Rutledge: North Little Rock Residents Sued for Deed FraudMon, Sep 16, 2019
Neill Reed and Jeric Goodrum have stolen homes and property using fraudulent deeds
LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today filed suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court against Neill Reed and Jeric Goodrum of North Little Rock, for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Reed and Goodrum tried to manipulate Arkansas’s tax-delinquent property sale procedures by illegally filing forged deeds in order to steal property from rightful owners and then sell the property to unsuspecting consumers.
“These fraudulent actions are costly for their victims, and in some circumstances rob children, grandchildren and families of property that should be their rightful inheritance,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These scams hurt hard-working Arkansans, and these fraudsters must be stopped.”
Defendants Reed and Goodrum begin the scam by locating publicly-listed tax-delinquent properties that were soon to be auctioned by the Commissioner of State Lands. Once they identify a particular tax-delinquent piece of property they want to acquire, and without the true owner’s knowledge or consent, they forge a quitclaim deed that indicates that the record owner of the property transferred their interests to Defendants. Defendants record the forged document in a county’s property records and then sell the stolen property for a price that may be thousands of dollars below the property’s actual value to unsuspecting third parties. The scam often goes unnoticed until the true owner tries to pay the taxes and reclaim the property.
The investigation was assisted by staff for the Commissioner of State Lands, Tommy Land. The suit seeks an injunction; an order imposing civil penalties; restitution for affected consumers; the suspension or forfeiture of franchises, corporate charters, licenses, permits and authorizations to do business in Arkansas and other relief against Reed and Goodrum.
Attorney General Rutledge is requesting restitution, civil penalties, and injunctive relief and demands a jury trial. Victims of these business practices should file a consumer complaint on ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.
Justice served: Resuming death penalty right thingMon, Sep 16, 2019
Op-Ed By Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Senator Tom Cotton
This summer, President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr resumed the federal death penalty for five brutal murderers, including a white supremacist who murdered a family of three right here in Arkansas.
The federal death penalty has been in a de facto moratorium since 2003. Attorney General Barr's announcement will end this misguided moratorium and align the federal capital-crimes process more closely with the policy of our state and many others.
Though we understand some Arkansans have principled objections to the death penalty, we believe the ultimate punishment is warranted for the most heinous murderers. Capital punishment can help bring closure for victims' families, deter other would-be murderers, and express the moral outrage of our society for the most atrocious crimes.
Consider the case of Daniel Lewis Lee, one of the five convicted murderers whose execution will now proceed. Lee belonged to a white-supremacist group called the Aryan People's Revolution. According to court filings, "the group believed that whites were the chosen race, [and] that Jews were the devil's children and should die."
After a crime spree, Lee and a companion robbed the home of William Mueller in northern Pope County. It was early January 1996, just a few weeks after Christmas. When Mueller returned home with his young wife and their 8-year-old daughter, Lee and his companion overpowered them. But it wasn't enough to take their loot and leave.
They duct-taped the family's hands and tortured them, repeatedly shocking them with stun guns until they passed out. Then they duct-taped their heads in plastic garbage bags, suffocating them to death. After murdering the Mueller family in cold blood, they tied rocks to their corpses and dumped them in a bayou. Lee later joked that he had put the Muellers "on a liquid diet."
For such a barbaric crime, simple justice demands that Daniel Lewis Lee and murderers like him face the ultimate punishment, which truly fits the crime. Further, the death penalty in this case warns criminals to stop short of murder, lest they face execution. The death penalty also ends a horrific and prolonged period of pain and justice delayed for a victim's loved ones--in a case where Lee doesn't even deny his guilt.
In 1999, 12-year-old Andi Brewer--a beautiful and joyful young girl--was raped and murdered by Karl Roberts of Polk County. Roberts confessed to the crime. Even his attorneys don't claim that he's innocent. Yet 20 years later, Andi's family is still waiting for justice. Her mother, state Rep. Rebecca Petty, was shocked to learn that Roberts was even selling prison art from death row while his case dragged on. Resuming federal executions will relieve at least a few families of the pain that Representative Petty has endured for years.
A decent society must respond decisively to crime in order to preserve law and order. For the most severe crimes, where innocent life has been stolen, even life in prison can be an inadequate punishment. As we know from too many cases, prisoners can escape (or get parole), murder prison guards, or enjoy from behind bars some of life's pleasures that their innocent victims will never enjoy again.
The decision to reinstate the federal death penalty will ensure that justice is served in five terrible, bloody cases. It will reassure law-abiding citizens that our government has the will to protect them from violence. And it will remind criminals that justice may be delayed, even for years, but it cannot be avoided.
That's why we welcome the decision by the president and Attorney General Barr.
Rutledge Announces 2019 Law Enforcement Summit AgendaThu, Sep 12, 2019
Focus on medical marijuana and eyewitness identification
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the agenda for the 17th Arkansas Law Enforcement Summit, which will be held on Oct. 1 at the Benton Event Center in Benton. The annual event is a free training and educational opportunity for Arkansas’s law enforcement community, including officers, prosecutors and criminal justice personnel.
“This year’s Law Enforcement Summit will address concerns that have arisen in the wake of the legalization of medical marijuana as well as ensuring proper eyewitness identification in criminal cases,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I encourage all officers to register so they can learn from these insightful presenters.”
The summit will hear from Norwood, Massachusetts, Police Chief William Brooks III discussing eyewitness identification. According to studies, it is estimated that approximately 70 percent of people who are wrongfully convicted in our nation are convicted based on erroneous eyewitness identification. He presents nationally on behalf of the Innocence Project and was the 2012 recipient of the Innocence Network’s Champion of Justice Award.
The afternoon will include a presentation from David Blake, Chris Halsor and Cory Amend from Colorado. They will address the many challenges with legal marijuana for law enforcement including issues involving possession, cultivation, distribution, transportation and driving under the influence.
