Rutledge Sets September Mobile Office LocationsFri, Aug 24, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced mobile office locations for September.
Attorney General Rutledge created this initiative during her first year in office to make the office accessible to everyone, particularly to those who live outside the capital city. Office hours were held in all 75 counties in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and assisted nearly 1,000 Arkansans last year.
Rutledge believes in face-to-face conversations to truly hear from Arkansans. The Attorney General Mobile Offices assist constituents with consumer related issues by filing consumer complaints against scam artists as well as answering questions about the office and the other services it offers to constituents.
This year, the Cooperative Extension Service will be on hand at each mobile office to also provide information on the services it provides statewide.
Rutledge continues her partnership with local law enforcement across Arkansas to offer prescription drug take back boxes at each mobile office. Law enforcement will be at all mobile offices to handle a secure box and properly dispose of the prescriptions collected. Rutledge encourages Arkansans to bring their old, unused or expired prescription medications to an upcoming mobile office.
For more information about services provided by the Attorney General’s office, visit ArkansasAG.gov or call (501) 682-2007. Rutledge can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge and on Twitter at twitter.com/AGRutledge.
The upcoming mobile office schedule is below:
Thursday, Sept. 6
10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Bradley County Municipal Building
104 N. Myrtle St.
Warren, AR 71671
Friday, Sept. 7
10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Maumelle Center on the Lake
2 Club Manor Drive
Maumelle, AR 72113
Tuesday, Sept. 11
10:30 a.m. – noon
Searcy County Civic Center
515 Zack Road
Marshall, AR 72650
Thursday, Sept. 13
10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Paragould Community Center
Main Conference Room
3404 Linwood Drive
Paragould, AR 72450
Thursday, Sept. 13
10:30 a.m. – noon
TC Vaughan Senior Adult Center
706 N. Division St.
Morrilton, AR 72110
Tuesday, Sept. 18
10:30 a.m. – noon
Drew County Courthouse
210 S. Main St.
Monticello, AR 71655
Thursday, Sept. 20
10:30 a.m. – noon
Hempstead County Cooperative Extension
Courthouse, First Floor
400 S. Washington St.
Hope, AR 71801
Tuesday, Sept. 25
10:30 a.m. – noon
Izard County Cooperative Extension Service
79 Municipal Drive
Melbourne, AR 72556
Thursday, Sept. 27
10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Ozarka College - Ash Flat
64 College Drive
Ash Flat, AR 72513
ICYMI: Trump’s Clean Energy Plan Reinvigorates FederalismFri, Aug 24, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Thursday, an op-ed written by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge applauding President Trump’s announcement to replace the so-called Clean Power Plan , appeared in Real Clear Politics.
President Donald J. Trump’s announcing his plan to gut and replace the so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP) will be greeted with cheers across America as states reassume control over their own emissions standards. The president and Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler deserve thanks, as well as the dozens of state attorneys general who leveled the first legal challenges to the validity of President Obama’s sweeping measures in federal court. If it were not for our bipartisan efforts, the voices of average citizens would never have been heard. State attorneys general stood tall and won a historic stay at the Supreme Court of the United States to halt the CPP.
But the fight didn’t stop there. Earlier this year, 25 states encouraged the EPA to continue efforts toward rescinding this plan. The Obama administration’s CPP was drafted in the shadow of the Paris Agreement, and designed more to win the praise of Europe’s elite rather than to protect our environment, states’ rights, and the American economy. In a state like Arkansas where over half of the electricity is responsibly generated from coal-fired power plants, the impact would have affected the pocketbooks of Arkansas families. These increased costs would have had a direct impact on the state’s ability to grow good-paying jobs with fair, reasonable electric rates.
As a seventh-generation Arkansan raised on a cattle farm and married to a row-crop farmer, I can assure Americans that no one cares about clean air and water more than I do. But I do not care for heavy-handed and unlawful regulations from Washington that will hurt Arkansans and all Americans.
We should brace ourselves for the deluge of negative press surrounding the president’s announcement. Those on the outer edges of the left will scream that the reversal of Obama’s climate policy will result in a doomsday environmental scenario. The sky is not falling — figuratively or literally — so let me give you some honest talk.
