freezing any assets the company or Haft may have and temporarily barring them from advertising job openings or selling security guard training courses. “My office will not tolerate companies that break the law to take advantage of vulnerable, unemployed consumers,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Posting phony job listings during an economic crisis is a particularly cynical effort to prey on the hopes of struggling workers and families.

We will seek the maximum penalties against 1st Security as well as restitution for defrauded consumers.” The lawsuit, filed yesterday, seeks full restitution for consumers defrauded in the scheme since at least 2008. As many as 15,000 people, many of them New York City residents, signed up for classes. The suit also seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the company from continuing to operate this scam. The company faces penalties of up to $5,000 per customer defrauded.

After reviewing about 200 consumer complaints, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an undercover investigation of the company revealing that it has posted hundreds of fake security guard job listings on Craigslist and in newspapers, including am NewYork, the Daily News, the New York Post and Metro.

The advertisements make it seem like the company is hiring employees at high hourly wages when in fact the company is selling its courses.  When consumers respond to the ads, 1st Security falsely promises them that they have been selected for a position.

The company tells applicants that before they can start working, they must complete a series of security guard training courses, typically at a cost of $449 to $667.    1st Security holds classes at 250 West 40th Street that last approximately four days and issues students certificates for those classes.

After consumers pay for and complete 1st Security’s training courses, they meet with 1st Security’s placement office and are given worthless “referrals” to security guard companies — instead of the promised jobs.  When consumers follow up on the referrals, they are not hired for any position usually because the companies are either not hiring or not interested in hiring individuals with no experience.

They find that the companies that they were referred to have no knowledge of 1st Security and are not expecting the consumer for an interview.   In addition to making false promises of employment, 1st Security also falsely represents that consumers must complete their entire package of courses to be eligible to work as a security guard.  In fact, only one of the three courses in the series — the eight hour pre-assignment training course — is required to begin working as a security guard.

In addition, 1st Security’s training courses are poor in quality, overpriced and do not comply with New York requirements for security guard training courses, including minimum hours of instruction and required topics.   If you were a victim of 1st Security’s scheme, please file a complaint with the OAG.  Complaint forms are available at: www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/consumer_frauds/filing_a_consumer_complaint.html.

Consumers seeking to work as a security guard should be wary of any security guard training school that poses as an employer of security guards or promises to place students in security guard positions.  Consumers should read any contract with the security guard company carefully and, before signing any contract, check to see if the school is approved by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Consumers should also keep in mind that low-cost and even free security guard training courses may be available.  For example, the State University of New York’s Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center offers free security guard training courses for individuals who meet certain income guidelines and many community colleges offer low-cost security guard training courses.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Lee and Investigator Andres Rodriguez. It’s being supervised by the Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection’s Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine, Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 6, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN TOURS ROCHESTER GUN SHOW, ANNOUNCES NEW AGREEMENTS WITH GUN SHOW OPERATORS.

 New Agreements With Long Island, Western New York Operators Mean 26 Companies Hosting 55 Gun Shows Have Adopted Schneiderman’s Model Gun Show Procedures.

 Schneiderman: Proud To Highlight Outstanding Cooperation With Gun Show Operators To Ensure Firearms Stay Out Of The Wrong Hands.

 ROCHESTER – After a tour of one of the largest gun shows in the State of New York, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that three more gun show operators have agreed to follow the Model Gun Show Procedures developed by the Attorney General’s Office to promote uniform gun show operations across the state. As a result of these new voluntary agreements, 26 operators responsible for at least 55 gun shows in New York this year will implement model procedures designed to ensure that legally required background checks are completed on every sale of a firearm.

Attorney General Schneiderman announced the new agreements following a tour of the Rochester Gun Show operated by Empire State Arms Collectors Association, his first visit to a gun show since taking office. During the tour, the Attorney General was briefed by the show’s operators on the implementation of the Model Gun Show Procedures, including a rule that ensures all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if guns were sold and that a proper background check was performed.

“I am proud to stand together with the organizers of today’s Rochester gun show to highlight our shared commitment to keeping deadly firearms out of the hands of felons, terrorists, and those who are dangerously mentally ill,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The cooperation we have seen shows that public safety does not need to be divisive or a partisan issue. Gun show operators around the state have voluntarily agreed to adopt simple procedures that increase the safety of New Yorkers without infringing upon the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. I look forward to continuing to work with them to accomplish our shared goal of making our communities safer.”

“Responsible gun owners, gun show operators, and the Attorney General all want the same thing. We want to protect our communities and families by keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals, which is why we applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s efforts to work with us to adopt these voluntary model protocols,” said Bernie Lusk, President of the Empire State Arms Collectors Association. “These cooperative agreements are common sense, voluntary agreements that help operators implement state law without impeding our businesses. But more importantly, they show that it is possible to work collaboratively and find common ground on gun safety issues.”

The most recent signees include B&C Sporting LLC of Long Island, which holds two gun shows annually; Little Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., and Sons of the American Legion, Squadron #531. The process is ongoing, with the goal of universal adoption of the Procedures in the state by the end of this year.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s agreements are with operators who run gun shows in Akron, Albany, Alexander, Allegany, Batavia, Caledonia, Canandaigua, Cheektowaga, Clarence, Clayton, Clifton Park, Clyde, Elmira, Fillmore, Geneseo, Great Valley, Hamburg, Hauppauge, Lake George, Lisle, Little Valley, Middletown, North Geneva, Oneonta, Port Crane, Rochester, Salamanca, Sanitaria Springs, Saratoga Springs, Sidney, Springville, Syracuse, Unadilla, Wales Center, Watkins Glen, Westfield, and West Potsdam.

The development of the Model Procedures grew out of Attorney General Schneiderman’s 2011 investigation of gun shows around the state. This investigation uncovered the frequent occurrence of private sales without background checks. Following that discovery, the Attorney General’s Office and several gun show operators worked together to develop the Model Procedures, which balance the rights of the sportsmen and gun collectors with the need to protect the public from the sale of guns to people who cannot pass a background check, also known as a “National Instant Criminal Background Check System” or “NICS.” The Model Procedures require operators to do the following:

  • ·         Post conspicuous signs throughout the shows, and give written notice to all dealers that New York State law requires that a National Instant Criminal Background Check be completed before the transfer of a gun at a gun show, including on the grounds of the show.
  • ·         Require that all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if the guns were sold and a NICS was performed.
  • ·         Provide access to a dealer who is authorized to conduct a NICS at cost.
  • ·          The dealer performing the NICS shall complete and file the ATF Form 4473 and maintain the forms for inspection by law enforcement agencies for ten years, per the Gun Show Law.
  • ·         Limit the number of access doors at the show so that sellers and buyers have to enter and exit through an area where the NICS procedures can be monitored.
  • ·         Use reasonable means to prevent illegal gun sales outside of the building, including the parking lot.
  • ·         Alert local law enforcement that a show will be held in their area, request periodic patrols in the parking lots to deter illegal sales, and call them if illegal sales are observed or suspected.

During today’s tour, Attorney General Schneiderman visited the station where firearms are tagged before entering the gun show, witnessed a background check procedure, and saw the station where purchased firearms are inspected to ensure a background check has been completed before the purchaser can remove the gun from the show.

The 26 gun show operators that have agreed to adopt Attorney General Schneiderman’s Model Gun Show Procedures are:

  • Alabama Hunt Club, Inc.
  • B&C Sporting LLC
  • BLG Auction Services
  • Bontrager Real Estate and Auction Services
  • Clayton Rotary Club
  • Daniel A. Carter Auction Co., Inc.
  • Empire State Arms Collectors Association, Inc.
  • Goldfuss & Assoc.
  • Hessney Auction Company, LTD
  • Little Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.
  • Mid Atlantic Arms Collectors
  • Mid-Hudson Promotions, Inc.
  • Mid State Arms Collectors & Shooters Club, Inc.
  • NEACA Inc.
  • New York State Arms Collectors Association, Inc.
  • Niagara Frontier Collectors, Inc
  • Niagara Frontier Gun Shows, Inc
  • Newmart Promotions, Inc.
  • RG Mason Auction
  • Roy Teitsworth, Inc.
  • Sons of the American Legion, Squadron #531
  • TB Auction, Hunt Real Estate
  • York-Penn Shows, Inc.
  • Westchester Collectors, Inc.
  • West Potsdam Volunteer Fire Company, Inc.
  • Williston Auctions, Inc.
For more information on the Model Procedures between Attorney General Schneiderman and gun show operators around New York State, visit: www.ag.ny.gov.
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 4, 2013.Twitter: @AGSchneidermanA.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES PRISON SENTENCE IN HALF-MILLION DOLLAR EMBEZZLEMENT SCHEME FROM BRONX CHARITIES.Fiscal Officer For Publicly Funded Nonprofits Admitted To 8 Year Embezzlement Scheme, Sentenced To Up To Six Years In Prison.Schneiderman: My Office Will Continue To Prosecute Those Who Abuse The Public Trust To The Fullest Extent Of The Law.NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the sentencing of Clement I. Gardner, 64, of the Bronx, on charges that he embezzled more than half a million dollars from two taxpayer-funded Bronx charities over an eight-year period.Gardner, who pleaded guilty to felony charges in February, was sentenced to two-to-six years in prison. “The defendant used two publicly funded Bronx organizations like his personal piggy bank, diverting more than a half million dollars earmarked for services for needy New Yorkers in just over eight years,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.“We will not tolerate those who abuse the public trust for personal gain, and will continue to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Today’s sentence brings justice for Mr. Gardner’s crimes.” Gardner pled guilty to the felony charge of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, under the second count of the indictment filed against him.The indictment alleges that Gardner stole approximately $560,000 in public and charitable assets while serving as fiscal officer for two related Bronx not-for-profit corporations, Christian Community Benevolent Association, Inc. (CCBA) and Christian Community in Action (CCIA).Between December 31, 2003 and February 12, 2012, Gardner wrote numerous checks to himself from CCBA and CCIA bank accounts and then falsified business records to conceal his crimes. Justice Steven Barrett accepted Gardner’s guilty plea in Bronx County Supreme Court on February 28, 2013.In addition to a sentence of two-to-six years in prison, Justice Barrett ordered the defendant to pay restitution in the amount of $560,000. The prosecution proceeded following an investigation undertaken in cooperation with the New York City Department of Investigation.The vast majority of CCIA’s funding came from taxpayers. CCIA received tens of millions of dollars annually from Medicaid for providing home health services to needy Bronx residents. CCBA similarly relied on public grants, reaping roughly $495,000 in legislative member item grants in 2006 and 2007.Until his March 13, 2012 arrest by the Office of the Attorney General, Gardner served as fiscal officer for both CCBA, which provides recreational and educational opportunities to Bronx children and seniors, and CCIA, which provided home health services to the disabled and elderly.Gardner managed the finances of both organizations, maintained their expense records, and administered their bank accounts. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Simon Brandler and Wanda Perez-Maldonado, under the supervision of Public Integrity Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz, Chief William E. Schaeffer and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.The Attorney General recognizes the diligent work of the OAG staff with whose cooperation the case developed, particularly John Serrapica, OAG Supervising Investigator and Forensic Accountant, Investigator Gerard Matheson, Forensic Accountant Akeel Uddin, and former Analyst Benjamin Zaitchik.The prosecution proceeds from a referral from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.The Attorney General also recognizes the assistance of the New York City Department of Investigation, including key contributions by Special Investigator/Forensic Accountant Kerasha Campbell, Chief Forensic Auditor Ivette Morales and Inspector General Chanterelle Sung.Anyone with additional information on this matter or any other public corruption is encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 996-4630.News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 4, 2013.Twitter: @AGSchneidermanA.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND COMPTROLLER DINAPOLI ANNOUNCE PRISON SENTENCE FOR BROOKLYN DENTIST WHO DEFRAUDED MEDICAID.Dentist Illegally Paid Recruiters To Solicit Homeless Medicaid Patients From Soup Kitchens, Billed In His Son’s Name And Failed To Pay Taxes.Joint Attorney General And Comptroller Investigation Secures $700K In Restitution And 1 To 3 Year Prison Term For Dentist.NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the sentencing of Lawrence J. Bruckner, a Brooklyn dentist on charges he defrauded the Medicaid program by unlawfully paying recruiters to solicit homeless Medicaid patients with cash and billing taxpayers under his son’s name for services the son never provided. Bruckner failed to pay taxes on payments he received from other dentists who worked at his clinics.He has paid nearly $700,000 in restitution and today received a state prison term of 1 to 3 years as a result of this joint investigation by the offices of the state Attorney General and Comptroller.As a result of these convictions, Bruckner and his business are now excluded from the New York State Medicaid program and also face suspension from the federal Medicare program.“Medical professionals like Dr. Bruckner are not above the law. In addition to paying back what he stole from the Medicaid system, a term in state prison is an appropriate punishment for this defendant,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Medicaid provides critically needed health care to millions of New Yorkers. These fraudulent practices deprive the program of much needed resources and hurt law-abiding doctors. I would like to thank the Comptroller for his cooperation in this joint effort on behalf of the taxpayers of New York State.””This dentist’s sole purpose was to cheat the Medicaid system,” Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. “He took blatant advantage of vulnerable people and kept expanding his scam to steal more. For the past six years, my office has seen repeated examples of how providers defraud the Medicaid system.We will continue to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman to make sure these Medicaid scammers are brought to justice.”The dentist paid restitution of $559,424 to the Medicaid Program and $121,912 to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance prior to sentencing. Lawrence J. Bruckner was sentenced in Kings County Supreme Court before the Hon. Alexander Jeong.He previously pleaded guilty to two counts of Health Care Fraud in the Second Degree, a felony violation of the Social Services Law, and one count of Criminal Tax Fraud in the Third Degree. Bruckner’s company, Premier Dental, P.C., also previously pleaded guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and a felony violation of the Social Services Law.Bruckner, 63, lives in Plainview, New York.Bruckner, who ran a dental office in Bushwick since 2003 and another in Canarsie since 1988, submitted hundreds of false claims to the Medicaid program. Bruckner and his company paid recruiters kickbacks to supply him and at least three other dentists with Medicaid patients at his offices.In a raid last year, investigators seized thousands of patient files and other documents from Bruckner’s offices.At one of the offices, investigators found dirty and unsanitary conditions. Shortly thereafter, the Medicaid program stopped all payments to Bruckner and the other dentists who worked at his offices, which were located at 1155 Broadway and 1218 Remsen Avenue in Brooklyn.The scheme occurred between 2007 and 2011 at the Broadway and Remsen Avenue offices.During that time, the majority of patients at those offices were brought in by recruiters. Bruckner and his business regularly paid the recruiters $25 to $30 kickbacks for each Medicaid recipient they brought in. They were often recruited from homeless shelters and soup kitchens and transported by van to his offices. Bruckner gave the recruiters $15 to $20 to pay the recipients at the conclusion of their visit.In addition, the recruiters solicited Medicaid recipients on the sidewalk outside the 1155 Broadway practice and in a shared waiting room at the office used by other health care providers. Bruckner’s clinics maintained log books to track which recruiter brought in each patient.Bruckner also submitted fraudulent Medicaid claims for dental services allegedly performed at his offices by his son, Joseph Bruckner, D.D.S., when in fact his son never practiced at either of his father’s offices.Bruckner had his son sign blank Medicaid claim forms and forged others to avoid detection. Medicaid paid the son $471,703 based on those false claims. The son transferred 90 percent of these payments to Bruckner and kept the remaining 10 percent.Bruckner also arranged for at least three other dentists to work at one or both of his offices. Between 2007 and 2010, these other dentists paid Bruckner to generate Medicaid patients. Bruckner failed to report this income on his New York State income tax returns.The prosecution was the result of a joint investigation by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the New York State Comptroller.In May 2011, the Attorney General and Comptroller entered into an unprecedented agreement to combat corruption and protect public funds.Last year, its joint investigation led to four indictments in a state Senate member item theft scheme.Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for also providing assistance with the investigation.Criminal investigations of the other dentists who worked at Bruckner’s offices are ongoing and more arrests are possible. From 2007 to 2011, Lawrence Bruckner, Premier Dental, and three other dentists were paid approximately $6.3 million by New York State’s Medicaid program for dental services allegedly performed at Bruckner’s offices.Following today’s sentence, the Attorney General’s and Comptroller’s offices will continue to investigate violations of the New York State False Claims Act by Bruckner and his co-conspirators and may seek civil monetary recoveries from all of these dentists.Under the False Claims Act, violators can be forced to pay up to three times the amount of the loss to the Medicaid program and up to $12,000 per false claim.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney Generals Laura J. Meehan and Christopher Y. Miller of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, under Counsel Jay Speers, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Director Monica Hickey-Martin and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

The investigation was conducted by Special Auditor Investigators Theresa White, Matthew Tandle, Svetlana Volchyok, Gina Donizetti, Milan Shah, and Edward Keegan, and Special Investigators Lisa McDonald, Wayne Rivers, Kenneth Deis, and Carlos Miranda.

The Comptroller’s audit and investigative work was conducted by the Investigations Unit and State Government Accountability Medical Claims Unit.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   April 3, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN OP-ED: HOMEOWNERS NEED NEW LEADERSHIP OVER FANNIE MAE AND FREDDIE MAC.

 Schneiderman: FHFA Acting Director DeMarco’s Policies Impede Economic Recovery And Hurt Struggling Homeowners Nationwide.

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today published an op-ed in Politico calling on President Obama to replace Edward DeMarco, the acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Co-authored by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the op-ed notes that Acting Director DeMarco’s refusal to provide relief to struggling homeowners stands in the way of progress toward a full economic recovery, hurting families nationwide. The following are excerpts of the article:

  • ·         ON DEMARCO’S REFUSAL TO ALLOW MORTGAGE REDUCTIONS: Under DeMarco’s leadership, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have refused to allow principal write-downs for underwater mortgages. At a House Financial Services Committee hearing last week, DeMarco was questioned by Congress and confronted by protesters calling for mortgage principal reduction, but he again refused to change his position. This failed policy is a direct impediment to our economic recovery and stands in way of our efforts to provide much needed assistance to homeowners across the country.
  • ·         ON HELPING DISTRESSED HOMEOWNERS: Underwater homeowners are more likely to wind up in foreclosure. Even if they avoid foreclosure, they are saving every penny to try to pay down their debt. They can’t spend at local businesses. They can’t move for a better job, or invest in starting a small business. They are trapped under America’s $628 billion mountain of negative equity. It is in everyone’s interest for lenders to work with distressed homeowners to reduce their debts and keep them in their homes.
  • ·         ON THE NATIONAL MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT: Last year, we joined 47 other states in a national mortgage settlement with the five largest mortgage servicing banks, that has delivered billions in relief to homeowners at risk of foreclosure, including over $17 billion in mortgage principal reductions. We are working to get more relief from lenders in the private sector, but these efforts are undercut by DeMarco’s refusal to cooperate. The reality is, more than half of all mortgages in America are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
  • ·         ON THE ROLE OF THE FHFA DIRECTOR: Contrary to the findings of his own agency, DeMarco argued that principal reductions would weaken the finances of FHFA and produce a financial loser for taxpayers. These are two separate questions, only one of which is DeMarco’s responsibility. He is responsible for the fiscal health of his agency. FHFA estimated that it would come out ahead by $3.7 billion from the Administration’s plan because of the aid from Treasury. It’s likely that taxpayers as a whole will come out ahead as well. But even if they don’t, if the Administration opts to use public resources to support a policy that prevents foreclosures, stimulates the economy and creates jobs, it’s not the place of an acting agency head to stand in the way.

The full op-ed by Attorney General Schneiderman and Attorney General Coakley can be read here:ag.ny.gov/press-release/op-ed-housing-agency-needs-new-leader.

 News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   March 26, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

 STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON ORAL ARGUMENTS IN MARRIAGE CASES BEFORE THE U.S. SUPREME COURT.

 Schneiderman: Supreme Court Should Promote Equal Protection Under The Law For All Americans And Strike Down Marriage Discrimination.

WASHINGTON – With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments on two landmark cases involving same-sex marriage, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today called on the Court to ensure equal protection under the law for all Americans by striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8.

Last month, Attorney General Schneiderman led a coalition of more than a dozen states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of United States v. Windsor, which argues that DOMA violates same-sex couples’ right to equal protection under the law as required by the U.S. Constitution and represents an unprecedented intrusion on the authority of States to regulate marriage and promote equality for their citizens. Attorney General Schneiderman also joined a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, urging the Supreme Court to hold that California’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. California banned same-sex marriage in a ballot proposition, known as Proposition 8, that amended the state constitution ban same-sex marriage.

The following statement is attributable to Attorney General Schneiderman:

“The Supreme Court should strike down the federal law that undermines the efforts of New York, eight other states and the District of Columbia to provide equal rights and protection under the law for same-sex couples, as well as the California law that took away marriage equality that had previously existed in that State. The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state same-sex marriages, and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cemented our State’s position on this critical civil rights issue. My office will work every day to fight discrimination and defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection under law for all New Yorkers.”

For more information on the two friend-of-the-court briefs in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, click here: www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-leads-multistate-coalition-urging-us-supreme-court-overturn-defense

A copy of the Attorney General’s amicus brief filed in the case of United States v. Windsor can be read here:www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/bsac_States.pdf.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   March 26, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN OP-ED: NEW YORK TAKES ACTION ON GUN SHOWS.

Schneiderman: Washington Is Bogged Down In Petty Divisiveness And Special Interest Lobbying, But My Office Isn’t Waiting to Take Action.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today published an op-ed in the Journal Newshighlighting his agreements with gun show operators across New York State to ensure all firearms sold at shows are subject to background checks. The following are excerpts of the article:

  • ·         ON PARALYSIS IN WASHINGTON: Instead of passing common sense measures like universal background checks — which one poll shows are supported by more than 90 percent of Americans — Washington is bogged down in the petty divisiveness and special interest lobbying that consistently stand in the way of progress. The gun control debate doesn’t need to be dominated by rancor. Everyone deserves to live in a safe neighborhood, free from the threat of gun violence, which is why my office isn’t waiting to take action.
  • ·         ON PARTNERING WITH INDUSTRY: In traveling across the state, I have found that most people who operate gun shows are responsible, law-abiding citizens who are eager to find cooperative solutions to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Background checks are an essential tool to do that, which is why I am hopeful that the procedures we’ve developed in New York will serve as a model of cooperation between law enforcement and gun show operators that the rest of the nation can follow.
  • ·         ON THE MODEL PROCEEDURES: Our model procedures require that all firearms brought into a gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if a proper background check was performed on every gun sold. This tagging system, and other increased security measures, closes off a significant loophole that felons and other dangerous individuals use to avoid background checks and obtain guns.

The full op-ed by Attorney General Schneiderman can be read here: www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/op-ed-ny-passes-gun-law-washington-does-nothing.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   March 26, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

 A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES FELONY ARRESTS OF ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS WHO STOLE MORE THAN $200,000 FROM WORKERS AT CUNY AND NYCHA FACILITIES.

 Ronald Bartiromo And Raymond D’Auria, Owners Of R3 Electrical, Inc., On Staten Island, Face Potential Prison Time For Underpaying Workers And Filing False Payroll Reports.

 Schneiderman: My Office Will Bring Charges Against Contractors Who Stole From Taxpayers And Hard-Working New Yorkers.

NEW YORK ‑ Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests of Ronald Bartiromo and Raymond D’Auria, the owners of Staten Island electrical contractor R3 Electrical, Inc., on felony grand-larceny charges. The owners and the company are charged with failing to pay more than $200,000 in legally required wages on projects upgrading the science labs at five City University of New York campuses and boilers at the city-run Rutgers Houses on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. If convicted, the contractors face up to 15 years in prison.

My office will take aggressive action, including criminal charges where appropriate, against government contractors who cheat their employees and falsify records as they attempt to conceal their misdeeds,” Attorney General Schneidermansaid. “Protecting taxpayer dollars and the livelihoods of hard-working New Yorkers is a priority for this office.”

Bartiromo, D’Auria and R3 Electrical, Inc., located at 541 Port Richmond Avenue, were hired as an electrical subcontractor on the 2008-2009 CUNY project and then on a 2009 job funded by the New York Power Authority to upgrade the boilers at the Rutgers Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development.

New York Labor Law and the contract terms for both projects required the defendants to pay prevailing wages and to submit certified payroll reports showing all hours worked and wages paid. The defendants failed to pay the legally-required wages on both projects to at least seven employees, who worked as electricians, resulting in total underpayments of over $200,000. The defendants submitted payroll reports to CUNY and NYPA falsely claiming they paid all the workers on the project the required wage. That underpayment was taxpayer dollars that should have gone to the workers.

New York’s prevailing wage laws seek to ensure that government contractors pay wages and benefits that are comparable to the local norms for a given trade.

Defendants Bartiromo and D’Auria, both 48, were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court today. They each face two counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a Class “C” felony; two counts of Violation of Labor Law Section 220(3)(d)(i)(3), a Class “D” felony 20 counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a Class “E” felony; and 20 counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a Class “E” felony.  They face a maximum prison term of 5 to 15 years. The company faces the same charges and fines of up to $10,000.

The Attorney General thanks the City University of New York, Office of Facilities Planning, Construction and Management, Department of Vendor Integrity and Investigations for their assistance in this investigation.  The case was investigated by the office’s Deputy Director Joseph P. Piazza and Investigator Avastie Medina, under the supervision of Director Vincent Green. In addition, the Attorney General thanks the New York Power Authority and the New York State Department of Labor for their cooperation.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Meredith McGowan, under the supervision of Section Chief Felice Sontupe, Labor Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

These charges are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   March 22, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENTS WITH QUEENS HAIR AND NAIL SALONS TO COMPENSATE EMPLOYEES FOR LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS.

Hair Salon Owner To Pay $40,000 To Eight Hairstylists And Barbers; Nail Salon To Pay Over $5,000 To Manicurist.

A.G. Schneiderman: All Employers Must Respect Workers Rights.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced agreements with two Queens salons that ripped off workers by violating New York labor laws. Tatyana Enterprises, Inc., in Jackson Heights, will pay $40,000 to eight employees who were fired after they refused to sign bogus and back-dated agreements misstating the terms of their employment. Bliss Nail Salon, in Sunnyside, will pay more than $5,000 to a manicurist who was told that she would have to pay a deposit to work there and that, because she was a “trainee,” she was not entitled to minimum wage and overtime.

“All New York businesses must pay legally-required wages to employees and respect their workers’ basic rights,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The state grants a license to salon owners in order for them to operate and they, like all business owners, must take the appropriate steps to follow our state’s labor laws.”

The settlement with Tatyana Enterprises and its owner, Tatyana Muratov, is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s Office on February 27 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Queens County, alleging violations of numerous labor laws. The settlement comes as the Attorney General’s Office obtained a judicial order freezing any proceeds from a planned sale of the business. The $40,000 settlement represents the $30,000 sale price of the salon, plus an additional $10,000.

Under New York Labor Law, employers must pay at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, plus overtime for hours past forty at 1 ½ times the employee’s regular rate of pay. The law strictly prohibits retaliation against employees who have complained about violations to the employer or reported violations to the government.

After a worker was injured on the job in July 2011, the company demanded that their employees sign bogus, back-dated contracts stating that they were not regular employees but were independent contractors who rented chairs in the salon. The company fired employees for refusing to sign the contracts. The fraudulent independent contractor agreements also sought to prevent employees from performing similar work within a 15-mile radius. In addition, Tatyana Enterprises failed to pay overtime to employees.

Bliss Nail Salon’s manicurist, a Nepali immigrant who spoke limited English, was required to work as a “trainee” for three months, from March through May of 2012, during which time she was initially given only small amounts of money for food and then, about half way through her three months at the salon, paid $30 for what was often a 10-hour work day.

The Tatyana Enterprises case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the advocacy group Make the Road New York. The Bliss Nail Salon case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office by Adhikaar, a community-based organization serving New York’s Nepali-speaking community.

Adhikaar co-founder and Executive Director Luna Ranjit said, “We thank the Attorney General for recognizing that enforcing minimum wage laws is very important for low-wage workers, including those who work long hours in salons across the state, and for working hard to achieve justice in this case.”

Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said, “We applaud Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for continuing to aggressively enforce the labor laws. In New York State, low-wage workers fall victim to wage theft in considerable proportions; our government has a duty to protect this segment of our workforce whose hard labor makes a significant contribution to our economy.”

The Tatyana case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Holt and the Bliss Nail Salon case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Haeya Yim. The cases were supervised by Labor Bureau Section Chief Andrew Elmore, Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  March 21, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman BREAKS UP MAJOR Oxycodone Trafficking Ring in NYC AND Hudson Valley.

  Ring Used Forged Prescriptions To Obtain And Sell Thousands Of Oxycodone Pills 6 Arrested In Trafficking Scheme That Hit Pharmacies In Manhattan, Bronx, Kings, Queens, Dutchess & Orange County.

Schneiderman: We Are Aggressively Cracking Down On This Crisis With Every Tool At Our Disposal.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has broken up a major oxycodone trafficking ring that used forged prescriptions to obtain and sell thousands of painkillers, which were valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ringleader John Bland, a/k/a “Nugget,” 49, of the Bronx – has been indicted and charged with more than 30 felony counts, including Operating as a Major Trafficker. If convicted, Bland faces a sentence of 25 years to Life in state prison.

In addition, five of Bland’s accomplices were also arrested this week and charged with seven felony counts. If convicted, each of the accomplices faces up to 9 years in prison. 

“My office will do everything in its power to crack down on the criminals who use fake prescriptions to fuel dangerous addictions and illegally traffic in prescription narcotics,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.

“Cases like this are exactly why my office fought to pass New York’s historic I-STOP prescription drug abuse prevention law. Illegally profiting off the addiction and suffering of others is a crime, and the kingpin of this operation and his accomplices will now be held accountable.” 

According to the charges, Bland supplied forged prescriptions to his accomplices, who used them at pharmacies throughout New York City and the Hudson Valley.

Bland would contact his accomplices and arrange to pick them up in a rental vehicle. He would drive them around to various pharmacies throughout Manhattan, Kings, Queens, the Bronx, Orange and Dutchess counties.

Once at the pharmacies, he would provide his accomplices with forged prescriptions in their respective names and enough cash to pay for the drugs. Once the prescription was successfully filled, the accomplice would hand the drugs over to Bland. Bland paid the accomplices fees between $150 and $400 for the pills and sold them in bulk to other drug dealers.

Bland’s indictment was the result of an investigation conducted by the New York State Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the NYC Human Resources Administration, Investigation, Revenue & Enforcement Administration, which had been jointly investigating the group for submitting forged oxycodone prescriptions at pharmacies in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Dutchess County and Orange County.

Bland was arraigned in Orange County Court on an indictment charging him with Operating as Major Trafficker (A-I felony); 16 counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, (B felony); 9 counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, (D felony); 6 counts of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree, (A misdemeanor); and Conspiracy in the Second Degree, (B felony).  Five of Bland’s accomplices were also arrested. Carl Canty, 49; Paul Perez, 42; Mario Aragona, 49; Michelle Kaplan, 42; and Kimberly Augustus, 31, all of the Bronx.

Each was arrested and charged with four counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, (B felony); two counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, (D felony); and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, (E felony). 

In June, the New York legislature unanimously passed the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP, which was then signed into law. First introduced by Attorney General Schneiderman, I-STOP requires doctors to review a patient’s prescription drug history and update it through a real time database when writing prescriptions for certain controlled substances, and eliminates most paper prescriptions by August of 2014.

I-STOP would have prevented Bland’s use of these stolen and forged paper prescriptions.  Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement for their assistance in this investigation. The charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Christopher Borek, under the supervision of Regional Director Anne Jardine of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, former Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul Mahoney, Special Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

The investigation was conducted by Senior Special Investigator Dennis Johnston, Senior Special Investigator Frank Bluszcz, and Special Auditor Investigator Christopher Giacoia, under the supervision of Chief Regional Auditor John Regan, Supervising Special Investigator Paul Greenspan and Deputy Chief Investigator Thaddeus Fisher.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  March 21, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES ARREST OF EIGHT MOTOR VEHICLE INSPECTORS FOR FAKING MORE THAN 13,000 INSPECTIONS IN THE BRONX.

 Undercover Investigation Reveals Employees At Seven Of NYC’s Busiest Inspection Stations Passed Vehicles Without Conducting Mandatory Safety And Emissions Reviews Laws Flouted To Certify Cars That Would Otherwise Fail Tests.

Some Stickers Sold At More Than Four Times The Legal Cost  Schneiderman: Crooked Inspectors Failed To Protect Fellow Citizens, Cheated The System.

NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests of eight New York City motor vehicle inspectors who issued more than 13,000 fraudulent inspection certificates to untested vehicles. Each defendant, including several of the companies the inspectors work for, was charged with numerous felony counts for violations of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, penal and environmental laws.

The inspectors face up to seven years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.  “These individuals were trusted to perform state-required inspections specifically aimed at keeping unsafe cars off the road. Instead of performing safety inspections, they took advantage of their expertise and cheated the system,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “New York’s emissions standards are crucial for ensuring that dangerous pollution isn’t spewed into the air we breathe, and that unsafe vehicles are kept off our streets.

These perpetrators will be held accountable for polluting our skies, threatening our children’s health and undermining public safety.” Every motor vehicle registered in New York State must be inspected annually for safety and appropriate emissions compliance. The defendants were employed at seven of New York City’s busiest DMV-licensed inspection stations, which are legally required to use DMV-regulated equipment and follow standard procedures to conduct inspections.

According to the criminal complaints filed in Bronx Criminal Court, the defendants bypassed these procedures by performing “clean scans,” a fraudulent process that substitutes data from a secondary vehicle. The inspector first entered the identification number, model information and license plate number for the vehicle in need of certification.

The inspector then connected the DMV computer to a secondary vehicle and used its data to “pass” the safety and emissions tests for the vehicle in need of certification. A fraudulent inspection certificate was issued for the untested vehicle, which would potentially have failed an inspection or was not even present. 

Flouting these state requirements permits thousands of substandard vehicles to remain on New York roads, leading to increased safety risks for drivers and the significant degradation of New York air quality. Stations that utilize “clean scans” or simply sell inspection stickers also gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding facilities by substantially decreasing both the amount of time and the cost of employing skilled workers to conduct vehicle inspections. 

The Attorney General’s office, along with the DMV and the DEC, conducted undercover operations at the seven stations, which are among the busiest DMV licensed inspection stations in New York City, between December 2012 and February 2013. An undercover investigator took a vehicle that was rigged to fail a legitimate motor vehicle inspection to each station and each station provided passing inspection results to the vehicle even though the inspectors performed minimal or no actual inspection on it.

Employees of several stations didn’t even perform “clean scans” but rather illegally sold inspection stickers to the undercover investigator without performing any inspection of the undercover vehicle.

While motor vehicle inspectors can legally charge up to $37 for a motor vehicle inspection, all of the inspectors and stations in this case charged significantly higher payments for these fake inspections — some up to $150. Together, the defendants faked a total of 13,437 inspections, court documents show.

The Attorney General’s criminal prosecution is the result of a joint investigation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala said, “This action demonstrates that government agencies working together can bring to justice those that are intent on breaking the law, defrauding consumers or polluting the air.

The DMV will continue to work with the agencies involved in this investigation to aggressively protect New Yorkers from such fraudulent activity.” New York State Department Of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “The vehicle repair shops targeted in this sting operation represent 40 percent of the suspected illegal inspections conducted throughout the state.

New Yorkers, particularly those living in our urban settings, should not have to tolerate the polluted air and unsafe vehicle conditions these illegal inspections promote.

Individuals that place profit and greed over our health and safety will be brought to justice through the efforts of our State Environmental Conservation Police investigators and officers, along with DEC program staff, Department of Motor Vehicle staff and the Office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

To combat this ongoing problem, I have instructed my law enforcement officers to aggressively pursue illegal inspections to put an end to this reckless activity.”The following individuals were charged today:

Micael Compres, 29, of the Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of All Prestige Muffler Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1705 Jerome Avenue; 

Claudon Harriote, 52, of the Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of East 222 Automotive Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1135 East 222nd Street;

Gustavo Lopez, 30, of Manhattan, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of Washington Motors Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 2106 Washington Avenue;

David Nunez, 41, of Manhattan, a licensed DMV inspector and president/owner of Serpro Auto Repair Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1898 Boston Road;

Luis Peralta, 37, of Yonkers, a licensed DMV inspector and president/owner of RapidCar Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 690 Southern Boulevard;

Ramon S. Ramos, 59, of Manhattan, a licensed inspector at Cross Bronx Mufflers Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1677 Jerome Avenue;

Victor Ramos, 54, of the Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and president/owner of All Prestige Muffler Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1705 Jerome Avenue;

Lillian Tapia, 32, of the Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of Mega Muffler Center Corp., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1301 Westchester Avenue; 

All Prestige Muffler Inc., Serpro Auto Repair Inc., and RapidCar Inc., are also charged in this case.

These corporations face potentially large fines. The defendants are all charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony that carries a maximum sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

Other charges include Issuing a False Certificate, a class E felony carrying a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in jail, and Illegal Issuance of an Emission Certificate of Inspection, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a fine of $15,000 per count.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Jason P. Garelick and Rajiv Shah of the Environmental Crimes Unit under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief for Criminal Prosecutions Stephanie Swenton, Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

The investigation was conducted by Environmental Conservation Investigator Nicholas Desottele of DEC, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, under the supervision of Lt. John Fitzpatrick and Major Scott Florence.

Investigators Sylvia Rivera, Ismael Hernandez and David Negron of the New York State Office of the Attorney General also worked on the case under the supervision of Supervising Investigators Michael Ward, John Sullivan, Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella.

The Attorney General recognizes the diligent work of the DEC and DMV staff with whose cooperation the case was developed, particularly James Clyne, DEC’s Chief of In-Use Programs Section, Division of Air Resources, and Chris Ayers, DMV’s Director of Vehicle Safety Field Services.

The charges are accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  March 19, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

As Tax Day Approaches.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN Issues Consumer Alert On Hiring Tax Preparers.

