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Rutledge Announces Faulkner County Women Sentenced For Medicaid Fraud

Rutledge Announces Faulkner County Women Sentenced For Medicaid Fraud

Thu, Nov 19, 2020

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the conviction of two Faulkner County women for Medicaid fraud and elder abuse. Vonita Pitones and Juanita Rowden (Juanita Cruz) pleaded guilty to one count of theft by deception, a Class C felony, and abuse of adults, a Class D felony, in Faulkner County Circuit Court.

Pitones was sentenced to three years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections with an additional two years suspended imposition of sentence. Rowden was sentenced to five years probation and also ordered to pay a fine of $2,500. As part of the sentencing agreement, they must jointly and severally pay $2,639 in restitution to the Arkansas Medicaid Program Trust Fund.

“Investigators and Arkansas Attorney General’s office attorneys work tirelessly to investigate and prosecute those who commit Medicaid fraud and elder abuse,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I will ensure that people attempting to defraud and hurt Arkansans are held accountable and that type of action is not tolerated in our State.”

Rowden provided private care to the victim and unlawfully filled out Medicaid documents to allow her daughter, Pitones, to be her home health aide through Absolute Care in Conway. Pitones billed for Medicaid services not provided including changing and bathing the victim. Neither Rowden nor Pitones provided adequate care and the victim was neglected. The victim’s daughter found her mother in need of medical attention. She was hospitalized for dehydration, sepsis, pneumonia and several pressure wounds. The victim passed away eight days later. The case was referred to the Attorney General's Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit by the Faulkner County Prosecutor’s Office and was prosecuted in conjunction with them.

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 oag@arkansasag.gov.

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Attorney General Rutledge Announces $113 Million Settlement with Apple Over iPhone Throttling

Attorney General Rutledge Announces $113 Million Settlement with Apple Over iPhone Throttling

Wed, Nov 18, 2020

Says, ‘Arkansans will not be taken advantage of by any businesses attempting to deceive them’

LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today a $113 million settlement with Apple, Inc. regarding Apple’s 2016 decision to throttle, or slow down, consumers’ iPhone speeds in order to address unexpected shutdowns in some iPhones. General Rutledge is leading this lawsuit along with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, and a coalition of 30 attorneys general across the United States.

“Mobile phones have become an essential part of our daily lives,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “We rely on companies like Apple to provide the service it promised and that consumers have paid for. Arkansans will not be taken advantage of by any businesses attempting to deceive them and I will not hesitate to stand up to companies taking advantage of hard working Arkansans, no matter how large.”

Based on the multistate investigation, the attorneys general allege that Apple discovered battery issues were leading to unexpected shutdowns in iPhones. Rather than disclosing these issues or replacing batteries, however, Apple concealed the issues from consumers. Apple’s concealment ultimately led to a software update in December 2016 that slowed or throttled iPhone performance in an effort to keep the phones from unexpectedly shutting down. Apple failed to inform consumers about the reduced performance of the phones, leaving many consumers to believe that they needed to upgrade to a new iPhone, when a battery replacement would have solved the performance problem.

The attorneys general allege that Apple’s concealment of the battery issues and decision to throttle the performance of consumers’ iPhones then led to Apple profiting from selling new iPhones to consumers whose old iPhones had slowed down.

Under the settlement, Apple will pay the state of Arkansas $4,295,115.09, designated to the Consumer Education & Enforcement Fund for the protection of consumers. In addition to the monetary payment, Apple also must provide truthful information to consumers about iPhone battery health, performance, and power management. Apple must provide this important information in various forms on its website, in update installation notes, and in the iPhone user interface itself. Apple also recently entered into a proposed settlement of class action litigation related to the same conduct, and under that proposed settlement Apple will pay out up to $500 million in consumer restitution.

Consumers inquiring about their potential eligibility for iPhone battery replacements can contact Apple Support at https://support.apple.com/iphone/repair/service/battery-power. Consumers desiring to check the status of the class action litigation and eligibility for any restitution payments can contact the Apple litigation claims administrator at https://www.smartphoneperformancesettlement.com/.

Alternatively, consumers can file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office on ArkansasAG.gov or by emailing OAG@arkansasag.gov.

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Rutledge’s Statement on Helena-West Helena Police Officer Killed in the Line of Duty

Rutledge’s Statement on Helena-West Helena Police Officer Killed in the Line of Duty

Fri, Nov 13, 2020

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement following the announcement Helena-West Helena Police Officer Travis Wallace was killed in the line of duty Thursday evening.