Before President Obama’s gross executive overreach with the CPP, the EPA’s authority in this space had been detailed under the 1970 Clean Air Act. The effects of this landmark legislation — a 73 percent reduction in six key pollutants — have been remarkable, but they were still somehow deemed insufficient by the previous administration.
The proposed CPP would have granted the EPA authority to issue top-down regulatory mandates, instituting a one-size-fits-all policy that would have cost billions of dollars per year according to the Energy Information Administration’s analysis of the plan. Moreover, it would have caused double-digit electricity price spikes in the majority of states. Perversely, these costs would have disproportionately impacted minorities and senior citizens, many of whom live in low- or middle-income households. Not only did a congressional bipartisan majority oppose the CPP, but the Supreme Court stepped in, staying the rule while it worked its way through the lower courts.
Under President Trump’s new proposal, the EPA will refrain from setting an ironclad presumptive standard of performance; instead, hand-in-glove with the states, it will establish emissions guidelines for state plans that tackle greenhouse-gas emission from operating coal plants. Specifically, the states will have three years to determine, using the EPA’s “best system of emission reduction” norms, where efficiencies can be found. Instead of arbitrarily picking winners and losers, the president’s replacement rule will safeguard jobs and provide breathing room for states to create innovative energy portfolios — all without spurring the artificial acceleration of alternative energy sources and overburdening our budgets.
The legions of detractors, both domestically and internationally, are crying foul, but does the science support their cause? No. In calculating the regulatory impact analysis of the new rule, the EPA found that replacing the CPP with the current plan could reduce 2030 CO2 emissions by 0.7 percent; reduce co-pollutant emissions (SO2 and NOX) by 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively, and mercury by between 0.5 percent and 1 percent. Although it will take some time and hard work when the new plan is fully implemented, we are looking at CO2 reductions nearly 35 percent below 2005 levels. And best yet, these figures generally track with the projections under the CPP but are achieved more methodically, intelligently, and legally.
America has been and will remain the global leader in balancing energy production with environmental concerns. We command this envied position for a few reasons, among them our strong economy and a dynamic marketplace. When the federal government decides to meddle with the energy sector, not only are we damaged economically, but the military and civil security afforded by a robust energy structure is damaged. Here, our environmentalist friends would do well to remember that, without sufficient wealth and security, we cannot help Mother Nature as we would sometimes like.
Thankfully, the Trump administration understands and appreciates these concerns, and they know that a reinvigorated approach to federalism is the first step toward finding a solution. Here, again, the state attorneys general deserve a great deal of credit for getting energized and organized to remind Washington that, absent state input and control, federal energy policy will bankrupt Americans and harm the environment. The Trump administration listened. Now comes the hard part.
Rutledge Encourages Congress to Pass Stronger Punishments for Fentanyl TraffickersThu, Aug 23, 2018
Says, ‘It is important that Congress take steps to close loopholes in our laws’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today that she has joined a bipartisan group of 52 state and territory attorneys general calling on Congress to pass the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act, co-sponsored by Senator Tom Cotton. This act is intended to close a loophole that allows those trafficking deadly fentanyl to stay a step ahead of law enforcement.
“Opioid addiction is a multi-faceted problem,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Unfortunately, many addicts are turning to the extremely lethal fentanyl when opioids are hard to find or become too expensive. It is important that Congress take steps to close loopholes in our laws by adapting to societal changes to include more stringent punishment for criminal activity. I am proud to sign onto this letter, taking another step to combat this complex crisis by supporting the federal government’s efforts to close gaps in the system that allow dangers drugs, like fentanyl, onto our streets and homes.”
Fentanyl is currently a Schedule II controlled substance and when prescribed by a doctor can be a safe painkiller. However, without careful supervision, fentanyl can be lethal. The SOFA Act, if passed, would eliminate the current loophole which keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl and introduce the drug into society. The SOFA Act utilizes catch-all language allowing the Drug Enforcement Administration to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.
In April, Rutledge met with Senator Cotton and hosted a press conference about the dangers of fentanyl and the disparity between the lethal nature of fentanyl and the punishments set in the U.S. Criminal Code.