A.G. Issues Tips To Help Consumers Avoid Deceptive And Fraudulent Practices This Tax Season.

Schneiderman: Taking Advantage Of Innocent People In This Tough Economy Is Shameful.

NEW YORK ‑ With the deadline for filing personal income tax returns less than one month away, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued tips to protect New Yorkers from tax preparation scams.

The Attorney General also asked taxpayers to notify his office of any suspected fraudulent schemes designed to steal personal and financial information from consumers.

“Taking advantage of innocent people in this tough economy is shameful, and will not be tolerated by my office,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“New Yorkers who are trying to obey the law by filing their taxes on time should not have to worry about being ripped off by tax scammers covertly charging them excessive fees, or peddling other cons. Tax season is stressful enough.

That’s why my office is helping provide New Yorkers the information they need to make sure they don’t get ripped off by scam artists.” Each year, Attorney General Schneiderman’s offices throughout the state receive complaints from consumers about tax preparation schemes. 

Some scammers prey on seniors or college students by impersonating tax authorities, soliciting follow up information on a tax form, and collecting identification numbers and social security information, which is then used to steal people’s money or identities. Others have even gone to the extreme of using “spoofing technology” to make their caller ID numbers come up to look like they are from the IRS. 

Taxpayers should be alert to tax preparation businesses that advertise low fees to get the customer in the door, but then increase the final fee by hundreds of dollars claiming the tax return was more complicated than anticipated, or to a tax preparer who electronically withdraws more than the agreed upon fee without notice to the consumer. As taxpayers look for help in filing their taxes, Attorney General Schneiderman issued the following tips for consumers:

·         Use recognizable and established companies;

·         Check the tax preparer’s qualifications;

·         Check the tax preparer’s history through the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org);

·         Ask for a written estimate of all fees;

·         Avoid those who base their fees on a percentage of your refund;

·         Make sure the tax preparer is accessible, even after the April due date;

·         Never sign a blank return;·         Review entire return before signing;

·         Make sure the preparer signs the tax form and includes a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN);

·         Avoid “too good to be true” promises;

·         Consult New York’s “Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers.” Consumers should also beware of refund anticipation loans (RALs) and refund anticipation checks (RACs). RALs are often marketed as “instant” or “24-hour” refunds but are actually high cost loans that come with fees and interest that reduce the amount of any refund. New York State’s General Business Law section 372 (known as the Consumer Bill of Rights regarding Tax Preparers), requires RALs to be marketed as loans – not refunds. RACs are temporary bank accounts established on behalf of a taxpayer into which a direct deposit refund can be received but these also come with fees that will reduce the consumer’s refund.

The tax preparer must give the consumer a written disclosure that explains:

·         You are not required to take out a refund anticipation loan or refund anticipation check in order to receive your tax refund

·         The amount of fees and interest you will have to pay if you take out a refund anticipation loan or refund anticipation check

·         The amount you will receive after the fees and interest are deducted

·         The annual percentage rate of interest that you will be charged

·         The amount your refund will be if you don’t take out a refund anticipation loan Consumers can avoid the costs of refund anticipation loans and checks by filing their return electronically and having refunds either mailed or directly deposited into their own bank account.

The Attorney General is also reminding New Yorkers that there are Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites where consumers can get their tax returns prepared free of charge. For more information about how to qualify and identify a VITA location site go to: www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=107626,00.html.

Consumers whose income is $57,000 or less may qualify for FreeFile and can use free tax preparation and free e-filing software. Information on free e-filing is available at: www.tax.ny.gov/pit/efile/freefile.htm.

Some additional websites with helpful information include: Internal Revenue Service
www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc254.html

www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=120129,00.html

NYS Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers

www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/memos/income/m08_7i.pdf

NYC Department of Consumer Affairs

www.nyc.gov/html/dca/html/home/home.shtml

Attorney General Schneiderman is urging New Yorkers to be vigilant consumers and to report instances of fraud to his Office.

Consumers who feel they’ve been victims of any tax preparation scams are urged to file complaints by visiting the Office’s website or calling 1-800-771-7755.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   March 18, 2013.


Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman And a.g. coakley Lead 9 State Coalition Demanding New Leadership Over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac  Letter To President, Congressional Leadership Calls Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac An “Obstacle To Progress” For Nation’s Homeowners.

Stresses The Need For Principal Write-Downs.

Schneiderman: DeMarco’s Refusal To Allow Principal Write-Downs Is A Direct Impediment To Economic Recovery.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in leading a nine state coalition demanding new, permanent leadership at the Federal Housing and Finance Agency, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In a letter to the President and Congressional leaders, the attorneys general write that under the current leadership of the FHFA’s Acting Director Edward DeMarco, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been a “direct impediment to our economic recovery” by the continued refusal to give principal relief for struggling homeowners, and call for a new permanent leader to replace DeMarco, an appointee of former President George W. Bush.

“The FHFA’s refusal to allow for principal write-downs that would result in more loan modifications is a direct impediment to our economic recovery and stands in way of our efforts to provide much needed assistance to homeowners in New York and across the country,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“Under the leadership of Acting FHFA Director Edward DeMarco, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain an obstacle to progress by refusing to adopt policies that will help maximize relief for struggling homeowners. The time has come for the President and Congress to work together to install a new, permanent leader at FHFA that will be a partner, not an impediment, in the national effort to comprehensively address the foreclosure crisis.”

In the letter, the attorneys general argue that principal write-downs are a central component of the national settlement, and continue to bring meaningful relief to distressed borrowers, spurring our nation’s economic recovery.

Principal reduction is a form of loan forgiveness that would help “underwater” borrowers whose mortgages are worth more than their homes. In general, all loan modifications rely on a net-present value (NPV) analysis that serves the dual purposes of helping borrowers keep their homes and meeting the economic interests of lenders and investors.

The positive impact of mortgage modifications which often include principal write-downs continues to be felt on the housing market, economy, and our local communities. The FHFA’s continued position that principal forgiveness conflicts with its goal of asset preservation is “not supported by reality,” the attorneys general assert in the letter.

The agency’s current policy actually reduces the value of its holdings portfolio. It is far more profitable for any financial institution to hold a portfolio of performing $200,000 mortgages that lets families keep their homes than a portfolio of non-performing $250,000 mortgages headed toward default.

“We have worked tirelessly, along with our federal, state, and local partners to develop a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the foreclosure crisis,” the letter concludes. “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be among our partners in this effort, and leaders in the arena of loan modification best practices. Instead, they have been an obstruction.” 

Last year, Attorney General Schneiderman led the negotiation of a National Mortgage Settlement under which the five largest mortgage servicers have agreed to a $25 billion penalty under a joint state-national settlement structure.

A minimum of $17 billion goes directly to borrowers nationally through a series of homeowner relief efforts, including principal reduction. Servicers have also committed $3 billion to an underwater mortgage refinancing program for homeowners whose mortgages are worth more than the value of their homes.

To date, 21,535 New York homeowners have received $1.8 billion in assistance, including $1.2 billion in principal reductions on 1st and 2nd mortgages and mortgage refinances that lower interest rates on their loans.

The National Mortgage Settlement is the largest joint state-federal settlement in history and it is the result of a massive civil law enforcement investigation and initiative by state attorneys general, state banking regulators, and nearly a dozen federal agencies. The agreement was with the nation’s five largest servicers: Bank of America Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Company, Citigroup, Inc., and Ally Financial, Inc. (formerly GMAC).

Collectively, the five banks service nearly 60 percent of the nation’s mortgages. Using a portion of New York’s share of the National Mortgage Settlement, in June 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman announced the launch of the Homeowner Protection Program, his office’s commitment of $60 million over three years to fund housing counseling and legal services for struggling New York homeowners.

Throughout this program, 35 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies statewide will receive funding to provide free foreclosure prevention services. By supporting the work of direct service providers who specialize in delivery of assistance to at-risk homeowners affected by foreclosures, this effort will minimize homeowner displacement and foster the stabilization of neighborhoods across the state for the benefit of the public and the State as a whole. 

Below is a full copy of Attorney General Schneiderman’s letter:

March 15, 2013

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
S-221 U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader
S-230 U.S. Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: New, permanent leadership at Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Dear President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and Senate Minority Leader McConnell: We write to urge you to expeditiously appoint and approve new, permanent leadership to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

As state Attorneys General, we have spent the last several years grappling with the negative impacts of subprime and predatory lending practices and the resulting foreclosure crisis. Through actions against major banks and financial institutions, as well as innovative policy initiatives, we have brought a measure of relief to homeowners and stability to our economy.

Loan modifications are a key component of bringing relief to distressed borrowers and spurring our nation’s economic recovery. These modifications have generally relied on a netpresent value (NPV) analysis, which serves the dual purposes of helping borrowers remain in their homes and meeting the economic interests of lenders and investors. We have seen firsthand the positive impact of mortgage modifications, often including principal write-downs, on our housing market, economy, and communities. In fact, principal write-downs are a central component of the national settlement, negotiated by the federal government and a bi-partisan group of 49 state attorneys general, that was entered into with five major banks approximately one year ago.

When loan modifications employ principal write-downs as necessary to create an affordable modified loan, countless more families will avoid unnecessary foreclosure. Unfortunately, under the leadership of Acting FHFA Director Edward DeMarco, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain an obstacle to progress by refusing to adopt policies that will help maximize relief for homeowners.

In particular, FHFA’s refusal to adjust its policies to allow for principal forgiveness and forbearance stands as a major impediment to addressing the foreclosure crisis. FHFA’s continued position that principal forgiveness conflicts with its goal of asset preservation is not supported by reality.

The FHFA’s current policy actually reduces the value of its holdings portfolio. It is far more profitable for any financial institution to hold a portfolio of performing $200,000 mortgages that keeps families in their homes than a portfolio of non-performing $250,000 mortgages headed toward default.

FHFA’s recalcitrance remains despite overwhelming evidence that mortgage modifications guided by a net-present value analysis, often including principal write-downs, provide significant dividends.

Moreover, FHFA’s refusal to consider principal write-downs as part of a comprehensive mortgage modification policy is inconsistent with its combined goal of asset preservation and foreclosure prevention. Simply put, by refusing to allow for principal write-downs that would result in more loan modifications, FHFA stands as a direct impediment to our economic recovery.

We have worked tirelessly, along with our federal, state, and local partners to develop a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the foreclosure crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be among our partners in this effort, and leaders in the arena of loan modification best practices.

Instead, they have been an obstruction. We believe that until new, permanent leadership is named to FHFA, they will continue to stand as a roadblock to comprehensively addressing the foreclosure crisis.

Thank you for your consideration.

Cordially,

Eric T. Schneiderman
New York Attorney General

Martha Coakley
Massachusetts Attorney General

Kamala D. Harris
California Attorney General

Joseph R. “Beau” Biden, III
Delaware Attorney General

Lisa Madigan
Illinois Attorney General

Douglas F. Gansler
Maryland Attorney General

Catherine Cortez Masto
Nevada Attorney General

Ellen Rosenblum
Oregon Attorney General

Bob Ferguson
Washington Attorney General

A copy of today’s letter can also be read here: www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/FHFA-joint-AG-letter.pdf/

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    March 14, 2013.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENTS WITH 23 GUN SHOW OPERATORS STATEWIDE TO IMPLEMENT NEW SAFETY STANDARDS.

Operators Representing 80% Of NYS Gun Shows Sign Agreement To Follow A.G.’s “Model Procedures”.

Schneiderman: Illegal Gun Sales At Gun Shows Can Be Eliminated By Operators Adopting These New Procedures.

ALBANY – Following a statewide undercover investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has reached agreements with 23 gun show operators across the state to follow the “Model Gun Show Procedures” developed by the Attorney General’s Office to promote uniform gun show operations across the state, including a rule that ensures all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if guns were sold and that a proper background check was performed.

These 23 operators oversee more than 50 currently scheduled shows and gun auctions in New York this year, which represents over 80% of the shows in the state. Five more operators are reviewing the procedures and are also expected to adopt them. The process is ongoing, with the goal of universal adoption of the procedures in the state by the end of this year.

“Gun violence is everyone’s concern, and I’m proud that we’ve worked with gun show operators to create simple procedures to ensure that deadly weapons don’t make it into the hands of felons, terrorists, the dangerously mentally ill, or anyone else who could not pass a background check,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “These procedures are unique to New York State and represent the first time law enforcement and gun show operators are working together to eliminate illegal gun sales. Since most people who operate and attend gun shows are law abiding citizens, my office has had nothing but positive responses to these new safety standards.”

The Model Procedures go beyond the requirements of the state’s Gun Show Law, including a process that ensures all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if guns were sold and that a proper background check was performed.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s agreements are with operators who run gun shows in Akron, Albany, Alexander, Allegany, Batavia, Caledonia, Canandaigua, Cheektowaga, Clarence, Clayton, Clifton Park, Clyde, Elmira, Fillmore, Geneseo, Lake George, Lisle, Middletown, North Geneva, Oneonta, Port Crane, Rochester, Salamanca, Sanitaria Springs, Saratoga Springs, Sidney, Springville, Syracuse, Unadilla, Wales Center, Watkins Glen, Westfield, West Potsdam and White Plains.

The development of the Model Procedures grew out of Attorney General Schneiderman’s 2011 investigation of gun shows around the state. This investigation uncovered the frequent occurrence of private sales without background checks. Following that discovery, the Attorney General’s Office and several gun show operators worked together to develop the Model Procedures, which balance the rights of the sportsmen and gun collectors with the need to protect the public from the sale of guns to people who cannot pass a background check, also known as a “National Instant Criminal Background Check System” or “NICS.” The Model Procedures require operators to do the following:

  • ·         Post conspicuous signs throughout the shows, and give written notice to all dealers that New York State law requires that a National Instant Criminal Background Check be completed before the transfer of a gun at a gun show, including on the grounds of the show.
  • ·         Require that all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if the guns were sold and a NICS was performed.
  • ·         Provide access to a dealer who is authorized to conduct a NICS at cost.
  • ·          The dealer performing the NICS shall complete and file the ATF Form 4473 and maintain the forms for inspection by law enforcement agencies for ten years, per the Gun Show Law.
  • ·         Limit the number of access doors at the show so that sellers and buyers have to enter and exit through an area where the NICS procedures can be monitored.
  • ·         Use reasonable means to prevent illegal gun sales outside of the building, including the parking lot.
  • ·         Alert local law enforcement that a show will be held in their area, request periodic patrols in the parking lots to deter illegal sales, and call them if illegal sales are observed or suspected.

The 23 gun show operators are:

  • Alabama Hunt Club, Inc.
  • BLG Auction Services
  • Bontrager Real Estate and Auction Services
  • Clayton Rotary Club
  • Daniel A. Carter Auction Co., Inc.
  • Empire State Arms Collectors Association, Inc.
  • Goldfuss & Assoc.
  • Hessney Auction Company, LTD
  • Mid Atlantic Arms Collectors
  • Mid-Hudson Promotions, Inc.
  • Mid State Arms Collectors & Shooters Club, Inc.
  • NEACA Inc.
  • New York State Arms Collectors Association, Inc.
  • Niagara Frontier Collectors, Inc
  • Niagara Frontier Gun Shows, Inc
  • Newmart Promotions, Inc.
  • RG Mason Auction
  • Roy Teitsworth, Inc.
  • TB Auction, Hunt Real Estate
  • York-Penn Shows, Inc.
  • Westchester Collectors, Inc.
  • West Potsdam Volunteer Fire Company, Inc.
  • Williston Auctions, Inc.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General In-Charge of the Rochester Regional Office Debra Martin, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Martin J. Mack.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  March 14, 2013.

NFL FOOTBALL LEAGUE MUST PREVENT EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION IN RECRUITING PROCESS

 After Recruits At Scouting Combine Report Teams Asked Questions About Sexual Orientation, Schneiderman Calls On NFL Coner To Issue Formal League Policy And Conduct Full Investigation.

 Schneiderman: Employment Discrimination Is Wrong And Illegal No Matter Who The Employer Is.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today called on National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to take strong action to ensure the NFL and all of its franchises do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation against players and recruits. In a letter to the Commissioner, Schneiderman called on the League to issue a formal written policy making clear that any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation by League teams or employees against potential recruits or players constitutes a violation of state, local and, in some cases, contractual law and will not be tolerated.

 Under New York State’s employment discrimination laws, companies that are based in or do business in the state are not permitted to ask employees or potential job candidates questions about their sexual orientation. In addition, at least two dozen of 32 NFL teams are headquartered in jurisdictions that have similar employment discrimination laws in place.

“From the Scouting Combine to the playing fields, everyone deserves equal protection under the law and the right to a fair workplace,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “In New York State, we have no tolerance for discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. Employment discrimination is ethically wrong and illegal no matter who the employer is. I hope we can work together with the National Football League to send a powerful message that employment discrimination will not be tolerated in any form.”

Last month, media reports indicated that at least three prospective National Football League players — Nick Kasa, Denard Robinson and Le’veon Bell — were asked questions related to their sexual orientation at the national recruitment Scouting Combine held in late February 2013 in Indianapolis. According to one prospective player, Nick Kasa, teams within the League asked prospects if they have a girlfriend, are married, or like girls.

Under the New York State Human Rights Law, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire or employ an individual because of sexual orientation. The law further bars any employer from “mak[ing] any inquiry in connection with prospective employment, which expresses directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification or discrimination as to . . . sexual orientation . . . or any intent to make any such limitation, specification or discrimination.” Under New York State law, the Attorney General’s office has authority to investigate allegations of employment discrimination by companies in the State of New York.

In addition, the Collective Bargaining Agreement the League signed in 2011 includes a commitment that, “[t]here will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.” This provision does not, however, appear to provide any protection to prospective players during the recruitment process.

In his letter to Commissioner Goodell, Attorney General Schneiderman urged the League to demonstrate a strong commitment to creating a work environment free of discrimination by issuing a written, League-wide policy that, once finalized, would be appropriately distributed and disseminated. He offered the support of his office’s Civil Rights Bureau to assist in development of this policy.

The following are excerpts from Attorney General Schneiderman’s letter:

*          “Equal protection under the law is an essential issue for employers, employees and prospective job applicants. For that reason, I ask that the League clarify its position by issuing a public statement that any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation by League teams or their employees or agents against potential recruits or players constitutes a violation of state, local and, in some cases, contractual law, and will not be tolerated.”

*          “I also urge the League to memorialize this commitment in a written policy that, once finalized, is appropriately distributed and disseminated throughout the League. Our office stands prepared to offer guidance and support in the development of this policy.”

*          “We will be seeking a meeting with the League staff supervising your investigation of the incidents reported by prospective players.”

A copy of Attorney General Schneiderman’s letter to Commissioner Goodell can be found here:www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/NFL_Final.pdf

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  March 13, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON STATE SUPREME COURT’S DENIAL OF INJUNCTION TO NY SAFE ACT.

NEW YORK – The following statement can be attributed to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on the state Supreme Court’s decision to reject a request for an injunction halting the NY SAFE Act.

The Office of the New York Attorney General is responsible for defending all challenges to the NY SAFE Act. “The court rightfully rejected an attempt to halt the State’s efforts to reduce gun violence and prevent the tragedies that result from the use of military style weapons and high capacity ammunition devices.

The SAFE Act is a comprehensive law that enacts significant reforms designed to increase the safety of all New Yorkers, while ensuring constitutional protections to responsible gun owners. There are multiple lawsuits challenging the SAFE Act on numerous grounds, and our office will continue to fervently defend the protections embodied in the law.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 12, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES MULTISTATE SETTLEMENT WITH GOOGLE FOR VIOLATING PRIVACY RIGHTS 38-State Agreement.

Bans Unauthorized Data Collection, Requires Google To Train Employees On Privacy And Launch Nationwide Consumer Education Campaign.

Schneiderman: This Settlement Addresses Privacy Issues And Protects Individuals Who Expect Their Information To Be Confidential.

NEW YORK ‑ Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in announcing a multi-million settlement with Google over its unauthorized collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide. Between 2008 and March 2010, Google took photographs for its Street View service and for use in future geolocation services.

At the same time, Google collected and stored information including email and text messages, passwords, and web histories being transmitted over unsecured wireless networks without consent from the consumer.  Under the terms of the agreement, Google has agreed to secure and destroy the information it improperly collected, launch an employee training program to ensure its employees understand how to protect consumers and their information, conduct a national advertising campaign to educate consumers on how to protect their private information, and pay a $7 million fine to the states involved.

“Consumers have a right to protect their vital personal and financial information from improper and unwanted use by corporations like Google,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This settlement addresses privacy issues and protects the rights of people whose information was collected without their permission. My office will continue to hold corporations accountable for violating the rights of New Yorkers.”

The settlement announced today acknowledges that the information Google collected may have included confidential or private information being transmitted to or from private homes while the Street View cars were driving by. Google has since disabled or removed both the equipment and software used to collect such data from its Street View vehicles, and agreed not to collect any additional information without notice and consent.

The information collected has been secured, and under the terms of the agreement, will be destroyed. Further, Google agreed that the personal data its Street View cars collected will not be used in any product or service or be disclosed to any third party.  Other key elements of the agreement require Google to launch an employee training program about privacy and confidentiality of user data and continue the program for at least 10 years. It must also conduct a public service advertising campaign to help educate consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.

New York’s share of the settlement is approximately $192,000. Other states participating in the settlement are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Assistant Attorney General Clark Russell assisted in the investigation, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 12, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest of Rockland AND WESTCHESTER County PHARMACISTS Who Stole MORE THAN $500,000 FROM MEDICAID.

Two Pharmacists Illegally Steered Medicaid Bills Through Another Company For Pharmacies Barred From Doing Business With Program.

Schneiderman: My Office Will Use Every Tool, Including Criminal Prosecutions, To Weed Out Waste, Fraud And Abuse In Medicaid Program.

PEARL RIVER – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and arraignment of two Rockland and Westchester County pharmacists on charges of stealing more than $500,000 from New York State’s Medicaid program.

According to the charges filed today in County Court, Rockland County, New City, New York Shaheen Begum, 57, of New City and Syed Rahman, 62, of Briarcliff Manor conspired to use Rahman’s pharmacy to bill the Medicaid program for prescriptions filled by Begum after Begum’s Kwik Aid Pharmacy was barred by the State from doing business with Medicaid.

The defendants face imprisonment of up to 5 to 15 years if convicted of the top charge of Grand Larceny in the second degree. In addition to issuing indictments for Rahman and Begum as individuals, the Attorney General’s office also filed charges against the pharmacies they owned and operated: Kwik Aid Pharmacy, Inc. of New City, Haverstraw Pharmacy Inc. of Garnerville, and Prescription Plus Corporation, a pharmacy in Briarcliff Manor.

“My office has zero tolerance for pharmacists who rip off the taxpayers by defrauding New York’s Medicaid program,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “When unscrupulous operators scam the system, they are stealing from the taxpayers and threatening programs that are intended to provide vital health services to low income individuals and families.

My office will use every tool at our disposal, including criminal prosecutions like this, to weed out waste, fraud and abuse in our State’s Medicaid program.”  In January 2008, the State agency that regulates pharmacies in New York determined that both Shaheen Begum and Kwik Aid Pharmacy were guilty of professional misconduct. In addition, they were also kicked out of the Medicaid program.

This exclusion from Medicaid prohibited either Begum or Kwik Aid Pharmacy from serving Medicaid patients or seeking payment from Medicaid.  Rather than complying with the penalty, Begum conspired with Syed Rahman, the owner of Prescription Plus, to submit claims for payment under Prescription Plus’ Medicaid provider number for prescriptions that Begum continued to accept and process at Kwik Aid.

Begum and Rahman engaged in the same scheme with Haverstraw Pharmacy, which was also operated by Begum and which had never been approved as a Medicaid provider. This scheme cost more than $500,000 in prescriptions that were improperly paid for by Medicaid.

In 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman launched a major initiative to bolster his office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) and create a Taxpayer Protection Bureau to crack down on fraud.

At no cost to taxpayers, Schneiderman added dozens of additional prosecutors, investigators and auditors to the team charged with investigating, penalizing, and prosecuting individuals and companies responsible for improper or fraudulent Medicaid billing schemes.

The MFCU utilizes a team-based approach to identify and investigate frauds committed by hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, doctors, dentists, nurses, and other health care entities billing the Medicaid Program. In the last two years, MFCU has charged dozens of health care professionals and corporations, including doctors, pharmacists and nurses, with defrauding the Medicaid program and recovered more than $478 million in money stolen from New Yorkers.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General William McClarnon of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, under the supervision of Regional Director Anne Jardine, Special Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

The investigation was led by Senior Special Investigator Frank DiChiaro, under the supervision of Supervising Special Investigator Paul Greenspan and Chief Investigator Thaddeus Fisher, and Principle Special Auditor Investigator Jean Moss and Associate Special Auditor Investigator David Lee, under the supervision of Regional Chief Auditor John Regan.

The charges filed in this case are accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    February 21, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $1.8 BILLION IN RELIEF FOR NYS HOMEOWNERS FROM NATIONAL MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT.

More Than $1.2 Billion In Principal Reductions For NYS Homeowners In First Ten Months Of Program.

More Than 21,500 Families Statewide Reap Benefits Across All Categories.

NEW YORK – Following the release of the second official report on the implementation of the National Mortgage Settlement today, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman noted encouraging progress on behalf of New York State homeowners.

The report, which was issued today by the settlement’s national monitor showed that over $1.8 billion in consumer relief has been delivered to New York homeowners since March of 2012.  To date, 21,535 New York homeowners have received assistance, including $1.2 billion in principal reductions on 1st and 2nd mortgages and mortgage refinances that lower interest rates on their loans.

“The National Mortgage Settlement was a first step in helping homeowners who were impacted by the foreclosure crisis that devastated communities across this country. While there are still too many homeowners in New York who are at-risk of foreclosure, today’s report reflects significant progress and we expect more relief in the future,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“Thousands of New Yorkers have received over $1.8 billion in relief from their mortgage servicers as a result of this settlement, but we must remain vigilant to ensure all eligible New Yorkers are getting the help they deserve and that the banks are being held accountable under the terms of the agreement.”

As part of the 2012 settlement, the five largest mortgage servicers have agreed to a $25 billion penalty under a joint state-national settlement structure. A minimum of $17 billion goes directly to borrowers nationally through a series of homeowner relief efforts, including principal reduction. Servicers have also committed $3 billion to an underwater mortgage refinancing program for homeowners whose mortgages are worth more than the value of their homes.

The National Mortgage Settlement is the largest joint state-federal settlement in history and it is the result of a massive civil law enforcement investigation and initiative by state attorneys general, state banking regulators, and nearly a dozen federal agencies.

The agreement was with the nation’s five largest servicers: Bank of America Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Company, Citigroup, Inc., and Ally Financial, Inc. (formerly GMAC). Collectively, the five banks service nearly 60 percent of the nation’s mortgages.

The below figures represent the total consumer relief to New York homeowners from March 1st through December 2012:

Principal Forgiveness On First Mortgages Completed or in Process: $472,134,465 (3,841 Borrowers)

Completed Second Lien Principal Reductions and/or Extinguishments: $760,586,937 (9,017 Borrowers)

Refinances Completed: 818 Borrowers with an average interest rate reduction of 2.6%

Total Consumer Relief in NY in Actual Dollars Across all Categories: Over $1.8 Billion

Total Number Of New York Borrowers Receiving Relief Across All Categories: 21,535 Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase have been particularly active in New York, providing a combined total of 1st mortgage principal reductions for 3,151 homeowners statewide.

The same cannot be said for Wells Fargo who has only provided 1st mortgage principal reductions for 315 borrowers since the program began, despite having distressed loan portfolios that are of similar size to Bank of America and Chase in the New York market.

“We expect Wells Fargo to increase their consumer relief activity for struggling New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will hold servicers accountable and ensure that every institution lives up to their end of this Agreement.”

Despite the progress illustrated by the report, the Attorney General’s office remains vigilant to ensure that mortgage servicers live up to their responsibilities under the settlement, including compliance with the servicing reforms contained in the agreement.

Consumers should file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General if servicing violations are encountered. Attorney General Schneiderman has made it a top priority of his administration to hold accountable those whose misconduct led to the collapse of the housing market– and to provide significant relief to homeowners.

In the State of New York, an average of 1 in 10 mortgages is at risk of foreclosure. The approximate number of individuals living in homes that are either in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure (based on typical household size for each distressed mortgage) exceeds the populations of Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse combined.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in relief from lenders reflected in today’s report, Attorney General Schneiderman secured over $130 million in hard dollars for New Yorkers as part of the settlement.

Of this amount, Attorney General Schneiderman launched the Homeowner Protection Program, a $60 million commitment over three years to fund housing counseling and legal services for struggling New York homeowners. Throughout New York State, 34 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies will receive over $16.1 million this year to provide free foreclosure prevention services.

An additional $3.9 million has been allocated for training, technical assistance, and other support services to assist homeowners in foreclosure.  In January of 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group.

This joint investigation brings together the Department of Justice (DOJ), HUD, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, several state law enforcement officials, and other federal agencies to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.

It builds upon ongoing state and federal investigations, while also launching new ones. For additional information regarding the mortgage settlement, please visit:

New York State Mortgage Settlement – http://www.nysmortgagesettlement.com/index.html – Official Website.
National Mortgage Settlement – http://nationalmortgagesettlement.com/ – Official Website.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD – Official Website.
U.S. Department of Justice – http://www.justice.gov/ -Official Website .

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    
February 20, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

VIDEO: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AT HEARING IN BUFFALO ON DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR NONPROFITS ENGAGED IN ELECTIONEERING.

BUFFALO – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman delivered opening remarks today at a hearing in Buffalo on his proposed election disclosure requirements for New York nonprofits registered with the Attorney General’s office.

Video of the Attorney General’s remarks is available online here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJJ22gDOyEA&feature=youtu.be.

In December, Attorney General Schneiderman announced new regulations requiring nonprofit groups, including 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations that are registered with the state, to report the percentage of their expenditures that go to federal, state and local electioneering.

Those groups that spend at least $10,000 to influence state and local elections in New York will be required to file itemized schedules of expenses and contributions. Under the proposed new rules, those disclosures will be released to the public.

The following are excerpts from the Attorney General’s statement at the start of today’s hearing: On the Influence of “Dark Money” on Campaigns: “Last November, we got a glimpse of what can happen when nonprofits that conceal the identity of their donors invade our electoral process. We saw more than $400 million dollars in undisclosed funding flood into the American political system in 2012…

Big, secretive campaign expenditures have the potential to do even more damage in local elections – like those that you’ll be holding here in Buffalo this year.

We are here today to say ‘not in New York State.’” On Protecting New York Charities & Donors: “The fact that these groups lay claim to nonprofit status creates a particularly offensive form of confusion. Most New Yorkers understand nonprofits to be organizations that provide important public benefits, not vehicles for flooding the airwaves with campaign ads. Because that is what they are supposed to be.

Our proposed regulations will keep New York donors informed, and protect them from being misled.”  On Overturning Citizen’s United: “We need to develop a long-term strategy to address unregulated flows of money into the political process. New Yorkers, like all Americans, need to have faith in their government and their elected leaders.

This means stopping corruption – and the appearance of corruption – that comes from unregulated political cash. Let me be clear, and maybe even a little bit blunt: We need to create the record for a successful effort to overturn Citizens United.”  On Campaign Finance Reform: “We need to expand public campaign financing systems. The Supreme Court has made it difficult to lower the ceiling on spending by special interests, but we can raise the floor with public financing and give all candidates a chance to compete.”

More information on the Attorney General’s proposed regulations is available online here: www.ag.ny.gov/charity-disclosure-regulations

The fourth and final hearing on the proposed regulations will be Wednesday, February 27 in Mineola, NY.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    February 20, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT ENSURING DISPLACED CAR WASH WORKERS WILL BE HIRED AT OTHER NYC LOCATIONS.

Owners Agree To Hire 15 Workers At Other Locations After Abruptly Announcing Closure Of SoHo Car Wash.

A.G. Schneiderman: We Will Take Swift Action to Protect Jobs Of Workers And Against Potential Retaliation.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement ensuring the employment of 15 workers who were about to lose their jobs because of the closure of a SoHo car wash location, which is part of a group of interrelated companies that for months have been under investigation for possible labor law and other violations.

The agreement relates to an inquiry into whether the closure of the Lage Car Wash station, at 124-38 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, constituted retaliation against employees who previously reported violations.

“My office will take swift action when there is any indication that an employer may have retaliated against workers for reporting violations of New York’s labor laws,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Because of this agreement, 15 workers will not lose their jobs and will be employed at the companies’ other car wash locations.”

Lage Car Wash, Inc. informed workers earlier this month that the SoHo location would be closing near the end of February and that their employment would be terminated. As a result of Attorney General Schneiderman’s agreement, the car wash workers will instead be offered comparable positions at other New York City car washes operated by the owners of Lage Car Wash, Inc., within 30 days.

The company will face penalties and damages if workers are not given positions as required.  The Attorney General’s signed agreement addresses only the closure of the SoHo car wash location. It does not resolve a broader and ongoing investigation into potential labor law violations by the companies and the 23 interrelated car washes they operate.

New York Labor Law § 215 prohibits retaliation by an employer against employees who have reported labor law violations to the government. Numerous types of action can constitute retaliation, including termination, blacklisting, reduction of hours and closure of a business location if done with retaliatory intent.

The case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the advocacy groups Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change and by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Juan Carlos, 26, who worked at the car wash for more than 7 years, said, “We are so happy to have won our jobs back. They owed us at least that. It’s thanks to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, to our union and the community organizations that supported us that we were able to win our jobs back and show bad bosses that they cannot break the law.”

Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said, “This is an unprecedented victory in the car wash industry. Congratulations to the LMC SOHO workers and their union, the RWDSU, for showing what can be accomplished when workers take a stand.

And, thank you to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his staff who lent invaluable support to help make this victory possible. Working people in this state can stand up for their rights knowing that this Attorney General has their backs.”

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said, “We congratulate the SoHo Carwasheros, who are proud members of the RWDSU, on a successful fight to save their jobs. We also applaud the Attorney General’s aggressive support for workers’ rights.

These workers deserve to be treated with fairness and justice. We will continue the fight to ensure that the voices of the carwasheros are heard throughout this city.

Now, these workers will not only still have a job but they will also be able to show other workers the difference a strong union can make.” Jonathan Westin executive Director of New York Communities for Change, said, “This is the perfect example of the kind of unfair treatment that can be overcome when workers come together and organize.

Thanks to the hard work of Attorney General Schneiderman, RWDSU and above all the workers, carwasheros are no long viewed as a workforce who are unable to stand up for their own rights.”

The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Benjamin Holt and Haeya Yim under the supervision of Labor Bureau Section Chief Andrew Elmore, Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   February 13, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND COMPTROLLER DINAPOLI ANNOUNCE FELONY GUILTY PLEA OF FORMER SENATOR SHIRLEY HUNTLEY.

Covered Up $30K In Taxpayer-Funded Services Never PerformedThen-Senator Huntley Devised Fake Letter To Falsely Show That They Were .

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced that former New York Senator Shirley L. Huntley has pleaded guilty to Tampering with Physical Evidence, an E Felony, for falsifying evidence in an effort to obstruct the investigation into the theft of a grant she sponsored for a sham non-profit entity, the Parent Workshop.

As part of their Joint Task Force on Public Integrity, the Offices of the Attorney General and State Comptroller previously indicted then-Senator Huntley and three individuals associated with the Parent Workshop, Inc., a nonprofit set up by former Senator Huntley that funneled member item funds intended to benefit the public to the senator’s aide and to the senator’s niece.

According to the state’s indictment, the president and treasurer of the Parent Workshop submitted fraudulent documents to New York State to obtain public money from a legislative member item sponsored by then-Senator Huntley. Instead of providing the promised programs, the two defendants pocketed approximately $29,950. Huntley, who created the sham nonprofit and earmarked a member item grant to the entity, was charged with falsifying evidence in an attempt to obstruct the investigation into this theft.

An ongoing investigation into the theft revealed that, after learning of the probe into her grant to the Parent Workshop, then-Senator Huntley created a handwritten template for a false, backdated letter designed to fool investigators into believing that the Parent Workshop had conducted workshops, when in fact no such workshops were ever conducted. This letter was submitted to Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office in response to a subpoena issued to the Parent Workshop.

As part of her plea, Huntley admitted her role in this cover-up.

“It is unconscionable that an elected official would deliberately tamper with a law enforcement investigation into the theft of taxpayer dollars,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.

“Former Senator Huntley’s felony plea sends a strong message that those who abuse their positions to rip off taxpayers and tamper with investigations will be held accountable. My office’s partnership with the Comptroller is designed to combat such corruption, and we will continue to work tirelessly to protect every penny of taxpayer money during these challenging economic times.”

“Former Senator Huntley betrayed the trust of her constituents and her public duty,” Comptroller DiNapoli said. “State officials must be held to the highest standards. My office will continue to work with the Attorney General to investigate wrongdoing and protect taxpayer funds.”

In cooperation with federal partners, and in light of the fact that Huntley faces an 18-24 month prison sentence, prosecutors recommended a sentence of five years probation in exchange for her felony guilty plea. Theft and obstruction charges are still pending against Huntley’s co-defendants.

The indictment charges Patricia Savage, president of Parent Workshop and former Senator Huntley’s aide, and Lynn Smith, the treasurer of Parent Workshop and Huntley’s niece, of engaging in a fraudulent scheme to steal member item funds.

The defendants falsely claimed that Parent Workshop would use member item funds secured by Huntley to hold workshops for and conduct outreach to parents on the workings of the New York City public school system. Instead, the indictment charges that Savage and Smith never intended to hold any such events and that they falsely asserted in multiple submissions to the New York State Department of State that, from April 2008 through March 2009, the Parent Workshop had held workshops and conducted outreach, when no such workshops were ever held and no such outreach was ever conducted.

Based on these submissions, the Department of State paid Parent Workshop $29,950 – the sum the two defendants are charged with stealing.

