Rutledge: U.S. Business Services Deceived Arkansas BusinessesTue, Mar 13, 2018
$100,000 to go to Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that Circuit Judge Chris Piazza has ordered Florida-based U.S. Business Services LLC to pay restitution to Arkansans and court costs and civil penalties to the State of Arkansas for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
“U.S. Business Services intentionally deceived and harmed Arkansas businesses with its deceptive practices,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “By using documents that only appeared to be official government tax notices or notifications, this company tricked unsuspecting Arkansas business owners then offered to help those businesses – for a fee. The Court’s order not only requires the company to provide restitution to those businesses that fell victim to the deceit but also suspends the company’s business license in the State of Arkansas and will prevent further harm from these bad actors.”
U.S. Business Services solicited Arkansas businesses via direct mailings and offered to prepare and provide, for a $150 fee, corporate consent records in lieu of meeting minutes that purported to fulfill the requirements of Arkansas law. However, U.S. Business Services selectively quoted portions of Arkansas law to convey only those portions that would legitimize the solicitation, and the mailed documents were specifically designed to appear official in nature and required by a government entity.
The office received 34 complaints about the business practices of U.S. Business Services, and many others contacted the office by phone in order to report the scam. At least seven businesses paid $150 to the company as the form instructed, with four receiving restitution through mediation. After speaking with the Secretary of State’s office, Rutledge learned that it had also received numerous reports, inquiries and complaints regarding U.S. Business Services’ harmful practices. The Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act protects the legitimate business community as well as consumers.
The other three businesses that paid the fee will be paid restitution by U.S. Businesses Services. The company will also pay the State $5,500 in attorney fees and $100,000 in civil penalties to the Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund.
Rutledge Announces Arrest of Lonoke County Man for Crimes Involving ChildrenFri, Mar 9, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the arrest of James Bynum of Cabot on 30 counts of distributing, possessing or viewing of matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child, a Class C felony.
Bynum, 46, was arrested by the Attorney General’s office Cyber Crimes Unit. He was released from the Lonoke County Detention Center on $10,000 bond.
Special agents in the Attorney General’s office seized two computers, one laptop, multiple external storage devices, a phone, tablet and several optical discs. The case is being turned over to Twenty Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham.
Rutledge Statement on EPA Regional Haze StayWed, Mar 7, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement following the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to grant a stay of a costly portion of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for regional haze.
“The Federal Implementation Plan would have cost Arkansans greatly,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This decision by the court has protected residents from a one-size-fits-all approach that would have passed massive costs onto consumers. During the Obama Administration, the EPA ignored the visibility improvements already made by the State of Arkansas – today’s stay is a big win for Arkansas’s job creators and consumers.”
In January, an Arkansas State Implementation Plan partially replaced the FIP. Under the stay just issued by the Eighth Circuit, remaining portions of the FIP regulations have been frozen, giving the EPA an opportunity to fully review and approve additional regional haze standards submitted to the federal regulators by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
Rutledge filed litigation in November 2016 against the EPA’s federal plan. Instead of working with the State, the EPA published its proposed FIP for Arkansas in April 2015 and solicited feedback. Attorney General Rutledge, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and a number of industries, institutions and facilities impacted by the proposed plan provided comments during this time. Despite the comments urging the EPA to withdraw the plan, the final plan was signed in August 2016. Approval of the new State Implementation Plan replaces the overreaching 2016 FIP.
Rutledge: Fifth Circuit Should Validate Law Banning Inhumane Treatment of the UnbornTue, Mar 6, 2018
Says, ‘I will always advocate for the lives of unborn children’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined 25 state attorneys general and governors to file an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit supporting Texas’ right to ban an outrageous abortion procedure that rips unborn babies limb from limb.
“Arkansas is taking a strong stance to protect the unborn from inhumane treatment,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “No defenseless baby should ever face the unimaginable and horrifying fate of death by dismemberment. As Arkansas’s chief legal officer, I will always advocate for the lives of unborn children and defend our State’s legal right to protect the unborn.”