During a noon luncheon, Rutledge will recognize one outstanding law enforcement officer from each county in addition to regional and statewide award winners.
Rutledge will also welcome Lauren Wagner, who will speak on Online Investigations: Tools, Tips, and Tricks. She provides technical assistance to law enforcement agencies in active cases, prepares training curricula, teaches SEARCH investigative courses and speaks at conferences throughout the United States.
Assistant Attorney General Jill Irwin will present on Monsters Behind the Machines, which will look into some of the cases that have been investigated by the Attorney General’s Office Special Investigations Division.
Registration is open and available at ArkansasAG.gov.
Rutledge Settles With Buy-Here-Pay-Here Car Dealer, Automatic Auto FinanceWed, Sep 11, 2019
Settlement will bring $1.5 million for 5,695 impacted consumers
LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has filed a Consent Judgment today resolving a consumer-protection lawsuit in Washington County against Automatic Auto Finance, Inc (AAF)., Jorja Trading, Inc., Cashfish Motor Pawn, Inc. and Monte Johnston for unconsciousable and deceptive business practices involving the sale of used motor vehicles. Johnston owns the buy-here-pay-here dealership, AAF and its related businesses. A buy-here-pay-here car dealership is a business that handles all financing, payments and collections of vehicle purchases directly through the dealership and its related companies.
“Buy-here-pay-here dealerships cannot take advantage of vulnerable customers, and I will do everything in my power to ferret out those bad actors to protect Arkansans,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
The lawsuit alleged that AAF and its affiliates engaged in deceptive advertising and marketing of used cars, sales of vehicles, credit approvals, financing practices, unconscionable contract and payment terms, servicing practices, repossession and collection practices, dealings with debtors, impermissible irregularities after loan defaults, court actions against delinquent or defaulting customers, and other illegal actions. AAF and its affiliates claim that they have not violated any Arkansas laws.
The settlement reforms a number of AAF’s business practices. AAF is prohibited from doing business under multiple different names. AAF is now required to develop and utilize underwriting practices to ensure that consumers are not trapped in a vehicle purchase contract that they have no reasonable way of repaying. Consumers now have the opportunity to have a possible purchase inspected by a third party to verify its roadworthiness. AAF is no longer allowed to conduct verbal sales pitches in Spanish or Marshallese and require a consumer to sign a contract in English; it will be required to produce a copy of the contract in the language of the verbal sales presentation to those consumers who consummate the purchase. AAF is required to modify its vehicle servicing plans and practices as well as its irregular payment schedules. Other practices reformed under the Consent Judgment include procedures for repossession of vehicles after payment default, collection practices for customers who are in payment default, legal actions taken against defaulting customers and garnishment procedures.
Two landmark provisions for Arkansas consumers include a prohibition against suing defaulting customers in any small claims court using relaxed procedures that don’t afford adequate notice to consumers and a program offering a three-day right-to-cancel a vehicle sale, subject to reasonable restrictions set out in the Consent Judgment.
AAF’s owner, Johnston, is banned for sixty months from operating a used motor vehicle company that offers credit, financing or engages in collection of debts related to used motor vehicles or buy-here-pay-here businesses.
Current and former customers of AAF may be eligible to receive a credit for the amounts they currently owe. The Consent Judgment, filed in Washington County, secures over $1.5 million in credits for over 5,695 customer accounts and levies $3 million in suspended penalties against the defendants for any violations of the judgement. AAF and its affiliates are also required to pay $238,000 to the Attorney General’s Office for its litigation costs.
Victims of these business practices should file a consumer complaint on ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.
Rutledge: Rural Arkansas to Benefit from T-Mobile/Sprint MergerTue, Sep 10, 2019
Says, ‘The merger will result in increased quality and more competitive prices for Arkansans’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today released the following statement in support of the proposed T-Mobile US, Inc. and Sprint Corporation merger. Rutledge joined the U.S. Department of Justice in formally supporting the merger based on conditions of the agreement, which will form the nation’s third-largest telecommunications carrier.
“Arkansas stands to benefit from the T-Mobile merger with Sprint which will increase competition, especially in rural areas that have been deprived of reliable wireless service,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “From our evaluation, the merger will result in increased quality and more competitive prices for Arkansans by expanding rural broadband access and expediting 5G technology to provide an essential service for a desperately underserved population.”
The proposed merger agreement protects Arkansas consumers from any potentially anti-competitive market effects. As part of the merger agreement, T-Mobile and Sprint have also committed to a 5G build-out plan that is intended to cover 85 percent of rural Americans in a three-year period, and 90 percent within six-years.
Rutledge Announces Bipartisan Antitrust Investigation of GoogleMon, Sep 9, 2019
There is evidence that Google may unfairly control the flow of online information
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced an investigation into whether Google conducts its business practices in accordance with state and federal antitrust laws. A bipartisan coalition of 50 attorneys general plan to collaborate with federal authorities to investigate the tech giant’s overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may constitute anticompetitive behavior that harms Arkansas consumers.
“There is evidence that Google may manipulate the flow and dissemination of online information to unfairly influence and undermine consumer choice and stifle innovation, which directly impacts Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Google’s dominance and unbounded control over the digital advertising marketplace and consumer information can no longer go unchecked.”
Legal experts from each state will work in cooperation with federal authorities to assess competitive conditions for online services and ensure that Americans have access to free digital markets.
Past investigations of Google uncovered violations ranging from advertising illegal drugs in the United States to now three antitrust actions brought by the European Commission. None of these previous investigations, however, fully address the source of Google’s sustained market power and the ability to engage in serial and repeated business practices with the intention to protect and maintain that power.
In addition to Arkansas, the Texas led coalition includes: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.