Savage and Smith are each charged with multiple felony counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. The maximum sentence for one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree is 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

The indictment also charges that Savage and defendant David R. Gantt conspired with Huntley to create and submit false evidence, in response to a subpoena issued to Parent Workshop by the Attorney General’s Office. One piece of that false evidence was the handwritten letter drafted by Senator Huntley that was falsified to make it appear as if Parent Workshop had conducted workshops when, in fact, it did not.

The superseding indictment also charges that defendant Gantt falsified records to claim that he was paid in cash for conducting workshops as a consultant. The indictment further charges that he, in fact, never conducted any workshops.

Gantt is charged with four counts of Tampering with Physical Evidence, four counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and one count of Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree. The joint investigation began after contact with the New York State Department of State.

Since 1999, the New York State Legislature has distributed more than $900 million through legislative member items to more than 20,000 nonprofit entities.

Investigator Gerard Matheson and Investigative Analyst Brian Selfon of the Investigations Bureau assisted in this case, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Michael Ward and Chief Dominick Zarrella. Prosecuting the case are Public Integrity Bureau Senior Counsel Emily Bradford, Public Integrity Bureau Assistant Attorney General Jerrold Steigman, and Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Assistant Attorney General Thomas Schellhammer.

The investigation was supervised by Public Integrity Bureau Deputy Chief Stacy Aronowitz and Chief William E. Schaeffer, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.  The joint investigation was conducted with the Comptroller’s Bureau of State Expenditures and Legal Services Division’s Investigations Unit.

The charges are merely accusations and all remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Anyone with additional information on this matter or any other public corruption is encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-996-4630 or the Comptroller’s office by dialing the toll-free fraud hotline at 1-888-672-4555; filing a complaint online at investigations@osc.state.ny.us; or mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller Investigations Unit, 110 State Street, 14th floor, Albany, NY 12236.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:      February 11, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES INDICTMENT OF MANHATTAN DOCTOR WHO SOLD OXYCODONE PRESCRIPTIONS TO DRUG DEALERS.

55-Count Indictment Against Dr. David Brizer For Selling Millions Of Dollars Worth Of Rx Narcotics, Evading Income Taxes By Underreporting $500kDoctor Faces Up To 7 Years In Prison For Felony Charges.

Schneiderman: Doctors Who Profit By Feeding Prescription Drug Crisis Will Be Caught And Prosecuted.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a 55-count indictment against Dr. David Brizer on charges he sold prescriptions for oxycodone and other powerful pain medications to drug dealers from his Rockland County and Midtown Manhattan offices.

The indictment also charges Brizer with illegally possessing controlled substances and underreporting his income by at least $500,000 on his New York State personal tax returns in 2010 and 2011.

Brizer, a psychiatrist, was arraigned in Rockland County Court today on two top counts of Criminal Tax Fraud; 34 counts of Criminal Sale of a Prescription for a Controlled Substance; 15 counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance; 2 counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing; along with Scheme to Defraud and Conspiracy charges.

All are felony counts. He faces up to seven years behind bars.“Instead of saving lives, Dr. Brizer used his position to supply drug dealers and feed a prescription drug epidemic that is devastating families across our state. The message is clear – whether you are a doctor or a criminal on the street, my office will prosecute those profiting off the cycle of abuse,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.

“This office will use every tool at our disposal to bring criminal charges against those who line their own pockets by fueling dangerous addictions and illegally trafficking in prescription narcotics.”The indictment charges that between February 2010 to August 2012, Brizer, 60, of Manhattan, sold prescriptions for oxycodone and other painkillers. Brizer charged his customers up to $300 each time he sold them prescriptions and illegally sold prescriptions for several million dollars worth of pills.

The doctor first sold prescriptions out of his Nyack office, at 48 Burd Street. More recently, he sold prescription out of his Manhattan office at 244 West 54th Street.Brizer failed to report at least $240,000 on his 2010 New York State Personal Income Tax Returns and at least $250,000 on his 2011 returns.

Much of that money was proceeds from his prescription sales. Besides writing fraudulent prescriptions for fake patients, the doctor was charged with possessing controlled substances, including for methylphenidate (speed), which he obtained by issuing prescriptions in the names of people who had no knowledge he was doing so.

In August 2012, investigators from Attorney General Schneiderman’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the state Department of Health’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the Department of Taxation and Finance executed search warrants at Brizer’s Manhattan offices and residence, at 80 Riverside Boulevard.

With backing from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, New York’s MFCU investigators also seized documents belonging to Brizer at a Fort Lee residence where Brizer previously lived.

According to the Attorney General’s indictment, Brizer sold prescriptions to reputed drug dealer Franklin Walker, among other dealers, during a more than two-year period ending in July 2012.

Brizer’s prescriptions allowed Walker to obtain as many as 240 oxycodone pills at a time. Walker was arrested in December on drug possession charges and grand larceny for causing Medicaid to pay thousands of dollars to pharmacies for narcotics he illegally obtained and resold. Walker, 52, of Westtown, faces nine years in prison.

In 2012, New York State legislature unanimously passed Attorney General Schneiderman’s landmark Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP. I-STOP requires doctors to review a patient’s prescription drug history and update it in real time when writing prescriptions for certain controlled substances.

Had such a system been in place at the time Brizer and his associates committed their crimes authorities could have more quickly detected these crimes.

Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the New York State Police; the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement; the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance; the Orange County District Attorney’s Office; the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office; and the Town of Clarkstown Police Department for their assistance in this investigation.

The indictment lodged against Brizer updates and supersedes an earlier indictment charging him with Criminal Tax Fraud and Offering a False Instrument for Filing for failing to fully report his 2011 income on his state tax returns. The charges against the defendant are accusations and Brizer is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The case is being prosecuted by Regional Director Anne Jardine and Special Assistant Attorney General Christopher Borek of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and supervised by Special Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

The investigation was conducted by Special Investigator Michael Mataraza, Special Investigator Timothy Connolly and Special Auditor Investigator Christopher Giacoia, who are supervised by Chief Regional Auditor John Regan, Supervising Special Investigator Paul Greenspan and Chief Investigator Thaddeus Fisher.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   February 7, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES ARREST OF NYC PSYCHIATRIST WHO STOLE MORE THAN $230K FROM MEDICAID.

Dr. Jean Elie Saw Patients For Less Than 10 Minutes And Handed Out Prescriptions Valued At More Than A Million Dollars For The Frequently Abused Prescription Drug Seroquel.

Schneiderman: Crooked Doctors Who Steal From Taxpayers And Feed Rx Drug Abuse Will Be Prosecuted.

NEW YORK – Following an undercover investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest of Dr. Jean Elie, a Brooklyn psychiatrist on grand larceny charges for billing the state’s Medicaid program $230,000 for services he did not provide. Dr. Elie, 59, of Elmont, wrote prescriptions for Seroquel valued at over a million dollars over a three-year period to a revolving door of clients. Dr. Elie, who worked out of the Family Practice offices at 1155 Broadway, in Brooklyn, faces up to 15 years in prison.

“Crooked doctors who abuse their position and their privileges do tremendous harm to their patients, to the communities they claim to serve and to their profession. In this case, Dr. Elie also ripped off New York State taxpayers by billing Medicaid for services he failed to provide, pocketing critical resources at the expense of the most vulnerable among us,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.

“This doctor’s office was basically a pill mill. The systemic abuse of prescriptions drugs is an epidemic in this country and in this state. It must stop. Our office will do everything in its power to ensure that it does.”  According to a complaint filed in Brooklyn Criminal Court today, Elie billed over $232,000 for therapy sessions which he falsely claimed lasted a minimum of 45 minutes.

Instead, the sessions routinely lasted less than ten minutes. By law, physicians are required to submit claims for payment using billing codes which accurately reflect the services they provided.

As described in the court papers, undercover investigators from the Attorney General’s office, posing as patients, signed up for seven sessions with Elie. None of these sessions lasted for more than six minutes. Even so, the doctor billed Medicaid using a code, known as the “hour code,” which requires, in addition to a medical evaluation, 45 to 50 minutes of face-to-face therapy with a patient.

Between 2009 and 2012, Elie wrote prescriptions for Seroquel valued at over a million dollars, making him one of the top prescribers of Seroquel in the State. The anti-psychotic medication is frequently abused and has a street value among addicts. Elie’s prescribing patterns and the observations made by MFCU investigators during the course of the investigation appear to indicate that some of Elie’s patients sought prescriptions for medications they could sell on the street.

Today’s arraignment follows a successful effort by Attorney General Schneiderman to overhaul the state’s prescription drug monitoring system in order to prevent overprescribing by doctors. In June 2012, the legislature unanimously passed the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP.

First introduced by Attorney General Schneiderman, I-STOP requires doctors to review a patient’s prescription drug history and update it in real time when writing prescriptions for certain controlled substances. Had such a system been in place at the time Elie committed his crimes, authorities could have detected it more quickly.

At his arraignment, prosecutors charged that Elie worked at the Family Practice offices for only four hours a day but routinely billed Medicaid for therapy sessions that, if legitimate, would have taken longer than the 24-hour period he claimed they occurred in. On one date, Elie billed the hour code 30 times; and on 94 separate dates he billed it 20 or more times.

Elie is charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, which carries a maximum prison term of 5 to 15 years. He also faces multiple counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing, which carry a maximum term 1 and 1/3 to 4 years behind bars. The charges against Elie are accusations and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The prosecution is being handled by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s New York City Regional Office by Special Assistant Attorney General Mark P. Cannon, under the supervision of Deputy Regional Director Christopher Shaw.

The investigation was conducted by Special Investigators Thomas Dowd and Steven Broomer and Senior Special Auditor Investigator Shoma Howard, under the supervision of Principal Special Auditor Investigator Paul Erhardt and New York City Chief Audit Investigator Thomasina Smith.

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is directed by Special Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     February 7, 2013.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces $2.3 Million Settlement With St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital For Overbilling Medicaid and Medicare.

Hospital Double-Billed For Out-Patient Psychiatric Services.

Schneiderman: Blatantly Irresponsible Behavior Cost Tax Payers Millions, Will Be Repaid In Full With Penalties And Interest.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the settlement of a lawsuit against Continuum Health Partners, Inc., and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, a member of the non-profit hospital network located on Manhattan’s west side, for improperly billing the Medicaid and Medicare programs for out-patient services provided at its mental health clinics between 1998 and 2010.

The suit was filed under state and federal False Claims Acts. As part of the settlement filed in Manhattan Federal Court, the hospital agreed to repay Medicaid and Medicare $2,325,000. New York’s share in the settlement, which is due in ten days, is $1,066,887.83.  “This blatantly irresponsible behavior by a New York City hospital cost taxpayers millions of dollars and will not be tolerated by this office,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “As a result of New York’s strong False Claims Act, whistleblowers with knowledge of such unlawful conduct have an incentive to file complaints. My office investigates those claims, we pursue those who cheat the system and we make sure tax dollars are fully refunded and penalties are paid.”

After receiving information from a whistleblower alleging the Hospital and SLR Psychiatric Associates (“SLR”), a physician’s group within the Hospital, were improperly double billing the state Medicaid and federal Medicare programs, the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Civil Frauds Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York opened an investigation and confirmed the whistleblower’s allegation.  According to the Complaints and Settlements filed in this case, the Hospital double-billed the State of New York and the federal government for psychiatric services provided by the Hospitals’ physicians at SLR, in two ways:

The Hospital billed out-patient psychiatric services to Medicaid as a rate-based service, which included the care provided by the physician and all other related costs. At the same time, SLR billed the state and federal governments on a fee-for-service basis for the same care provided by the physician;

The Hospital sought and received reimbursement from Medicare for non-reimbursable costs relating to outpatient psychiatric visits conducted by SLR.

As a result, the Hospital received Medicare and Medicaid payments that it was not entitled to receive. As part of the Settlement, which was approved by United States Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin, the Hospital has admitted responsibility for the following conduct:

From 1999 to 2002, the Hospital sought and received Medicare reimbursement for non-reimbursable costs relating to outpatient psychiatric visits conducted by SLR.

From 1998 through 2002, the Hospital and SLR overbilled New York State and the United States in connection with claims for reimbursement under Medicaid relating to outpatient psychiatric visits conducted by SLR. Specifically, SLR submitted claims and received reimbursement under Medicaid for costs that were already included in, and reimbursed to the Hospital pursuant to, separate claims submitted by the Hospital.

From 2003 through 2010, the Hospital submitted claims and received reimbursement under Medicaid for services furnished by physicians in the Hospital’s outpatient mental health clinic. Department of Social Services regulations provided that “the costs of routine physicians’ services are included in facilities’ rate or fee and shall not be billed separately.” The Hospital billed for such physician services separately, although the Hospital had removed the physician costs from its institutional cost report.

This settlement is based on a whistleblower lawsuit brought by a private individual in 2008 pursuant to state and federal false claims acts and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.   Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the whistleblower, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the New York State Office of Mental Health for their cooperation and assistance throughout the investigation.

The case was handled by Deputy Regional Director Thomas O’Hanlon and Special Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Ellis under the supervision of Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul Mahoney and Special Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin.

The investigation was conducted by Senior Special Investigator Frederick Rondina under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator Thaddeus Fischer; and by Special Auditor Investigator Nicholas Thottam, under the supervision of Supervising Special Auditor Yehuda Scheff and MFCU New York City Regional Chief Auditor Thomasina Piccolo-Smith.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   February 5, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES 31 CHARGED IN STATEWIDE COCAINE DISTRIBUTION RING, TWO CHARGED IN MURDER PLOT “Operation North Star”.

Crackdown Leads To 226-Count Indictment.

Schneiderman: Our Investigation Has Removed These Violent Narcotics Dealers And Distributors From Our Communities.

ALBANY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a multi-agency narcotics crackdown that led to a 226-count indictment charging 31 defendants with distributing large quantities of cocaine throughout the Capital Region, including Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer Counties, which they imported from New York City. Two of the defendants have also been charged with conspiracy to commit murder after wiretaps uncovered a murder plot.

“These networks created a pipeline of illegal drugs from New York City to the Capital Region that polluted our communities. Operation North Star shut down this massive criminal enterprise and stopped the flow of these dangerous narcotics,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Because of the hard work of my office’s investigators, along with the State Police and Albany Police, we have gotten these violent drug dealers and distributors off the streets and into custody.”

As part of an operation code-named “Operation North Star,” state and local law enforcement agents led by the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), the Albany Police Department and the New York State Police, concluded an eleven-month investigation into this drug network that was conducting illicit activities on the streets of the Capital Region. During the investigation, police seized 1,982 grams of cocaine with an approximate street value of $200,000, more than $100,000 in cash that was generated through cocaine trafficking, three vehicles, a bulletproof vest, and a hand gun which were to be used in an imminent murder.

The handgun was seized as part of an effort on the part of the Attorney General’s Office, in conjunction with its other law enforcement partners, to thwart a plot to commit murder.

As part of the 226 Count Indictment, Defendants Emerald Cancer, a/k/a “Sis,” a/k/a “Emmy,” a/k/a “E,” and Rondell Jackson, a/k/a “Diggity,” are alleged to have conspired to lure the intended victim of the murder plot, Santonieo Miller, Jr., a/k/a “Cool,” to a secluded location in order to shoot him. It is alleged that defendants Cancer and Jackson were intercepted over wiretapped telephone calls telling Miller to meet them at the secluded location. To get Miller to this location, he was told the meeting was to rob a third party.

It is believed that the motive for the plot to kill Miller was drug related. Attorney General Schneiderman indicated that members of law enforcement were able to stop the murder, and to recover the gloves and the gun from the hiding place where the defendant had stashed it.  “I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the New York State Police, and the Albany Police Department for their hard work in taking down a massive drug ring which resulted in a 226-count indictment,” said Albany Mayor Gerald D. Jennings.

“Today, the Capital Region is a safer place because of this teamwork, and I commend everyone involved with this case for their unwavering dedication and support of public safety in New York State’s Capital City.”  “This investigation is yet another example of law enforcement partners working collaboratively to get drugs and dealers off our streets,” Joseph A. D’Amico, New York State Police Superintendent said.  “The expertise and dedication of our law enforcement colleagues not only prevented a murder from taking place; it prevented dangerous drugs from getting into our communities. The State Police remain committed to continue these partnerships with the Attorney General’s office and local police agencies to send a clear message that this type of illegal activity will not be tolerated.

I thank all of our law enforcement partners for their hard work, professionalism and commitment to making our communities safer.” In addition to the conspiracy to commit murder, the indictment, which was unsealed today in Albany County Court, contains 226 counts, and charges 31 people with various Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A, B, C, D felonies) and Conspiracy in the second degree (class B felony) in relation to their involvement in the cocaine trafficking network.

One of the defendants, Andrew Smith, a/k/a “My Boy,” a/k/a “World Boss,” a/k/a “Gringo,” is charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, which carries the potential of a life sentence. This massive take down and indictment is the culmination of a major investigation which is part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s ongoing efforts to combat narcotic trafficking and other crimes through OCTF’s Upstate Guns, Gangs, and Drugs Initiative.

The Attorney General’s indictment contains 226 counts, and charged the following 31 people with different crimes in relation to their involvement in the cocaine trafficking operation, including:

Charged as a Major Trafficker:

Andrew Smith, a/k/a “My Boy,” a/k/a “World Boss,” a/k/a “Gringo”26 years old
Schenectady, NY

Additional Defendants:

Luann Bennett, a/k/a “Ma”         51 years old         Albany, NY

Sean Bennett, a/k/a “S-Dot”         28 years old         Albany, NY

Nailon Blair, a/k/a “Nace”         36 years old         Schenectady, NY

Lequanda Bozeman, a/k/a “Scar”         29 years old         Albany, NY

Shaquel Brown, a/k/a “Boogie”         29 years old         Albany, NY

Emerald Cancer, a/k/a “Sis,” a/k/a “Emmy,” a/k/a “E”         31 years old         Albany, NY

Latoya Cancer, a/k/a “Chops”         33 years old         Albany, NY

Henry Crawford         25 years old         Albany, NY

David Crowley, a/k/a “Rugs,” a/k/a “D-Rugs,” a/k/a “Dave”         26 years old         Albany, NY

Luisa Cuesta         49 years old         Rensselaer, NY

Karnell Gordon, a/k/a “Aff,” a/k/a “Blacks”         27 years old         Albany, NY

Derick Harris, a/k/a “Boo”         35 years old         Albany, NY

Kareem Hood, a/k/a “Barrie,” a/k/a “G”         23 years old         East Greenbush, NY

Joshua Hunter         34 years old         Schenectady, NY

Rondell Jackson, a/k/a “Diggity”          33 years old         Albany, NY

Tony Jefferson         58 years old         Albany, NY

Demetris King         26 years old         Albany, NY

Norman Lewis, a/k/a “Reese”         33 years old         Albany, NY

Sandra Matos, a/k/a “Sandy,” a/k/a “Candy”         43 years old         Albany, NY

Ishmael McCarthy, a/k/a “Black,” a/k/a “Mad Black,” a/k/a “Ish”         24 years old         Albany, NY

Shamel McCarthy, a/k/a “Belly”          20 years old         Albany, NY

Ameek Nixon         27 years old         Albany, NY

Tashon Robertson         22 years old         Troy, NY

Shakir Redmon         31 years old         Albany, NY

Kode Sealey, a/k/a “Monster”         29 years old         Albany, NY

Leequan Thomas, a/k/a “Quan”         17 years old         Albany, NY

Walter Turner, Jr., a/k/a “Smooth”         43 years old         Albany, NY

Shawn Ubrich         40 years old         Delmar, NY

Errol Williams, a/k/a “Brody,” a/k/a “E”         22 years old         Albany, NY

Dasean Willis, a/k/a “Killa,” a/k/a “Kane,” a/k/a “P”         29 years old          Albany, NY

The charges contained in the indictment are the result of an eleven-month joint investigation by the OCTF, Albany Police Department, the New York State Police and Homeland Security Investigations, with the assistance of the NY National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, the United States Marshals Service, Rensselaer County Task Force, and City of Troy Police Department.

The investigation was directed by OCTF Special Investigator Dennis Guiry under the supervision of Special Investigator William Charles, and Deputy Chief Investigator, Gene Black, under the supervision of Chief Dominick Zarrella. The Albany Police Department Detective Brian Plante, under the supervision of Lt. Jeff Roberts, Commander Anthony Ryan, and Chief of Police Steven Krokoff, and New York State Police Senior Investigator Samuel Mercado, under the supervision of Lt. Michael Tietz.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Tiffinay Rutnik, under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice 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.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     February 5, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON THE STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement on Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s State of the Judiciary address:“I applaud Chief Judge Lippman’s unwavering commitment to the integrity of the residential foreclosure process in New York State.

The Chief Judge has been a champion for justice – his reforms in this area have served as a national model in terms of fairness and efficiency.

Building on this work, I look forward to partnering with Chief Judge Lippman to pass legislation this session that will provide appropriate procedural safeguards to homeowners facing foreclosure, so that every New Yorker gets the justice they deserve.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     February 4, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest of Construction Firm Owner for Underpaying Workers and Laundering Stolen Wages Laborers.

Cheated Out Of More Than $100,000 On Port Authority Construction Job At JFK Airport.

Schneiderman: Owner Who Required Workers To Pay Kick Backs And Hid Stolen Money Now Faces Criminal Charges.

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and arraignment of Leonid Fridman for failing to pay legally required wages to his workers on a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey construction project and concealing $100,000 he stole in an account he created for a Florida corporation.

Fridman faces multiple felony counts of grand larceny and money laundering.  “Mr. Fridman not only stole state dollars from his own workers, but he demanded kickbacks and laundered money to cover his tracks.” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office will continue to take action, including filing criminal charges, against employers who violate New York’s labor laws, steal taxpayer dollars and violate the public trust.”

Fridman, 60, owned and operated Millennium Commercial Corp., a Brooklyn-based company that performed tile work. The defendant and his company, located at 200 Brighton 15th St., performed tile restoration work as a subcontractor on the renovation of the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport in 2009 and 2010. Under the Port Authority contract for the project and the Labor Law, the defendant was required to pay his employees over $50 per hour for Laborers and Mason Tenders and over $70 per hour for Tile Setters.

According to court records, Fridman was aware that he was required to pay the prevailing wages but still paid his workers only $10 to $30 per hour.  To avoid detection, Fridman filed false certified payroll reports stating he paid his workers the prevailing wages and issued paychecks to the workers that matched those payroll reports.

Fridman then made his workers cash the checks at his bank and kick back, or return, a majority of the cash to him. He hid over $100,000 of the money he stole by moving it into the account of a Florida corporation he controlled, Green Investments, Inc. Robert E. Van Etten, Inspector General for the Port Authority of NY & NJ, said: “Companies doing business with municipalities, state agencies and authorities are legally bound to pay their employees the fair and prevailing wage.

In this case, the defendant chose to enrich himself at the expense of his own workers by creating an elaborate fraud to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the funds. This arrest will serve notice to all contractors that the Port Authority of NY & NJ will not tolerate wage fraud or any other criminal misconduct on public projects.

The Port Authority Office of the Inspector General and its Law Enforcement partners will aggressively identify, investigate and bring to justice those who corrupt the integrity of the construction industry.” The defendant was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Donna-Marie E. Golia on Friday. Bail for Fridman was set at $5,000.

Fridman faces one count each of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Money Laundering in the Second Degree. Both are class “C” felonies punishable by up to 5 to 15 years behind bars. He also faces a Violation of Labor Law charge, a class “D” felony, and 52 counts each of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, class “E” felonies.

New York’s prevailing wage law seeks to ensure that government contractors pay wages that are comparable to the local norms for a given trade. The law requires an hourly rate for construction work performed for public agencies that is well above the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, along with benefits, and also higher wages for overtime, weekends or work at night.

The Attorney General thanks the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Office of the Inspector General. This case was investigated by Investigator Robert Ward, Investigator Mark Fionda and Forensic Auditor Tiffany Coles of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Office of the Inspector General, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Jeff Schaffler as well as New York Office of the Attorney General Investigator Luis Carter under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Kenneth Morgan and Deputy Chief Vito Spano.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Meredith McGowan, under the supervision of Section Chief Felice Sontupe and Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein of the Labor Bureau. The case is being overseen by Executive Deputy Attorneys General Janet Sabel and Kelly Donovan.  The charges are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    February 2, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LEADS MULTI-STATE COALITION TO DEFEND VOTING RIGHTS ACT IN U.S. SUPREME COURT CASE.

New York, California, Mississippi And North Carolina File Joint Defense Against Constitutional Challenge.

Coalition Argues Law Provides Important Protections For Minority Voters And That Compliance Poses No Undue Burden Or Cost On States.

Schneiderman: My Office Will Always Stand Up To Protect And Enforce One Of Our Nation’s Most Important Federal Civil Rights Laws.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the filing of a multi-state brief in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, defending core provisions of the Voting Rights Act against a constitutional challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The brief, filed jointly with California, Mississippi and North Carolina, argues that the Court should reject the constitutional challenge to the law given the important role that the Voting Rights Act plays in blocking and deterring voting discrimination. “The Voting Rights Act stands as one of Congress’s greatest legislative achievements and its protections remain vital to ensuring that all voters have equal access to the democratic process,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act helps eliminate discriminatory voting laws and practices before they can take root.

Most importantly, the benefits afforded by the law far outweigh the minimal burden on covered jurisdictions. While we have seen progress, the protections afforded by the Voting Rights Act clearly remain necessary in the states where the law applies.” The constitutional challenge brought by Shelby County, Alabama takes aim at the Section 5 preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.

The preclearance provision requires certain jurisdictions, including several covered counties in New York, to submit new voting changes for federal review to ensure that they were not adopted with a discriminatory purpose, and will not negatively impact minority voter participation. Shelby County argues that Section 5 is no longer required and claims that Congress exceeded its powers when it reauthorized the law in 2006. Shelby County also argues that the law is intrusive on states and argues that its protections are no longer necessary in the 16 states where the law applies.

Attorney General Schneiderman, along with Mississippi, North Carolina and California, provide a stark contrast to those contentions, asserting that Section 5 is an appropriate exercise of Congressional power and a carefully tailored tool that applies in those parts of the country where the law’s protections remain most necessary. In addition, the brief presents the important practical perspective and experience of the covered jurisdictions subject to Section 5 and notes that compliance with the law has historically and continues to pose little burden or cost on the states.

According to the brief, “The Section 5 preclearance process has helped bring about tremendous progress in the covered jurisdictions and continues to be a vital mechanism to assist Amici States in working to achieve the equality in opportunities for political participation that is a foundational principle of our democracy.”

In 2006, Congress conducted extensive hearings to determine whether the law’s requirements remained necessary, compiled a record of ongoing discrimination throughout the covered jurisdictions and voted overwhelmingly by a margin of 98-0 in the Senate to renew the law.

The preclearance provision applies to Kings, Bronx and New York Counties and has provided important protections for minority voters in New York State. The law also applies to the State of Mississippi, and parts of both North Carolina and California, among other states.

Oral arguments in the case are set for February 27, 2013.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   February 1, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON PASSING OF FORMER NYC MAYOR EDWARD I. KOCH.

NEW YORK – The following statement can be attributed to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on the passing of former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch.

“As a lifelong New Yorker, it’s hard to imagine this city without Ed Koch.

We will miss his keen mind, sharp wit, and absolute devotion to making a great city the best in the world. While we mourn his loss, we know that the legacy of his mayoralty, his commitment to civil rights and affordable housing, and his civic leadership long after he left City Hall, will live on for generations.

I offer my sincere condolences to his friends and family during this difficult time.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    January 31, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $1.9 MILLION FOR NYS IN MULTI-STATE SETTLEMENT OVER ROBO-SIGNING PRACTICES.

Lender Processing Services, Inc. And Its Subsidiaries Will Reform Their Business Practices And Pay Costs And Fees.

Schneiderman: Unethical Business Practices That Harm Homeowners Will Not Be Tolerated.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a multi-state settlement with Lender Processing Services, Inc. and its subsidiaries, LPS Default Solutions and DocX to resolve claims of unlawful foreclosure practices, including robo-signing. The $121 million settlement, reached by New York, 44 other states and the District of Columbia, will require LPS and its subsidiaries to reform their business practices and, if necessary, to correct documents it improperly executed that harmed homeowners. New York’s share of the settlement is approximately $1.9 million. The states on this investigation’s executive committee are Florida, Illinois, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Iowa, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.

“Lender Processing Services, Inc., LPS Default Solutions and DocX cut corners in order to maximize their profits,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will pursue any company that generates false or robo-signed documents that are used to foreclose on New York homeowners.”

The proposed consent judgment resolves allegations that the Jacksonville-based company “robo-signed” documents and engaged in other improper conduct related to mortgage loan default servicing. LPS Default Solutions and DocX primarily provide technological support to banks and mortgage loan servicers.

Among other things, the settlement prohibits signature by unauthorized persons or those without first-hand knowledge of the facts attested to in filed documents, enhances oversight of the default services provided, and requires review of all third-party fees to ensure that the fees have been earned and are reasonable and accurate.

The settlement also accomplishes the following:

Prohibits LPS (including DOCX) from engaging in the practice of “surrogate signing” of documents;

Ensures that LPS has proper authority to sign documents on behalf of a servicer, if in fact it is signing documents;

Requires LPS to accurately identify the authority that the signer has to execute the document and where that signer is employed;

Prohibits LPS from notarizing documents outside the presence of a notary and ensures that notarizations will comply with applicable laws;

Prohibits LPS from improperly interfering with the attorney-client relationship between attorneys and services;

Prohibits LPS from incentivizing or promoting attorney speed or volume to the detriment of accuracy;

Requires LPS to ensure that foreclosure and bankruptcy counsel or trustees can communicate directly with the servicer;

Requires LPS to have enhanced oversight and review of processes over third parties it manages, including those entities that perform property preservation services;

Prohibits LPS from imposing unreasonable mark-ups or other fees on third party providers’ default or foreclosure-related services;

Requires LPS to establish and maintain a toll-free phone number for consumers concerning document execution and property preservation services (including winterization, inspection, preservation, and maintenance); and

Requires LPS to modify mortgage documents that require remediation when LPS has legal authority to do so and when reasonably necessary to assist a consumer or when required by state or local laws.

In the settlement, LPS stipulates to important facts uncovered in the investigation, including the practice by DocX of so-called “surrogate signing,” the signing of documents by an unauthorized person in the name of another and notarizing those documents as if they had been signed by the proper person.

Once the judgment is entered by the courts, LPS will undertake a review of documents executed during the period of January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2010 to determine what documents, if any, need to be re-executed or corrected. If LPS is authorized to make the corrections, it will do so and will make periodic reports to the Attorney General of the status of its review and/or modification of documents. Consumers may also call the LPS toll-free number and request review and correction of any documents executed by LPS at any time.

In addition to New York, the following states joined in today’s settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Adam Cohen under the supervision of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau Chief Jane Azia and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    January 30, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LAUNCHES POST-SANDY INSURANCE OUTREACH AND ADVOCACY PROGRAM TO ASSIST STRUGGLING HOMEOWNERS.

Schneiderman: Aftermath Of Sandy Threatens To Increase Foreclosures And This Initiative Will Help New Yorkers Keep Their Homes.

A.G. Awards Over $730,000 To 18 Organizations Providing Services To Sandy Victims In NYC And Long Island.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the creation of an initiative to assist homeowners who are struggling to maintain and repair their homes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In response to consumer complaints, the program will address issues related to the collection of insurance claims and other disaster-related benefits in light of the impact these issues are having on homeownership and foreclosure prevention.

The program will provide $732,000 to 18 organizations currently funded under Attorney General Schneiderman’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP). These organizations are assisting consumers with a range of home-retention issues as a result of Sandy, including improper denials of insurance claims, long delays collecting benefits, and insurance payments that are dramatically less than the homeowners expect under existing policies.

The Attorney General will also make staff available to directly intervene with insurance companies and other Sandy-related benefit providers at the request of housing counselors and legal service providers “New Yorkers have already suffered enough as a result of Sandy – there is no excuse for unnecessary delays or denials for homeowners who are fighting to rebuild their lives following this storm.

This initiative will ensure that homeowners have a champion to help them stand up to the powerful interests that are standing in the way of real relief,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“My office will assist homeowners who need help claiming the benefits to which they are legally entitled.” Attorney General Schneiderman’s initiative will direct funds to HOPP organizations that are already providing services to storm victims and who are active in the five most impacted counties: Queens, Kings, Richmond, Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Seven HOPP organizations will provide services on Long Island in addition to ten organizations that will provide services in New York City. HOPP grantees in these regions have reported a significant influx of clients as a direct result of Sandy. “Hundreds of homeowners have sought our help with Sandy problems so far, and almost all of them are fighting insurance denials, underpayments or delays,” said Margaret Becker, Co-Director of the Homeowner Defense Project at Staten Island Legal Services.

“They need fair insurance settlements to be able to repair, rebuild and move home. We are so grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for creating this initiative, without which, mortgage defaults and foreclosures will be inevitable.”Homeowners who need assistance will be able to call a toll-free hotline number that will connect them with a housing counselor or legal services provider funded through the Attorney General’s Office.

The hotline telephone number is 1-855-HOME-456. In addition, advocates will be proactively reaching out to affected communities to ensure homeowners are aware of the Attorney General’s program. Designated staff from the Attorney General’s office will be available to assist advocates in their negotiations with insurance companies and other disaster relief benefit providers.

The “escalation” program is modeled after a successful program the Attorney General oversees to help advocates in their negotiations with banks on behalf of consumers who are at risk of foreclosure. “Sandy hit hardest in communities that were already devastated by the foreclosure crisis,” said Christie Peale, Executive Director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, a non-profit that will assist the Attorney General in administering the initiative.

“The overlay of insurance problems could have disastrous consequences on our collective effort to stabilize those communities. We are extremely grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for creating this consumer advocacy initiative at a time when homeowners are not sure where to turn for help.”

This program will be funded through dollars obtained by Attorney General Schneiderman as a result of the National Mortgage Servicing Settlement that was announced in February between the five largest mortgage servicing banks, 49 states, and the federal government over foreclosure abuses.  Homeowners in need of assistance should contact 1-855-HOME-456.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    January 25, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES NEW SAFETY STANDARDS FOR ALBANY GUN SHOW THIS WEEKEND.

New York State Arms Collectors Association, Inc. Signs Agreement To Follow “Model Gun Show Procedures”.

Schneiderman: Illegal Gun Sales at Gun Shows Can Be Eliminated By Operators Adopting These New Procedures.

ALBANY – Following a statewide investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has reached agreement with the New York State Arms Collectors Association, Inc. to follow “Model Gun Show Procedures” developed by the Attorney General’s Office to promote uniform gun show operations across the state, including a rule that ensures all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if guns were sold and that a proper background check was performed.

This corporation operates the Albany Gun Show being held at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center January 26-27, as well as the Syracuse Gun Show at the NYS Fairgrounds scheduled for April.

The Attorney General’s office worked with the show manager, Sandy Ackerman Klinger, to implement the Model Procedures at the Albany and Syracuse venues. “Gun violence is an epidemic, and my office is working with gun show operators to create simple guidelines to ensure that these deadly weapons don’t make it into the hands of felons, terrorists, the dangerously mentally ill and others who could not pass a background check,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.

“As we remain vigilant against the illegal sale of guns in New York State, we appreciate this operator’s willingness to join our efforts to achieve statewide adoption of our model gun show procedures.”

The Model Procedures go beyond the requirements of the state’s Gun Show Law, including a process that ensures all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if guns were sold and that a proper background check was performed.

The development of the Model Procedures grew out of Attorney General Schneiderman’s 2011 investigation of gun shows around the state. This investigation uncovered the frequent occurrence of private sales without background checks.

Following that discovery, the Attorney General’s Office and several gun show operators worked together to develop the Model Procedures, which balance the rights of the sportsmen and gun collectors with the need to protect the public from the sale of guns to people who cannot pass a background check, also known as a “National Instant Criminal Background Check System” or “NICS.”

The Model Procedures require operators to do the following, and will be in place at the January 26-27th gun show at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center:

Post conspicuous signs throughout the shows, and give written notice to all dealers that New York State law requires that a National Instant Criminal Background Check be completed before the transfer of a gun at a gun show, including on the grounds of the show.

Require that all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if the guns were sold and a NICS was performed.  ·       Provide access to a dealer who is authorized to conduct a NICS at cost.

Limit the number of access doors at the show so that sellers and buyers have to enter and exit through an area where the NICS procedures can be monitored.

Use reasonable means to prevent illegal gun sales outside of the building, including the parking lot.

Alert local law enforcement that a show will be held in their area, request periodic patrols in the parking lots to deter illegal sales, and call them if illegal sales are observed or suspected.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General In-Charge of the Rochester Regional Office Debra Martin under the Supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs, Martin J. Mack.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:      January 24, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON THE APPOINTMENTS OF MARY JO WHITE AND RICHARD CORDRAY.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released the following statements today on President Obama’s appointment of Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the reappointment of Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: “I applaud President Obama’s appointment of Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As U.S. Attorney, Ms. White demonstrated a strong commitment to aggressively enforcing one set of rules for all, and her outstanding record of bringing white collar criminals to justice speaks for itself.

She is a tough, experienced prosecutor, which is exactly what the SEC needs right now to restore investor confidence.

I look forward to working with Mary Jo White and her team to protect investors, bolster the integrity of our markets, and hold accountable those responsible for financial misconduct.”

“President Obama has done the right thing by re-nominating Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and continue serving as a watchdog to hold financial institutions accountable for wrongdoing.

More than four years after the financial crisis dragged the economy into recession, there is much work to be done to restore confidence in the markets for everyday people, homeowners, businesses and investors.

Director Cordray has played a critically important role in developing a regulatory framework that ensures consumers are protected, and our economy is not vulnerable to another financial meltdown. He deserves to continue the critical work he’s started.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
    January 23, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES OVER $335 MILLION IN MEDICAID FRAUD.

RECOVERIES FOR TAXPAYERS IN 2012 Hudson Valley’s Top Cases Include Hospital Overbilling, Prescription Drug Dealing And Patient Endangerment.

