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Rutledge Leads 16-State Coalition Supporting the NRA

Rutledge Leads 16-State Coalition Supporting the NRA

Thu, Apr 1, 2021

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced that Arkansas is leading an amicus brief joined by 16 State attorneys general supporting the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) efforts to “dump” New York and reorganize in Texas. The brief opposes the New York Attorney General Letitia James’s effort to dismiss the NRA’s chapter 11 petition and recounts New York’s politically motivated attempt in a separate lawsuit to dissolve the NRA. The NRA is the country’s oldest civil rights organization and leading Second Amendment advocacy organization, and James hopes that her attempts to destroy the NRA will undermine Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

“New York’s effort to stop the NRA from reorganizing in Texas is just another chapter in New York’s vendetta against the Second Amendment,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I am proud to continue to support the right to keep and bear arms and organizations like the NRA who stand up to defend it.”

In August, Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit in New York state court seeking to dissolve the NRA. Separately, the District of Columbia Attorney General filed an action against the non-profit organization NRA Foundation, but the DC lawsuit tellingly did not seek dissolution.

Subsequently, the NRA responded by suing Attorney General James in New York federal court, explaining that her dissolution lawsuit violated the First Amendment by seeking to punish the NRA for its constitutionally protected Second Amendment advocacy. In December, Attorney General Rutledge filed a 16-state amicus brief supporting the NRA’s lawsuit against James.

In January, the NRA announced that it was “dumping” New York and reorganizing as a Texas nonprofit in order to operate in a state that shares its respect for the Second Amendment. It filed a chapter 11 petition in federal bankruptcy court to begin the process of reorganizing in Texas. The New York Attorney General—not wanting the organization to leave New York—responded by filing a motion seeking to dismiss the NRA’s petition. Arkansas’s amicus brief supports the NRA’s efforts to reorganize and details New York’s history of retaliating against the NRA for the organization’s defense of a fundamental constitutional right. It argues that there is nothing improper about the NRA seeking to leave New York when the state has sought to dissolve it for advocating for Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Rutledge leads the amicus brief and is joined by Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia.

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Attorney General Rutledge Supports SAFER AR Act

Attorney General Rutledge Supports SAFER AR Act

Wed, Mar 31, 2021

SAFER AR Act: Safeguarding Against Financial Exploitation of Retirees for Arkansans

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today joined Senator Jonathan Dismang and Representative Carlton Wing to introduce SAFER AR Act: Safeguarding Against Financial Exploitation of Retirees for Arkansans. This legislation will amend current law to strengthen the protection of seniors from predatory practices. Over the last three years, the number of cases involving scams or exploitation of Arkansans 60+ has quadrupled, but only a fraction of the cases are ever reported. This bill develops protocols between several state agencies and the Attorney General’s Office to make it possible for swifter action against con artists or caregivers engaging in fraud, exploitation, or abuse.

“All too often Arkansans over the age of 60 are being targeted and exploited by scam artists trying to steal their life savings,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “My office regularly hears from families who become victims of this type of crime and I fully support this legislation to make is easy for financial institutions and others to report or delay fraudulent transactions.”

This bill is designed to protect older loved ones and Arkansas veterans and to hold bad actors accountable. Currently, employees of financial institutions, brokers and investment advisors are all mandated reporters to report abuse, neglect, and exploitation of anyone over 18-years-old to Adult Protective Services (APS) at DHS. However, APS can only accept the case if the victim is impaired or endangered. Because of this, most financial exploitation cases reported to APS are not referred to any other agency. This bill requires APS, under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, to refer cases of suspected financial exploitation or exploitation to the Attorney General’s Office within 48 hours. The Attorney General’s Office, under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, will work to keep Arkansans’ money from going to bad actors.

The lead sponsors are Senator Jonathan Dismang, District 28, and Representative Carlton Wing, District 38.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Attorney General’s Office at consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

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Rutledge Announces Convictions of Two Garland County Men for Cyber Crimes Against Children

Rutledge Announces Convictions of Two Garland County Men for Cyber Crimes Against Children

Wed, Mar 31, 2021

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced the conviction of two Garland County men for separate crimes related to distributing or viewing child pornography.