Rutledge is joined on the letter, led by Connecticut and Wisconsin, by Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, 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, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Rutledge Praises Proposed Affordable Clean Energy PlanTue, Aug 21, 2018
Says, ‘I do not favor heavy-handed and unlawful regulations from Washington that will hurt Arkansans’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released the below statement following President Donald J. Trump’s announcement rolling back the Obama-era so-called Clean Power Plan.
“Today’s decision to replace the burdensome so-called Clean Power Plan with the new proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule is a big win for Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “In a State like Arkansas, where over half of the electricity is responsibly generated from coal-fired power plants, the hit to Arkansas utility ratepayers pocketbooks would have been felt immediately. These increased costs would have obstructed the State’s ability to grow good-paying jobs with fair, reasonable electric rates. As a seventh-generation Arkansan raised on a cattle farm and married to a row-crop farmer, I can assure Americans that no one cares about clean air and water more than I do. But I do not favor heavy-handed and unlawful regulations from Washington that will hurt Arkansans.”
In 2013, the Obama Administration announced the final Clean Power Plan aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rutledge and colleagues successfully took immediate legal action to stay the Plan. In January, Rutledge submitted a letter with a bi-partisan coalition of 25 other states as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed repeal of the Power Plan. The letter encouraged the elimination of the rule and returning authority to the states to manage energy resources.
The new proposed rule will undergo a public comment period and will decrease bureaucratic red tape and compliance costs, while reducing emissions and providing flexibility to the states to best fit their specific needs.
Rutledge Announces Arrest of Former Director of Billing at Preferred Family Health for Medicaid FraudTue, Aug 21, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the arrest of the former Director of Billing at Preferred Family Health.
Helen Balding, 47, of New Braunfels, Texas, formerly of Fayetteville, is accused of making false statements knowingly causing the Arkansas Medicaid Program to overpay Preferred Family Health from January 2015 to October 2017, totaling about $2.2 million. Following an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, Balding turned herself in to the Independence County Sheriff’s Department. She is charged with two counts of Medicaid Fraud, Class A and Class B felonies.
In June, Rutledge announced the arrest of former Preferred Family Health Director of Program Integrity and Director of Operations, Robin Raveendran, of Little Rock, for scamming the Arkansas Medicaid Program of $2.2 million during the same timeframe. Raveendran is also a former Senior Auditor with Arkansas’s Medicaid Program Integrity Unit. Balding is accused of being an accomplice to Raveendran and other individuals known and unknown to the Office of the Attorney General.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rutledge Announces Trial Victory Over Northwest Arkansas Used Auto DealerFri, Aug 17, 2018
Says, ‘Used car dealers must deliver title according to the law’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza has found northwest Arkansas auto dealer John Vancuren, and his wife Michelle Vancuren, as well as their companies, Infinity Auto Sales, Inc., Infinity Towing and Recovery, Inc. and Vancurens Auto Sales, Inc. liable for 59 violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Judge Piazza ordered the Vancurens and their companies liable for $590,000 in civil penalties, $73,001.71 in restitution, and he enjoined the Vancurens from engaging in the business of used car sales.
“I applaud Judge Piazza’s ruling on behalf of the brave men and women who testified and stood up to John and Michelle Vancuren in Court,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Used car dealers must deliver title according to the law. These types of deceitful actions by an Arkansas business, which harm consumers and the overall business community, must be met with strong consequences.”
The five-day bench trial had 26 witnesses testifying the Vancurens failed to deliver title to their cars, failed to satisfy prior liens on the vehicles and they otherwise failed to return money rightfully belonging to consumers.
According to the complaint filed December 2016, the Vancurens routinely submitted a customer’s loan application to a third-party lender, and, if approved, the lender deposited the loan into the Vancurens’ bank account, leaving them with a lump sum of the loan proceeds and the borrower with the obligation to repay the lender. In several cases, however, the customer returned the purchased vehicle due to mechanical issues, and the Vancurens failed to return the loan proceeds, leaving the customer with a debt to pay and no vehicle. In other cases, the Vancurens convinced the consumer to purchase another vehicle with financing from a different third-party lender, but the Vancurens failed to refund the original loan proceeds, leaving the consumer with two loans on two different vehicles, but only one vehicle in possession.
Many 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 truck. The Vancurens’ failure to pay off the transaction as promised 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.
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.