Banner Year Follows Schneiderman Initiative To Bolster Fraud Fighting Efforts On Behalf Of Taxpayers.

Schneiderman: We Will Continue To Root Out Fraud And Abuse Wherever They Exist To Protect Taxpayers.

WHITE PLAINS – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office recovered over $335 million in 2012 that had been improperly claimed through fraud or abuse in the Medicaid system.

This was the second highest annual recovery total ever by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), the highest recovery in seven years.

“Part of my first major initiative when I took office was to bolster the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with additional prosecutors, investigators, and auditors, in order to even more aggressively root out fraud and return money illegally stolen from New York taxpayers and their government,”

Attorney General Schneiderman said. “That initiative has paid off with record recoveries for taxpayers this year, including in the Hudson Valley Region. My office’s Medicaid Fraud team will keep working hard to root out fraud wherever it exists, and protect the integrity of the Medicaid program for those who truly need it.”

Attorney General Schneiderman’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit was active in the Hudson Valley area, pursuing a variety of cases concerning matters ranging from the prescription drug abuse crisis to patient abuse: Recovered over $2.3 million for taxpayers through settlements with Sound Shore Medical Center of Westchester and Mount Vernon Hospital, resolving claims that the hospitals improperly overbilled Medicaid for physician-administered “J-code” drugs.

Continued the crackdown on New York’s prescription drug crisis with the arrest of a Westchester doctor who conspired to deal prescriptions for 15,000 oxycodone pills, worth over $450,000. Secured the arrests of two Westchester nursing home aides, one who caused the death of an elderly resident by ignoring establishing safety precautions and, with another, then covered up the crime. MFCU shut down schemes to illegally obtain prescription drugs through Medicaid and distribute them on the street for profit. The head of one prescription drug ring in the Bronx and another on Staten Island received prison sentences.

MFCU also targeted providers that billed for unnecessary services or unnecessary visits to perform services that could have been rendered in a single visit; providers that referred patients to unlicensed facilities in exchange for kickbacks; unlicensed healthcare workers; and black market drug sellers that diverted prescription medications of unknown origin, re-packaging and re-selling them to pharmacies.

MFCU continued to vigilantly pursue major pharmaceutical manufacturers that engaged in unethical marketing practices. Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Dava Pharmaceuticals, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, K-V Pharmaceutical Company, McKesson Corporation, and Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, among others, paid over $250 million to settle cases where they marketed their drugs to physicians for treating conditions that the Food and Drug Administration had not approved or for marketing and illegal pricing practices.

Some of those companies took criminal pleas in federal court for this conduct. “The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit does an outstanding job, not only protecting taxpayers, but protecting patients from fraudulent practices that endangered their safety,”

Attorney General Schneiderman said. “I know this unit will continue to be vigilant in the coming year and send the message that fraud and abuse that endangers patients and rips off taxpayers will not be tolerated in our state.”

MFCU’s Hudson Valley office in Pearl River is headed by Special Assistant Attorney General Anne Jardine. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit operates under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin, within the Criminal Justice Division led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    January 22, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON THE GOVERNOR’S EXECUTIVE BUDGET.

ALBANY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today released the following statement in response to the unveiling of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget proposal: “Our state is facing significant fiscal challenges that require tough choices. To help close the budget deficit, our office will leave no stone unturned in rooting out fraud, corruption, and waste in government, so that we can recover more money stolen from the taxpayers and hold accountable individuals who betray the public trust.

I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for supporting the Attorney General’s Office in our efforts to meet these goals. And I look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to restore the public’s faith in government and our economic institutions, so that all New Yorkers can be confident they will get a fair shake in these tough times.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
January 17, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN REACHES $500,000 SETTLEMENT WITH DIRECTBUY TO REIMBURSE NEW YORK CONSUMERS.

DirectBuy Will Refund New York Consumers Dissatisfied With Memberships And Financing Fees In Addition To Paying Other Penalties  Settlement.

Ensures Consumers Have Three-Business-Day Right Of Cancellation.

A.G. Schneiderman: DirectBuy Failed To Deliver On Its Promises And Now Consumers Will Get Money Back.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has reached a $500,000 settlement with DirectBuy, after an investigation revealed the buying club engaged in misleading and deceptive sales practices. Members of the Indiana-based company pay a fee, which entitles them to buy merchandise like furniture, appliances and home goods directly from the manufacturer and its authorized suppliers.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s investigation found that the company used deceptive tactics to induce consumers to purchase memberships costing thousands of dollars, and then failed to deliver on the savings.

“DirectBuy lured consumers into expensive memberships by promising exclusive member-only deals with substantial savings over retail prices. This company failed to deliver on its promises by taking advantage of consumers who were looking to save hard-earned money,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“Consumers should be wary of offers that seem too good to be true, especially when companies demand consumers make an immediate decision to become a club member or be barred forever. DirectBuy has been held accountable for its actions.”  Consumers who were members of any DirectBuy club, whether or not it is still open, may be eligible for restitution.

DirectBuy locations in New York are listed below:

DirectBuy of Albany,
356 Troy Schenectady Rd.,

Latham

DirectBuy of Brooklyn & Queens
72-25 Queens Blvd 2nd floor, Woodside

DirectBuy of Long Island
20 Oser Ave,

Hauppauge

DirectBuy of Rochester
45 Saginaw Dr.,

Rochester

Direct Buy of Westchester County
2269 Saw Mill River Road, Bldg 1S,

Elmsford

DirectBuy of Greater Buffalo (closed March 2011)
Reopened at same location: 4950 Genesee Street,

Cheektowaga

DirectBuy of Dutchess County (closed)

DirectBuy of Manhattan (closed)

DirectBuy of Syracuse (closed)

The Attorney General’s investigation found that to attract new members, DirectBuy invited consumers to attend open houses at their club locations, offering free trial memberships and other incentives such as free gifts and prizes.

Once at the open house, however, prospective members found that advertised gifts were neither available nor free, and instead they were met with a sales pitch pressuring them into purchasing full priced memberships immediately or forever lose the opportunity to become a member.

Once members, consumers complained that they did not receive the savings promised by DirectBuy sales advertisements and representatives at the open house. Instead, substantial fees and shipping costs, which had not been disclosed prior, wiped out any potential savings.

Further, many consumers financed the price of their membership through Beta Finance, a DirectBuy affiliate that was not properly licensed as a retail sales finance company in New York.

Other deceptive practices on the part of DirectBuy included failure to clearly inform consumers that:

the majority of purchases are through catalogs;

that most shipments are to club locations rather than members’ homes and that the members then had to pay to ship their merchandise from the club to their homes;

that individual manufacturers, rather than DirectBuy, determine cancellation and refund policies.

In addition, several clubs continued to enroll members knowing that the club would imminently cease operations. Last year, the Attorney General successfully opposed a nationwide class-action settlement with DirectBuy in Connecticut federal district court because it was inadequate.

That settlement would have extended DirectBuy memberships without any monetary compensation for members.  The Attorney General’s settlement agreement prohibits New York DirectBuy Clubs from engaging in the following deceptive practices:

Misrepresenting the terms of their memberships, the savings consumers will achieve, and the nature and quality of the merchandise that they sell. Discouraging consumers from accepting offers of free trial membership by disparaging the terms and conditions of the free trial or otherwise implying that it is not in the consumer’s best interest to accept such a free trial.

Falsely representing that a consumer must sign a membership contract on the same day as the sales presentation or be forever barred from purchasing a membership.

Comparing its prices to other retailers unless such price comparisons are based on prices of merchandise sold by retailers in the trade area in which the claims are made, and at prices actually offered for sale within 60 days of such representations.

Referring or reporting to any credit agency, or seeking to enforce any legal action, regarding a consumer’s failure to make payment under any membership contract purchased or acquired and currently maintained by a sales finance company not licensed in the State of New York.

Enrolling consumers as members at club locations when DirectBuy knows or has reason to believe that the location is closing unless consumers are first advised of such fact.

The agreement also requires New York DirectBuy clubs to: Maintain a three-day cancellation and refund procedure that is clearly disclosed to consumers.

Clearly disclose prior to the sale of a membership any costs and fees added to the price of merchandise including, freight and shipping costs, handling fees. Maintain proof of all of its savings claims and comparison shopping ads.

Honor the terms of any gifts or prizes promised in exchange for attending a sales presentation or signing a membership contract. New York club members who entered into a DirectBuy contract after January 1, 2007, have not purchased $5,000 or more in merchandise or already received a full refund, and have filed a complaint relating to a material aspect of their club membership with the Attorney General, the BBB, or other consumer protection agency or do so by April 1, 2013, are eligible for restitution of their membership fees under the agreement.

Consumers who purchased a membership from a now closed New York club location and for whom alternate club facilities are not within a twenty-five mile radius of the closed location may also be eligible for restitution.

Consumers who have not previously filed a complaint and who may be eligible for restitution should file a complaint with the Attorney General by April 1, 2013, to be considered for restitution.

Consumers with questions may also call the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 914-422-8818.

The Attorney General advises all New York consumers to consider carefully all terms and conditions before enrolling in a buying club membership.

The investigation and settlement were handled by Assistant Attorneys General Stephen Mindell and Ellen Fried, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine of the Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   
January 16, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN DETAILS RESULTS FOR HOMEOWNER PROTECTION PROGRAM IN HUDSON VALLEY.

In 3 Months, 731 Hudson Valley Homeowners received Assistance From A.G.’s Program Announces Statewide Consumer Hotline To Connect Homeowners To A HOPP Counselor Within 24 Hours.

Schneiderman: Funding Housing Counseling And Legal Services Has Proven Successful, And Helpful For Families.

POUGHKEEPSIE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the results of the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), a $60 million initiative to support housing counselors and legal services providers working with homeowners at risk of foreclosure across the State of New York.

Attorney General Schneiderman reported that in just the first three months of the program, 731 at-risk homeowners in the Hudson Valley have received assistance, and roughly 3,600 have been served throughout New York State.

“The rise in foreclosures across the Hudson Valley is troubling, but this isn’t just a matter of numbers: each foreclosure represents a devastating loss for families and communities. This program is putting homeowners first, and it is getting our neighborhoods back on track,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Funding housing counseling and legal services is an essential step to help more families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure.

As we continue to investigate the mortgage crisis that has hurt communities in every corner of this state, our Homeowner Protection Program will ensure that homeowners get the expert guidance and legal representation they need to protect their rights before it’s too late. ”

According to the most recent data collected by the New York Federal Reserve, more than 13,500 in the Hudson Valley were in foreclosure, and an additional 11,000 families were delinquent on their mortgage payments. In June of 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman announced funding for 2 legal service providers and 8 housing counseling organizations serving at-risk homeowners in the Hudson Valley.

For the first year of operation, $1.7 million went to the 10 Hudson Valley based organizations.HOPP counselors provide at-risk homeowners with a range of services, including direct advocacy with lenders, financial counseling and assistance preparing the complex documentation that homeowners need to submit applications for loan modifications; an outcome that usually results in lower monthly mortgage payments and prevents foreclosures from going forward but which can take more than a year to negotiate.

Of the 731 borrowers who have received counseling in the Hudson Valley through the HOPP program, an impressive 228 ‑ or more than 31% ‑ are already in active negotiations or have been formally offered loan modifications. Statewide the numbers are just as encouraging.

Of the roughly 3600 families counseled throughout New York, 1500 homeowners ‑ or close to 42% ‑ have pending or formally approved loan modifications thanks to assistance from one of the HOPP grantees.

“I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership in addressing the foreclosure crisis in the Hudson Valley and across New York State,” said Mary Linge, Director of Homeownership & Education for Hudson River Housing’s HOPP program.

“The AG’s HOPP program will impact many residents in this community, and our agency is ready and willing to help any homeowner at risk of foreclosure.”  Bruce Van De Veerdonk, a small business owner and father of three who lives in the Hudson Valley is just one example of how this program is helping to change the lives of struggling New Yorkers.

After being put into a variable rate mortgage that eventually rose to an 11% interest rate, Van De Veerdonk couldn’t keep up with his mortgage payments and feared he might lose his home. His attempts to negotiate directly with the lender were rejected. Eventually Van De Veerdonk found his way to the Putnam County Housing Corporation where he received assistance from a HOPP counselor.

In November 2012, Van De Veerdonk was notified that he had been approved for both a principal write-down and an interest rate reduction under the NMS.

The bank reduced his principal by $23,000 and locked his new interest rate at 2%. His payments which were $3200 at the height are now $2300. Homeowner Bruce Van De Veerdonk said, “I was drowning in mortgage payments and close to losing my home. I had already attempted to get a loan modification on my own and was denied. But with the help of the Putnam County Housing Corporation and the Homeowner Protection Program, I was able to reduce the interest on my loan and decrease my principal payments by $23,000.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s HOPP program is priceless, and I can’t thank him enough for his efforts to help people like me. Who knows where I’d be today without his assistance.”

Brian Watkins has been working with Hudson River Housing to secure a loan modification. Watkins was an insurance salesman whose business had suffered due to the struggling economy. After cashing in IRAs, he was forced to accept part-time employment to make ends meet.

Hudson River Housing referred his case to Legal Services of the Hudson Valley which worked with him to obtain a new loan modification.

Today, Watkins’ payments are down from $2,600 to $2,000 a month, and he was able to stay in his home. Homeowner Brian Watkins said, “Without the assistance of Attorney General Schneiderman, Hudson River Housing and Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, I would surely be homeless today. My part-time income was not enough to cover my mortgage and living expenses and I was ready to throw in the towel and let the bank foreclose on my home.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about the services these organizations offer to struggling homeowners like myself.” Attorney General Schneiderman also announced the launch of a statewide consumer hotline to assist those in need of mortgage counseling.

By calling 1-855-HOME-456 consumers will be connected with a qualified HOPP counselor or legal service provider within 24 hours. The hotline is based on a model program administered by the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN) that has been operational in NYC for the past 3 years. During that time, the Hotline has generated more than 15,000 calls from consumers struggling to stay in their homes.

The AG has subcontracted with CNYCN to assist in managing the state wide hotline. “The Attorney General is really tackling the foreclosure crisis from all sides” said Christie Peale, Executive Director of the CNYCN.

“You have to have qualified professionals to guide families through the mortgage modification process, but you also need an easy way for homeowners to access those services. The combination of the HOPP program and the consumer hotline are exactly the tools that New Yorkers need”.

The funds awarded for this program were the result of a competitive Request For Applications process and represent a portion of the millions of dollars that New York received as a result of the National Mortgage Servicing Settlement that was announced in February 2012 between the five largest mortgage servicing banks, 49 states, and the federal government over foreclosure abuses.

The combined 10 organizations in the Hudson Valley that have received funding under the Attorney General’s HOPP Program began providing services in October 2012.

Legal services and housing counseling funded through New York’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program have become an integral part of the foreclosure process in New York State.

Funding for the program was set to expire on April 1 of this year, but the Attorney General provided $15 million from the national mortgage settlement to extend it until October 1. Attorney General Schneiderman’s Homeowner Protection Program will replace the state’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program when it expires and ensure that these critical services will continue to be funded for at least three more years.

New York’s comprehensive foreclosure prevention law entitles homeowners to a 90 day pre-foreclosure notice before a lender can begin a foreclosure action. This notice is required to include a list of at least five nonprofit housing counseling agencies that can assist homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

These organizations can sometimes help homeowners obtain loan modifications from lenders at foreclosure settlement conferences.

Without funding for the Attorney General Schneiderman’s Homeowner Protection Program, most of these agencies would lose the resources necessary to fulfill these critical obligations to homeowners.  In addition to penalties for past abuses, New York’s share of the National Mortgage Settlement includes direct relief to victims of wrongful foreclosure conduct and billions of dollars nationwide for loan modifications, including principal reductions for struggling homeowners.

The settlement, which imposes strong national standards for mortgage servicing, also fulfilled Attorney General Schneiderman’s demand that he retain the right to bring legal action over misconduct that has not yet been fully investigated. Today’s announcement is the latest part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s multi-pronged strategy to stem foreclosures, provide relief to struggling homeowners and hold accountable those responsible for the mortgage crisis.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Schneiderman introduced the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act, which would impose criminal penalties for knowingly filing false documents in a foreclosure proceeding, or overseeing employees who engage in such activity. In 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman introduced the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act, which would impose criminal penalties for knowingly filing false documents in a foreclosure proceeding, or overseeing employees who engage in such activity.

Last year, Attorney General Schneiderman was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group.

This joint investigation brings together the Department of Justice (DOJ), HUD, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, several state law enforcement officials, and other federal agencies to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.

It builds upon ongoing state and federal investigations, while also launching new ones.

More information on today’s announcement of awards for the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program is available online at: www.nysmortgagesettlement.com/resources.html

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   
January 15, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN REGARDING PASSAGE OF THE NY SAFE ACT ALBANY.

The following statement can be attributed to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman regarding the passage of the NY SAFE Act by the State legislature:

“With the passage of this legislation, our state has taken decisive action to protect New Yorkers from gun violence. By expanding the state’s assault weapons ban, limiting high-capacity magazines and improving background checks, among other measures, the Legislature and Governor Cuomo deserve credit for putting the safety of our communities first. I look forward to continuing to work together with my colleagues in government and law enforcement as we seek to expand our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
   January 15, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

VIDEO: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AT HEARING ON DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR NONPROFITS ENGAGING IN ELECTIONEERING NEW YORK.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman delivered opening remarks today at a hearing on his proposed disclosure requirements for nonprofits that engage in electioneering.

Video of the Attorney General’s remarks is available online here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsSHiS_3YFc

Last month, Attorney General Schneiderman announced new regulations requiring nonprofit groups, including 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations that are registered with the state, to report the percentage of their expenditures that go to federal, state and local electioneering – http://www.ag.ny.gov/charity-disclosure-regulations.

Those groups that spend at least $10,000 to influence state and local elections in New York will be required to file itemized schedules of expenses and contributions.

Under the proposed new rules, those disclosures will be released to the public.

More information on the Attorney General’s proposed regulations are available online here: www.ag.ny.gov/charity-disclosure-regulations

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   January 15, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN Announces AGREEMENTS with DUTCHESS AND PUTNAM County Board’s of Elections.

TO provide language access for voters As Part Of Statewide Effort.

Boards Of Elections Have Agreed To Provide Translated Materials And Ensure Language Access Both On And Before Election Day.

Schneiderman: Work Will Help Improve Access to the Ballot Box for More New York Voters In The Years Ahead.

POUGHKEEPSIE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced agreements with the Putnam and Dutchess County Boards of Elections to help ensure equal access for minority language voters.

The counties will be taking steps pursuant to Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that certain limited-English proficient voters be provided bilingual election-related materials including registration forms, absentee ballots, affidavit ballots and the Election Day ballot, along with language assistance at the polls on Election Day.

These efforts are a part of the New York State Attorney General’s statewide initiative to ensure that all voters, including Spanish-speaking voters, have equal access to the political process and do not encounter language barriers at the polls. Putnam and Dutchess join Schenectady, Ulster, Rockland and Chautauqua Counties, which have also agreed to implement new or significantly improved language access programs in compliance with Section 4(e).

“Every eligible New Yorker should be able to cast an effective and meaningful ballot, regardless of their language ability. These agreements memorialize the important steps that the Putnam and Dutchess County Boards of Elections will take to ensure that voters receive language assistance and are able to fully exercise their right to vote,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.

“Our office is committed to enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and will work to ensure that all voters in New York have full and equal access to the ballot box.” According to Census data, approximately 5.5 million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language, and 45 percent of them speak English less than very well.

These numbers include 2.7 million New Yorkers who primarily speak Spanish at home, of whom 46 percent speak English less than very well. The numbers illustrate growing language needs across our state.

To that end, Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office has undertaken a comprehensive examination of the language access efforts of close to a dozen Boards of Elections across the state that serve communities with significant numbers of limited-English proficient Puerto Rican voters pursuant to the Voting Rights Act.

The Office is continuing to work with Boards to identify steps and strategies that can help ensure that they are able to meet the language needs of voters in upcoming election cycles.

The agreements with the Dutchess and Putnam County Boards will ensure that voters have access to translated election-related materials, including registration forms, absentee ballot applications, affidavit applications, public notices, polling place reassignment letters, sample ballots and the official Election Day ballot itself.

The Boards have also agreed to translate information presented on their websites, ensure that sufficient numbers of Spanish-speaking poll workers are deployed to targeted polling places and provide training for all poll workers regarding the requirements for providing language assistance on Election Day.

Commissioner Frances Knapp of the Dutchess County Board of Elections said, “We are committed to providing language access services to the many Dutchess County voters who will have their voting rights enhanced by these efforts.

We look forward to continued work with Attorney General Schneiderman to help ensure that all voters with language needs are able to participate in the process.”

Commissioner Anthony Scannapieco of the Putnam County Board of Elections said, “The Putnam County Board of Elections has consistently been at the forefront of efforts to expand voting rights and voting opportunities.

We are pleased to have worked with the Attorney General’s Office to expand our language access program and thereby better serve the voters of Putnam County.”

Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF said, “Weeks after a major federal election, in which Latino voters participated in record numbers, we are pleased to see that the Attorney General’s Office remains focused on lifting the barriers that will make participation easier for voters in future elections.

Boards of Elections around our state are required to provide effective assistance for those voters who are limited English proficient and we applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for making enforcement of the Voting Rights Act’s minority language requirements a top priority.

This initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Monica Iyer and Dariely Rodriguez with the assistance of Vincent Bradley, Assistant Attorney General In Charge of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office is committed to protecting the voting rights of all New Yorkers.

If you believe that you have experienced voting discrimination, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   January 14, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN Announces Agreement with Off-Broadway theater Complex TO PROVIDE wheelchair ACCESSIBLE SEATS.

Manhattan’s 42nd Street Development Corporation To Sell Accessible Seats Online And Through Third Party Vendors And Give Two Tickets To The Disabled Monthly For One Year.

Schneiderman: Theater Patrons With Disabilities Must Be Given Equal Access To Tickets.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with the 42nd Street Development Corporation that will help ensure equal access for patrons seeking to purchase wheelchair accessible seats.

The agreement outlines steps that will be taken by 42nd Street, which owns and operates the Theatre Row theaters located near Manhattan’s Times Square, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines, to ensure that accessible seating is sold during the same hours and in the same manner as general seating.

“This agreement takes us one step closer to fully realizing the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act — encouraging independent living and providing equal opportunity. People with disabilities should have the same opportunities to enjoy places of public accommodation as all Americans, and theaters are no exception,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.

“This agreement will help ensure that more New Yorkers have equal access to accessible seating. 42nd Street ought to be commended for its cooperation, diligence and commitment to providing equal access for patrons with disabilities.”

As part of today’s agreement, 42nd Street will make available a pair of tickets, including one wheelchair accessible seat and one companion seat, once a month for a year for Acorn Theatre performances, one of six venues in the theater complex located at 410 W. 42nd Street, to non-profit organizations that provide services to disabled New Yorkers.

The seats will be distributed through a list of approved facilities. During its investigation, the Attorney General’s Office found that accessible seating was not made available in the same manner and through the same purchasing methods as other seating, thereby limiting the time and opportunities for persons with disabilities to purchase and secure accessible seating.

Under the ADA, individuals with disabilities should have the same access to purchase theatre tickets as other members of the general public, whether those sales are conducted online or by third parties such as Telecharge.

This matter is part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s ongoing initiative to promote compliance among theaters, sporting complexes and other public accommodations with ADA Guidelines.

Those Guidelines, which were updated in March of last year, are designed to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to purchase tickets for concerts, plays and sporting events as people without disabilities.

The agreement ensures that, going forward, all accessible seating for Theatre Row productions will be sold online, over the telephone and through third party vendors in the same manner as general seating. These capabilities will be in place for all Theatre Row theaters by the end of January.

Christina Curry, Executive Director of the Harlem Independent Living Center, said, “Theaters and other places of public accommodation should fully comply with the ADA and all of its guidelines and provide equal access and opportunities for persons with disabilities.

We appreciate the Attorney General’s efforts to ensure that the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities are respected and that they are afforded the same chance to enjoy theatrical performances as all members of the public.”

This initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Monica Iyer under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office is committed to enforcing the ADA and protecting the rights of all persons with disabilities in New York State.

To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

A copy of the settlement agreement can be viewed at: www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/AOD-ACORN-THEATRE-AND-THE-42ND-STREET-DEVELOPMENT-CORP.pdf

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   January 11, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES LANDMARK AGREEMENT WITH NASSAU COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT TO STRENGTHEN LANGUAGE ACCESS SERVICES.

Department’s Agreement Will Strengthen Translation And Interpretation Services For A Growing Limited English Proficient (LEP) Community.

Schneiderman: My Office Is Committed To Ensuring That All New Yorkers Have Meaningful Access To Vital Law Enforcement Services.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with the Nassau County Police Department, one of the largest police departments in the country, to strengthen language access services for County residents who are limited English proficient (LEP).

Today’s agreement will help bring about the institutionalization of best practices across all of the Department’s precincts and ensure that officers will provide interpretation and translation services to LEP individuals. “Access to our state’s justice system should not depend on the ability to read or write English.

The Nassau County Police Department’s proactive efforts stand as a model for all other law enforcement agencies across New York State and their efforts illustrate the steps necessary to ensure that justice is not compromised by language barriers,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Working in cooperation with our office, Nassau County has put in place a language access program that will strengthen and enhance access to police services for thousands of people on Long Island.”

In cooperation with the Attorney General’s Office, the Nassau County Police Department agreed to improve its existing language access policies for individuals who are limited English proficient. Going forward, the Department will provide all necessary interpretation and translation services for victims, witnesses and subjects;  take meaningful steps to identify and recruit bilingual officers;  conduct training for both current and new officers regarding the revised language access policy and protocols;  make available translated materials and public notices;  and regularly convene with the Attorney General’s Office to discuss the successfulness of its language access program.

According to Census data, approximately two and a half million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, speak, write or understand English. Over 11% of Nassau County’s residents speak English less than “very well.”

The Police Department’s strengthened language access program will help ensure that individuals have full access to vital police services, regardless of their language ability. Nassau Police Department Chief Steven Skrynecki noted, “The Department is committed to ensuring that all officers and civilian employees that have ongoing contact with the public are effectively able to communicate with those seeking assistance whether making complaints; or during victim interviews; as witnesses or subjects of criminal investigations; when issuing safety alerts or public service announcements; or during traffic stops.”

“Today’s agreement spreads the message loud and clear that the immigrant community is not forgotten,” said Lucia Gomez-Jimenez, Executive Director of La Fuente Long Island Civic Participation Project. “We want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman and the Nassau County Police Department for taking this important step to protect the rights of those New Yorkers who do not speak English well.

We expect other agencies in the state to follow this excellent example.” Jason E. Starr, Esq., Nassau County Chapter Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “New York is the most linguistically diverse state in the country and this agreement reflects a commitment to ensuring that Nassau County is a safe and welcoming environment for all of the members of our community. We commend both the Nassau County Police Department and the Attorney General’s office for their efforts and look forward to ensuring that this commitment is realized.”

The matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Allegra Chapman and Clare Norins under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel. The Civil Rights Bureau is committed to promoting civil rights compliance across New York State.

To file a complaint with the Bureau, contact 212-416-8250 or Civil.Rights@ag.ny.gov.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman;

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   January 11, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $390,000 SETTLEMENT WITH LONG ISLAND CONTRACTOR FOR SYSTEMATICALLY OVERBILLING NYS TAXPAYERS.

Contracting Company And Its Owners Are Forever Barred From Doing Business With The State And Will Pay Double Damages.

Schneiderman: We Will Recoup Taxpayer Dollars And Bar Cheating Contractors From Working For New York State.

HAUPPAUGE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with a Lindenhurst contracting company and its top executives for systematically overbilling New York State taxpayers for emergency construction jobs at upstate prisons. Under the terms of the settlement, the Lin-Kim Company, at 697 Centre Ave., and its officers, Linda Gregorio, Kenneth Buddenhagen and Melissa Peters, have agreed to pay $390,000, or double the amount of actual damages, under the state’s False Claims Act.

They are also permanently barred from working for the state in the future. “My office won’t stand for theft of taxpayer money from anyone, including basic construction service providers such as Lin-Kim,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Here, a construction contracting company flagrantly padded its bills and expected it would not get caught.

We will continue to aggressively pursue large and small businesses that falsely represent the work they do for the state and we will hold them accountable for any misdeeds that rip off New York taxpayers.

By barring these individuals from ever working for the state again, we seek to protect future tax dollars and make contractors think twice before fleecing the public.”

From 2006 to 2008, the Lin-Kim Company was hired by the New York Office of General Services to provide emergency construction repair work at the Otisville Correctional Facility and a second prison, the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility. The Attorney General’s investigation found that Lin-Kim overcharged the state by approximately $195,000 in connection with multiple contracts, with the bulk of the misdeeds related to work done at Otisville.

The company used various tactics to overbill, including knowingly misclassifying low-wage work performed at the Orange County prison as skilled labor.Company president, Linda Gregorio, and Vice President, Kenneth Buddenhagen, both 57, are husband and wife. Gregorio’s daughter, Melissa Peters, 37, serves as a company secretary and bookkeeper.

The matter was investigated pursuant to the New York False Claims Act. As a state senator, Attorney General Schneiderman authored amendments to strengthen the Act. These enhancements, known as the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, allow the state to collect up to triple damages and fines from corporations or people who defraud the government or violate their obligations to pay government entities.

In 2011, Schneiderman created the Taxpayer Protection Bureau after he was elected Attorney General. The unit is charged with rooting out fraud that victimizes state and local governments.Following an investigation by the New York Office of the Inspector General, the matter was referred to the Attorney General’s Office for further investigation and prosecution.

The state Office of General Services and the State Comptroller Office also facilitated the investigation. The Attorney General found that the Lin-Kim Company and its officers: Submitted falsified documents for reimbursement, including invoices and a check inflating the amount owed; Misclassified workers’ titles in more than 500 instances to falsely bill at higher pay rates, including for plumbing work when no plumbing work was performed; Inflated work hours to claim payment for time after employees ceased working; Overcharged the State $73,536.37 for Unemployment Insurance; and $70,155.33 for Workers Compensation Insurance;  Double billed the State for rented equipment for work at the Arthur Kill facility.

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said, “By working together in this joint effort, my office was able to uncover this fraud and support Attorney General Schneiderman in his successful effort to recover nearly $400,000 for New York taxpayers.

We will continue to energetically pursue any potential theft and misuse of state funds and ensure that violators are dealt with to the full extent of the law.” Acting Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott said, “Most contractors who do business with the state are legitimate and hard-working and provide valuable services to the State of New York.

However, contractors who think they can steal from taxpayers should know that New York is scrutinizing all transactions, and they will be caught.” OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, “Governor Cuomo has made it abundantly clear that wasting taxpayer dollars is unacceptable.

I am pleased that the Inspector General and our auditors discovered this fraudulent billing and that Attorney General Schneiderman was able to obtain this settlement on behalf of taxpayers.”

This matter was investigated and the settlement was negotiated by Assistant Attorney General Dana V. Syracuse with the assistance of investigators Gerard Matheson, Bradford Farrell and Erin Wolfe.

The work was performed under the supervision of the Taxpayer Protection Bureau Chief Randall M. Fox and Deputy Bureau Chief Scott J. Spiegelman. Chief Investigator Dominick Zarella, Deputy Chief Investigator Vito Spano and Investigator Kenneth Morgan worked on the case.

Overall supervision of the matter was provided by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. This investigation was performed in conjunction with the New York State Office of the Inspector General; Robert Curtin, John Lewyckyj, Kieran Broderick, Noreen Van Doren and Howard Zwickel of the New York State Office of General Services; and Hal Silverstein, Stephanie Kelly and Nelson Sheingold of the New York State Office of the State Comptroller.

A copy of the settlement documents can be viewed here: www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/press-releases/2013/2013.01.07%20Final%20AOD.pdf

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     January 9, 2013.

Twitter:@AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON THE STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS.

ALBANY ‑ Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued the following statement regarding Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s State of the State address: “In the year ahead, New York faces many hurdles, including continued rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy, growing our economy, strengthening our democracy and protecting our communities from gun violence. In today’s State of the State speech, Governor Cuomo laid out important steps to address these challenges. I look forward to working with the governor and all of our state’s leaders to make New York safer and stronger for all our communities.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     January 8, 2013.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $2.4 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH STERICYCLE FOR OVERCHARGING NY STATE AND LOCAL ENTITIES.

Medical Waste Disposal Company Profited From Improper Price Increases.

Whistleblower Recovery In Taxpayer Protection Case Under Enhanced False Claims Act.

Schneiderman: Corporations That Profit From Overcharging New York Taxpayers Will Be Held Accountable.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today a $2.4 million settlement with one of the nation’s largest medical waste disposal companies, Stericycle, Inc., for improperly overcharging nearly 1,000 New York government entities, including police and fire departments, rescue squads, schools, jails, and hospitals all over the state.

Since 2003, Stericycle implemented a plan to charge automated price increases (APIs) without giving any notice to these customers and in violation of the contract terms.  As a result of the Attorney General’s settlement, every impacted government entity will receive a check from Stericycle covering 100% of the overcharged amount, over $820,000 in all.

In addition, under the agreement, Stericycle will permanently discontinue APIs to the New York Government Customers covered by the settlement and provide notice and opportunity to opt-out before any future rate increases of any kind.  “Stericycle improperly profited by overcharging New York taxpayers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“In these times of harsh budget cuts to education, public health, and public safety, local governments and agencies need every available dollar and we will hold accountable corporations like Stericycle that use cynical schemes to rip off New York taxpayers.”

Below are the top five taxpayer-funded entities per region that will receive compensation through today’s settlement for losses incurred as a result of Stericyle’s scheme.

Upper Hudson Valley

WF Bruen Rescue Squad, Rensselaer – $26,671.162.

Ulster Correctional, Napanoch – $12,816.653.

Green Haven Correctional Facility, Stormville – $8,679.864.

Greenport Rescue Squad, Hudson – $5,494.775.

Taconic Hills Central School, Craryville – $4,482.53

Capital Region

Albany Sheriffs Correctional, Albany – $22,160.282.

Employee Health Service-New York State Department of Civil Services, Cohoes – $10,181.883.

Schenectady County Jail, Schenectady – $9,844.284.

Saratoga Emergency Corps, Saratoga Springs – $9,073.585.

Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility, Wilton – $5,623.95

Southern Tier

Broome Community College, Binghamton – $13,966.862.

Elmira Psychiatric Center, Elmira – $9,481.383.

Gowanda Correctional Facility, Gowanda – $6,132.414.

New York State Veterans’ Home-Oxford, Oxford – $5,519.125.

Elmira City School District, Elmira – $3,611.31

Buffalo Region

Wyoming Correctional Facility, Attica – $12,932.152.

Town of Lancaster Police, Lancaster – $8,601.123.

Collins Correctional Facility, Collins – $6,310.674.

Marilla Fire Company, Marilla – $4,540.335.

Buffalo Police Department, Buffalo – $4,106.52

Mohawk Valley

Suco Health Center-SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta – $9,777.502.

Midstate Correctional Facility, Marcy – $3,996.773.

Ephratah Volunteer Fire Department, Saint Johnsville – $3,290.584.

Montgomery County Jail, Fultonville – $1,799.665.

Gloversville Fire Department, Gloversville – $1,371.20

Central New York

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca – $9,409.462.

Onondaga Hill Fire Department, Syracuse – $7,550.003.

Five Points Correctional Facility, Romulus – $6,580.864.

SUNY Oswego, Oswego – $6,023.905.

Oswego County Health Department, Oswego – $1,224.69

North Country

Clinton Correctional Facility, Dannemora – $21,094.352.

St. Lawrence County Public Health Department, Canton – $1,901.573.

New York State Police-Ray Brook, Ray Brook – $1,803.894.

SUNY Potsdam, Potsdam – $1,408.105.

Adirondack Correctional, Ray Brook – $833.38

Rochester Region

Brighton Volunteer Ambulance, Rochester – $7,349.512.

Orleans County Nursing Home, Albion – $7,017.763.

Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, Lyons – $6,916.684.

Pittsford Volunteer Ambulance, Pittsford – $6,859.405.

Monroe Community College, Rochester – $4,162.62

New York City

Richmond County Ambulance, Staten Island – $6,557.932.

Bayview Correctional Facility, New York – $3,543.103.

Community Group Home-Metro NY, 240 West 98th St, New York – $3,368.774.

Community Group Home-Metro NY, 5 West 123rd St, New York – $3,145.285.

Community Group Home-Metro NY, 146 West 92nd St, New York – $2,825.96

Long Island

Melville Fire District, Melville – $6,187.432.

Wading River Fire District, Wading River – $4,187.453.

Brentwood Legion Ambulance, Brentwood – $2,888.874.

SUNY Farmingdale State College, Farmingdale – $2,874.665.

Suffolk County Department Of Health, Hauppauge – $2,439.47

Lower Hudson Valley

Taconic Correctional Facility, Bedford Hills – $4,202.282.

New Paltz Rescue, New Paltz – $2,225.853.

Harrison Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Harrison – $1,739.224.

Otisville Correctional Facility, Otisville – $1,585.985.

Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, Bedford Hills – $1,395.10

A whistleblower complaint filed in Federal District Court in Chicago by Jennifer Perez, a former Stericycle employee, and unsealed today alleges that Stericycle fraudulently overcharged government customers across the United States with its API scheme.

The Attorney General’s investigation of the allegations in the complaint found that Stericycle had programmed its billing system to increase by 18%, an amount designed to go undetected by customers.

The Attorney General’s investigation found the sole reason for the APIs was to increase revenue and avoid detection by these customers. But when Stericycle customers would complain of rate increases, Stericycle employees were instructed to state that Stericycle had incurred actual increased costs due to, for example, new strict environmental regulations.

The investigation leading to this settlement was conducted by the Taxpayer Protection Bureau, which Attorney General Schneiderman established in 2011 to combat the fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

The case was brought under and investigated pursuant to the New York False Claims Act. As a state senator, Attorney General Schneiderman authored amendments to strengthen the False Claims Act.