“Protecting our children from predators is the single most important duty I have as Attorney General,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Child predators continue to encourage the grotesque cycle of child sexual abuse and victimization every time they share these horrific videos of innocent kids being forced to engage in unspeakable acts. This is why my office works tirelessly to ensure that these criminals are arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned to the fullest extent of the law.”

Defendant Daniel Kimball, 56, entered a guilty plea to four counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child (C felonies). He was sentenced to 20 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections and must register as a sex offender. In December 2019, agents from the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office’s Cyber Crimes Division and officers from the Hot Springs Village Police Department served a search warrant in Hot Springs Village, where agents found numerous videos that depicted sexually explicit conduct involving a child.

Defendant Mark White, 35, entered a guilty plea to four counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child (C felonies). He was sentenced to 10 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections and must register as a sex offender. In February 2018, agents from the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office’s Cyber Crimes Division and officers from the Hot Springs Village Police Department executed a search warrant in Hot Springs Village, where agents arrested White and charged him with distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child.

Assistant Attorney General Jill Irwin from the Cyber Crimes Division was named special prosecutor in both cases by Michelle Lawrence, Prosecuting Attorney, 18-East Judicial District.

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Attorney General Rutledge Announces Lawsuit against Pair who Pocketed $160K using Pretend Pooches

Attorney General Rutledge Announces Lawsuit against Pair who Pocketed $160K using Pretend Pooches

Mon, Mar 29, 2021

Says ‘two men scammed hopeful and trusting would-be pet owners out of hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a lawsuit against Helda Berinyuy and Thierry Ekwelle, both of Arkadelphia, for creating deceptive websites and advertising AKC-registered puppies at discounted prices. Hopeful families discovered after spending hundreds of dollars that the puppies were not real. Berinyuy was previously arrested for this scheme in 2019, but that did not deter either of them from continuing their “puppy scam” operation into 2021. The two used phony names, false promises, fake documents, and even COVID-19 fears to trick consumers into their trap. Berinyuy and Ekwelle are facing multiple violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA).

“Thankfully, no puppies were harmed in this scheme, but sadly, these two men scammed hopeful and trusting would-be pet owners out of hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I will not tolerate unconscionable scams that are so harmful to Arkansans. Help me stop awful scams like this by contacting my office if you experience any fraudulent scheme.”

This scheme was uncovered in late 2018, by a Central Arkansas grocery store manager who contacted local authorities to report two males who had visited the store multiple times – using multiple names – to pick up money, usually $500 to $700, using Western Union. The Benton Police Department discovered that between May 2017 and January 2019, Berinyuy and Ekwelle fraudulently took more than $78,000 from consumers who believed they were paying for a new dog. Throughout their entire scheme, the two stole more than $160,000 from unsuspecting victims.

As internet fraud exploded during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Berinyuy and Ekwelle revamped their operation to avoid detection and began using numerous websites and several electronic payment platforms, such as Walmart Money Center, Zelle, Money Gram, and Western Union. After a website became known to consumers as fraudulent, they would take down that particular site and publish a new one in its place to target new animal lovers. Once consumers paid for a puppy, and in order to fleece them further, Defendants posed as representatives from the Little Rock Municipal Airport and told consumers that the airport required another $900 to ship the dog in a specialized crate. Once customers realized this was a scam, they would try to contact Berinyuy and Ekwelle - with no luck.

The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office received multiple consumer complaints about Berinyuy’s and Ekwelle’s scam. In Arkansas, each violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act could result in injunctions and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

For more tips to help avoid falling victim to schemes similar to this, or to file a consumer-related claim with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, call (800) 482-8982, email consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

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Rutledge: State Employee Arrested for Misusing Over $100,000 from Arkansas Court Reporters Association

Rutledge: State Employee Arrested for Misusing Over $100,000 from Arkansas Court Reporters Association

Fri, Mar 26, 2021

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the arrest of court reporter Michael Ashcraft, an Arkansas State employee. For twelve years Ashcraft was treasurer of the Arkansas Court Reporters Association organization. In his position as treasurer, Ashcraft was in a position of trust and had full and complete access to association membership funds generated by membership dues. An audit found that Ashcraft took advantage of his position as treasurer and displayed a continuing course of conduct by fraudulently using association membership funds by comingling legitimate association purchases with his own personal purchases and purchases for others.

