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Storm and Flooding Scams

Rutledge Warns Arkansans of Scams Following Weekend Storms and Flooding

Tue, Dec 29, 2015

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today is urging Arkansans to be on guard following the recent severe weather and flooding currently affecting many parts of the State.

“Despite these difficult times for many Arkansans, scam artists are already seeking to take advantage of those who have had damage to their home or business,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I urge all Arkansans to use caution as they begin the clean-up process and to call my office if they suspect any type of fraud or price gouging. These are unfortunate circumstances especially around the holidays, but the Attorney General’s office is here to protect Arkansans.”

Governor Asa Hutchinson issued disaster declarations for twelve counties yesterday due to the heavy flooding and damage throughout the State caused by this past weekend’s storms. At this time, the counties include: Benton, Calhoun, Carroll, Drew, Franklin, Logan, Madison, Ouachita, Perry, Polk, Searcy and Washington.

Act 376 of 1997, which prohibits businesses from price gouging during a state of emergency, is now in effect in the 12 counties that the Governor has declared disaster areas. The law prohibits businesses from charging more than 10 percent above the pre-disaster price of goods or services, such as food, fuel, water, flashlights, batteries, blankets, medicine, bandages and construction materials. The price gouging law is triggered whenever a state of emergency is declared by federal, State or local governments. The ban on price gouging remains in effect for at least 30 days and can be extended another 30 days by the local governing body if necessary to protect the lives, property or welfare of the citizens. For home repairs, the law remains in effect for 180 days.

A violation of Act 376 is a violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Arkansans who believe they have encountered a disaster scam or price gouging should contact the Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or file a consumer complaint at
ArkansasAG.gov.

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Rutledge Urges FCC to Keep Text Messages ‘Spam Free’

Rutledge Urges FCC to Keep Text Messages ‘Spam Free’

Tue, Dec 22, 2015

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined other attorneys general in a comment letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking that the current safeguards and filters used to protect consumers from spam and phishing text messages be maintained.

“As I continue to work with my colleagues to reduce annoying telemarketing calls to Arkansans, I want to make sure that wireless carriers do not lose their ability to protect consumers’ messaging,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Taking this ability away would make consumers increasingly vulnerable to dangerous spam and phishing schemes.”

“Text messaging spam would be a major annoyance to consumers and would be a vehicle for various fraudulent activities,” the attorneys general wrote. “We believe, and our citizens desire, that this unique wireless service should be kept ‘spam free.’”

In addition to Rutledge, the letter, which was led by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, was signed by attorneys general from Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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Vancurens Auto Sales Lawsuit

Rutledge Files Lawsuit Against Vancurens Auto Sales

Thu, Dec 17, 2015

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today filed a consumer-protection lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court against northwest Arkansas-based Vancurens Auto Sales LLC, Infinity Auto Sales Inc., Infinity Towing and Recovery Inc., John Michael Vancuren, Michelle Nicole Vancuren and their officers and owners.

Those named in the lawsuit are accused of multiple violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. By acting in concert with one another, the defendants deceived Arkansans into taking out multiple third-party loans to purchase used vehicles, failed to apply the proceeds of returned vehicles to outstanding loan principals, towed and repossessed vehicles by using high-pressure tactics and commonly failed to deliver the titles of sold vehicles to consumers.

“The Vancurens are swindling consumers by accepting vehicles on trade while not paying prior lienholders,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These types of deceitful actions by an Arkansas business, which harms customers and the overall business community, cannot stand.

According to the complaint, the Vancurens typically submit a customer’s loan application to a third-party lender, and, if approved, the lender deposits the loan into the bank accounts of the Vancurens, leaving them with a lump sum of the loan proceeds and the borrower with the obligation to repay the lender. However, in many cases, the customer has returned the purchased vehicle due to mechanical issues, but the Vancurens fail to return the loan proceeds, which leaves the customer with a debt to pay and no vehicle. In other situations, the Vancurens convince the consumer to purchase another vehicle with financing from a different third-party lender, but again the Vancurens fail to refund the original loan proceeds so the consumer is left with two loans on two different vehicles but only have one vehicle.

Twelve consumer complaints have been received at the Attorney General’s office in response to the negative business practices of the Vancurens. One Arkansan described a June 2013 purchase of a Ford truck for which his sister co-signed. The consumer returned the truck to the lot six weeks after purchase because of mechanical issues. John Vancuren promised the consumer that his loan with Westlake had been paid off. Three years later however, the consumer’s sister learned through a separate credit application that her credit report showed 24 months of late payments to Westlake for the aforementioned truck. The Vancurens’ failure to pay off the transaction as promised has resulted in a ruined credit history for the consumer and his sister who has been unable to purchase a new car for her growing family.

A Spanish-speaking consumer purchased a Honda Civic from the Vancurens in August 2013. In September 2014, John Vancuren arranged to meet the consumer and her son, who spoke some English, at the dealership. Knowing that the consumer was not fluent in English, Vancuren took the consumer’s son inside and slipped out the back door to present the Spanish-speaking consumer with a document stating she “returned the car to the dealer instead of paying the balance on the car.” He told her if she would sign it, he would give her a $5,900 check for the equity in the car. The check never arrived, and the consumer was left without a car.

Rutledge is asking the court to impose civil penalties, restitution, attorneys’ fees, costs and other relief against these individuals and companies.

Victims of these business practices should contact the Attorney General’s office to file a consumer complaint at (800) 482-8982 or go to ArkansasAG.gov.