These enhancements, known as the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, allow the state to collect triple damages and between $6,000 and $12,000 per violation from corporations or people who defraud the government, or violate their obligations to pay government entities. Pursuant to the New York False Claims Act, the whistleblower receives a portion of the recovery.

The False Claims Act incentivizes whistleblowers like Ms. Perez to bring these fraud cases, yet, because of its triple damages and penalties provisions, the whistleblower portion does not impact the recovery of actual damages.

The Attorney General’s investigation of Stericycle was led by Taxpayer Protection Bureau Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Suplina, with assistance from legal support analyst Valerie Patrick and former legal support analyst Martin Sattell.

It was conducted under the supervision of Bureau Chief Randall Fox, Deputy Bureau Chief Scott Spiegelman, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

Information on statewide settlement recipients can be found here: www.ag.ny.gov/stericycle-automated-price-increases-new-york-government-customers

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   January 3, 2013.
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN PUBLISHES INFORMATION ON HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF ACTIVITIES BY CHARITIES.
Charities Respond To Attorney General’s Questions On Use Of Donations; $400 Million Reported Raised.Disclosure Seeks To Promote Transparency And Donor Confidence.
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has posted information online detailing charitable donations raised for Hurricane Sandy relief.
To date, 88 charities have responded to surveys sent by the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau requesting information on amounts raised and spent for Hurricane Sandy relief in New York, the services and grants provided and plans for any surplus funds.Full texts of the responses received are posted on the Charities Bureau’s website, www.charitiesnys.com/fundraising_and_spending.jsp
“The generosity of the public and the hard work of charities in response to Hurricane Sandy is inspiring. As we continue to monitor charitable activities related to Sandy relief, it is essential that nonprofit organizations operate in the most transparent way possible,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.
The 88 charities that have responded to the survey reported raising approximately $400 million for Hurricane Sandy relief. The five charities reporting the most contributions and pledges are:
American Red Cross  $188 million
Robin Hood Foundation  $67 million
The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City  $45 million
Empire State Relief Fund  $15.4 million
The Salvation Army, USA Eastern Territory  $14.3 million

In total, these five organizations reported raising approximately $330 million for Hurricane Sandy relief. The other 83 organizations reported raising $77 million; a small portion of this amount includes grants from other organizations on the list, which means some money is reported twice. The Charities Bureau will request updated information and post it online in the upcoming months. It also plans on seeking more detailed information on fundraising and spending as it continues its review. Any complaints concerning charitable activities relating to Hurricane Sandy should be sent to the Charities Bureau’s dedicated Hurricane Sandy email address: sandyresponse@ag.ny.gov.

Tips for donors supporting Hurricane Sandy relief, as well as financial reports of charities, are available on Attorney General Schneiderman’s website, at www.charitiesnys.com

A.G. SCHNEIDERM​AN ANNOUNCES DISTRIBUTI​ON OF OVER $2 MILLION IN RESTITUTIO​N TO 400 CHEATED WORKERS.News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     December 27, 2012.Twitter: @AGSchneidermanA.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES DISTRIBUTION OF OVER $2 MILLION IN RESTITUTION TO 400 CHEATED WORKERS.Current And Former Employees Of Flat Rate Movers And Mystique Clothing Stores To Be Compensated For Unpaid Overtime And Other Violations.

A.G. Is Investigating Other Moving Companies That May Have Violated State Labor Laws.

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the distribution of restitution funds and payment of monitoring costs totaling $2.25 million in two separate labor cases. In one case, 306 current and former employees of Flat Rate Movers, a multi-state moving and storage company with headquarters in New York City, are being paid $1.13 million in restitution.

In a second case, approximately 100 employees of Mystique clothing stores in New York City have also begun receiving restitution as part of a $950,000 settlement.  “My office will vigorously enforce our state’s labor laws and ensure that workers receive the compensation they are legally owed,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “While my office is pleased to distribute this money to these workers, especially during the holiday season, we know that there are many employers that violate our state’s labor laws and we will continue to seek justice for other workers who are illegally underpaid.”

Flat Rate reached a total settlement of $1.2 million with the Attorney General’s office in 2010 after an investigation revealed that the company had failed to pay overtime wages to its movers, even though some movers worked as many as 75 hours during certain weeks; failed to keep records of movers’ hours worked; and unlawfully deducted pay from its movers’ wages for a wide range of items, including uniforms, parking tickets and damage to moving trucks.

Individual workers will receive restitution in varying amounts of up to more than $15,000. In addition to payment of restitution, the settlement required a payment of approximately $70,000 for independent monitoring to ensure Flat Rate’s compliance with the labor law. The monitoring process has shown a significant improvement in Flat Rate’s labor practices. Lior Smilovitz, a former Flat Rate foreman mover, said, “We worked very hard at Flat Rate and we did not get all of our pay.  But it is hard go up against a big company.  In this case, the Attorney General did it for us.  We are very happy that we were fairly compensated.  Thank you so much to the Attorney General’s Office for its hard work.” In the past year, the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau has opened investigations into two additional moving companies and is considering other potential targets in the industry as well.

In a second case, the Attorney General’s office began distribution of restitution funds to approximately 100 underpaid workers in a case against popular New York “Mystique” clothing stores Mystique Boutique, Inc. d/b/a Mystique Boutique; 3320 Fifth Corp. d/b/a Mystique Boutique; Mystique 412 Ltd.; Exstaza Ltd. d/b/a Exstaza; Amsterdam Boutique Inc. d/b/a Amsterdam; Canal Street Designs Inc.; Madness Boutique Ltd. d/b/a Madness, along with their owner David Cohen and a manager Asaf Cohen.

In that case, the Attorney General’s investigation found that the employers failed to pay at least the legal minimum wage to some employees, failed to pay overtime wages to their employees when employees worked more than forty hours in a work week and retaliated against certain workers who complained or where perceived to have complained about these violations.

After the Attorney General’s investigation, the employer agreed, in a 2011 settlement which was approved by the court this year, to pay $950,000 total, $925,000 in restitution and $25,000 for the cost of an independent monitor of the company’s labor practices. Carolina Ferreyra, a former employee, said, “With no raises and little room for growth, we worked under terrible conditions and so much stress that we would all often be angry with each other when, really, we were angry at the fact that we were having out wages stolen. We felt impotent. Not anymore. On behalf of all Mystique Boutique workers, we are very thankful for the work of the Attorney General’s office. After all, our compensation came in handy for the holidays but the experience of coming together and standing up for our rights will never be forgotten.”

The Flat Rate and other moving cases are being handled by Assistant Attorney General Karen Kithan Yau under the supervision of Labor Bureau Special Counsel Patricia Kakalec, Labor Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel. The Mystique case was handled by Labor Bureau Special Counsel Patricia Kakalec.

OFFICE OF A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN UNVEILS YEAR-END REVIEW.


 News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 27, 2012.Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

Office Of A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN Unveils Year-End Review.

Review Cites Progress For New York On Economic Justice, Public Safety, Taxpayer Protection, Public Integrity, Civil Rights, Labor Enforcement & Environmental Protection.

A.G. Schneiderman Named National Co-Chair Of RMBS Working Group; I-STOP Rx Drug Plan Signed Into Law; New Rules For Charities Engaging In Electioneering; Hundreds Of Millions Recovered For Taxpayers; Record-Setting Drug Busts Statewide; Established New Standards At Gun Shows; Rooted Out Synthetic Narcotics.

NEW YORK – The Office of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued an end-of-the-year review detailing many of its accomplishments in areas including economic justice, public safety, taxpayer protection, public integrity, civil rights, labor enforcement and environmental protection.

“Across every bureau, our office has worked diligently this year to restore New Yorkers’ faith in the public and private sectors, and I am proud of the results we’ve delivered for the people of this state,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “From pursuing the financial frauds that were at the heart of the economic crisis, to cracking down on government corruption, to rooting out fraud against taxpayers and consumers, to keeping our streets safe from crime, we are moving closer to fulfilling the goal of building the best public law firm in the country to serve and protect all New Yorkers.”

Economic Justice and Consumer Protection

Protecting New Yorkers From The Mortgage Crisis

v  Was appointed to the chairmanship of the new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a multi-agency task force created by President Barack Obama to investigate the illegalities that contributed to both the financial collapse and the mortgage crisis, and to bring justice for the victims of this misconduct.

v  As co-chair of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, filed a lawsuit against J.P. Morgan for the fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions made by the former Bear Stearns to promote the sale of mortgage-backed securities, which contributed to the collapse of the housing market.

v  In his second lawsuit as co-chair of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, filed a Martin Act lawsuit against Credit Suisse Securities for deceiving investors as to the care with which they evaluated mortgage loans packaged into securities prior to the 2008 foreclosure crisis.

v  Protected homeowners as a national leader by fighting for a fair 50-state mortgage settlement that held banks accountable. Attorney General Schneiderman eventually reached a $130+ million settlement for New York with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses, the most per “underwater” borrower of any state involved in the federal-state settlement. Along with ensuring relief for victims of wrongful foreclosure conduct, the settlement also imposed strong national standards for mortgage servicing and fulfilled the Attorney General’s demand that he retain the right to bring legal action over misconduct that had not yet been investigated.

v  Committed $60 million over three years to fund housing counseling and legal services for struggling New York homeowners, as part of his Homeowner Protection Program. In the first year of funding, 35 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies will receive over $16.1 million to provide free foreclosure prevention services throughout New York State.

v  Introduced the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act of 2012in the state Legislature, a bill that wouldprotect New Yorkers from fraudulent business practices in the foreclosure process with tough new criminal penalties for those who intentionally engage in such conduct.

v  Obtained a multi-million dollar settlement with foreclosure firm Steven J. Baum P.C., a sum that will be used in part to fund state programs that offer assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure or victims of predatory lending practices. The agreement stems from the Attorney General’s previous investigation finding that the Buffalo-based Baum Firm had routinely brought foreclosure proceedings without taking appropriate steps to verify the accuracy of the allegations or the plaintiff’s right to foreclose.

v  Warned Wells Fargo to reverse a policy that temporarily suspended the review of mortgage relief applications from New York homeowners as the state recovered from Hurricane Sandy, which violated the terms of the National Mortgage Settlement.

Standing Up For Consumers And Investors

v  Secured a $410 million settlement with J. Ezra Merkin, who controlled four funds that invested over $2 billion with Bernard M. Madoff on behalf of hundreds of New York-based investors as part of history’s largest Ponzi scheme.

v  Obtained a $210 million settlement with Ivy Asset Management, a firm that advised clients to invest with notorious Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, despite its knowledge of Madoff’s fraudulent operation. The settlement helped return nearly all the original investment to those defrauded in the case.

v  Achieved a $7.8 million settlement with eAppraiseIT, formerly one of the nation’s largest real estate appraisal management companies, for colluding with Washington Mutual to inflate the values of homes, compromising the health of the housing market.

v  Resolved complaints against GlaxoSmithKline that led to a $3 billion settlement and guilty pleas to federal criminal charges, after the pharmaceutical corporation engaged in various illegal schemes related to the marketing and pricing of drugs it manufactures.

v  Took part in the largest multi-state consumer protection-based pharmaceutical settlement in history, reaching a record $181 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson to settle claims that the pharmaceutical giant improperly marketed two anti-psychotic drugs.

v  Reached a $1.6 billion global settlement with Abbott Laboratories regarding the illegal promotion of the anti-seizure drug Depakote for off-label uses.

v  Ended an illegal price-fixing scheme among several major LCD manufacturers, including AU Optronics Corporation, LG Display Co., Ltd., and Toshiba Corporation, and secured a $571 million national settlement to compensate consumers affected by the scam.

v  Reached a $612 million agreement with biotechnology giant Amgen for engaging in various illegal marketing practices – including kickbacks to health care professionals and the submission of false Medicaid claims – to promote sales of drugs for unapproved uses.

v  Reached a $95 million settlement with Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for engaging in various illegal schemes in order to promote its products, including deceptive marketing practices and kickbacks to medical professionals.

v  Ceased the deceptive marketing by Skechers, USA, Inc. of its footwear products, including Shape-Ups, Tone-Ups, and the Skechers Resistance Runner athletic shoes, through a record $45 million dollar nationwide settlement.

v  Secured a settlement of $64 million in restitution with the drug distribution company McKesson Corporation, which overbilled the state’s Medicaid program by reporting inflated pricing information for over 1,400 brand name prescription medications

v  Resolved civil and criminal charges against Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. for using deceptive marketing practices to misrepresent the cardiovascular safety of its drug Vioxx. As part of the corporation’s settlement, New York State will receive $61 million in compensation.

v  Secured a $9.5 million settlement with SmartBuy, a retailer and financing firm based in North Carolina after the company fraudulently charged thousands of soldiers who purchased electronics near Fort Drum and ruined their credit. The Attorney General’s settlement will clear debt fraudulently charged to hundreds of New York soldiers at a shopping mall near Fort Drum and thousands of soldiers nationwide. This was the second settlement the Attorney General has reached with SmartBuy and its affiliated companies, wiping out a total of $12.9 million in debt for service members.

v  Resolved charges of Medicaid fraud in drug and alcohol treatment services against New York Downtown Hospital with a $13.4 million settlement.

v  Secured refunds totaling almost $2 million for 2,700 New York State customers of Columbia Utilities LLC and Columbia Utilities Power LLC, after the utility companies lured consumers with false promises of lower rates, and instead fleeced customers with much higher bills. The Attorney General’s settlement also imposed new restrictions on the companies’ marketing practices to prevent future frauds.

v  Held health care providers to their obligations to New York taxpayers by recovering $1.6 million spent in excess Medicaid payments on claims for dental services provided by Kaleida Health through the Buffalo Women’s & Children’s Hospital Dental Clinic.

v  Busted an identity theft ring that hijacked over 180 people’s store credit accounts at Home Depot, Sears, Kmart, Kohl’s, and other retail stores to obtain over $1 million in merchandise, gift cards and store credits, and then resold the merchandise and gift cards for a profit. The Attorney General subsequently secured the guilty pleas of eight members of the ring, all of whom face jail time.

v  Following the receipt of hundreds of consumer complaints statewide, opened an investigation into price gouging, the inflation of prices of essential goods and services instigated by the market disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy. As part of this investigation, the Attorney General’s office has thus far notified 25 gas station operators in New York City, Westchester, and Long Island of his office’s intent to commence enforcement proceedings against them for gouging consumers in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

v  Ended the unlawful conduct of 47 home improvement contractors in the North Country after an investigation revealed widespread violations of New York’s Home Improvements Contracts Law.

v  Reached a settlement to protect the privacy of consumers scammed by Game Theory, a mobile-content corporation that was sending text messages to New Yorkers in order to trick them into signing up for texting services.

v  Partnered with the Department of Justice to file an antitrust lawsuit challenging an illegal joint venture of two iconic operators, Gray Line and City Sights, that resulted in a monopoly in the market for hop-on, hop-off bus tours in New York City.

v  Sued the owners of Buffalo furniture retailer FWS for failing to provide consumers who made advanced payments for merchandise with either furniture or refunds following the store’s closing.

v  Took action against a Lake George tree removal business, American Tree Company, for price gouging New York consumers in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

v  Won restitution against the owner of a Brooklyn auto dealership that used illegal business practices in the sale and financing of automobiles, ruining the credit of some New Yorker consumers in the process.

v  Partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Department of Defense, and the Federal Trade Commission to develop the Repeat Offenders Against Military (ROAM) Database, a new system to combat consumer financial frauds by tracking completed enforcement actions against companies and individuals who repeatedly scam military members, veterans, or their families.

v  Launched the statewide “Smart Seniors” elder abuse prevention program, designed to help seniors identify and avoid potential scams and abuses – including financial exploitation, identity theft, home improvement rip-offs, and physical abuse – before they happen.

 

 

Public Safety: Keeping Streets Safe and Communities Strong


Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (I-STOP)

v  Secured a major victory for New Yorkers when the New York State legislature unanimously passed the Attorney General’s Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP. The law provides health care practitioners and pharmacists with centralized information to avoid over-prescribing, help shut down prescription drug trafficking, as well as identify and treat patients who seek to abuse prescription drugs. Governor Cuomo signed the legislation into law on August 27.

v  Apprehended Bronx resident Suzanne Benizio for heading an illegal prescription drug operation that forged more than 250 prescriptions for narcotics, including addictive painkillers. The arrest highlighted the direness of New York’s prescription drug crisis as well as the significance of the Attorney General’s I-STOP legislation: A real-time database would have invalidated Benizio’s forged prescriptions and prevented this supply of addictive painkillers from reaching communities across the state.

v  Continued his crackdown on New York’s prescription drug crisis with the arrest of a Westchester doctor who conspired to deal prescriptions for 15,000 oxycodone pills, worth over $450,000.


Gun Safety Enforcement

v  Reached agreements with two gun show operators to implement a new set of rules that go beyond New York State’s current regulation of gun sales, establishing important precautions to ensure background checks take place before sales. These agreements came following an undercover investigation last year that busted 10 gun sellers from across New York State for jeopardized the public’s safety by violating the state’s background check requirement for the sale of firearms at gun shows.

v  Won a major court victory in defense of New York State’s gun safety laws. In a unanimous decision in the case of Kachalsky, et al. v. Cacace, et al, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected a constitutional challenge to New York’s handgun licensing statute, ruling that the law requiring individuals to demonstrate “proper cause” to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns in public does not violate the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

v  Headed a coalition of ten states urging the U.S. Senate to reject two gun bills that would force states like New York to recognize concealed carry permits issued by any other states, even those with poor oversight and weaker permitting standards.


Cracking Down On Synthetic Drugs

v  Combated New York’s growing synthetic drugs crisis by filing lawsuits against a total of 23 head shops statewide for selling illegally mislabeled designer drugs. To date, eight of the lawsuits have resulted in the permanent removal of bath salts and other synthetic drugs from the store shelves, and penalties. In addition, the Attorney General won a major court victory that ruled synthetic drug vendors are liable for selling products they know will be used in dangerous, off-label ways.


Protecting New Yorkers From Crime

v  Safeguarded New York children from predators on video game networks through “Operation: Game Over,” an ongoing initiative that has so far purge more than 5,600 registered sex offenders from their accounts on relevant online platforms. The database sweep was a first-of-its-kind effort, initially involving participation from Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Brothers, and Sony, and subsequently including Gaia Online, NCSOFT Corporation, Funcom and THQ, Inc.

v  Established the Conviction Review Bureau as part of a statewide initiative to address issues related to wrongful convictions, maximizing the ability of our justice system to sentence the real perpetrators of crimes while preventing innocent people from being penalized for crimes they did not commit.

v  In the largest single take down in the history of the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, arrested and indicted 52 members of a violent narcotics network code-named “OGK” that distributed massive quantities of cocaine, heroin and various illegal prescription medications from New York City to the Capital Region, as well as Greene, Orange, Rensselaer, Rockland, Schenectady, Ulster and Warren Counties.

v  Partnered with the NYPD to bring down a tri-state, prostitution and narcotics ring that made millions of dollars by profiting off of the exploitation of women, rescuing two human trafficking victims in the process.

v  Following a nine-month, multi-agency investigation, took down a major New York City-Syracuse drug pipeline, securing the arrests of 39 individuals and the seizure of more than $1 million in cocaine.

v  Obtained guilty pleas from five pharmacists who bilked the state’s Medicaid program of $9.9 million by submitting bills for drugs that they never dispensed to their patients.

v  Stopped a major Staten Island drug trafficking operation that was dealing a supply of illegal narcotics, including thousands of oxycodone pills, obtained through false auto insurance claims and doctor shopping through Medicaid. The operation’s ringleader was convicted and sentenced to seven years in state prison.

v  Busted a major narcotics distribution network in Erie, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Genesee Counties through “Operation Babcock,” securing the arrest of 24 traffickers and seizing several kilograms of cocaine and approximately $58,500 in cash.

v  Returned funds stolen from New York taxpayers in a $1.2 million settlement with a Brooklyn pharmacist who defrauded Medicaid by improperly billing for prescription medications he purchased from suppliers’ cars and dispensed to patients.

v  Shuttered a massive scheme to distribute black market prescription HIV drugs and defraud the state’s Medicaid Program, an illegal operation that endangered patients by exposing them to drugs of unknown origin, potency, and expiration dates.

v  Partnered with the NYPD to collar 14 individuals who operated a sophisticated international luxury-vehicle theft ring that stole dozens of vehicles valued at more than $1 million in New York City, and its surrounding areas.

v  Secured a jail sentence for convicted securities fraudster Charles Raspa, whose scheme defrauded 800 victims out of more than $6.2 million in unlawful commissions.

v  Shut down a large scale tax evasion scheme that used doctored wholesale invoices from tobacco sellers to hide purchases from auditors, costing the state more than $700,000.

v  Secured the arrest and indictment of Bronx fraudster Robert H. “Bob” Van Zandt for operating a massive multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme, which spanned years and victimized dozens of New Yorkers. The Attorney General later filed a civil lawsuit in the matter, charging that Van Zandt targeted clients of his tax-preparation business, the Van Zandt Agency, and abused his knowledge of clients’ finances to lure unsophisticated investors into high-risk bets.

v  Pursued and arrested Schenectady builder Angelo Rossi, who forged document to steal over $640,000 in loan funds from the mortgage company Countrywide Home Loans, and then fled to Florida.

v  Abated a staged automobile accident scheme that put the lives of innocent New Yorkers in danger so the ringleaders could fraudulently receive $400,000 in insurance payouts.

v  Defended some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers with the arrest of a former NYPD officer who ran a scheme in Dutchess County to con immigrants seeking drivers licenses and assistance out of thousands of dollars.

v  Shut down a massive insurance fraud ring that used forged documents and stolen identities in order to fraudulently obtain thousands of dollars in discounted commercial car insurance policies and New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission licenses.

v  Brought justice for wronged New York patients by busting fake “plastic surgeons” who allegedly performed cosmetic surgeries on women without general anesthesia, leaving them permanently disfigured as a result.

v  Joined forces with the Office of the State Comptroller to investigate, prosecute, and secure the guilty plea of a Brooklyn dentist who defrauded the Medicaid program by recruiting homeless patients with cash and illegally billing taxpayers.

v  Apprehended two Chinatown-based “doctors” who practiced medicine without a license, examining and treating patients by injecting them with unknown substances and giving them a variety of unidentified pills.

v  Pursued jail time for Putnam County’s “Dirtman,” who illegally operated a debris landfill containing hazardous waste materials within the New York City Watershed, jeopardizing New Yorkers’ drinking water.

v  Won full restitution for New Yorkers scammed by Jessica Vega, who posed as a terminally ill bride to receive thousands of dollars from citizens and others from the Mid-Hudson region.

Social Justice: Environmental Protection, Civil Rights, Health Care, Labor, Charities

v  Proposed new regulations requiring nonprofit groups, including 501(c)(4) organizations, to report the percentage of their expenditures that go to federal, state and local electioneering, with those disclosures to be released to the public. These groups have spent more money on political ads in the last two election cycles than political action committees, but they have not been required to disclose their donors, as PACs do.

v  Protected the right to vote of minority language voters in New York by reaching agreements with the Rockland, Ulster and Schenectady County Boards of Elections to help ensure the provision of necessary resources at the polls, including bilingual ballots, bilingual election-related materials and language assistance.

v  Filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of Windsor v. United States in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, together with the Attorneys General of Vermont and Connecticut, challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which rejects same-sex marriages valid under state law for all federal purposes. The Second Circuit sided with Attorney General Schneiderman, ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court has now agreed to hear the case. The Attorney General’s brief argues that DOMA violates same-sex couples’ right to equal protection under the law as required by the U.S. Constitution and should be viewed with great skepticism because it is an unprecedented intrusion on the authority of States to regulate marriage and enhance equality for their citizens.

v  Won an important victory in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia requiring the EPA to take prompt action to propose updated soot air pollution standards, as mandated by the Clean Air Act.

v  Was recognized by the National Association of Attorneys General with its “Best Brief Award” for legal excellence in advocacy before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of State of Arizona v. United States of America. The brief argued that a controversial Arizona measure targeting undocumented immigrants is unconstitutional because it is inconsistent with federal law, threatens civil rights, and undermines federal law enforcement priorities.

v  Leading a coalition of seven states, notified the EPA of his intent to sue the Agency for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to address methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry through various procedures, including hydrofracking.

v  Was joined by 14 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in filing an amicus brief to urge the Supreme Court to uphold the undergraduate admissions system of the University of Texas at Austin, which considers applicants’ race and ethnicity among many other factors as part of individualized admissions decisions.

v  Formed a bipartisan coalition of 22 states and the District of Columbia to file a brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold state campaign finance laws in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, in the wake of its Citizens United decision. The attorneys general argued the states have a compelling interest in regulating corporate spending in state and local elections, and that the Court should not automatically invalidate state campaign finance laws without a full hearing.

v  Issued a list of best practices to promote transparency in “pink ribbon” cause marketing campaigns, in which companies advertise that the sale of a product will result in a contribution to breast cancer charities. Two of the nation’s largest breast cancer charities, Susan G. Komen For The Cure and Breast Cancer Research Foundation, agreed to adopt the best practices.

v  Won a decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejecting Indian Point’s request for more than 100 exemptions from fire safety requirements. The Attorney General continues to urge the NRC to address risk associated with the operation of Indian Point before making any relicensing decisions.

v  Filed a civil lawsuit against Kelli Conlin, the former President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, for abusing her position and using more than $250,000 in charitable funds for her own personal benefit.

v  Protected workers from wage theft, prevailing wage violations and other violations of labor rights, in industries including health care, hospitality, car washes, construction, and manufacturing by bringing both criminal and civil cases. These actions have resulted in jail time for violators and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of restitution to workers who were cheated.

Sued the directors of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), one of the nation’s largest nonprofit organizations devoted to retired thoroughbred racehorses, for driving TRF into insolvency and failing to provide the funding needed to care for the 1,100 horses in its herd. As a result of the directors’ actions, retired racehorses entrusted to TRF have been neglected and deprived of even basic care.

v  Provided important information to New Yorkers looking to donate to charities in his office’s Pennies for Charity fundraising report, which revealed that for-profit telemarketers have received the lion’s share of donations they raised on behalf of nonprofits. In 2011, fundraisers took in an average of 61.5 cents of every charitable dollar they raised, with just 38.5 cents of the funds going to charity.

v  Secured opportunity for New York landowners who were locked into unfavorable natural gas leases with Chesapeake Appalachia to renegotiate with the energy corporation for a better land deal.

v  Utilized the Americans with Disabilities Act to reach a settlement with Eastern Coach, a bus company operating in New York that neglected to provide services to customers in wheelchairs, illegally depriving New Yorkers with disabilities of equal access to transportation.

v  Safeguarded the rights of employees to religious accommodations within the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), the largest municipal healthcare organization in the country.

v  Settled with health care insurer Excellus Bluecross Blueshield, requiring that the company pay $3.1 million in refunds to plan members and providers who overpaid for claims as a result of improper accounting.

v  Filed a lawsuit against Aldon James, the former president of the National Arts Club, for years of self-dealing and mismanagement that resulted in more than $1.75 million in lost income to the institution.

v  Appointed the New York Community Trust to administer The Brooke Astor Fund for New York City Education, a $42 million fund established under his settlement of the Astor estate to support programs that benefit disadvantaged NYC students.

v  Sent letters to 75 nonprofits requesting information on their fundraising and relief activities related to Hurricane Sandy to be reported to the public, as part of the Attorney General’s efforts to promote transparency and to ensure that funds raised for Sandy relief are properly used.

v  Cracked down on “Roll Your Own” businesses that sell cigarettes in violation of applicable tax and other regulatory statutes by facilitating the production of untaxed and unsafe cigarettes. In one case, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Tobacco House C.C.W., Inc., which provided customers with loose tobacco, tubes of cigarette paper and access to machinery that instantly produces assembled cigarettes for customers.

v  Obtained a $5.5 million settlement with Educational Housing Services, a New York City student housing provider, for siphoning money from consumers to subsidize the lavish lifestyle of its president. Settlement funds will be used to reduce student rents and improve the conditions of the students’ rooms.

v  Reached an $850,000 settlement with AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company after an investigation revealed the corporation made an undisclosed change to its medical claim reimbursement policy, resulting in lower reimbursements for many members.

v  Filed a complaint against King Mountain Tobacco Company for manufacturing and distributing contraband cigarettes across New York, cheating the state of hundreds of thousands of dollars of much needed tax revenue and putting law-abiding businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

v  Honored New York workers’ rights to religious accommodations in their place of work by requiring Milrose Consultants, an architectural and engineering consulting firm, to establish a lawful religious accommodations policy.

v  Secured a new court order establishing a buffer zone to protect a Utica Planned Parenthood currently undergoing expansion from threatening and obstructive action by protesters.

v  Arrested two Brooklyn motor vehicle inspectors for issuing fraudulent inspection certificates to diesel trucks that were not actually tested.

v  Unveiled a bold plan to reform and revitalize New York’s nonprofit sector. The Attorney General’s plan includes legislation to eliminate outdated and costly burdens on nonprofits, strengthen oversight and accountability, and reaffirm his office’s commitment to policing fraud and abuse. Acknowledging that organizations throughout New York State face historic financial and strategic challenges, the Attorney General’s plan also includes several new partnerships with the business and academic communities to enhance nonprofit governance. This announcement of this plan followed a report by the Attorney General’s Leadership Committee for Nonprofit Revitalization, which he convened in 2011 with 32 nonprofit leaders across the state to recommend proposals that would reduce regulatory burdens on nonprofits, while strengthening governance and accountability.

v  Established a new system for charities registered in New York State to complete and file their annual state and federal financial reports electronically, allowing for quicker dissemination of key information to the public and increased transparency.

Public Integrity and Taxpayer Protection

v  Exposed a nonprofit set up by New York State Senator Shirley L. Huntley that funneled member item funds to those associated with it. Four individuals allegedly participating in the scheme have been indicted, including the senator’s aide and an individual who shares a residence with the senator. The investigation was part of a groundbreaking public integrity initiative between the Offices of the Attorney General and State Comptroller. On August 27, Attorney General Schneiderman announced the arrest and arraignment of Senator Huntley on charges related to falsifying business records, conspiracy and tampering with his investigation of the scheme.

v  Brought charges against Clement Gardner for embezzling at least $75,000 while serving as a fiscal officer of the Christian Community Benevolent Association, Inc., a taxpayer-funded, Bronx nonprofit organization.

v  Secured arrest of Dennis Bassat, the former head of a Troy nonprofit rehab, who embezzled $20oK from the taxpayer-funded center. The center was part of Peter Young Housing, Industry and Treatment.

v  Utilized New York’s strengthened False Claims Act — which was amended by Attorney General Schneiderman while he served as a state senator – to secure an $18 million settlement with food management services provider Compass Group USA, Inc. for improperly withholding discounts and overcharging 39 New York schools and school districts statewide.

v  Sued Sprint-Nextel Corp. for deliberately underpaying New York state and local sales taxes on flat-rate access charges for wireless calling plans. Under the New York False Claims Act, the lawsuit could require Sprint to pay three times its underpayment of over $100 million, plus penalties if found liable.

v  Indicted Eddie Calderon-Melendez, the founder and former CEO of the beleaguered Williamsburg Charter High School and Believe High Schools Network, for receiving over $1.4 million in compensation but failing to pay over $70,000 in taxes.

v  Held accountable the administrator of two Brooklyn nursing homes, Marcus Garvey Nursing Home and Ruby Weston Manor, who abused the system to award herself $871,000 in excessive compensation. The administrator agreed to repay all unauthorized compensation and to reimburse the Attorney General’s office for the cost of litigation.

v  Convicted and secured jail time for a former Project Manager for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation who pocketed more than $20,000 in bribes to rig Bronx playground contracts.

v  Took another major step in bolstering transparency in state government by launching “New York Open Government,” a new website designed to provide the public with comprehensive, up-to-date, and user-friendly information on campaign contributions, lobbying, and state contracts.

v  As part of his continued effort to pursue elected officials abusing their public office and the voters’ trust for their own personal gain, arrested former Pitcairn Town Supervisor Susan Smith for embezzling over $35,000 from her St. Lawrence County town and a failed cover-up attempt.

v  Obtained the guilty plea of a former employee of Lakeview Mental Health Services – a state funded nonprofit that supports individuals with mental illnesses – who stole from the institution, cheating both taxpayers and the mentally ill.

For additional announcements made in 2012 by the Office of the Attorney General, please click here.

 

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    December 24, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT BY A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON THE WEBSTER FIRE SHOOTINGS.

ROCHESTER – The following statement can be attributed to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in response to the shootings today in Webster that killed Webster police officer, Lt. Michael Chiapperini, and Monroe County 911 dispatcher Tomasz Kaczowka, and injured volunteer firefighters Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino, and Greece police officer John Ritter.

“Following this senseless tragedy, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty, heroically protecting the communities they serve. The contributions made by the fallen and injured officers in Webster will never be forgotten. As this investigation unfolds, we stand with our partners in law enforcement to ensure that lethal weapons are out of the hands of dangerous people, so that the brave New Yorkers who risk their lives every day to protect us are not exposed to additional danger.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 21, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES ARREST OF FORMER COP FOR PREYING ON IMMIGRANTS IN MONEY-FOR-LICENSES SCAM.

Serving As Police Liaison To Latino Community, Former NYPD And Wappingers Falls Police Officer Conned Immigrants Into Giving Cash For Drivers’ Licenses And Immigration Assistance.

Schneiderman: This Criminal Will Be Held Accountable For Despicably Preying On The Hopes And Dreams Of Immigrants .

POUGHKEEPSIE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and arraignment of Miguel A. Rodriguez, 53, of Dutchess County, for conning immigrants seeking drivers licenses and immigration assistance out of thousands of dollars.

Rodriguez, a former NYPD officer, allegedly carried out the scheme while serving as a police officer and a liaison to the Latino community in the Village of Wappingers Falls.  An indictment unsealed today charges Rodriguez with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (one count); Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (one count); Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (eight counts); Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (two counts); Petit Larceny (two counts); and Official Misconduct (one count). The top count carries a maximum sentence of 2 1/3 to seven years imprisonment.

“Corruption is toxic, undermining cooperation with law enforcement and eroding the public’s faith in government. Where corruption preys on the hopes and dreams of immigrants, it is all the more despicable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“It is a fundamental duty to bring to justice those who defraud the most vulnerable people among us, and we will continue to root out these crimes wherever they occur.”  According to the Attorney General’s indictment, between October 2010 and August 2012, Rodriguez charged immigrants $300 each to enter a state lottery he falsely claimed could garner them valid NYS driver’s licenses.

The indictment also accuses Rodriguez of charging victims $500 to $1,000 for “Asylum and Withholding of Removal” applications, falsely promising that the applications would be reviewed by an attorney and filed with the appropriate immigration authorities—without even determining whether the victims could be eligible for the immigration benefits at all. In all, Rodriguez is charged with defrauding victims out of more than $13,000.

Rodriguez was arraigned today in Dutchess County Supreme Court before the Honorable Justice Stephen L. Greller. Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Wanda Perez-Maldonado, under the supervision of Public Integrity Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz, Chief William E. Schaeffer, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

Assistant Attorney General Jihee Suh also assisted with the prosecution. Investigators Angel LaPorte, Sixto Santiago, Andres Rodriguez, Gerard Matheson, Louis Carter and Aaron Sherer, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Michael Ward, Deputy Chief John McManus, and Chief Dominick Zarrella of the Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau, participated in the investigation.

Special Agent Donna Roethel of the United States Department of Homeland Security, Commissioner Carl Calabrese of the Wappinger Falls Police Department, and Investigator Christopher Politylo of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles provided assistance with the investigation.

The prosecution proceeds from a referral from the New York State Police.  The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Anyone with additional information on this matter or any other public corruption is encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-996-4630.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 21, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman ISSUES Charities Fundraising Report THAT finds Bulk of donations go to pockets of for-Profit telemarketers.

Investigation Launched As Telemarketing Companies Are Paid Nearly 62% Of Donations They Raised On Behalf Of Charities.

A.G. Schneiderman: Donors Expect Their Hard-Earned Dollars Will Go To Help Those In Need.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released his office’s annual fundraising report today showing that for-profit telemarketers receive the lion’s share of donations they raised on behalf of charities. Pennies for Charity, Where Your Money Goes: Telemarketing by Professional Fundraisers reports that, in 2011, fundraisers were paid an average of 61.5 cents of every charitable dollar they raised, with just 38.5 cents of the funds going to charity.

The Attorney General also announced that he has commenced an investigation to determine if New York’s charities and fundraising laws have been violated. The investigation focuses on fundraising campaigns that repeatedly result in little or no money going to charitable programs or services. Over a dozen subpoenas have been issued with more anticipated.

“New Yorkers expect that their hard-earned dollars will make a difference and not line the pockets of for-profit fundraisers at the expense of charity,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “During this season of giving when so many are still struggling to recover from Sandy, the generosity of donors must be protected. With this report, New Yorkers will be equipped with important information to help them decide which charities to support and to help ensure their contributions further charitable programs and services.”

Pennies for Charity aggregates information from fundraising reports filed with the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau for telemarketing campaigns conducted in 2011. Some of the significant findings regarding the 602 fundraising campaigns covered in the Attorney General’s report include:In 467 of the 602 campaigns, the charities kept less than 50 percent of the funds raised. In 207 of the 602 campaigns, the charities retained less than 30 percent of the funds raised. In 76 of the 602 campaigns, charities actually lost money.

In only 49 of the 602 campaigns did the charity retain at least 65 percent of the money raised, the amount deemed acceptable under the Better Business Bureau’s standards for charitable organizations.

The Attorney General’s interactive website allows potential donors to easily search the report by the name of the charity or by region in New York State.

A link to the search tool can be found on the Attorney General’s charities website at www.charitiesnys.com.

Users can see how much money was raised by professional fund raisers and how much money actually went to each charitable organization.

Attorney General Schneiderman has made transparency in charitable fundraising a priority for his office. Immediately after Hurricane Sandy, the Attorney General began gathering information from charities collecting donations from the public.

