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Rutledge Submits Comments to the FCC on Illegal Spoofing

Rutledge Submits Comments to the FCC on Illegal Spoofing

Mon, May 6, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge submitted comments today on the Truth in Caller ID Act rulemaking process, which will enable the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to combat caller ID spoofing activities originating outside the United States.

“Arkansas has been leading the charge against these incessant and illegal spoofing calls that scam Arkansans out of thousands of dollars and are often directed to our most vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This proposed rule would expand the FCC’s authority to hold these bad actors accountable for the harm they cause.”

In March, Rutledge worked with legislators to enact stiffer penalties for illegal robocalls and spoofing, which faced no opposition. Arkansas has joined 49 other states and 4 U.S. territories in sending a letter to the U.S. Senate encouraging the passage of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act.

In February, Rutledge also sent a letter to the FCC demanding they take more aggressive measures to require telecoms to use existing technology to identify and stop illegal robocalls.

Rutledge joined the coalition with 42 other states to submit the comments.

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Rutledge Urges the Fifth Circuit to Affirm Decision that Obamacare Is Unconstitutional

Rutledge Urges the Fifth Circuit to Affirm Decision that Obamacare Is Unconstitutional

Tue, Apr 30, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced Arkansas joined Texas and 16 other states in a brief urging the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the decision that the Affordable Care Act and its individual mandate are unconstitutional.

“Today, Arkansas is one step closer to upending this unconstitutional law,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The unconstitutional individual mandate was the backbone of this law and without it in place, Obamacare cannot be upheld. Congress must take action to increase health care options, lower costs and protect those with pre-existing conditions."

In the brief filed today, the 18-state coalition argues that the district court was right to let them challenge the individual mandate because it increases the amount they spend on state health-insurance programs. The brief also defends the district court’s decision that all of Obamacare must be invalidated because the individual mandate is now unconstitutional against the arguments in an earlier Fifth Circuit brief by a separate, California-led coalition of states, which seeks to reverse the district court’s decision.

In December, a U.S. district court in Texas agreed with the 18-state coalition after the group filed a lawsuit earlier last year challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. They argued that Congress rendered all of Obamacare unconstitutional by doing away with the tax penalty in Obamacare’s individual mandate when it enacted President Donald J. Trump’s tax overhaul.

In 2012, a majority of the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare against a constitutional challenge and held that the individual mandate was a valid exercise of Congress’s tax power. But a different majority also held that Congress did not have the power to create the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. As Chief Justice John Roberts explained, and the four justice dissent agreed, the Commerce Clause gives Congress power to regulate commerce – but not to compel it, which is what the individual mandate does.

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Rutledge Hosts Retiree Resources Event in Jonesboro
Rutledge Announces Arrest of New Beginnings Health Services Owner for Medicaid Fraud and Tax Evasion

Rutledge Announces Arrest of New Beginnings Health Services Owner for Medicaid Fraud and Tax Evasion

Thu, Apr 25, 2019

Failing to report contracts with Milton “Rusty” Cranford, Robin Raveendran, and her former husband Michael Grimes

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today the arrest of the owner and CEO of New Beginnings Behavioral Health Services LLC, Chirie Bazzelle.

Bazzelle, 46, of Benton, is accused of failing to report contracts with Milton “Rusty” Cranford, Robin Raveendran, and her former husband Michael Grimes who is a convicted felon. She is also accused of continuing the employment of individuals who had been convicted of Medicaid fraud and ignoring additional Medicaid fraud claims of other employees. Bazzelle has been listed as the sole owner of New Beginnings Behavioral Health Services in Pulaski County since 2010. Bazzelle is also accused of attempting to evade taxes from January 2014 through February 2019.

“Bad actors who have their hands in the taxpayer cookie jar must be held accountable,” says Attorney General Rutledge

In June, Rutledge announced the arrest of former Preferred Family Healthcare Director of Program Integrity and Director of Operations, Raveendran, for scamming the Arkansas Medicaid Program of $2.2 million. Raveendran is also a former Senior Auditor with Arkansas’s Medicaid Program Integrity Unit. In August, Rutledge announced the arrest of former Preferred Family Healthcare Director of Billing, Helen Balding, for similar actions. In October, Rutledge announced the arrest of Vicki Chisam who is accused of being an accomplice to Raveendran, Balding and other individuals known and unknown to the Office of the Attorney General.