Arkansas saw similar legislation in 2017, when the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill banning the dismemberment form of abortion that Governor Asa Hutchinson subsequently signed into law. That law was enjoined by federal district court Judge Kristine Baker, but Attorney General Rutledge is seeking to overturn the injunction in an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states have an interest in protecting and fostering respect for human life, including the unborn, and such legal challenges ignore this precedent. Abortion by dismemberment erodes respect for life, as outlined in the brief.
The states make clear in the brief that they oppose abortion generally, but are particularly horrified at this form of abortion. The brief explains that the states “regret being placed in a position of advocating for fetal death as a humane alternative to a procedure that should have no place in a civilized society—a situation that only highlights how absurdly far judicial decisions regarding unborn human life have departed from authorities barring inhumane treatment of animals and criminals facing the death penalty.”
Led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, Rutledge is joined on the brief by Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, along with Governors from Kentucky, Maine and Mississippi.
Rutledge Joins Coalition Supporting Child Exploitation VictimsTue, Mar 6, 2018
Says, ‘we must hold child predators accountable for their criminal and horrific actions
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced she has joined a coalition of 54 other state and territorial Attorneys General calling on congressional leaders to pass legislation supporting victims of child exploitation.
“Victims of child exploitation endure more hardship than any individual should ever face,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “While restitution cannot make the victim whole or provide healing, it is one way for predators to acknowledge their wrongdoing. As Arkansas’s chief law enforcement officer, I believe that we must hold child predators accountable for their criminal and horrific actions.”
The Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017 has bipartisan support in Congress and would make it easier for the victims to obtain restitution.
A similar bill passed the U.S. Senate in 2015 but failed to pass the House of Representatives. A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Paroline v. United States held that while victims of child exploitation are entitled to restitution, any individual defendant they sue is only liable for the harm caused by that one individual’s possession of the images.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision puts an enormous burden on victims of child pornography,” the letter reads. “In order to receive restitution, a victim must pursue every case in which a defendant was found to possess images of the victim. As the Supreme Court recognized, digital images of each child victim are trafficked worldwide, and there may be thousands of defendants found to possess each victim’s images. As a result, victims are only able to receive a small amount of restitution from each defendant and must pursue thousands of cases in order to receive full restitution. Preventing victims from collecting full restitution protects defendants, who are shielded from having to pay meaningful costs to those they have harmed.”
The Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act will improve the law by:
- Clarifying congressional intent that victims be fully compensated for all the harms resulting from every perpetrator who contributed to their trauma.
- Establishing a more meaningful definition of “full amount of a victim’s losses.”
- Clarifying restitution owed to victims.
- Establishing a process for victims to receive compensation from the Child Pornography Victims Reserve within the federal Crime Victims Fund and requiring judicial appointment of a guardian ad litem for victims of child pornography production.
- Allowing victims and their attorneys access to images in which they are depicted which is crucial for victim identification, expert testimony, forensic review, treatment and the prevention and prosecution of future crimes.
- Requiring the U.S. Department of Justice to report on implementation within two years.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington and Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah led the letter. All state Attorneys General signed the letter, along with Attorneys General from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Rutledge Recognizes National Consumer Protection WeekMon, Mar 5, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released the below statement recognizing National Consumer Protection Week 2018, which runs March 4-10.
“Consumer Protection Week is an important opportunity to shed light on the complaints and scams commonly faced by Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Over the last year, my office resolved 7,229 formal complaints for Arkansas Consumers and one of my top priorities remains protecting Arkansans from bad business practices and harmful scams. Arkansans who have been wronged by a business should contact my office to file a complaint, receive guidance or have a mediator assist them – we want to do the fighting for you.”
Rutledge meets with Arkansans in every county yearly to engage in face-to-face conversations, which enhance the office’s ability to effectively handle constituent inquiries. Additionally, the Attorney General has held mobile offices with consumer trainings and prescription drug take-backs in all 75 counties in 2015, 2016 and 2017, assisting nearly 1,000 people in person in their hometowns in 2017.
Since taking office, the Attorney General’s office has provided 852 education/outreach presentations to over 54,000 Arkansans, including 16 webcasts. Programs include: Digital You, internet safety for parents, seniors and teens; Break the Cycle, dating violence prevention; consumer outreach presentations on identifying scams and preventing ID theft; and Prescription for Life, a digital curriculum for high school students and presentations to community groups, parents and senior citizens.
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.