That information – including amounts raised and spent, services provided and planned and how any surplus funds will be used – is being compiled and will be available to the public on the internet shortly.

Additionally, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, the Attorney General issued best practices for “cause marketing,” a growing billion-dollar-a-year industry in which companies advertise that purchase of a product will trigger a charitable contribution.

The “cause marketing” best practices, which are available at www.charitiesnys.com, have been adopted by some of the country’s leading charities. Attorney General Schneiderman urges New Yorkers to heed the following tips when making donations to charity during this holiday season:

Resist Pressure To Give On The Spot. If you receive a call from a telemarketer, do not feel pressured to give over the phone. You can just say no.

If you choose not to hang up, you should ask the caller what programs are conducted by the charity, how much of your donation will be used for charitable programs, how much the telemarketer is being paid and how much the charity is guaranteed.  Look Up Charities.

Review information about the charity before you give. Check the Attorney General’s website – www.charitiesnys.com – for a charity’s financial report or ask the group directly for this information. Confirm that the charity is eligible to receive tax-deductible donations by searching the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

Some additional websites with helpful information include: American Institute of Philanthropy – www.charitywatch.org Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance – www.bbb.org Charity Navigator – www.charitynavigator.org GuideStar – www.guidestar.org

Give to Established Charities. Donate to organizations you are familiar with or ones with a verifiable record of success meeting their charitable missions. Closely examine charities with names similar to more established organizations.

Ask How Your Donation Will Be Used. Ask specifically how the charity plans to use your donation, including the services and organizations your donation will support.

Avoid charities that make emotional appeals and are vague in answering your questions. Be wary if an organization will not provide written information about its charitable programs and finances upon request.

Any legitimate organization will be glad to send you this information.

Avoid Unsolicited Emails.

These messages do not usually come from legitimate charities and responding to them may make you vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.

Check the Department of Homeland Security’s tips, such as Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks that are posted at: www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST04-014.html.Use

Caution When Donating via Text and Social Media. Be careful about unsolicited requests for donations received through text messages or social media sites.

Although charities are increasingly using social media and texting for donations, unsolicited requests may not be associated with legitimate charities.

Confirm through the charity’s website or a representative of the charity that it has authorized contributions to be made via these formats.

Never Give Cash.

It’s best to give your contribution by check made payable directly to the charity. This is safer than giving by credit or debit card. Be careful about disclosing personal or financial information; never give out such information to an organization or individual you don’t know.

Report Suspicious Organizations.

If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a scam is taking place, please contact the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau at charities.bureau@ag.ny.gov or (212) 416-8402.

Pennies for Charity was compiled by the staff of the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau with the assistance of the Legal Technology Bureau.

The investigation is being handled by Charities Bureau Enforcement Section Chief David Nachman, Assistant Attorneys General Yael Fuchs and Karin Kunstler Goldman and Policy Analyst Liam Arbetman, under the supervision of Jason Lilien, Charities Bureau Chief, and Janet Sabel, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice.

A copy of today’s report can be accessed here: www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/2012%20Pennies%20Final%20Review.pdf

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 20, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. Schneiderman Announces $42 Million Brooke Astor Fund for NYC Education.

Primary Focus Will Be On Improving Reading Skills Of Disadvantaged Students In NYC Fund Will Also Benefit Educational Programs.

At NYC Institutions Named In Mrs. Astor’s Will, Including The New York Public Library And Metropolitan Museum Of Art Fund Created As A Result Of Settlement Obtained By A.G. Schneiderman.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the appointment of New York Community Trust to administer The Brooke Astor Fund for New York City Education. The Fund, which was established under a settlement of the Astor estate obtained by Attorney General Schneiderman earlier this year, will support educational programs that benefit New York City students, with a particular focus on improving reading skills of students in the early grades who are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Initially estimated at $30 million, the Fund is now likely to be approximately $42 million, due in part to the successful auction of Mrs. Astor’s personal property held at Sotheby’s in September.

“This new fund will advance Mrs. Astor’s passionate commitment to educating and improving the lives of New Yorkers, especially those most in need,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The Community Trust knows firsthand the challenges that face students from New York City’s disadvantaged communities, as well as their parents and teachers. This landmark fund will make a real and lasting difference for future generations of New Yorkers.

“The New York Community Trust, founded in 1924, is a nonprofit community foundation serving the greater New York metropolitan area, and is a leading grant-maker in the field of education.

Lorie A. Slutsky, president of The New York Community Trust, said, “The New York Community Trust is honored to be able to carry out Brooke Astor’s charitable legacy. In a city of truly great philanthropists, her personal connection to the New Yorkers she helped was singular. We’re grateful that we can combine our experience in the field of education together with Mrs. Astor’s vision to help our youngest students get a great start.”

Under the settlement of Mrs. Astor’s estate, most of the Fund, about $35 million, will be used to improving reading skills of students in the early grades who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Grants from this Fund will be made to nonprofit organizations over a five-year period.

Grant proposals will be solicited through a request for proposals (RFP) to be issued by the New York Community Trust. Grants will be awarded by the New York Community Trust in consultation with an outside advisory panel.The remaining portion of the Fund, approximately $7 million, will be distributed over a one-year period to educational and cultural institutions named in Mrs. Astor’s will to support educational programs that serve New York City students.

Among the institutions that may qualify to receive grants from this portion of the fund are the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library and Museum, Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller University and the Brooklyn Museum.

David R. Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Community Service Society of New York, said, “So many New York City students from low-income families struggle to keep up in school, due largely to a lack of basic reading skills. By supporting programs that will focus on this disadvantaged student population, the Brooke Astor Fund will help level the playing field and will give these students a better chance for success in school and, later, in the workplace.”Grants from the Fund are expected to begin in 2013.

The Attorney General’s settlement creating the Fund allowed over $100 million to flow to charities. It also cut by more than a half the inheritance that would have been paid to Brooke Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall, who was convicted in 2009 of stealing from his mother.

Matters concerning the settlement of the Brooke Astor estate on behalf of Attorney General Schneiderman, including the creation of the Fund, have been handled by Charities Bureau Chief Jason Lilien with assistance from Assistant Attorney General Carl L. Distefano.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 20, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES THE ARREST OF FORMER HEAD OF DRUG REHABILITATION CENTER FOR MULTI-YEAR EMBEZZLEMENT SCHEME.

820 River Street, Inc. COO Dennis Bassat Stole At Least $200,000 From Taxpayer-Funded Not-For-Profit; Investigation Continues.

Schneiderman: Criminals Who Rip Off Taxpayers By Taking From Those In Need Will Be Held Accountable For Their Greed.

ALBANY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and arraignment of 820 River Street executive Dennis Bassat in Rensselaer County Court for embezzling at least $200,000 from the taxpayer-funded, Troy-based not-for-profit drug treatment organization over a four-year period ending in 2011.

The indictment charges Bassat, 53, of Middle Grove, with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree; two counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree; and two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree. The top count of the indictment carries a maximum sentence of five to 15 years imprisonment.

The Office of the Attorney General is continuing its investigation of the scheme. “Stealing from a nonprofit that provides services to people with drug and alcohol addiction, including those who are homeless, demonstrates a willingness to place one’s greed far above the needs of the community.

This scheme is simply reprehensible,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Today’s charges demonstrate how the collaboration among my office, the FBI, and Commission on Quality of Care can help ensure that taxpayer dollars entrusted to nonprofits are being used for their intended purposes, and that corrupt individuals who betray the public trust to line their own pockets will be punished.”

According to Attorney General Schneiderman’s indictment, Bassat was the Chief Operating Officer of 820 River Street, Inc., a New York State not-for-profit corporation with offices in Troy and elsewhere in the state that provided alcohol and substance abuse treatment services, and was part of an umbrella organization of multiple not-for profits, known as Peter Young Housing, Industry and Treatment (PYHIT). PYHIT companies received funding through New York State grants, legislative member items, and contracts.

As Chief Operating Officer, Bassat had signatory authority on a checking account held by 820 River Street, Inc. The indictment alleges that Bassat and another individual engaged in a fraudulent scheme in which Bassat wrote numerous checks from the company’s checking account to fictitious persons.

As part of the scheme, Bassat signed timesheets which indicated that the fictitious persons performed maintenance or repair work for 820 River Street, Inc., or he signed mileage log sheets which indicated that fictitious persons had traveled for business purposes on behalf of 820 River Street, Inc. and thus were entitled to mileage reimbursement. After drafting each one of the fraudulent checks, Bassat, or his accomplice, signed the fictitious person’s name on the back of the check. Either Bassat or his accomplice then co-endorsed and negotiated the fraudulent checks.

Bassat either cashed the fraudulent checks and kept or shared the cash with his accomplice, or deposited the fraudulent checks into his personal bank account, resulting in a theft of at least $200,000 from 820 River Street, Inc. The charges against Bassat are the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by Attorney General Schneiderman’s Public Integrity Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Albany Division), and the New York State Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.

“The FBI is committed to continuing its collaborative effort with the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the FBI’s other law enforcement partners to combat White Collar Crime and Public Corruption in the Capital Region,” said Paul Holstein, Albany Spokesperson for the FBI.

“The Commission on Quality of Care works to ensure the integrity of public resources that are used to serve individuals with disabilities,” said Roger Bearden, chair of the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.

“I am gratified by the successful collaboration with the Attorney General and the FBI to seek justice against those who would steal money intended to provide care to persons with disabilities.”

Prosecuting the case are Assistant Attorneys General Darren Miller and YuJin Hong, under the supervision of Public Integrity Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz, Chief William E. Schaeffer, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. Mark Spencer, under the direction of Antoine Karam and Dominick Zarrella of the Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau; Special Agents Timothy Coll and Michelle Pherson; and Commission on Quality of Care auditors John Rybaltowski, Richard Cicero, James Newell and Michael Kester, assisted with the investigation of this case.

The charges are merely accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Anyone with additional information on this matter should call the Attorney General’s Office at 518-474- 8686.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 19, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN BRINGS CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST TWO STATE-LICENSED MOTOR VEHICLE INSPECTORS FOR FAKING SAFETY AND EMISSIONS TESTING OF HEAVY-DUTY DIESEL TRUCKS.

Brooklyn Inspectors Issued Stickers To Trucks They Did Not Inspect.

A.G. Schneiderman: A Disregard For The Law Will Not Be Tolerated, Polluters Will Be Punished.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests of two New York City motor vehicle inspectors for issuing fraudulent safety and emission inspection certificates to diesel trucks that were not tested. The defendants ‑ both inspection station owners ‑ were charged with both felony and misdemeanor counts.

They face up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in state prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines for violating multiple state laws, including environmental conservation and vehicle and traffic laws.

The Attorney General’s criminal prosecution is the result of a referral by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Mark Asselta, 46, of Queens, the owner of J&M Truck Repair located at 53 Scott Avenue, Brooklyn; and Shlomo Freedman, 54, of Brooklyn, the owner of Myer Auto Center at 480 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, were arrested and arraigned in Brooklyn State Supreme Court earlier today.

The licensed DMV inspectors were each charged with a top count of felony Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree.  “My office will not stand for the blatant disregard of air pollution quality standards in Brooklyn, or in any other neighborhood in New York State,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “These emissions standards are crucial for ensuring that dangerous soot particulates aren’t spewed into the air we breathe.

These perpetrators will be held accountable for blackening our skies and our children’s lungs.” Flouting these state requirements allows thousands of substandard trucks to remain on New York roads, leading to increased safety risks for drivers and the significant degradation of New York’s air quality. Stations that fail to perform proper safety and emissions tests also gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding facilities by substantially decreasing the amount of time and the number of skilled workers needed to conduct vehicle inspections.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “One of DEC’s highest priorities is to protect New York’s air quality.

Through routine heavy truck emissions testing and undercover operations such as this, our Division of Law Enforcement has worked closely with other agencies to crack down on vehicle pollution in urban settings to prevent harmful emissions from impacting environmental justice communities.

Attempts to subvert Heavy Diesel Vehicle inspection and maintenance requirements will not be tolerated because it defrauds both the state and the consumer, and even more importantly, results in increased pollution and diminished air quality. DEC will continue to work with the Attorney General and all our partners to enforce the state’s emissions inspection requirements, and to ensure all environmental protections are enforced.”

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala said, “I commend the DMV employees who assisted the Attorney General’s Office in investigating these private vehicle inspectors who attempted to sidestep the procedures for proper emissions inspection which would put our environment and the health of our citizens at risk. We are glad to support the Attorney General’s office in these efforts to weed out fraudulent inspectors.”

Every vehicle registered in New York State that weighs over 8,500 pounds and is powered by a diesel engine (a Heavy Duty Diesel Vehicle or “HDDV”) must be inspected annually for safety and appropriate emissions compliance by a Department of Motor Vehicle-licensed inspection station.

The defendants owned two New York City DMV-licensed inspection stations, which are legally required to use DMV-regulated equipment and follow standard procedures to conduct these inspections.

Specifically, 6 New York Codes, Rules and Regulations Part 217-5 requires an inspector to perform a series of safety tests on the vehicle, as well as to perform an emissions test by inserting a smokemeter into the tailpipe of the vehicle while the vehicle’s engine is running.  According to the felony complaints filed against these two defendants, the Attorney General’s office along with the DEC and the DMV conducted an undercover operation to discover violations of the inspection laws. In this operation, undercover investigators drove an HDDV truck rigged to fail a legitimate motor vehicle inspection to both DMV-licensed inspection stations in order to obtain 2013 HDDV Safety/Emissions Inspection Certificate stickers.

Both stations provided a 2013 certificate to the DEC undercover investigators and placed the sticker on the undercover truck even though the inspectors performed no actual inspection of the undercover investigators’ truck. Specifically, the defendants did not perform any safety tests of the truck nor did they place a meter into the truck’s tailpipe.

One of the defendants did not even require the undercover officer to pull the truck into the facility’s inspection bay during the truck’s “inspection.”  DEC performed their own tests of the truck before arriving at and after leaving the inspection stations. These tests showed the truck to have tail pipe emissions levels substantially higher than the legal limit.

The complaints further indicate that both stations purchased more than a thousand HDDV Safety/Emission Inspection Certificate stickers from DMV for issuance during the 2012 calendar year. Each DMV-licensed inspector is entitled to charge $45 for a proper HDDV inspection.

The defendants are both being charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony that carries a maximum sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison. Other charges include Issuing a False Certificate, a class E felony carrying a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in jail; Violation of Emissions Inspection Procedures and Test Methods, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a fine of $15,000; and Illegal Issuance of an Emission Certificate of Inspection, an unclassified misdemeanor that also carries a fine of $15,000.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jason P. Garelick of the Environmental Crimes Unit under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief for Criminal Prosecutions Stephanie Swenton, Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. The investigation was conducted by Environmental Conservation Investigator Kevin Gilmartin of DEC, Division of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, under the supervision of Lieutenants John Fitzpatrick and Bernard Rivers, Captain Joseph Schneider and Major Scott Florence.

Investigators Edward Ortiz and Sixto Santiago of the New York State Office of the Attorney General also assisted under Supervising Investigator Kenneth Morgan, Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Chief of Investigations Dominick Zarrella.

The Attorney General recognizes the diligent work of the DEC and DMV staff with whose cooperation the case was developed, particularly Anthony Tagliaferro, DEC, Division of Air Resources, Senior Laboratory Equipment Designer; Richard Gage, DEC, Division of Air Resources, Environmental Program Specialist; and Chris Ayers, DMV, Director of Vehicle Safety Field Services.

The charges are accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 19, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $612 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH BIOTECH FIRM FOR ILLEGAL OFF-LABEL DRUG MARKETING SCHEMES.

Amgen To Pay NYS $12.5M For Improperly Marketing Anemia Drug Aranesp For Unapproved Uses.

A.G. Schneiderman:  Prescription Drugs Must Be Prescribed Based On Sound Medical Judgment, Not Profit.

NEW YORK ‑ Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that New York, along with 49 other states, the District of Columbia and the federal government, reached a $612 million agreement with biotechnology giant Amgen Inc.

The agreement settles charges that Amgen engaged in various illegal marketing practices to promote sales of several drugs for unapproved uses, including treating kidney disease and cancer. The company also inaccurately reported and manipulated prices for the drugs, Aranesp, Enbrel, Epogen, Neulasta, Neupogen and Sensipar. Besides kickbacks paid to health care professionals, this scheme also caused the submission of false claims by doctors for reimbursement from Medicaid and Medicare and other federal health care programs.

The alleged illegal marketing ran from 2001 to 2011. “There are no excuses for illegally marketing off label drugs, offering kickbacks to health care professionals and ripping off the taxpayers by defrauding Medicaid and other programs,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“With this settlement the message we are sending is clear: biotechnology giants are not above the law and my office will continue to ensure that prescriptions be written based on medical judgment—not profit motive.” Amgen will pay the states and the federal government a total of $612 million in civil damages and penalties to compensate Medicaid, Medicare and various federal healthcare programs for harm suffered as a result of its conduct.

New York led the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Team representing the states. The other states represented on the team were from California, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina and Massachusetts.

New York State will receive $12.5 million of these monies under the agreement.  A multi-national corporation headquartered in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Amgen will pay an additional $150 million in fines and forfeitures to federal authorities for criminal conduct.

In addition, Amgen pleaded guilty today to a misdemeanor charge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, for introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce.  Acting United States Attorney Marshall L. Miller of the Eastern District of New York said, “Instead of working to extend and enhance human lives, Amgen illegally pursued corporate profits while jeopardizing the safety of vulnerable consumers suffering from disease.

Americans expect – and the law requires – much more.  Today’s guilty plea and $762 million penalty demonstrate our vigilance in protecting America’s health care consumers and pursuing any corporation that seeks to profit by violating U.S. law. To all who might consider introducing misbranded drugs into the marketplace, you are on notice: we remain steadfastly committed to prosecuting such violations of law.”

According to settlement papers, Aranesp, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for stimulating red blood cell production in anemia patients, was illegally marketed and prescribed to patients suffering from anemia, cancer and kidney diseases and at doses larger and less frequent than approved by the FDA.

While the bulk of the settlement proceeds deals with Amgen’s conduct related to the drug Aranesp, the government also investigated Amgen’s practices involving other pharmaceuticals concerning both Amgen’s pricing and marketing activities.

The settlement resolves claims that the following drugs were also marketed off label:  Enbrel is approved by the FDA only for the treatment of severe psoriasis. It is alleged that Amgen also promoted it as a drug for mild psoriasis and at a dosing regimen not approved by the FDA.

In addition, the company allegedly made unsupported or insufficiently supported claims regarding Enbrel’s safety and superiority for the treatment of the more severe plaque psoriasis.  Neulasta, which is approved to promote the production of white blood cells, was marketed at dosing regimens not approved by the FDA for treating cancer patients suffering from infection.

In addition to the off label marketing, this settlement resolves allegations that Amgen in violation of the federal anti-kickback statute and other state laws, improperly influenced medical professionals by offering price concessions, improper rebates, improper bundling of products and other inducements for the following drugs (in addition to Aranesp, Enbrel and Neulasta): Epogen, which is approved for patients with chronic kidney disease who have lower-than-normal red blood cell counts; Neupogen, which is used for treating a common side effect of chemotherapy, neutropenia; and Sensipar, which is approved as a drug to lower calcium in the blood.

The failure to report these improper rebates, improper bundling and other inducements, violated the Medicaid Rebate Statue. As a condition of the settlement, Amgen will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, which will closely monitor the company’s future marketing and sales practices.

This settlement arose out of allegations in nine whistleblower lawsuits filed in United States District Courts in Massachusetts, Brooklyn and the Western District of Washington under state and federal false claims statutes. Eighteen States intervened in the qui tam action filed in the District of Massachusetts. As part of the settlement, the State of New York will receive $12,541,138.01 in restitution and other recovery.

While the Attorney General thanks those whistleblowers who brought all the actions, the Attorney General specifically thanks relator Kassie Westmoreland and her counsel for their assistance in litigating this matter in the District of Massachusetts.

This matter was handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Jay Speers, Counsel for the New York Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Special Assistant Attorneys General Carolyn T. Ellis, Christopher Y. Miller, and Laura Meehan; Assistant Chief Auditor Michael LaCasse; Associate Special Auditor/Investigator Meghan Collins; Associate Auditor/Investigator Karin Flynn; Associate Special Auditor Investigator Matthew Tandle; Computer Programmer Analyst Nicholas Furnari; Investigators Wayne Rivers, Carlos Miranda, Ken Deis, Lisa McDonald and James Zablonski; all under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin and Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.

In addition to the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Richard Dearing, Deputy Solicitor General, and Steven Wu, Special Counsel to the Solicitor General, of the Attorney General’s Division of Appeals and Opinions, worked with the MFCU in the appeal of one of the qui tam matters under the supervision of Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood.

A copy of today’s settlement can be found here: www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/press-releases/2012/DOC.PDF

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 19, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN’S “OPERATION GAME OVER” CONTINUES WITH THOUSANDS OF ADDITIONAL SEX OFFENDERS PURGED FROM ONLINE GAMING PLATFORMS.

First-Of-Its-Kind Sweep Continues To Protect The Safety And Security Of Children  Five Additional Gaming Companies Agree To Remove More Than 2,100 Registered Sex Offenders’ Accounts.

Schneiderman: We Will Not Let Online Gaming Platforms Become A Digital Playground For Sexual Predators.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that over 2,100 additional accounts of registered sex offenders have been purged from online gaming platforms as part of “Operation: Game Over,” a first-of-its-kind initiative to protect children from predators on online gaming networks.

Five additional companies, including Gaia Online, NCSOFT Corporation, FunCon and THQ, Inc., have agreed to participate. Today’s announcement builds on Attorney General Schneiderman’s original agreement earlier this year that led to more than 3,500 accounts of registered sex offenders purged from other major online gaming companies including Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Brothers and Sony.

“The Internet is the crime scene of the 21st century, and we must ensure that online video game platforms do not become a digital playground for dangerous predators. That means doing everything possible to block sex offenders from using gaming systems as a vehicle to prey on underage victims,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“I applaud the online gaming companies that have purged registered sex offenders from their networks in time for the holiday season. Together, we are making the online community a safer place for the children of New York.”

Under New York State’s Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) law, convicted sex offenders must register all of their e-mail addresses, screen names, and other Internet identifiers with the state. That information is then made available to certain websites so they can purge potential predators from their online worlds.

Operation: Game Over is the first time e-STOP has been applied to online gaming platforms. Many online video game platforms allow users to access the Internet and send messages to other players anonymously.

Parents often do not realize that gaming consoles have these capabilities, or that parental controls exist for these systems. According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of teens (12-17) play computer, web, portable, or console games and 27% of teens (12-17) play games with people they don’t know online.More than 2,100 additional accounts of New York state sex offenders have been purged from the gaming platforms of additional companies including Gaia Online, NCSOFT Corporation, FunCon and THQ, Inc.

The additional accounts include those from Sony, which had agreed to participate in the first phase of Operation: Game Over but was unable to complete the identification process by the announcement deadline.  Operation: Game Over coincides with recent incidents of sexual predators using voice and text chat functions in online gaming services to lure underage victims across the country.

In 2011, a 19-year-old man in Monroe County was indicted on sexual abuse charges after allegedly meeting a 12-year-old boy on the popular online video game system Xbox Live. The man gained the boy’s trust over a period of three months, then invited the boy over to his house where the abuse occurred, according to police.

Laura A. Ahearn, L.M.S.W., Executive Director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, said, “I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for continuing this bold action to protect New York’s children from becoming victims.

This is a groundbreaking effort that keeps the online community safer for our children, and sends a strong message that sexual predators can’t hide behind anonymous profiles online to prey on victims anymore.”

According to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York State has more than 34,000 registered sex offenders: 13,260 are level 1 registered offenders (lowest risk of repeat offense); 12,342 are level 2 registered offenders (moderate risk of repeat offense); 8,596 are level 3 registered sex offenders (high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists).

There are a total of approximately 750,000 registered sex offenders in the United States.Attorney General Schneiderman provided the following tips for parents to protect children from sexual predators from online video game networks:

Choose games appropriate for your child’s age and maturity level;

Use your game console’s parental controls (control which games can be played, for how long, and whether they can play online;

Keep computer or game console in a public area of the home; and Talk to your kids about how to protect identifying information, and to avoid and report conversations that make them uncomfortable.

Coordination between the Attorney General’s office, DCJS and the gaming companies is being handled by the Internet Bureau, under the supervision of Senior Advisor & Counselor to the Attorney General Gregory M. Krakower, Assistant Attorney General Clark Russell, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 18, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES GUILTY PLEAS IN MEDICAID THEFTS TOTALING $10 MILLION BY FIVE NYC PHARMACIES.

Investigation Uncovers Similar Medicaid Rip Off By Owners And Supervising Pharmacists A.G. Schneiderman: These Unscrupulous Pharmacists Will Repay All Ill-Gotten Gains And The Most Egregious Offender Is Going To Jail.

NEW YORK ‑ Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the culmination of a wide-ranging investigation into a series of New York City pharmacies that for years systematically bilked the state’s Medicaid program of millions of dollars by submitting bills for drugs that they never dispensed to their patients, most of whom were enrolled in Medicaid. Five owners or supervising pharmacists of four Bronx and one Manhattan pharmacy have pleaded guilty in Bronx Supreme Court to stealing a total of $9.9 million from Medicaid.

Lead culprit Sanjay K. Patel stole the vast majority, $7.7 million, of the Medicaid funds and is facing jail time. “These five pharmacists were caught red handed and now they are being brought to justice,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office will track down those who steal from the public and continue to hold accountable those who use their positions as a vehicle to fleece New York’s taxpayers.”

After an investigation, which included an audit that compared the amount of drugs each pharmacy legally purchased against the total amount Medicaid paid each pharmacy, auditors from the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) determined that the pharmacies had not purchased enough inventory to fill all of the prescriptions for which Medicaid ultimately paid. Each of the defendants listed below admitted to Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett that they used their positions in the pharmacies to steal from the Medicaid system by billing or having pharmacy employees bill Medicaid for drugs that they never dispensed to their patients, most of whom were enrolled in Medicaid.

Through several corporate entities controlled by him, Sanjay K. Patel, 44, of Edison, New Jersey, owned three of the Bronx pharmacies, Citi Care Pharmacy, at 313 East 161st Street; Community Care Pharmacy, at 979 Westchester Avenue; Family Care Pharmacy, at 1187 Grand Concourse; and the Manhattan-based Village Pharmacy, which was located at 165 West 127th Street. On November 15, MFCU investigators arrested and charged Patel with several counts of Grand Larceny in the First and Fourth Degrees and Conspiracy for using his pharmacies to steal from Medicaid from 2003 to 2008. In return for a state prison term of one to three years, Patel and his four corporations, Yogi Yagna Corp., Swamishreeji Corp., Swami Krupa Corp., and Akshar Health Corp., pleaded guilty to two counts of Grand Larceny in the First Degree, one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree and one count Conspiracy in the First Degree.

As part of his plea agreement, Patel has already paid Medicaid approximately $3 million dollars and he has agreed to repay an additional $4.7 million in restitution to New York State.  Divy Dixit, 43, of Edison, New Jersey, is a part owner and the supervising pharmacist of Akshar Pharmacy, located at 2200 Grand Concourse in the Bronx. MFCU investigators arrested and charged Dixit with Grand Larceny in the First Degree for stealing over a million dollars from Medicaid from 2005 to 2008.

Dixit pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class “C” felony. The Court agreed to sentence Dixit to five years probation and 300 hours of community service. As part of Dixit’s plea conditions, he will repay the Medicaid program full restitution of $1,041,491.77 plus interest before he is sentenced.

Sanjay R. Patel, 47, of Edison, New Jersey, is a part owner and the supervising pharmacist of Nayosha Pharmacy L.L.C., at 755-B East 149th Street in the Bronx. MFCU investigators charged him with Grand Larceny in the First Degree for stealing $1,266,483 from Medicaid from 2003 to 2008. He pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.

The Court agreed to sentence him to a split sentence of six months home confinement and five years probation. As part of Sanjay R. Patel’s plea conditions, he will pay full restitution of $1,266,483.59 plus interest before he is sentenced. Alpesh Patel, 43, of Elmwood, New Jersey, was a part owner and the supervising pharmacist of Yogi Pharmacy, at 1945A University Avenue in the Bronx.

He was charged with Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree for stealing $252,401.62 from Medicaid between 2004 to 2008. He pleaded guilty to Petit Larceny, a class “A” misdemeanor. The Court agreed to sentence Alpesh Patel to a conditional discharge and 300 hours of community service. As part of Alpesh Patel’s plea conditions, he will pay full restitution to the Medicaid program plus interest before he is sentenced.

Bharat Patel, 46, of Manhattan, was the supervising pharmacist of Family Care Pharmacy located at 1187 Grand Concourse in the Bronx. He was charged with Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree for stealing over $150,000 from Medicaid between 2003 and 2008.

Bharat Patel pleaded guilty today to Petit Larceny, a class “A” misdemeanor, and was sentenced to a conditional discharge and 300 hours of community service. As part of his plea conditions, he paid full restitution of $158,385.38 plus interest before he was sentenced.  The men were all arrested Nov. 15. Other than Bharat Patel and Sanjay K. Patel, who are brothers, the men are not related.

The investigation was handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Debra Glatt, who is supervised by Deputy Regional Director Thomas O’Hanlon. Special Investigator Joseph Deserio, Special Auditor Investigator Olga Sunitsky and Principal Special Auditor Emmanuel Archer worked on the case, which was overseen by MFCU Director Monica Hickey-Martin and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 14, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT BY A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON NEWTOWN, CT SCHOOL MASSACRE NEW YORK.

The Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released the following statement today on the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the innocent victims of today’s horrific massacre. We stand with the people of Connecticut during this moment of unspeakable tragedy.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 14, 2012.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LAUDS EPA’S NEW NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH STANDARDS FOR SOOT POLLUTION.

New Air Standards Announced After Legal Action By A.G. Schneiderman Schneiderman: The Health Of Over 100 Million Americans Will Benefit From EPA’s New Soot Standards.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s today lauded the Environmental Protection Agency’s newly revised national air quality standards for harmful fine particulate matter ‑ commonly known as “soot.” The revised standards strengthen the annual standard for soot pollution from 15 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) to 12 ug/m3 ‑ a more protective level overwhelmingly supported by scientific evidence and the agency’s health assessment.

“The soot pollution standards adopted by EPA today represent a major victory for the public’s right to breathe clean, healthy air,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “For too many years, the health of over one-third of Americans ‑ particularly our children, elderly and sick ‑ has suffered because of lax soot pollution standards. Now, the federal government has met the public health imperative of setting standards for soot pollution that protect all Americans, including the most vulnerable. The health of over 100 million Americans will benefit from this action.”

Today’s  announcement comes after legal actions by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office and partnering states to ensure that the EPA meets adopted standards that adequately protect the public from the adverse health effects of soot pollution, as is required under the federal Clean Air Act. These actions included Attorney General Schneiderman’s May 2012 legal victory in which a federal district court found the EPA  failed to timely revise these critical public health standards and ordered the agency to promptly do so.

Soot and other particulate matter pollution ‑ a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion by motor vehicles, power generation, industrial facilities, residential fuel burning and other sources ‑ consists of microscopic particles that trigger a wide range of adverse health effects. EPA has linked exposure to particulate matter pollution with increased respiratory symptoms (asthma attacks) and disease (acute and chronic bronchitis), decreased lung function and premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease.

EPA estimates that more than 100 million Americans ‑ one-third of the nation’s population ‑ have special susceptibility to be harmed from particulate matter, including children, seniors and people with lung disease such as asthma. EPA calculated in 2010 that exposure to particulate matter pollution at the levels allowed under the current standards could result in roughly 10,000 premature deaths per year in 15 urban areas. EPA also found that up to half of these premature deaths could be averted if lower and more protective air standards were adopted. Many areas of the country experience levels of soot pollution above the level that EPA staff and the agency’s independent science advisors found are likely to harm public health.

The national air quality standards for soot published by EPA today marks the culmination of a six-year effort by the New York Attorney General’s Office to secure soot pollution standards that protect public. The federal Clean Air Act requires EPA every five years to review and, as warranted by advances in public health science, revise the national air quality standards for common air pollutants, including particulate matter. EPA’s adoption of final revised standards sets in motion a time table for states to put in place the air pollution reduction measures necessary to attain the new standards.

A coalition of states led by Attorney General Schneiderman sued EPA in February 2012 to compel the agency to revise these critical public health standards. In May, a federal court ruled that EPA must promptly issue proposed soot pollution standards, and in addition, the Attorney General, leading an 11-state coalition, reached a settlement with EPA that required the Agency to adopt revised air standards for particulate matter by today.

This matter was handled for Attorney General Schneiderman by Assistant Attorneys General Jane C. Cameron and Michael J. Myers of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. The case was supervised by EPB Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek, Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 12, 2012

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES NEW DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR NONPROFITS THAT ENGAGE IN ELECTIONEERING.

A.G.’s Action Requires Nonprofits To Disclose Extent Of Their Political Spending, Identify Donors And Expenditures Related To New York Elections So-Called “Dark Money” Groups That Proliferated Since Citizens United To Be Brought Into The Light Schneiderman: Disclosure Of Nonprofit Electioneering Will Protect Charitable Donors While Making Electoral Process More Transparent.

NEW YORK – As part of a groundbreaking effort to bring transparency to the political process and protect donors to nonprofits, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced new regulations requiring nonprofit groups, including 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations that are registered with the state, to report the percentage of their expenditures that go to federal, state and local electioneering. Those groups that spend at least $10,000 to influence state and local elections in New York will be required to file itemized schedules of expenses and contributions.

Under the proposed new rules, those disclosures will be released to the public.  “More money is being spent on our elections, with less disclosure of where that money is coming from, than ever before. By shining a light on this dark corner of our political system, New York will serve as a model for other states, and for the federal government, to protect the integrity of nonprofits and our democracy,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Requiring nonprofits to disclose the extent and nature of their electioneering activities will protect prospective donors from misleading solicitations, and give voters more information about who is behind many of the ads they are seeing.”

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, 501(c)(4) organizations, which are exempt from federal and state taxes because they purportedly engage in the “promotion of social welfare,” have become vehicles for political activity, including funding sham “issue ads” that attack candidates for public office. 501(c)(4)s have become attractive conduits for this sort of activity because they can raise and spend unlimited funds, conceal their funding sources, and avoid paying corporate taxes on donations. In the last two election cycles, election spending through 501(c)(4)s exceeded spending through traditional political action committees.

As the state law enforcement official with primary responsibility for overseeing nonprofit organizations, Attorney General Schneiderman is empowered by law to determine the form and manner in which organizations make required annual financial reports to his office, and to enact rules and regulations to administer the financial reporting system.

The Attorney General makes these reports available to the public so that prospective donors can make informed decisions before contributing. In light of the recent spike in nonprofit spending designed to influence the outcome of elections, expanded reporting requirements for spending on electioneering will further empower donors to protect themselves. Without improved disclosure, the Attorney General is concerned that misleading solicitations and abuse of charitable assets for electoral purposes will undermine public confidence in the nonprofit sector.

Since the Watergate era, intervention in political campaigns has been largely confined to political action committees (PACs). PACs are governed by state and federal election laws that require them to disclose expense and contributor information to election authorities and the public.

But since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, there has been a well-documented proliferation of secretive nonprofit groups engaging in electioneering activities with minimal disclosure to regulators and the public. Good government advocates have coined the term “dark money” to describe anonymous election spending through 501(c)(4)s. Advocates of government transparency decry dark money because it allows deep pocketed interests to spend millions of dollars supporting or opposing candidates — often even more than the candidates themselves spend — without disclosing their identities.

This opens the door to conflicts of interest and corruption. “When people spend money to try to influence our elections, the public needs to know where that money is coming from, and how it is being spent. Nonprofits should not be used to subvert that basic principle,” Attorney General Schneiderman added. “Simply put, transparency reduces the likelihood of corruption.” The new regulations apply to all registered organizations exempt from taxation under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, except for 501(c)(3) organizations, which are already strictly prohibited from intervention in political campaigns.

The regulations define “electioneering activities” broadly to include express advocacy (advertisements and other communications that call specifically for the election or defeat of a particular candidate, referendum, or party) and issue advocacy (communications made within 180 days of an election that identify or depict particular candidates, referenda, or parties by name but that do not explicitly call for their election or defeat).

The regulations apply to communications through television, radio, print advertisement, telephone and over the internet.  Attorney General Schneiderman’s disclosure regulations also require registered nonprofits that spend $10,000 or more in a year in connection with New York state and local elections to file an itemized schedule with its annual financial report disclosing: (1) each expenditure it made in connection with a New York state or local election, including the expenditure’s recipient, date, amount and purpose; and (2) each contribution of $100 or more it received, including the contributor’s name, employer and address, and the amount and date of the contribution, subject to certain limitations and exceptions to protect donor privacy.

This information will be made available to the public.  The regulations exempt any nonprofit from having to file information with the Attorney General that the organization discloses to another agency that makes it available to the public.  To protect donor privacy and the right of free association, Attorney General Schneiderman’s regulations contain two key exceptions to the disclosure requirements.

First, the regulations do not require the schedule to include information about donors whose donations are restricted so that funds cannot be used for electioneering. So long as organizations keep earmarked funds in separate bank accounts from funds that are used for electioneering, information on that donor need not be disclosed.

Second, Attorney General Schneiderman’s regulations create a waiver application procedure. If public disclosure of a contribution or a donor’s identity could cause undue harm, threats, harassment or reprisals, the organization or the donor can apply to the Attorney General’s office for a waiver from disclosure of information concerning that donor.

The Attorney General’s staff will review applications and grant waivers where appropriate. The Attorney General’s office submitted the regulations to the Department of State for publication in the State Register on Tuesday.

The Department of State is expected to publish the regulations in the State Register 15 days later, on Wednesday, December 26. Members of the public will then have until March 6, 2013 to provide written comments to the Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General’s office will also hold four hearings in New York City, Albany, Buffalo and Long Island to allow members of the public to comment in person.