The Attorney General’s office was assisted in this investigation by the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and will be prosecuted in cooperation with 6th Judicial Prosecutor Larry Jegley.

Medicaid fraud occurs when providers use the Medicaid program to obtain money to which they are not entitled. To report Medicaid fraud or abuse or neglect in residential care facilities, contact the Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud hotline at (866) 810-0016 or oag@arkansasag.gov.

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Rutledge Announces Arkansas Suit Against Opioid Distributors

Rutledge Announces Arkansas Suit Against Opioid Distributors

Thu, Apr 25, 2019

Says, ‘another step in a deliberate approach to address this devastating crisis’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced she has filed a lawsuit against opioid distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation on behalf of the State of Arkansas.

“Today’s action is another step in a deliberate approach to address this devastating crisis,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Drug distributors are required by law to report suspicious shipments of opioids, but many have failed to do so, despite often obvious absurd shipment requests. These distributors have flooded Arkansas with nearly 67 dosage units for every man, woman and child which has ensured the availability of a more-than-adequate supply of opioids to fuel the crisis in our State.”

This lawsuit is the latest step in Rutledge’s multifaceted approach to solving the opioid crisis, which has devastated families across Arkansas and the country.

Opioid distributors have the responsibility of ensuring that medications are only distributed and dispensed to appropriate patients and not diverted to unauthorized users. But these users failed to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of opioids, ultimately contributing to and creating a national and statewide emergency.

Rutledge is suing the opioid distributors who enabled the problem in Arkansas for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act as well as for negligence, creation of a public nuisance and for being unjustly enriched by their business practices.

Rutledge has been a leader in the State and nation combatting the opioid epidemic by using a multifaceted approach through education, litigation, treatment and enforcement. Her first-in-the-nation Prescription for Life program is free for high schools and over the last year has reached 67 counties and almost 13,800 students. In November, the Attorney General hosted the annual Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit with record attendance, which provided training and educational opportunities for law enforcement, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators. Rutledge has taken an aggressive approach to protect Arkansans and combat the epidemic by suing Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and Endo for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act.

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Rutledge: State Receives $55 Million in Tobacco Settlement Funds

Rutledge: State Receives $55 Million in Tobacco Settlement Funds

Tue, Apr 23, 2019

Bringing more than $1 billion total for public health programs

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has secured the 2019 share of proceeds from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with tobacco companies. More than 20 years ago, 46 states and numerous other jurisdictions entered into a historic, multibillion dollar agreement to settle consumer-protection lawsuits for the costs that they had incurred for treating the negative health effects of smoking.

“The funds from the Master Settlement Agreement are important to the overall health and welfare of Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I am proud to continue to enforce the tobacco statutes and secure the State’s disbursement from the agreement. This money funds smoking cessation programs, health care research and the Arkansas Medicaid program, which are all vital resources for a number of Arkansas families and children.”

This year’s disbursement of $ 55,375,060.96 brings the total amount received since 2001 to fund various public health programs in Arkansas to $1,059,678,391.78.

The MSA imposed health-related and advertising restrictions on tobacco companies. Additionally, the agreement requires the settling manufacturers to make annual payments to the settling states.

The Attorney General is tasked with enforcing the tobacco statutes that were enacted pursuant to the MSA. This enforcement includes operation of a certification process for tobacco manufacturers, ongoing quarterly and annual reporting, maintaining an Approved-For-Sale Directory, conducting audits, collection of escrow amounts and investigation or even litigation should violations of the tobacco statutes occur.

In 2000, Arkansas voters created the Tobacco Settlement Act, which governs how the funds received under the settlement are used. Payments are placed into the Tobacco Settlement Program Fund for later distribution to the programs supported by the settlement payments, including the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, an agricultural and medical research consortium; the Medicaid Expansion Program, which provides Medicaid coverage for pregnant women and increases hospital benefits for Medicaid beneficiaries; the Prevention and Cessation Program, which aims to reduce tobacco use; and the Targeted State Needs Program, which includes support for public health programs for minorities, older Arkansans and residents of rural areas and the Delta.

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