From January 2015 to June 2018, Ashcraft manipulated, misappropriated and misused membership funds in excess of $100,000, without the knowledge or permission of the association board members or association membership.

After an extensive and thorough investigation, Agents with the Public Integrity Division of the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office sought and received a warrant of arrest for Ashcraft who was subsequently arrested and charged with one count of Theft of Property (B) Felony. Ashcraft has turned himself into authorities in Bradley County and was released on a $15,000 bond.

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Rutledge Announces $188.6 Million Multistate Settlement with Boston Scientific Corporation

Rutledge Announces $188.6 Million Multistate Settlement with Boston Scientific Corporation

Tue, Mar 23, 2021

Manufacturers of feminine surgical mesh to pay Arkansas $2.8 million for misrepresenting its safety

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a multistate settlement with Boston Scientific Corporation (Boston) to resolve allegations it engaged in deceptive marketing of its surgical mesh products for women. The settlement requires Boston to pay $188.6 million to 47 states and the District of Columbia to resolve allegations that it deceptively marketed transvaginal surgical mesh devices to patients. Arkansas will receive $2,776,500 from the settlement with Boston Scientific Corporation.

“Our mothers, sisters and daughters have been deceived by Boston Scientific Corporation, and now they must live with permanent damage to their bodies,” Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge said. “The settlement ensures impacted Arkansans’ voices have been heard and Boston Scientific will do no further harm to future generations in the state.”

Surgical mesh is a synthetic woven fabric that is implanted in the pelvic floor through the vagina to treat common health conditions in women such as stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. These are common conditions faced by women due to a weakening in their pelvic floor muscles caused by childbirth, age, or other factors. Although the use of surgical mesh involves the risk of serious complications and is not proven to be any more effective than traditional tissue repair, millions of women were implanted with the devices and thousands of women are alleged to have suffered serious complications resulting from these devices.

The complaint alleges that Boston misrepresented the safety of these products by failing to disclose the full range of potentially serious and irreversible complications caused by mesh, including chronic pain, voiding dysfunction, and new onset of incontinence.

The settlement provides comprehensive injunctive relief. Under the terms of the settlement, Boston must comply with the following:

Marketing Reforms

  • For marketing materials intended for consumers, describe complications in understandable terms;
  • For certain marketing materials, disclose significant complications, including the inherent risks of mesh;
  • Refrain from representing that any inherent risks of mesh are risks common to any pelvic floor or other surgery not involving mesh;
  • Refrain from representing that the inherent mesh complications can be eliminated with surgical experience or technique;
  • Refrain from representing that surgical mesh does not cause a foreign body reaction;
  • Refrain from representing that surgical mesh remains soft, supple, or pliable after the mesh is implanted inside the body;
  • Refrain from representing that surgical mesh does not potentiate infection or does not increase the likelihood of infection;
  • Refrain from representing that surgical mesh repair is superior to native tissue repair unless such representations are supported by valid scientific evidence;

Training Reforms

  • Inform healthcare providers of significant complications when providing training regarding procedures for insertion and implantation;
  • Maintain policies requiring that its independent contractors, agents, and employees who sell, market, or promote mesh are adequately trained to report patient complaints and adverse events to the company;

Clinical Trial Reforms

  • When submitting a clinical study or clinical data regarding mesh for publication, disclose the company’s role as a sponsor and any author’s potential conflict of interest;
  • Refrain from citing any clinical study, clinical data, preclinical data, research, or article regarding mesh for which the company has not complied with the disclosure requirements in the injunction;
  • Include a sponsorship disclosure provision requiring consultants to contractually agree to disclose in any public presentation or submission for publication any sponsorships by Boston related to the contracted-for activity;
  • Register all Boston-sponsored clinical studies regarding mesh with ClinicalTrials.gov.

In addition to Attorney General Rutledge, the investigation that resulted in today’s settlement was led by California and Washington along with Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas. Joining this multistate settlement are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

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