After the comment period has closed, the Attorney General’s office expects to adopt the regulations early next year, subject to any changes that may be warranted by public comments. The regulations will become effective immediately upon adoption. Under the proposed regulations, nonprofits will be required to begin making enhanced disclosures as part of annual financial reports filed with the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.

These enhanced disclosures are expected to occur in many cases in time to effect disclosure of information concerning 2013 local elections, including New York City elections, and in all cases in time for New York State’s 2014 elections.

Copies of today’s proposed regulations and other related information are available online at: www.ag.ny.gov/charity-disclosure-regulations

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 11, 2012

 Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND U.S. DEPT. OF JUSTICE TAKE LEGAL ACTION TO BREAK UP MONOPOLY OF TOUR BUS OPERATORS.

Two NYC “Hop-On, Hop-Off” Tour Bus Companies Formed Anticompetitive Joint Venture And Raised Prices Ten Percent.

A.G. Schneiderman: We Are Taking Action To Break Up Illegal Monopoly Of Blue And Red Double-Decker Sightseeing Buses That Overcharges Consumers.

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the filing of an antitrust lawsuit challenging an illegal joint venture of two tour bus operators, which resulted in an effective monopoly in the market for hop-on, hop-off bus tours in New York City. The legal action, brought jointly by the Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice, is against Twin America, which combined the two leading providers of “hop-on, hop-off” sightseeing bus tours, the Gray Line New York service operated by Coach USA, Inc., and City Sights service operated by CitySights LLC. This combination eliminated competition in the more than $100 million-a-year market and resulted in a ten percent price increase for customers, among other consumer harms.

“Forming a monopoly that overcharges consumers is illegal and will not be tolerated. This lawsuit against Twin America is an important step toward restoring competition and protecting New York tour bus customers,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The iconic double-decker Gray Line and City Sights buses are seen all over New York City but few people know they are a monopoly that has led to higher prices and less competition. Visitors to New York deserve better.”

Today’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is brought under the Clayton Act, a federal antitrust law that gives the Attorney General the authority to sue to block anticompetitive mergers and joint ventures, among other federal and New York State statutory provisions. Among other relief, it asks the court to restore competition by ordering Twin America to divest certain assets or dissolve the joint venture entirely.

The lawsuit is the latest step in an investigation that began in 2009 when the two bus companies combined their tour bus assets. The companies forced an interruption to the investigation by belatedly applying to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) for approval of the transaction. Such approval, if granted, would have conferred antitrust immunity on the joint venture. After the Attorney General’s office advocated against the transaction during more than two years of proceedings, the STB ultimately rejected the application for approval, concluding that the formation of Twin America was anticompetitive. Faced with this adverse ruling, Twin America took steps to remove itself from STB jurisdiction and the Attorney General’s office promptly resumed its investigation, joined by the Department of Justice.

“The formation of Twin America eliminated intense head-to-head competition between Coach and City Sights and gave the parties an effective monopoly that enabled them to raise prices to consumers,” said Renata Hesse, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “This lawsuit seeks to restore the competition eliminated by the joint venture and ensure that the millions of visitors to New York City who take hop-on, hop-off bus tours each year enjoy the benefits of a competitive marketplace.”

Approximately 50 million tourists visit New York City each year and an estimated two million of these visitors spend over $100 million on hop-on, hop-off bus tours.

According to the complaint, Coach and City Sights executed an agreement forming Twin America in early 2009 and implemented a price increase discussed during their negotiations. Both Coach and City Sights increased base fares for their hop-on, hop-off tour products by $5.00, raising the retail price of an adult ticket for each company’s popular “all loops” tour from $49.00 to $54.00. When they formed Twin America, the parties ended the fierce competition between them that had benefitted consumers, and no other company has entered the market to reintroduce meaningful competition.

The investigation is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General James Yoon, Matthew Siegel, Saami Zain and Douglas Donofrio of the Antitrust Bureau and Bureau Chief C. Scott Hemphill, under the supervision of Karla Sanchez, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice.

A copy of today’s legal complaint is available online at: www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/press-releases/2012/12-cv-8989_Complaint.pdf

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 11, 2012

 Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LEADS MULTI-STATE COALITION IN ACTION TO CURB CLIMATE CHANGE POLLUTION FROM OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY.

Schneiderman’s Coalition To Feds: We Are Prepared To Sue EPA For Violating Clean Air Act By Failing To Address Methane Emissions From Oil And Gas Industry.

 Oil And Gas Industry Is The Single Largest Emitter Of Greenhouse Gas Methane In The U.S.

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a coalition of seven states, today notified the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of his intent to sue the Agency for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to address methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry. EPA has determined that methane is a powerful climate change pollutant emitted by the industry in large quantities. Because of this, and the availability of affordable methods for controlling the industry’s methane emissions, Attorney General Schneiderman’s coalition charges that EPA violated the Clean Air Act when it largely ignored methane in recent updates to air pollution emission standards for the industry.

Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. Pound for pound, it warms the climate about 25 times more than carbon dioxide. EPA has found that the impacts of climate change caused by methane include “increased air and ocean temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, melting and thawing of global glaciers and ice, increasingly severe weather events — such as hurricanes of greater intensity — and sea level rise.” In 2009, EPA determined that methane and other greenhouse gases endanger the public’s health and welfare.

The EPA’s decision not to directly address the emissions of methane from oil and natural gas operations – including hydrofracking — leaves almost 95% of these emissions uncontrolled.

“We simply can’t continue to ignore the evidence of climate change or the catastrophic threat that unabated greenhouse gas pollution poses to our families, our communities and our economy,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “While it is clear that methane from oil and natural gas development contributes substantially to climate change pollution, regulators have failed to require the industry to use available and cost-effective measures to control these emissions. Today, our coalition is putting EPA on notice that we are prepared to sue to force action on curbing climate change pollution from the oil and gas industry.”

The EPA has determined that oil and natural gas production wells, gathering lines, processing facilities, storage tanks and transmission and distribution pipelines emit over 15 million metric tons of methane annually — the equivalent yearly climate change pollution of 64 million cars. As such, the industry is the single largest source of man-made methane emissions in the U.S., and the second largest industrial source of domestic greenhouse gas emissions behind only electric power plants.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set emission controls — known as “New Source Performance Standards” or “NSPS” — for industrial sectors that cause or significantly contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare. In August 2012, EPA revised NSPS regulations for the oil and natural gas industry. These regulations included, for the first time, federal air emission standards for natural gas wells developed through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” along with requirements for several other sources of pollution in the oil and gas industry that are currently not regulated at the federal level.

However, the revised regulations do not address the industry’s methane emissions. In fact, although EPA concluded that its regulations would have “co-benefits” in reducing methane emissions, its decision not to directly address the emissions of methane from oil and natural gas operations leaves almost 95% of these emissions uncontrolled.

In today’s notice of intent to sue, Attorney General Schneiderman’s coalition charges that the EPA violated the Clean Air Act when it failed to address methane emissions in the August 2012 regulations. Specifically, the coalition argues that because EPA recognizes that methane endangers public health and welfare and is emitted in large quantities by the oil and gas industry — and has 18 years of data demonstrating that many methods of controlling these emissions are available and cost-effective — the Agency broke the law by deferring a decision on whether to set NSPS standards for methane emissions from the industry. The coalition’s notice states that it intends to file suit against EPA in federal district court, unless the Agency makes timely decisions on setting standards to curb these methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

The Clean Air Act requires parties to provide EPA a 60-day notice of intent to sue under provisions of the Act. Joining Attorney General Schneiderman in today’s notice are the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

From severe droughts and heat waves to a string of devastating storms in the northeast over the last two years, it is becoming ever more apparent that increasing greenhouse gas pollution contributes to climate disruption in the U.S. and around the globe. Since taking office, Attorney General Schneiderman has established himself as a leader, both in New York and nationally, in the fight against climate change. For example,

  • ·         Schneiderman is currently leading a coalition of states in pressing EPA to honor its legal commitment to regulate emissions of climate change pollution from their largest source: fossil fuel powered electric generating plants. The Agency is expected to issue final regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel power plants early next year.
  • ·         Earlier this year, Attorney General Schneiderman successfully defended New York State’s participation in the “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” (RGGI) — a multi-state effort to reduce emissions of climate change pollution — against a lawsuit backed by the out-of-state organization Americans for Prosperity.
  • ·         Last month, Attorney General Schneiderman joined California and a number of environmental organizations by intervening in federal court to defend a national program to reduce greenhouse gas and improve fuel economy for passenger cars and light duty trucks. This follows on the heels of a successful defense of EPA’s first-ever greenhouse gas regulations. In a landmark decision handed down in June 2012 by a federal Appeals Court, Schneiderman argued on behalf of a coalition of states for the court to uphold these regulations.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys Morgan A. Costello, Michael J. Myers and Chief Environmental Scientist Alan J. Belensz of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. They are working under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek, Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.

A copy of today’s notice of intent to sue can be found at: http://www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/ltr_NSPS_Methane_Notice.pdf

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
December 10, 2012

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN OBTAINS $5.5 MILLION SETTLEMENT FOR SELF-DEALING AT LEADING NOT-FOR-PROFIT PROVIDER OF NYC STUDENT HOUSING.

George Scott, Founder And Former President Of Educational Housing Services, Forced To Surrender Millions Of Ill-Gotten Gains EHS’ Board Of Directors.

Also Held Accountable For Their Lack Of Oversight; Barred From Future Service On Not-For-Profit Boards Settlement Proceeds Will Be Used To Reduce Student Rents And Upgrade Facilities.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that his office has obtained a $5.5 million settlement to resolve an investigation into self-dealing and excessive executive compensation at Educational Housing Services, Inc. (EHS), a not-for-profit corporation that provides more housing for students in New York City than any entity other than the colleges themselves.

Settlement funds will be used to reduce student rents and improve the conditions of the students’ rooms. Attorney General Schneiderman’s investigation found that George Scott, EHS’s President until he was removed last month, misused EHS as a vehicle to generate personal wealth and subsidize his lavish lifestyle.

“The breakdown in corporate governance at Educational Housing Services was stunning,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Siphoning millions of dollars at the expense of college students is deplorable. Mr. Scott’s conduct and the role of the EHS board in enabling his abuses represent the complete opposite of what is expected from the leadership of not-for-profit organizations in New York State.

We have no tolerance for officers and directors who treat a not-for-profit organization as a vehicle for personal enrichment, and we will hold them accountable for breaking the law.” The Charities Bureau’s investigation determined that, beginning in 2003, Scott and his wife siphoned off millions of dollars from EHS through a company, Student Services, Inc. (SSI), that Scott set up to provide cable, internet and phone service to EHS’ dorm rooms. SSI was not a genuine telecom company, however, but just a shell Scott created to serve as a middleman between EHS and legitimate cable companies.

The shell company offered EHS nothing that EHS could not have done on its own; yet for these unnecessary services, SSI made millions of dollars in profits that otherwise would have remained with EHS.

The Attorney General’s investigation also found that the directors on EHS’s board breached their fiduciary responsibilities by approving Scott’s self-dealing activity without proper diligence or oversight. In addition, throughout the period that Scott was siphoning off millions of dollars, the Board rewarded Scott with high executive compensation as well as numerous other expensive perks, including the cost of his travel between New York and the Scotts’ second home in Aspen, Colorado and a housing allowance to pay for a luxury Brooklyn Heights penthouse.

Under the settlement obtained by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office, Scott and his company, SSI, will make restitution of $4.5 million and the directors on EHS’s board will pay another $1,000,000 for their breaches of fiduciary duty.

Settlement funds will be used by EHS to reduce students’ rent payments and upgrade the services and amenities EHS provides to students, all pursuant to guidelines to be approved by the Attorney General’s office.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s settlement also requires a complete changeover in EHS’s board of directors. In addition, Scott and the five EHS director parties to the settlement are permanently barred from serving as an officer, director, or trustee at any New York not-for-profit organization.

The investigation of this matter was conducted by Charities Bureau Enforcement Section Chief David Nachman and Assistant Attorneys General Yael Fuchs, Steven Shiffman and Andrew Davis, under the supervision of Jason Lilien, Charities Bureau Chief, and Janet Sabel, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice.

A copy of today’s settlement can be found at: www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/EHS_AOD.pdf

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 7, 2012

Twitter:@AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT BY A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN IN OBSERVANCE OF HANUKKAH.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today released the following statement in observance of Hanukkah.

“I want to extend my sincere well wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah. This holiday is defined by perseverance, hope, and the pursuit of liberty, all principles that hold even greater significance this year as our state continues to rebuild following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. I hope the warmth and spirit of Hanukkah serve as inspiration to guide all New Yorkers through not only this holiday season, but also our ongoing Sandy recovery and beyond. Have a very healthy and happy Hanukkah.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 7, 2012

Twitter:@AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON SUPREME COURT DECISION TO HEAR A CHALLENGE TO “DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT”

NEW YORK – The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) which provides that same-sex marriages are not recognized for purposes of federal law.  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed a brief in this case with Vermont and Connecticut arguing that DOMA violates same-sex couples’ right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution, and should be more closely scrutinized because it constitutes a sweeping intrusion into the States’ regulation of marriage. On October 18th, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that Section 3 of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) is unconstitutional because it discriminates against married same-sex couples.

The following statement is attributable to Attorney General Schneiderman:

“I am pleased that the Court has decided to hear this case and I am hopeful that we will prevail. The Second Circuit agreed with our argument that the proposed justifications for the Defense of Marriage Act should be subjected to special scrutiny, both because the statute burdens gay and lesbian married couples, and because it intrudes on the traditional role of states in defining marriage. The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state, same-sex marriages, and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cements our state’s position on this critical civil rights issue. The Supreme Court should affirm the ruling of the Second Circuit and declare DOMA to be unconstitutional.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 6, 2012

STATEMENT BY A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON THE PASSING OF NEW YORK COMMUNITIES FOR CHANGE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JON KEST.

NEW YORK- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today released the following statement in response to the passing of New York Communities for Change Executive Director Jon Kest:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend, Jon Kest. It’s not an exaggeration to say that there have been few efforts to empower poor and working people in New York State in the last 25 years that haven’t borne his imprint. New York has lost a truly selfless champion of social justice, and I offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2012

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES ARREST OF WESTCHESTER DOCTOR FOR SELLING OXYCODONE PRESCRIPTIONS TO DRUG DEALER.

Conspired To Supply 15,000 Oxycodone Pills Worth More Than $450K Through Fraudulent Prescriptions.

A.G. Schneiderman: My Office Will Bring Criminal Charges Against Doctors Who Traffic Prescription Drugs.

WHITE PLAINS – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest of Westchester anesthesiologist Dr. Arnold Roth for illegally selling prescriptions for the narcotic medication oxycodone. The arrest occurred after investigators from the New York State Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit executed a search warrant at Roth’s residence and principal place of business, at 35 Central Parkway in the City of Mount Vernon. Attorney General Schneiderman’s office also arrested Nidal Aljamal, of Mahopac, who is alleged to be a narcotics dealer and who conspired with Roth to obtain 15,000 oxycodone pills with a street value of more than $450,000 to sell in Dutchess County.

In June, the legislature unanimously passed Attorney General Schneiderman’s Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (I-STOP), which was signed into law by the Governor. I-STOP requires doctors to review a patient’s prescription drug history and update it in real time when writing prescriptions for certain controlled substances. Had such a system been in place at the time that Roth and Aljamal committed their crimes authorities could have more quickly detected these crimes.

“Feeding the cycle of abuse is unconscionable. Whether you are a doctor or a dealer on the street, my office will bring criminal charges against those who profit off dangerous addictions and illegally traffic in prescription narcotics,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “I am confident that I-STOP will prove to be a valuable tool in stemming the flow of dangerous narcotics to our streets. It will also aid law enforcement in holding accountable those health care providers who cynically use their profession as a vehicle to deal drugs.”

Felony complaints filed in the Town of Hyde Park Justice Court charge that Roth issued numerous prescriptions to Aljamal for oxycodone. The doctor also issued prescriptions for oxycodone to at least three other individuals recruited by Aljamal and which were filled at local pharmacies, including the Hyde Park Pharmacy. When pharmacists were presented with these prescriptions they called Dr. Roth who instructed that the prescriptions should be filled. The three individuals told investigators with Attorney General Schneiderman’s office they were not Roth’s patients and had never met the doctor. Upon receiving oxycodone pills from the pharmacies, these individuals turned the pills over to Aljamal. One of these individuals stated that Aljamal paid him $250 for each Roth prescription he successfully filled. Another stated that Aljamal paid her by giving her some of the pills received from the fraudulent prescriptions. All of these individuals stated that Aljamal asked them for their personal information so that he could arrange to have the prescriptions issued.

According to the court papers, Roth issued at least 48 prescriptions to Aljamal for oxycodone pills between July 2011 and July 2012, by which Aljamal collected 8,823, 30 mg pills with a street value of approximately $264,690. The total number of pills Roth wrote in prescriptions for the three individuals identified in the complaint is 6,210 pills. At 30mg per pill, this represents a street value of $186,300. These pills were dispensed between September 2011 and August 2012.

Roth, 60, is charged with eleven counts of Criminal Sale of a Prescription for a Controlled Substance, a class C felony; and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony. He faces up to 5 1/2 years in State Prison.

Aljamal, 37, is charged with three counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony. He faces up to 9 years in State Prison. Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement for their assistance in this investigation.

The charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Regional Director Anne Jardine and Special Assistant Attorney General Christopher Borek of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin. The investigation was conducted by Special Investigator Peter Olsen and Senior Special Investigator Dennis Johnston, under the supervision of Supervising Special Investigator Paul Greenspan, Regional Chief Auditor Investigator John Regan and Deputy Chief Investigator Thaddeus Fisher.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2012

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES 39 ARRESTS IN BUST OF STATEWIDE COCAINE PIPELINE.

In “Operation Southbound,” Narcotics Networks Transported Cocaine From NYC And Buffalo To Central New York And North Country.

Three Million-Dollar Drug Networks Brought Down In Nine-Month Investigation.

Schneiderman: Those Who Deal Dangerous Illegal Drugs And Poison Our Communities Will Be Brought To Justice.

ONONDAGA – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests of 39 individuals and the seizure of more than one million dollars in cocaine as part of a takedown of three large scale drug distribution networks. The networks transported cocaine from the New York City metropolitan area and Buffalo to be sold in Cortland, Syracuse and Watertown. The Attorney General’s office conducted a series of raids early this morning and confiscated in excess of ten kilograms of cocaine and arrested the defendants.

As part of a nine-month, multi-agency investigation code-named “Operation Southbound,” state and local law enforcement agents led by the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), New York State Police, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, the Syracuse Police Department, the Cortland City Police Department and SUNY Cortland Police conducted covert surveillance, including hundreds of hours of wiretaps and the execution of search warrants at several locations.

“These elaborate drug networks polluted our communities through a pipeline of illegal drugs that allowed traffickers to bring dangerous narcotics from New York City and Buffalo to Central and Northern New York. Operation Southbound put an end to this deadly drug distribution chain and now the perpetrators will be brought to justice,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I applaud the work of our law enforcement team and our partners who spent countless hours working to get these drug dealers and distributors off the streets of New York State.”

The three separate indictments charge 39 individuals with crimes including Operating as a Major Trafficker, and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (class A and B felonies), and Conspiracy to commit those crimes. The Operating as a Major Trafficker statute (§220.77 of the Penal Law of the State of New York), was authored by Attorney General Schneiderman when he was a legislator. This law went into effect in November 2009 as part of reforms to the Rockefeller-era drug laws. It is the only felony narcotics charge in the state that carries a possible life sentence.

According to the three indictments unsealed in Cortland County Court today, investigators discovered three intertwined drug distribution networks that impacted the City of Cortland, Syracuse and neighboring communities. The investigation discovered the following:

  • ·         In the first network, investigators found that Rayshonn Hester was selling large amounts of cocaine to buyers in the City of Cortland. Investigators then uncovered a chain of suppliers and ultimately established that John Galan of Syracuse was supplying several middlemen – Jimmy Peña of the New York City area and Ricardo Martino-Serrano (a.k.a. Javier Ricardo or Muneco) of Syracuse – that were linked to Hester.

Several examples of police interaction with this network include:

  • ·         Police stopped Rayshonn Hester and Toshiro Scott as they traveled from Syracuse towards Cortland with 140 bags of cocaine destined for sale in Cortland.
  • ·         In another instance, investigators seized a kilogram of cocaine from Carlos Orta who was a cocaine reseller, after they watched Orta’s source, John Galan place the cocaine in a Mercedes Benz that was owned and operated by Orta.
  • ·         In another instance, middleman Martino-Serrano arranged with supplier John Galan and middleman Jimmy Peña to obtain multiple kilograms of cocaine from a source in Bayonne, New Jersey (near New York City). But law enforcement officers in Bayonne, seized 351 kilograms of cocaine worth over $13 million dollars wholesale from Martino-Serrano’s suppliers before their transaction was completed.
  • ·         In another instance, Martino-Serrano arranged for Galan and Peña to obtain 9 kilograms of cocaine from Oscar Morales in Buffalo and investigators were able to seize the cocaine.

The second network was led by Corey Grier of Cortland. Investigators ultimately identified Grier and Termaine Kirby as large cocaine distributors operating in Cortland County. Grier’s cocaine pipeline originated from Kamar Davidson of Brooklyn.

Related to this network, the Attorney General’s investigation uncovered that:

  • ·          On April 10, 2012, Davidson sent Grier to the Fort Drum area in Jefferson County and directed him to sell seven ounces of cocaine to three separate individuals and provided him with a half ounce of cocaine as payment for his service. Grier brought the cocaine back to Cortland to sell.

The third network revolved around the activities of Andre Walker of Cortland who was also obtaining cocaine from Corey Grier – the same pipeline used by the second network  – as well as through Raymond Williams and Shane Granger, which he distributed throughout the Cortland area. Police seized cocaine in vehicles being operated by Walker on two occasions as he traveled from the Syracuse area to Cortland.

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “Today’s indictments and arrests would not have been possible without the dedication, hard work and expertise of our many partners in law enforcement. This collaborative effort and subsequent arrests have taken-down a significant cocaine distribution operation plaguing central New York and will send a strong message that narcotics trafficking and the violence that is often associated with it, will not be tolerated in our communities. I thank all of our law enforcement colleagues for their never ending professionalism and their tremendous investigative efforts.”

Several agencies participated in the investigation in partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman’s OCTF, including the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, the Cortland County Drug Task Force, the City of Cortland Police Department, SUNY Cortland Police, the New York State Police, the Cortland County District Attorney’s Office, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office, the Syracuse Police Department, the Camillus Police Department, the Solvay Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration,  the Rochester Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Parole, United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Oswego City Police Department and the Oswego County Drug Task Force.

Those charged in today’s three indictments include:

DONALD ABRAMS – Syracuse NY

RAVAUGHN BAKER – Syracuse NY

LYLE CAMIGE – Felts Mills NY

TERRANCE CARTER – Syracuse NY

JOSEPH CROSSON – Cortland NY

KAMAR DAVIDSON – Brooklyn NY

ALEXANDER GALAN – Syracuse NY

JOHN GALAN – Syracuse NY

DANIELLE GARROW – Cortland NY

TAMARA GLOVER – Cortland NY

GERALDO GONZALEZ – Syracuse NY

SHANE GRANGER – Cortland NY

COREY D. GRIER – New York City

CORNELIUS HATHAWAY – Cortland NY

RAYSHONN HESTER – Currently in State Prison

DARREN HIGHTOWER – Syracuse NY

GAGE A HILL – Cortland NY

CHARLOTTE HOWARD – Cortland NY

TONY KING – Syracuse NY

TERMAINE KIRBY – Cortland NY

GEORGE MACON – Cortland NY

RICARDO MARTINO-SERRANO – Syracuse NY

OSCAR MORALES – Buffalo NY

DEBORAH OLIVA – Cortland NY

SANTOS OLIVER – Pitcher NY

CARLOS ORTA – Solvay NY

JIMMY PEŇA – Bronx NY

BILLY PRINGLE – Syracuse NY

TOSHIRO SCOTT – Syracuse NY

LISA SPECTOR – Cortland NY

GERRY LEE STEWART – Cortland NY

LISSETTE TEJEDA – Solvay NY

ANDRE WALKER – Cortland NY

RUSH WALTS – Evans Mills NY

KASSANDRA WHITNEY – Mexico NY

NADINE WILLIAMS – Syracuse NY

RAYMOND WILLIAMS – Syracuse NY

TERRANCE WILLIAMS – Syracuse NY

JESSICA WOODARD – Cortland NY

The investigation was conducted by OCTF Special Investigator William Elsenbeck and John MacConaghy of OCTF, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Thomas M. Wolf and Eugene Black, Investigator/Sergeant Troy Boice, Investigator/Sergeant Todd Caufield, Captain Mark Helms and Sheriff Lee Price of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, and Chief Michael Catalano of the City of Cortland Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General and Senior Investigative Counsel James J. Mindell, under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice 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.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
: November 30, 2012

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LEADS 10-STATE COALITION FIGHTING RACE-TO-THE-BOTTOM GUN LAWS.

Bills Allow Non-Residents To Carry Concealed Guns Across State Lines Without Following The Licensing Laws Of The State They Are In.

AGs’ Letter To Senate Leaders Warns Bills Would Increase Threat Of Gun Violence, Compromise Law Enforcement Efforts To Keep Residents Safe.

NEW YORK – A coalition of nine state attorneys general and one attorney general-elect led by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today urged the leadership of the U.S. Senate to reject “The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act” and “The Respecting States Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” laws would force states like New York, and the other co-signing states, to abandon their own gun laws by allowing out-of-state visitors to carry concealed firearms based on their home state’s less safe laws, rather than those of the state they are entering.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Schneiderman won a major court victory in defense of New York State’s gun safety laws. In a unanimous decision in the case of Kachalsky, et al. v. Cacace, et al, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected a constitutional challenge to New York’s handgun licensing statute, ruling that the law requiring individuals to demonstrate “proper cause” to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns in public does not violate the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

In a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the attorneys general today wrote that the bill would restrict their states’ ability to control who may and may not carry a concealed weapon within their borders, undermine the ability of police to verify the validity of gun permits, and allow gun traffickers to more easily bring illegal guns into their respective states.

“These two bills would force states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by any other states, even those with poor oversight and weaker permitting standards,” the attorneys general wrote. “These bills would create a lowest common denominator approach to public safety that would endanger police and make it more difficult to prosecute gun traffickers.”

States cosigning with New York on the letter to the U.S. Senate leadership are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

A 2010 study showed that nearly half of the guns that crossed state lines before being recovered in crimes came from just ten states, most with comparatively weak gun laws, indicating that weak gun laws in other states have already had an appreciable negative public safety impact on states like New York. Indeed, in 2011, approximately 68 percent of the traced guns recovered in connection with crimes committed in New York State originally came from outside the State.

Under the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act and the Respecting States Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, if someone brings guns across state lines, authorities in the state where the guns are actually present would not be able to uniformly enforce their own carefully considered standards for concealed carry privileges. The signatory states have standards that are stricter than either federal law or the laws of a number of other states. For example, New York’s standards include a prohibition for those individuals who have been convicted of a “serious offense,” including felonies and certain misdemeanors; a minimum age requirement of 21 years old or honorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces; broad discretion for law enforcement in licensing; and character, “proper cause,” and residency requirements.

Additionally, New York requires every applicant for a handgun license to submit to a criminal background check and mental health review, restrictions essential to public safety. These precautions are not applied in all states, and would be undermined by statutes that provide for the ‘lowest-common-denominator’ as the rule of law for gun licenses.

The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, S. 2188 and the Respecting States Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, S. 2213 are now pending in Congress.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “Concealed carry reciprocity would make it possible for those with criminal records, or those who have histories of violent or irresponsible behavior, to carry guns into cities and states that currently require concealed carry permit holders to meet minimum standards. And it would make it nearly impossible for police to quickly verify whether an out-of-state permit is valid, which could result in the detention of law-abiding gun owners – or, even worse, the release of individuals who carry guns to commit crimes. This is an important public safety matter, and we welcome the attorneys general to the broad coalition opposing the effort in Washington to remove safeguards that many states have adopted.”

Jackie Hilly, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said, “New York requires mental health screening to get a concealed carry permit, and bars felons and people with violent misdemeanor convictions from getting permits, but many states lack such common sense restrictions. The attorneys general are right to oppose any effort that would allow violent criminals or mentally unbalanced individuals to legally carry concealed guns in New York.”

Dan Gross, President of Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “Most concealed carry laws strip law enforcement of the discretion to protect their communities from dangerous and violent people, which is what they take an oath to do and what we need them to do. And it’s why I applaud the attorneys general for speaking out on behalf of their constituents against the dangerously ill-considered reciprocity legislation.”

Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy, said, “More concealed guns on our city streets will result in more disputes escalating into tragedies. Many of the attorneys general who have signed onto this letter come from states with densely populated areas, and these states have enacted sensible laws to keep concealed weapons out of the wrong hands. Gun violence is currently the number one killer of African American men between the ages of 12 and 19, and gun related homicide continues to be a tragic and relentless problem throughout the African American community. The NAACP thanks Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his leadership on this issue and joins all nine attorneys general in opposing any law that would import weaker standards—and more concealed guns—from other states. This truly is a matter of life and death.”

The full text of the letter is below.

The Honorable Harry Reid                                    The Honorable Mitch McConnell

U.S. Senate Majority Leader                                 U.S. Senate Republican Leader

522 Hart Senate Office Building                          317 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510                                         Washington, D.C. 20510

RE: Attorney General Opposition To S. 2188, “The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act” (Begich-Manchin) and S. 2213, “The Respecting States Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act” (Thune-Vitter)

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Republican Leader McConnell:

We write to respectfully urge you and your caucuses to oppose S. 2188, “The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act” and S. 2213, “The Respecting States Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.” These two bills would force states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by any other states, even those with poor oversight and weaker permitting standards. These bills would create a lowest common denominator approach to public safety that would endanger police and make it more difficult to prosecute gun traffickers.

S. 2188 and S. 2213 trample on states’ rights by overriding our states’ legislative and regulatory authority to determine who can – and who cannot – carry hidden and loaded guns in public. For example, many states have established standards that go beyond federal law in order to keep concealed weapons out of the hands of violent misdemeanants, alcohol abusers, teenagers, and people who have not completed basic safety training. S. 2188 and S. 2213 would gut this framework, and impose the weakest state permitting and verification standards on all other states.

Under current law, states are free to enter into, refuse, or revoke concealed carry reciprocity agreements with other states. These agreements are often contingent on states having comparable permitting standards. For example, authorities in Nevada and New Mexico made the decision to stop recognizing carry permits issued by Utah, which does not require live-fire instruction as part of its training requirements. Nevada has also ended reciprocity with Florida, which only requires individuals to renew their permits every seven years. States would lose this discretion under forced reciprocity.

As Attorneys General, we are most troubled by the threat to public safety posed by local law enforcement’s inability to promptly verify out-of-state permits. Contrary to claims by proponents of national concealed carry reciprocity legislation, varying state standards make it nearly impossible for our law enforcement agencies to quickly determine if a carry permit from another state is valid. This further jeopardizes the safety of police and the public. In addition, there is no comprehensive national database or inquiry system that alerts law enforcement officers when a concealed carry permit is counterfeit, expired, or has recently been revoked.

In fact, some states also fail to adequately track their own permit issuances and revocations. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations has confirmed it cannot determine when a state permit-holder breaks the law; recently enacted Wisconsin law prohibits law enforcement from accessing permitting information during traffic stops or for purposes of investigating potential criminal activity; and Florida issued permits to more than 1,400 people who previously pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies, 216 people with outstanding warrants, 128 people with active domestic violence injunctions, and six registered sex offenders.

The police officers in our states are already putting their lives on the line when they stop potentially dangerous individuals on the street. Forcing these officers to conduct traffic stops and other police activity with no ability to authenticate every other state’s carry permits would pose an extraordinary and unnecessary risk.

Forced reciprocity is opposed by national organizations including: the International Association of Chiefs of Police; the Major Cities Chiefs Association, representing the police chiefs of 62 major U.S. cities; the National Network to End Domestic Violence, representing 56 state and territorial domestic violence coalitions; the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys; as well as various state law enforcement associations and law enforcement leaders. Forced reciprocity is also opposed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 650 mayors who collectively represent 54 million Americans.

We urge you to stand up for America’s law enforcement community and oppose S. 2188 and S. 2213.

Sincerely,

Eric T. Schneiderman

New York Attorney General

Kamala D. Harris

California Attorney General

George Jepsen

Connecticut Attorney General

David M. Louie

Hawaii Attorney General

Lisa Madigan

Illinois Attorney General

Douglas F. Gansler

Maryland Attorney General

Martha M. Coakley

Massachusetts Attorney General

Catherine Cortez Masto

Nevada Attorney General

Ellen Rosenblum

Oregon Attorney General

Kathleen Kane

Pennsylvania Attorney General-Elect

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 29, 2012

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES 12 MORE ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS AGAINST GAS RETAILERS IN POST-SANDY PRICE GOUGING INVESTIGATION.

New Action Against 12 Gas Station Operators In New York City, Long Island & Westchester

NYS Law Prohibits Excessive Increases In Costs Of Essential Goods Like Food, Water, Gas, Generators, Batteries & Flashlights

Schneiderman: Our Ongoing Enforcement Means 25 Gas Retailers Will Be Held Accountable For Dramatic Price Increases

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has notified 12 gas station operators of his intent to commence enforcement proceedings against them for violations of the New York State Price Gouging statute in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. These are the latest actions in the Attorney General’s wide-ranging investigation of suspected gougers and it comes on the heels of hundreds of consumer complaints. Notification letters were sent to 13 gas stations earlier this month bringing the total number of targeted retailers so far to 25.

“Our office will continue to take enforcement actions against price gougers because ripping off New Yorkers is against the law,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “We are actively investigating the hundreds of complaints we’ve received from consumers of businesses preying on victims of Hurricane Sandy. There must be no tolerance for unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives.”

The Attorney General said there will be other notifications coming as the investigation into consumer complaints continues.

Among the current batch of 12 enforcement targets is a Mobil station at 3424 East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx where a consumer waiting in line for over an hour was just three cars from the pump when she was told that she would be charged $50 for five gallons of gasoline – $10 per gallon. In contrast, stations nearby were charging $3.95 a gallon.

At a second station, the Coastal station at 1575 Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, a consumer reported being charged $4.69 per gallon of gasoline while neighboring stations were charging between $3.69 and $4.05. One consumer waited in line for over an hour and did not see a sign detailing prices until after the attendant began pumping gas for the customer.

The stations receiving notices from Attorney General Schneiderman include the following twelve stations:

Suffolk

Coastal

1575 Route 112

Port Jefferson Station, NY 11776

Consumer Complaint: 4.69/gallon

Nassau

BP

1009 St. Route 109

Farmingdale, NY 11755

Consumer Complaints: $4.71/gallon

Liberty Petroleum

1278 Hempstead Turnpike

Elmont, NY 11003

Consumer Complaint: $6.99/gallon

Ultra

3300 Hempstead Turnpike

Levittown, NY 11750

Consumer Complaint: $4.89/gallon

Staten Island

Rio

105 New Dorp Lane

Staten Island, NY 10306

Consumer Complaint: $4.89/gallon

 

Queens

Getty

141-50 Union Turnpike

Flushing, NY 11367

Consumer Complaint: $4.99/gallon

Gulf

60-90 Elliot Avenue

Maspeth, NY 11378

Consumer Complaint: $4.79/gallon (cash)/$4.89 (credit)

Shell

92-10 Astoria Boulevard

East Elmhurst, NY 11369

Consumer Complaints: ranging from $4.89-$7.90/gallon

Sunoco

18-84 Flushing Avenue

Ridgewood, NY 11385

Consumer Complaint: $7.25/gallon

 

Bronx

Mobil

3424 East Tremont Avenue

Bronx, NY 10465

Consumer Complaint: $10/gallon

 

Westchester:

Mobil

80 Bedford Road

Katonah, NY 10536

Consumer Complaint: $4.79/gallon

Mobil

189 Route 59

Spring Valley, NY 10977

Consumer Complaint: $4.65/gallon

The above prices are each for regular gasoline.

New York State’s Price Gouging Law (General Business Law § 396-r) prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive price” during an “abnormal disruption of the market.” The price gouging law covers New York State vendors, retailers and suppliers, including but not limited to supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores, bodegas, delis and taxi and livery cab drivers.

Today’s actions are based upon a review of both consumer complaints and independently-gathered pricing information.

New York’s price gouging law takes effect only upon the occurrence of triggering events that cause an “abnormal disruption of the market.” An “abnormal disruption of the market” is defined as “any change in the market, whether actual or imminently threatened,” that results from triggering events such as “weather events, power failures, strikes, civil disorder, war, military action, national or local emergency or other causes.” During an abnormal disruption of the market like Hurricane Sandy, all parties within the chain of distribution for any essential consumer goods or services are prohibited from charging unconscionably excessive prices. “Consumer goods” are defined by the statute as “those used, bought or rendered primarily for personal, family or household purposes.” For example, gasoline, which is vital to the health, safety and welfare of consumers, is a “consumer good” under the terms of the statute. Therefore, retailers may not charge unconscionably excessive prices for gasoline during an abnormal disruption of the market.

New York’s price gouging law does not specifically define what constitutes an “unconscionably excessive price.” However, the statute provides that a price may be “unconscionably excessive” if: the amount charged represents a gross disparity between the price of the goods or services which were the subject of the transaction and their value measured by the price at which such consumer goods or services were sold or offered for sale by the defendant in the usual course of business immediately prior to the onset of the abnormal disruption of the market.