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Jonesboro Woman Sentenced for Adult Abuse

Rutledge Announces Jonesboro Woman Sentenced for Adult Abuse

Thu, Dec 17, 2015

JONESBORO – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said today that a Craighead County woman has been sentenced to 90 days in the Arkansas Department of Correction and assessed a $1,000 fine on one count of adult abuse, a Class D felony.

“Those living in long-term care facilities, such as the Jonesboro Human Development Center, are entitled to the highest quality care,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “As Attorney General, I am committed to seeking justice for anyone who does not receive the proper treatment he or she deserves and making sure those who abuse patients are held accountable for their actions. I appreciate Prosecutor Ellington for working with the Attorney General’s office to go after these criminals.”

On Dec. 11, a Craighead County jury found Sherri Currie guilty. Currie, a former employee of the Jonesboro Human Development Center, beat an intellectually disabled resident multiple times with a clothes hanger. The case was investigated by investigators employed by the Jonesboro Human Development Center and the Attorney General’s office. The case was prosecuted jointly by attorneys from the 2nd Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s office and the Attorney General’s office.

“I appreciate the hard work of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, her office and Craighead County Deputy Prosecutor Grant Deprow for all the hard work and numerous hours they put into the investigation and prosecution of this case,” said Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington. “I truly believe protecting those who cannot care for themselves is one of the most important jobs we do.”

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Never Forgotten Event Helps Identify Missing Person’s Remains

Rutledge: Never Forgotten Event Helps Identify Missing Person’s Remains

Tue, Dec 15, 2015

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Kokes and Arkansas Crime Information Center Director Jay Winters today announced that the remains found in the Arkansas River last week were identified as belonging to Shequenia Burnett. The identification was made based on DNA samples given from family members at the Attorney General’s event to raise awareness for and help loved ones locate missing persons, Never Forgotten: Arkansas Takes Action.

Burnett’s family had provided DNA samples to the State Crime Lab at the 2014 and 2015 missing persons event.

“First and foremost, my heart goes out to Shequenia’s family,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The grief they continue to feel is unimaginable. I remain hopeful that through the work of local law enforcement there will be justice for Shequenia and closure for her family. This closure would not be possible without the work of local law enforcement, and I commend their tireless efforts on these very difficult and emotional cases. I also hope that this discovery using DNA collected at the Never Forgotten event will encourage others with missing loved ones to attend next year’s event to provide samples and receive support from other families.”

“Thanks to the efforts of multiple Arkansas State Crime Lab employees, the remains of Shequenia Burnett were identified within days of their recovery,” said Dr. Kokes. “Without comparison of the DNA samples obtained at the Never Forgotten events, this would not have been possible.”

“We are appreciative of the Attorney General’s office for partnering with us and taking the lead on this so that we can collect these samples and help get these families closure,” said Winters.

Burnett of North Little Rock was reported missing on Jan. 15, 2014, after her mother, Sharon Jiles, had not heard from her daughter since Jan. 9.

The human leg belonging to Burnett was found on Saturday, Dec. 5 near the Big Dam Bridge in the Arkansas River. The Little Rock Police Department and the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office both responded after someone called police to report seeing the leg.

Rutledge hosted the fourth annual Never Forgotten event last June in partnership with the Crime Lab, state Medical Examiner and other agencies. Families of missing persons in Arkansas were invited to attend to provide DNA samples and information that could assist law enforcement in locating missing persons. Families provided DNA samples to be included in the national database, as well as police reports, photographs and dental records.

This is the second time that DNA collected at the annual Never Forgotten event has resulted in helping to identify a missing person’s remains. In Feb. 2013, authorities in Memphis determined that remains discovered in that city in 2011 were those of Tommy Lee Newingham of Earle, who had been missing for 12 years. Newingham’s death is being investigated as a homicide.

Information about the 2016 Never Forgotten event will be announced at a later date.

The North Little Rock Police Department is conducting the investigation into Burnett’s death. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the department at 501-758-1234.

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Rutledge Joins Request to U.S. Supreme Court

Rutledge Joins Request for U.S. Supreme Court to Review EPA’s Runoff Regulations

Fri, Dec 11, 2015

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is part of a bipartisan group of 22 State attorneys general asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision that allows the EPA to usurp a State’s authority to regulate runoff from sources such as farmland.

Led by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the attorneys general have filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. The 3rd Circuit upheld the EPA's effort to impose a vast and expensive federal regulatory regime that micromanages nutrient and sediment runoff in States in and around the Chesapeake Bay region.

Under a deeply flawed interpretation of the plain language of the Clean Water Act, the EPA exceeded its authority to set a total maximum daily load for water pollutants in the region and unilaterally granted itself the power to make thousands of land-use decisions that have traditionally been, and should remain, State decisions.

“Under the Clean Water Act, it is clear that States retain exclusive authority to regulate in this manner,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The EPA is once again exceeding its legal authority under the Clean Water Act and wants to micromanage how States meet federal water quality standards. If the EPA wishes to regulate these sources, it should seek authority from Congress to do so and should not act through unilateral regulations that violate the rights of States."

Attorney General Rutledge added that she joined the brief because “if the EPA’s unlawful conduct in the Chesapeake Bay region is allowed to persist, the EPA may have a clear path to take the same actions here in Arkansas or in this region."

The brief was filed in American Farm Bureau Federation, et al., v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, et al.

In the brief, the attorneys general write, “The Third Circuit’s decision allows the EPA to seize expansive authority at the expense of States’ traditional control over land management decisions, without a clear statement from Congress approving or authorizing such a disruption from the federal-state balance.”

In addition to Kansas and Arkansas, other states joining the brief included: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

A copy of the brief is available by clicking here.

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