In other words, a “before-and-after” price analysis can be used as evidence of price gouging. Evidence that a price is unconscionably excessive may also include proof that “the amount charged grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar goods or services were readily obtainable by other consumers in the trade area.” However, a merchant may counter with evidence that additional costs not within its control were imposed for the goods or services. Notably, the price gouging law does not prohibit any disparity between the price charged before and after there is an abnormal disruption of the market. Rather, the statute prohibits a “gross disparity,” when it is clear that a business is taking unfair advantage of consumers by charging unconscionably excessive prices and increasing its profits under severe circumstances that call for shared sacrifices.

If you believe you are a victim of price gouging or a post-hurricane scam contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 800-771-7755 or find a complaint form online at: www.ag.ny.gov

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  November 29, 2012

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

FOLLOWING A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN’S INVESTIGATION, TWO OF NEW YORK’S LARGEST GUN SHOW OPERATORS AGREE TO NEW GUIDELINES TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC.

A.G. Closed Loophole In Gun Show Law To Help Keep Guns Out Of The Hands Of Those Who Can’t Pass Background Checks

Landmark Standards Go Beyond State Gun Show Laws, Including Improved Oversight

Schneiderman: Our Office Is Taking A Creative Approach To Protect The Public From Illegal Gun Sales

BUFFALO – Following an undercover investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has reached agreements with two major gun show operators to implement new procedures at their gun shows across New York State. The operators – Niagara Frontier Collectors, Inc., located in Chautauqua County, and NEACA, Inc., located in Saratoga County – hold gun shows at venues throughout the state involving hundreds of gun sellers and buyers each year. As part of their agreement with the Attorney General, the two gun show operators established procedures that go beyond the requirements of the state’s Gun Show Law, including a process that ensures all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if guns were sold and that a proper background check was performed.

“Our investigation demonstrated how the ‘off the books’ sale of guns presents a great risk to public safety. This agreement builds upon our work by holding gun show operators responsible for the purchases made at their events,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Gun violence is an epidemic, and my office is working with gun show operators to create simple guidelines to ensure that these deadly weapons don’t make it into the hands of felons, terrorists, the dangerously mentally ill and others that could not pass a background check. It’s a win-win for public safety and the Constitution.”

The Attorney General’s Office and the gun show operators worked together to develop the procedures which balance the rights of the sportsmen and gun collectors with the need to protect the public from the sale of guns to people who cannot pass a background check, also known as a “National Instant Criminal Background Check System” or “NICS.” These two gun show operators signed an agreement which requires them to do the following:

  • ·        Post conspicuous signs throughout the shows, give written notice to all dealers and lay out in their on-line promotional materials the following: “New York State law requires that a National Instant Criminal Background Check must be completed prior to all firearm sales or transfers, including sales or transfers of rifles or shotguns. The sale or transfer of a firearm, rifle or shotgun at a Gun Show without first conducting a Background Check is a crime. It is also a crime to offer or agree to sell a firearm, rifle or shotgun at a Gun Show and then transfer it at another location for the purpose of avoiding a National Instant Criminal Background Check.”
  • ·         Require that all guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if the guns were sold and an NICS was performed.
  • ·         Inform all gun show staff of the requirements of posting signs and conducting NICS.
  • ·         Provide access to a dealer who is authorized to conduct a NICS at cost.
  • ·         Limit the number of access doors at the show so that sellers and buyers have to enter and exit through an area where the NICS procedures can be monitored.
  • ·         Use reasonable means to prevent illegal gun sales outside of the building, including the parking lot.
  • ·         Alert local law enforcement that a show will be held in their area, and request periodic patrols in the parking lots to deter illegal sales.
  • ·         Call local law enforcement if illegal sales are observed or suspected.

Locations for recent and upcoming scheduled gun shows operated by Niagara Frontier Collectors and NEACA include:

  • Akron
  • Alexander
  • Caledonia
  • Canandaigua
  • Cheektowaga
  • Clarence
  • Elmira
  • Hamburg
  • Saratoga Springs
  • Springville

This agreement with the operators follows the Attorney General’s eight-month investigation, “Operation Background Bust,” which began last year and involved undercover work at six gun shows in Erie, Genesee, Saratoga, Schoharie, Suffolk and Washington counties. Undercover investigators told ten gun sellers that they had orders of protection against them and could not pass a background check. Despite this, all ten were able to purchase guns at the shows and leave the show grounds without being subjected to a NICS.

A person who fails a NICS background check is ineligible to purchase or possess a gun under federal law. This applies to people who:

  • ·         Have been convicted of a felony
  • ·         Have been adjudicated a “mental defective” or committed to a mental institution
  • ·         Are unlawful users of or addicted to a controlled substance
  • ·         Being an alien, are illegally or unlawfully in the U.S.
  • ·         Are subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner
  • ·         Have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
  • ·         Have been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces

As a result of selling guns without a NICS, these ten sellers were prosecuted by the Attorney General. Nine of them pled guilty to the Class A Misdemeanor violation of the Gun Show Law and one was found guilty last month following a jury trial in Hamburg Town Court.

The Attorney General intends to continue to work with other New York gun show operators individually to create more oversight of the gun-purchasing process, but remains a strong advocate for uniform, statewide procedures. Such an accomplishment would make New York the first in the nation to have guidelines that reflect government and gun owners working together to insure safe gun ownership.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General In-Charge of the Rochester Regional Office Debra Martin under the Supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs, Martin J. Mack.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  November 28, 2012

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $3 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH EXCELLUS BLUECROSS BLUESHIELD REQUIRING REFUNDS FOR WRONGLY DENIED CLAIMS.

Excellus Improperly Denied 12,000 Claims, Saying Customers’ Deductibles Had Not Been Met Even Though They Had; Customers Wrongly Billed As A Result.

Excellus To Ensure Proper Functioning Of Automated Claims Systems That Failed To Account For Deductibles Paid By Customers.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today a settlement with Excellus Bluecross Blueshield requiring the insurer to refund plan members who overpaid health care providers as a result of Excellus’s improper accounting of deductibles. The settlement also requires Excellus to properly account for members’ deductible and out-of-pocket expenses to prevent similar improper denials of claims in the future. Excellus has simultaneously entered into a stipulated agreement with the New York State Department of Financial Services relating to the same subject matter.

The company has made payments totaling approximately $3,100,000 to consumers and providers.

“An insurance policy is a two-way street. New Yorkers who live up to their end of the bargain by paying their premiums and deductibles deserve to have their insurance company live up to its promises by properly paying their claims,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office will continue to look out for New Yorkers who face improperly denied health insurance claims and ensure that they are repaid the money they are owed. We are pleased that Excellus Bluecross Blueshield has refunded money to thousands of New Yorkers.”

The Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau commenced an independent investigation into Excellus’s failure to properly track members’ deductible and out-of-pocket expenditures into its automated claims system following the receipt of customer complaints. Health insurance policies generally require customers to pay out-of-pocket up to a fixed dollar amount ‑ their deductible ‑ after which the insurance carrier is obligated to pay for covered services. In this case, Excellus failed to pay customers’ claims even after the required deductibles were met.

After Excellus wrongly denied claims, providers either billed the customers for the cost of the services or absorbed the loss themselves. Excellus reported that these accounting errors ‑ which affected 12,000 customers ‑ were the result of a technology glitch following modifications to its software. As a result of these computer errors, claims processed after September 1, 2011, were erroneously denied for failure to satisfy a deductible that had, in fact, already been met. Excellus’s accounting errors primarily affected members covered under its high-deductible plans.

Excellus says that is has repaired its faulty claims system. The company also asserts that it has made payments totaling approximately $700,000 to customers who were owed less than $250 and another $2,400,000 to customers who were owed more than $250, as well as to participating providers. Excellus has agreed to conduct outreach and ensure that all members who overpaid providers because of Excellus’s accounting error receive restitution, and to audit and monitor its claims processing procedures to ensure these problems do not recur.

“Excellus has reimbursed the individuals who were affected and has corrected the computer software problem which caused some of its members, particularly those with high deductible plans, to be overcharged. The Department appreciates the opportunity to have worked with Attorney General Schneiderman’s office in resolving the issue,” New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin M. Lawsky said.

Consumers with questions or concerns about health care matters may call the Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau Helpline at 1-800-428-9071.

This investigation was handled by Assistant Attorney General Dorothea Caldwell-Brown, under the supervision of Lisa Landau, Health Care Bureau Chief, and Janet Sabel, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice.

On July 19, 2012 the S.3364 bring jobs home act, sponsored by Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow who was somewhat flabbergasted that her Bill, the Bring Jobs Home Act, was filibustered to death by a super minority of 44 Senate Republicans (only 2 Republicans from Maine and Scott Brown voted to end the filibuster)

Since the passage of the bill would have allowed tax breaks for Corporations, including a 20% tax credit, for bringing jobs and manufacturing facilities back to America and simply would have ended the tax deductions for Corporations for costs of building plants and moving machinery and operations overseas.

The bill failed by a 56-42. A count of 60 was required to end discussion and move to a final vote. 2 republicans abstain from voting on this most important issue.

The Free Trade Agreements must be revamped, along with its loopholes allowing American Corporations to leave our home land, settling on foreign land, manufacturing goods, re-directing its merchandise back to the United States of America.

As an American manufacturer my-self, I truly believe, if you want to sell a product here, it should be made here in America. If an American manufacturer decides to settle its wings abroad, then they should be outlining a method to cater to that particle geographic area regarding its consumers. Let them open up manufacturing plants abroad for the sole purpose of catering to the area’s geographic consumers.

Its not that I am against free trade, I am against the unfettered free trade. American corporations leaving our home land, making deals with foreign governments, throwing Americans on the street, for the sole reason of cheap labor, avoiding labor laws, escaping regulatory regulations, and the “greed and pursuit” of the “almighty dollar.”

I also believe if these American Corporations who seek the support of our elected officials, our servicemen in uniform, and the American consumer, then I believe, for the good of our country, If you are an American Corporation, with a corporate seal of the United States, and you are in the manufacturing business, than that plant should be housed within the 50 states of our country, “employing Americans”.

“The future for tomorrow’s leaders, (America’s future leaders), concerning our children today, is probably the most important issue any parent, political and / or labor leader should be addressing today.”

Did we not learn how our nation became the greatest country ever? It was thru hard work, ingenuity, innovation, and a vision…..everyone pitching in; building our nation thru the sweat of our ancestors merits. Thru the sweat of our ancestors, came a nation that future generations were supposed to thrive on.

Instead, we are giving away our resources, technology, and most important American Ingenuity.

What good is free trade when millions of Americans are left on the unemployment and poverty lines.

Today we have a debt that is approaching 17 trillion dollars threshold. (17 thousand billion). This number is absurd. How can a nation of so called educated leaders allow this horrific debt to incur on us and especially our children. What was the sense of building a nation, especially thru industrialization, and then allowing thousand of corporations along with its investors and shareholders to close up shop in our country, throw Americans on the street, for the sole purpose of escaping regulatory regulations, cheap labor, benefits that are associated with labor, and most important, revenue taxes.

All this is destroying our nation. How can corporate individuals, who love this nation, live and thrive here, allow our nation to go into default. How can they expect our political leaders, our military, and especially the American consumer to support them. Free trade needs to be revamped. Again, I am not against free trade, but allowing Americans to be thrown onto the streets, so the wings of capitalism can settle on foreign land is “just not American”.

“All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms is treason. If a man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. There is no America without labor, and to fleece one is to rob the other.”
Abraham Lincoln

One’s vision and understanding should realize what’s happening in this country. Sadly today, our political leaders, (Nascar Drivers) are more concern for their own self interest than the needs, hardships, and triumphs of the America people first.

Bring our jobs Home. Pass the S.3364, bring jobs home act

Frank J Spotorno

Frank Spotorno

A BOLD NEW FUTURE FOR YONKERS!!

To my fellow Yonkersites: My name is Frank Spotorno. I’m currently running for the office of City Council President. If elected City Council President I will work hard with the rest of the Council along with the Mayor’s Office to improve the quality of life in all areas of Yonkers.

As City Council President along with the rest of the Council, we will propose to lower the astronomical taxes that are expected to be paid by the residents and business owners of Yonkers.
We will work hard to improve the infrastructure of our city by multiple tactics, one being of spearheading Economic Development in our City that will add to our tax base and bring needed revenue to our City’s Coffers. We need to give incentives to developers and investors to assist further in developing Yonkers.
We will continue to address housing issues that our residents are being faced with today. We will continue many of the programs that have been created to keep the streets of Yonkers clean and safe.
We will work hand in hand with the authorities to come up with new ideas to battle crime in our streets.
We will continue to oversee that public transportation is running properly for the residents of Yonkers, who have a dependency on our transportation system.
We will continue to make sure that the educational system receives adequate resources and will work hand in hand with the Schools Superintendent to insure our educational structure is properly supervised and handled for our beloved students.
We will continue to oversee many other issues that need to be addressed such as maintaining a healthy and clean environment. As City Council President we will never forget the needs , concerns and interest of our youth, senior citizens, labor, veterans and most importantly our disabled.
Taking elected office should not be a job. but a service and love representing their residents . Being a leader requires integrity, self respect, courage, passion and the moral obligation to society to do something right about the inner city’s problems.
Flip flopping on one’s belief for one’s self interest does not represent true leadership and honesty to their residents I believe that I can handle the duties and responsibilities of a City Council President and that I can create a Bold new Future for Yonkers.
Thank you for your time and God Bless everyone and God Bless the United States of America.
Frank Spotorno, Democrat for Yonkers City Council President
www.frankspotorno.com – Campaign Website

Source: Women for Westchester.

The Women’s Equality Act needs your help!

Calling All Women for Westchester.

Women for Westchester has the opportunity to support 2 amazing women running for election for the Westchester County Board of Legislators – Catherine Parker for the 7th County Legislative District and Rachelle “Rocky” Richard for the 14th County Legislative District (CLD).

Catherine is running to replace Judy Myers who is retiring. The Republican opponent is extremely well funded and very conservative. (The 7th CLD is comprised of Larchmont, Mamaroneck, and parts of Harrison, New Rochelle and Rye.)

Rocky is challenging the 18-year-incumbent Bernice Spreckman who voted against guaranteeing women safe access to reproductive health centers and opposes the Women’s Equality Agenda. (The 14th CLD is comprised of southeast Yonkers and part of Mt. Vernon.)

Both women potentially face primaries. Catherine will have a Democratic Primary and possibly an Independence Party Primary.

Rocky may have an Independence Party Primary.

These women are strong supporters of the Women’s Equality Agenda, and will fight for us and our families.

We need you to volunteer. Please let me know if you can make calls, hand out literature, staff tables, write letters to newspapers, go door-to-door, etc.

Email me: Catherine@WomenforWestchester.com

We have the potential to elect our own Wendy Davis team right here in Westchester. But we really need to fight to make it happen and we need your help.

Wounded Warrior “Drive and Dine” Event- June 2nd 

 

On Sunday, June 2, 2013, one local business, Security World Inc., based in Valhalla, will be hosting a not-for-profit “Drive and Dine” event to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization dedicated to assisting service members injured in the line of duty (to learn more, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org).

 

From Security World Inc.:

 

How to participate:

1. Polish up the corvette or the old Ford pickup and bring it on June 2nd to Valhalla High School at 9:30AM to participate in the drive. By signing up on the Security World website for this means of entry, you get 2 admission tickets to the luncheon (buffet style Italian and appetizer foods), a flag to fly during the drive, and a t-shirt. Cost: $80.00.

2. You can also just attend the lunch at 1:00PM. Cost: $35.00 for the food and car show.

Both entry fees include a majority portion as a donation to Wounded Warrior Project

3. Have your children put on their Boy Scout, Girl Scout, or Civil Air Patrol outfit and stand along the route with flags or whatever you please to show your support for our Wounded Warriors. To find out if you are along the parade route, visit www.securityworldinc.com/map

 

For more information, visit www.securityworldinc.com/WWP or call 914-761-9500.

 

Energy Efficient Flyer

Motorists are advised that the northbound Bronx River Parkway will be closed from the Sprain Brook Parkway in Yonkers to the Westchester County Center (Exit 22) in White Plains on Monday, May 20 and Tuesday, May 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

Northbound Parkway Closures:

  • ·         All northbound Bronx River Parkway traffic in Yonkers (six lane section of the parkway) will be detoured onto the Sprain Brook Parkway, then to Central Park Avenue (NY 100) to White Plains.
  • ·         Local traffic will have access to the northbound Bronx River Parkway at the following locations (between the Sprain Brook Parkway and Harney Road): Paxton Avenue, Elm Street, Scarsdale Road, Thompson Street and Leewood Drive.
  • ·         Local northbound parkway traffic will be detoured at Harney Road to Scarsdale Avenue and East Parkway and re-entering the northbound parkway at Crane Road.
  • ·         Northbound parkway will be open to traffic at Crane Road and all points north.

The southbound parkway will be open.  The northbound closures are necessary to perform additional pavement repairs to the northbound travel lanes related to the Crane Road Bridge Replacement Project on the Bronx River Parkway.

Motorists are advised to seek alternate routes.  Numerous variable message signs are being used to alert motorists of the upcoming closures.

The project began last summer and will take three years to complete.

For additional information, contact Westchester County Department of Public Works and Transportation at 995-2555.  Full details on this project are available at westchestergov.com/craneroadbridge.

Westchester County Parks Pass a “Great Deal” of Fun.

We have finally turned the corner here in Westchester County from the long cold months of Winter into the beautiful warm days of Spring!  Our parks are open year-round and with the season for golf, hiking, biking, swimming and nature walks just getting under way, now is the perfect time to get your Westchester County Parks Pass!

An individual pass costs $60 for a three year pass.  At just $20/year, a parks pass is a tremendous value.  Family rates are also available.  Resident park passes are available year-round at a variety of locations throughout the county.  Check out this link for the location that’s most convenient for you.

A county Parks Pass is your key to 18,000 acres of parkland and 50 plus recreational areas, your park pass will unlock the fun to:

  • All county-owned parks, pools and beaches where a park pass is required.
  • For swimming, the pass admits the holder plus two adult guests and children under 12.
  • The six all-weather tennis courts at Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers.
  • The boat launch at Glen Island Park.

You’ll also enjoy a treasure trove of discounts to:

  • Golf at all six county-owned courses – for the park pass holder only.
  • Guests of pass holders pay the full rate, and junior golfers pay junior rates and must be accompanied by an adult park pass holder.
  • Parking – where parking is charged, park pass holders pay reduced rates, except Playland.
  • Camping, boat launching at George’s Island Park, at the Sportsman Center in Cortlandt.
  • Tuition for our Westchester Summer Music Center, a six-week music instructional program for children entering grades 3 through 12.

For more information, go to:

http://parks.westchestergov.com/park-passes

Gordon A. Burrows

Dear Playland Beach Lovers,

Spring has sprung and Westchester County and its contractor are hard at work fixing the beloved Playland Boardwalk and Beach!!! That’s the good news! But we need your help to get this job completed.

Unless the contractors have unimpeded access to the entire boardwalk and beach, they will not be able to do their work in time for the season. The Parks Department has asked everyone to avoid going onto the boardwalk or beach until the work is done. There is signage indicating this, but it’s still extremely tempting to run and play right now… but, please, refrain. We need to get the boardwalk and beach back in shape for the 2013 Playland season.

So please, spread the word…stay off the boardwalk and beach for now so that we can guarantee access this summer!

Thanks so much,
Judith A. Myers

Dear Neighbor,

The U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has extended the deadline for Hurricane Sandy survivors in New York to return applications for physical damage to April 13, 2013.

Survivors are encouraged to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY 800-462-7585 and return completed applications to the SBA before the deadline.  Homeowners and renters unable to obtain an SBA low-interest disaster loan may be referred to FEMA for grant consideration.

SBA’s Customer Service Representatives are available at the recovery centers located throughout the area to provide one-on-one assistance to survivors in completing their applications.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Additional details on the locations of Recovery Centers and the loan application process can be obtained by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an e-mail to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is April 13, 2013.  The deadline to return economic injury applications is July 31, 2013.

Sincerely,

Virginia Perez

Westchester County Legislator – 17th District.

FORE!Just to let you know… Westchester County’s six owned and operated golf courses, Dunwoodie, Hudson Hills, Maple Moor, Mohansic, Saxon Woods and Sprain Lake are all set to open tomorrow, Friday, March 15.Golfers with a Westchester County Park Pass may make a tee time reservation by telephone, up to one week in advance, 24 hours a day, by calling (914) 995-GOLF or online at http://egolf.westchestergov.com/play/eg_home.show_form.  For reservations for  Hudson Hills call (914) 864-3000.Westchester County maintains a great golf web site — http://golf.westchestergov.com/ where all you ever wanted to know about Westchester Golf can be found.Specific information related to greens and rental fees can be found at: http://golf.westchestergov.com/green-and-rental-fees.Judith A. Myers

Indian Point Siren Test Tomorrow.

Entergy will conduct a test of all Indian Point sirens in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange counties on Wednesday, Feb. 20,  beginning at approximately 10:30 a.m. All the sirens will be sounded for four minutes at full volume followed by an activation of the Emergency Alert System on radio and television stations. This is only a test. No response on the part of the public is necessary.

In an actual emergency, the sirens would sound continuously at full volume for four minutes, followed by the broadcast of an Emergency Alert System (EAS) message on radio and television stations. Sirens are not a signal to evacuate, but rather for people to tune to an EAS radio or TV station for information and instructions.

SAVE THE DATE Fair & Affordable Housing Expo.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Westchester County Center
White Plains, NY
10:00  a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about fair and affordable housing throughout Westchester County.
Attendees will have an opportunity to meet one on one with  real estate agents and sponsors of affordable homeownership developments to discuss their interests and qualifications to purchase housing.
Counselors from not-for-profit homeownership counseling agencies will be on hand to guide people through the homebuyer process.
Lenders and other real estate professionals will be on-hand to discuss their services.
Workshops on housing finance, credit, fair housing, and other topics will be held throughout the day.
Although the focus of the day is on home buying, there will be information on existing and upcoming fair and affordable rental developments. Hope to see you on March 9.
Stop by Housing Action Council’s booth.
Rose Noonan
Executive Director
Housing Action Council, Inc.
55 South Broadway, 2nd Fl
Tarrytown, NY 10591

On Monday February 18, 2013, Bee-Line buses and Paratransit will be operating on a Saturday schedule.

For Bee-Line schedule information, log on to www.westchestergov.com/beeline.

Dear Neighbor,

During recent county budget negotiations, many of you offered your thoughts about vital county programs and services.  Women in particular focused on safe, affordable childcare and access to essential health and mental health services.  One of the strongest voices advocating on behalf of families, women and children was the Westchester Women’s Agenda.   Their input has always been very helpful to me, not only during budget season, but throughout the year.

It has come to my attention that the Westchester Women’s Agenda is conducting a first-ever Women’s Summit to address key issues in their continuing advocacy work on behalf of women.   I’m writing as one of their supporters to urge you to participate in this upcoming Summit.

Women throughout Westchester are invited to gather at the Yonkers Riverfront Library on Saturday, March 2 at 8:30 a.m. to confront the issues concerning women—economic development, housing and homeless prevention, violence against women, health and mental health services, children’s services, civil and criminal legal services, and immigration.   The goal is to engage women in creating a stronger, more just, and more open and equal Westchester.

The event’s keynote speaker is the Rev. Noelle Damico of White Plains (one of my constituents I’m proud to say) who serves as the Associate for Fair Food within the Presbyterian Church’s Hunger Program and she coordinates the PC (USA) campaign for Fair Food.   A sought-after speaker and educator, Reverend Damico has confronted head on human trafficking issues and writes and speaks on the church’s role in advancing a human rights-based approach to addressing modern-day slavery.

As part of the program you’ll have an opportunity to participate in break-out sessions in key issue areas, where your group will discuss specific challenges and decide on priorities for action.

Once again, you’re invited.  You’re thoughts and ideas are needed.  Registration is free, but you must register to attend.  Tickets are limited.  You can register online at:  http://westwomenssummit.eventbrite.com/.

For more information on the event or becoming a member of Westchester Women’s Agenda contact:  Sheila Klatzky, WWA Summit Coordinator, Email: srklatzky@gmail.com, Phone:  (914) 683-8221.

Sincerely,

William Ryan, Westchester County Legislator

The Westchester County Department of Health will offer free flu shots to residents at its White Plains District Office, 134 Court Street, on Thursday, January 31, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday, February 1, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at its Yonkers District Office, 20 South Broadway, Thursday, February 7, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Flu shots will be available for adults and children ages 9 and up. Residents are strongly encouraged to register in advance for the flu clinics at www.health.ny.gov/Go2Clinic. Those without internet access can call (914) 995-7425, weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Walk-ins will also be welcome.

Residents can also visit the health department website to find providers and pharmacies who are giving flu shots. Physicians can call the health department if they have excess vaccine to share with other providers or if they are willing to give vaccines to people who are not their patients.

The flu shot is safe and provides protection against the three strains of the flu that are circulating this season.

To prevent spreading the flu, cough or sneeze into your elbow and wash your hands often. If you do get sick, stay home until 24 hours after your fever subsides, to avoid spreading your germs. Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as doorknobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles and telephones.  Get plenty of rest, exercise and eat healthy food.

For more information, visit www.westchestergov.com/health or call (914) 813-5000.

Public Hearing January 23rd on Bee-Line Fares.

Part of the MTA’s Fare Increase.

The Westchester County Department of Public Works and Transportation will conduct a public hearing on Wednesday, January 23rd from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.

The purpose of the hearing is to seek public comment on the adoption of the MTA fare increase for the Bee-Line System to become effective March 3, 2013.

All persons in attendance at the public hearing will be afforded an opportunity to present comments orally.

Persons wishing to provide comments in writing may do so at the hearing or they may mail them to the Westchester County Department of Public Works and Transportation, 100 East First Street, Mount Vernon, NY 10550.

All written comments must be received at the above address by the close of business on January 24, 2013.

The Westchester County Center is located at 198 Central Avenue and is an accessible building.

Further information can be obtained by calling the Bee-Line HOTLINE at 914.813.7777 between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm or click on our web page at: www.westchestergov.com/beelinebus.

Getting unsolicited phone calls asking for donations to help in storm relief efforts? Are you receiving e-mails asking for donations to help end gun violence? Are telemarketers calling you and asking for contributions to little known charities?

Unfortunately with every tragic event, there are unscrupulous individuals who will take advantage of the good nature of others, warns the Department of Consumer Protection.

Remember that unsolicited telephone calls and e-mails should be ignored. Don’t open any e-mail if you are not sure of its source and never provide any personal information to “cold” callers.

If you receive a robocall from an unknown group, don’t press 1 or 0 to speak to a live operator or to get your number off the calling list. If you respond by pressing one of the numbers, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.

The Do Not Call Registry – http://consumer.westchestergov.com/do-not-call-list helps to limit the number of calls you receive, but won’t stop every call. Using your phone’s caller id and number blocking features will also help stop unwanted calls from telemarketers.

ASTORINO ANNOUNCES COUNTY TO OFFER FREE FLU SHOTS TO RESIDENTS.

County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced today that the Westchester County Department of Health will offer free flu shots to residents on Thursday, Jan. 24 , from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.

“With so much demand for the flu shot right now, some doctors and pharmacists are having a hard time keeping up ,” Astorino said. “By offering free flu shots, we aim to help those residents who have not yet gotten vaccinated.’’

The county has 1,000 doses which can be given to adults and children ages 9 and up. Residents are strongly encouraged to register in advance for the flu clinic at www.health.  ny.gov/Go2Clinic. Those without internet access can call (914) 995-7425, weekdays, starting Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“It’s important for everyone six months and older to get a flu shot every year,” said Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD. “We hope residents will take advantage of this opportunity, because flu season can last well into the spring. It’s also equally important to wash your hands frequently, to avoid sick people and to stay home when you are sick. Most people will recover on their own from the flu with no need to go to an emergency room or the doctor.”

Residents can also visit the health department website to find providers and pharmacies who are giving flu shots. Physicians can call the health department if they have excess vaccine to share with other providers or if they are willing to give vaccines to people who are not their patients.

The flu shot is safe and provides protection against the three strains of the flu that are circulating this season.

To prevent spreading the flu, cough or sneeze into your elbow and wash your hands often with soap and water. If you do get a respiratory infection, stay home until 24 hours after your fever subsides, to avoid spreading your germs. Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as doorknobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles and telephones.  Get plenty of rest, exercise and eat healthy food.

For more information, visit www.westchestergov.com/health, like us on Facebook at facebook.com/wchealthdept, follow us on Twitter @wchealthdept or call us at (914) 813-5000.

The impact of government budget cutbacks and a discussion about Westchester County’s new initiative to improve the delivery of services to seniors while cutting costs for the agencies that provide them are among the items on the agenda for the annual Legislative Breakfast and Speak-Out on Jan. 25.   

The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the County Center, 198 Central Ave., White Plains. The session is sponsored by the county’s Department of Senior Programs and Services (DSPS) as well as by the county’s Senior Council and its federal counterpart, the Older Americans Act Advisory Council.

The Speak-Out is a special opportunity to advocate for aging services. Local, county, state and federal elected officials have been invited to update legislation that deals with senior issues, and attendees will be able to ask questions.  No registration is required.

A new county initiative to be discussed is the Livable Communities Collaborative for Aging Services. It works through 18 “common interest groups,” or CIGs, that focus on topics such as housing, transportation/mobility issues, caregiving, hunger, long-term care, elder abuse, health and wellness and financial planning.

The Speak-Out will also include a summary of a recent think tank report developed by local college students on how to bring public transportation to many isolated seniors in the northeast part of Westchester County.  The project also looked at ways to transport home-care workers and home-health aides from southern Westchester and the Bronx to clients in that region of the county.

Bee-Line Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Update.

On Monday January 21st, 2013, Bee-Line buses and Paratransit will be operating ona Saturday schedule.

For Bee-Line schedule information, log on to www.westchestergov.com/beeline.


Bee-Line buses and Paratransit are operating on or close to schedule despite 
slippery road conditions.

The following routes are on the standard snow detours:

Rts. 8 & 32 - No service to Nodine Hill in Yonkers.

The Westchester County Airport is open.  Passengers should contact their carrier for specific flight information.

Further information can be obtained by calling the Bee-Line HOTLINE at 914.813.7777 between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm or click on our web page at:www.westchestergov.com/beelinebus.

Dear Neighbors and Friends:

I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about the FREE Financial Workshop offered by Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. (WRO) on Tuesday, January 29 in Yonkers.

Topics include:

Foreclosures, Refinancings, Modifications, Short Sales, Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs).

Save on your taxes with STAR, Veterans and Disability exemptions.

What to do if you are a senior and have been turned down by a bank.

Ways you can remain in your home with FREE help from WRO.

Date:   Tuesday, January 29, 2013.

Time:     6:00 PM

Location:     Grinton Will Library, 1500 Central Park Ave., Yonkers, NY 10710.

Workshop will take place in the projection room.

This event is open to the public, free of charge and will provide impartial financial education.

For more information or directions, and to RSVP please call or email: Jane Lindau, jlindau@wroinc.org,  (914) 428-4507 x313 or Veronica Raphael, vraphael@wroinc.org, (914) 428-4507 x334.

On Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 The Volunteer Center of United Way has planned a day of service to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. 

With over 20 projects around Westchester, volunteers will help tackle local problems and advance King’s dream of opportunity for all. Volunteers in will join hundreds of thousands of Americans who are participating in MLK Day of Service projects in all fifty states.

This national day of service honors Dr. King’s legacy and commitment to transforming our nation through service to others. Join us and 400 area volunteers as we help mentor youth, visit isolated seniors, support veterans, improve health, inspire the disabled, and more.

To sign up and learn more, please go to http://www.volunteer-center.org/mlk or call The Volunteer Center at (914) 948-4452.

On Tuesday January 1st, 2013, Bee-Line buses and Paratransit will operate on a Sunday schedule.

For Bee-Line schedule information, log on to www.westchestergov.com/beeline.

EVENT UPDATE: Due to the forecasted snowstorm, Saturday’s final games of  the 14th annual Westchester County Slam Dunk Tournament at the Westchester  County Center have been postponed to Sunday, December 30.

For more information, go to www.countycenter.biz or call the County Center  at (914) 995-4050.

Trouble with your holiday returns? The Department of Consumer Protection wants to remind you when returning holiday gifts make sure you bring the sales receipt, along with the original packaging for the item back to the store.

The type of refund you receive (cash or a credit) most times is the same as the method of payment you used when buying the item. Remember that a merchant’s refund policy must be clearly posted at the point of sale.

If you have a problem making a return or with a post holiday purchase, visit the department’s website at www.westchestergov.com or e-mail the department at conpro@westchestergov.com

Bee-Line buses and Paratransit vehicles are operating with scattered system wide delays.

The following routes are traveling on the standard snow detours:

Route 6U- No service in the Uniontown area of Hastings.  Bus will travel on the regular Route 6 using Broadway instead.

Routes 13 & 19- No service to Ossining Railroad Station.  Service will start and end at Spring St and Waller Ave in downtown Ossining.

Route 32- No service to Nodine Hill in Yonkers.

Route 60- No service on Bryant Ave in White Plains.  Buses will remain on Mamaroneck Ave.

On Tuesday December 25th, Bee-Line buses and Paratransit will not operate.

For Bee-Line schedule information, log on to www.westchestergov.com/beelinebus.

Westchester County is hoping to make the holidays a little happier for hundreds of children in foster homes or residential schools who don’t have parents to buy them gifts.

Residents are being asked to purchase an extra gift this year or consider “sponsoring” a child with a specific gift request. Cash donations or gift cards are also welcomed.

According to the Department of Social Services, more than 600 local youngsters live in foster care or residential centers.

A holiday collection bin is located on the first floor of the County Office Building at 148 Martine Ave., White Plains.

Anyone wanting to sponsor a specific child or make a cash or bulk donation should contact Barbara Sabater, program administrator with the Department of Social Services, at (914) 995-5545 or e-mail her at bms7@westchestergov.com .You may also contact Matthew McCarrick, public administration intern with the Department of Social Services, at (914) 995-4979 or e-mail him at qm9@westchestergov.com .

For further information, go to www.westchestergov.com
Westchester County is hoping to make the holidays a little happier for hundreds of children in foster homes or residential schools who don’t have parents to buy them gifts.

Residents are being asked to purchase an extra gift this year or consider “sponsoring” a child with a specific gift request. Cash donations or gift cards are also welcomed.According to the Department of Social Services, more than 600 local youngsters live in foster care or residential centers.A holiday collection bin is located on the first floor of the County Office Building at 148 Martine Ave., White Plains.
Anyone wanting to sponsor a specific child or make a cash or bulk donation should contact Barbara Sabater, program administrator with the Department of Social Services, at (914) 995-5545 or e-mail her at bms7@westchestergov.com.You may also contact Matthew McCarrick, public administration intern with the Department of Social Services, at (914) 995-4979 or e-mail him at qm9@westchestergov.com .
For further information, go to www.westchestergov.com
Once again, Westchester County will be launching its annual program to help low- and moderate-income residents qualify for federal and state earned income tax credits (EITC). And once again, it needs volunteers to help with the effort.

“This is an important program that helped 6,604 residents obtain refunds totaling $7.5 million on their 2011 tax returns,” said County Executive Robert. P. Astorino. “Crucial to the success of the program is the work of volunteers who actually do the tax returns.”

Volunteers will be trained beginning in January and asked to donate time between Jan. 2 and April 15 at one of the designated tax assistance sites in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Ossining, White Plains or Peekskill. The hours of operation of each location will vary, with daytime and evening hours and some weekend hours.

Go to www.westchestergov.com for more information on how ot sign up.

On Thursday November 22nd, Bee-Line buses and Paratransit will not be operating.

On Friday, November 23rd, Bee-Line buses and Paratransit will operate on a weekday schedule.

For Bee-Line schedule information, log on to www.westchestergov.com/beelinebus.

COUNTY EMPLOYEES SPONSOR BLOOD DRIVE DEC. 5 AT COUNTY CENTER.

Blood drive open to the public as well.

Looking to do something really important this holiday season? How about donating blood?

The next Marylou Seaman County Employees Blood Drive will take place Dec. 5 at the Westchester County Center, White Plains from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Anyone between the ages of 16 and 76 and  weighing at least 110 pounds is eligible.

While the event is organized by Westchester County employees, in cooperation with New York Blood Center’s Hudson Valley Blood Services, it is open to the public.

People are encouraged to donate blood to ease the persistently low supply of whole blood and platelets. Double red blood cells will be collected as well as regular units of blood.

People can register by calling Janet Lokay at 995-2127 or by emailing her atJEL1@westchestergov.com.

Bee-Line Service Update – Route 77

The Route 77 will return to the pre-construction schedule on Monday, November 19, 2012.

The first northbound trip will no longer run at 4:20 p.m., but will be adjusted to operate as follows:

North Broadway at Main St.…………….….4:25 p.m.

TransCenter (Lane E)…………………….…….4:30 p.m.

FDR State Park (Park & Ride)……….….     5:14 p.m.

Barger St. (Rt 132) at Main St………….      5:29 p.m.

Somers Commons Shopping Center……5:37 p.m.

Carmel Bowl (Park & Ride)…………………..5:52 p.m.

Due to the lasting impact of Hurricane Sandy the MetroCard Van will be providing service to customers in the Rockaways for the remainder of this week…

On Tuesday, November 6th, Bee-Line buses and Paratransit will operate on a weekday schedule.

For Bee-Line schedule information, log on to www.westchestergov.com/beelinebus.

Bee-Line buses and Paratransit vehicles are operating with system-wide delays and detours.

For complete schedule information, call the Bee-Line HOTLINE (914)-813-7777)

Weekdays between 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or log on to www.westchestergov.com/beeline.

Bee-Line buses and Paratransit will resume service 5:00 a.m., Wednesday morning,

October 31st with some detours and delays due to blocked roads.

For complete schedule information, call the Bee-Line HOTLINE (914-813-7777),

weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or log on to www.westchestergov.com/beeline.

Bee-Line and Paratransit service is suspended again for Tuesday October 30, 2012.

For complete schedule information, call the Bee-Line HOTLINE (914-813-7777),

weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or log on to www.westchestergov.com/beelinebus.


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