“My heart again goes out to the family of Helena-West Helena Police Officer Travis Wallace who was tragically killed in the line of duty Thursday night,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Officer Wallace was known for his unwavering service to his community and commitment to protecting the people of Helena-West Helena. His family and fellow officers are in my heart and prayers during this unimaginable time. With two Arkansas police officers killed in the line of duty in just over a month, I again implore all Arkansans to join with me in daily fervent prayer for the safety of our law enforcement officers.”

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Rutledge’s Statement on SCOTUS Hearing to Invalidate Obamacare

Rutledge’s Statement on SCOTUS Hearing to Invalidate Obamacare

Tue, Nov 10, 2020

Says, ‘we are one step closer to righting the constitutional wrong of the individual mandate and also providing Americans much-needed clarity when it comes to their healthcare’

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement following today’s oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, during which it considered the claim of an 18-state coalition including Arkansas that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional.

“The Obamacare arguments are finally behind us, and we are one step closer to righting the constitutional wrong of the individual mandate and also providing Americans much-needed clarity when it comes to their healthcare,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans have long demanded better, and they deserve it. I continue to call on Congress to work together to create a comprehensive healthcare law that will work with states and provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.”

In 2012, a majority of the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare against a constitutional challenge because it said the individual mandate was a valid exercise of Congress’s tax power. But a different majority also held that Congress did not have the power to impose the individual mandate under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. As Chief Justice Roberts explained, and the four-justice dissent agreed, the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate commerce — but not to compel it, which is what the individual mandate does.

In 2017, Congress eliminated the tax portion of the individual mandate as part of President Donald J. Trump’s tax overhaul. Rutledge then joined a multistate lawsuit filed in a Texas federal court, arguing that Congress rendered Obamacare unconstitutional by doing away with the tax penalty.

Judge Reed O’Connor of the Texas federal court agreed and ruled that the individual mandate was no longer valid under Congress’s tax power. Applying the Supreme Court’s 2012 holding that the Commerce Clause could not support the individual mandate, Judge O’Connor struck it down as unconstitutional. He then ruled that Congress would not have passed Obamacare without the individual mandate because it was an essential part of the law. Therefore, he also invalidated the entire law.

A group of states led by California had joined the lawsuit to defend Obamacare, and they appealed Judge O’Connor’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In December 2019, however, the Fifth Circuit rejected California’s arguments and agreed instead with those made by the 18-state coalition including Arkansas: that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court cases are California v. Texas, No. 19-840, and Texas v. California, No. 19-1019. More detail on the states’ arguments is available in the parties’ court filings, which can be found here on the Supreme Court’s public docket.

In addition to Arkansas, the coalition – led by Texas – includes the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

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Rutledge, Coalition of Attorneys General, File Amicus Brief in Pennsylvania Supreme Court Voting Case

Rutledge, Coalition of Attorneys General, File Amicus Brief in Pennsylvania Supreme Court Voting Case

Mon, Nov 9, 2020

Says, ‘It is imperative that every legal vote be counted’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today joined a coalition of 10 state attorneys general, led by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, in filing an amicus brief in Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar. The brief urges the Supreme Court of the United States to grant certiorari and reverse a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowing mail-in ballots to be received three days after Election Day, even without postmarks.

“It is imperative that every legal vote be counted and every illegal vote not be counted,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The integrity of each election is paramount to the future of our great country. Americans must not be kept in the dark and we must shed light on the discrepancies littering this election.”

The brief makes three main arguments. First, it argues that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overstepped its authority and encroached on the authority of the legislature in ruling that ballots received three days after election can be accepted, including ballots with an illegible postmark or no postmark at all. Second, the brief details how voting by mail creates a risk of voter fraud, including in Pennsylvania. And lastly, it explains how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision exacerbated these risks of absentee ballot fraud.

The brief finishes by urging the Supreme Court of the United States to grant certiorari, grant expedited review, and reverse the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Along with Arkansas, attorneys general from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Florida also joined the brief.

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Rutledge Announces Virtual Never Forgotten for 9th Annual Training and Family Session

Rutledge Announces Virtual Never Forgotten for 9th Annual Training and Family Session

Mon, Nov 9, 2020

Arkansas Representative Petty will Keynote the Event

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the 9th Annual Never Forgotten – Arkansas Takes Action event will be hosted virtually for 2020. On December 1st, Rutledge will host a law enforcement training as well as an evening family session. To accommodate more families, Rutledge will host another family session on Saturday, December 5th. Arkansas State Representative Rebecca Petty will keynote both events discussing her personal experience when her daughter, Andi, was kidnapped and murdered by a family member in 1999. The event was established to raise awareness of the challenges associated with missing persons cases for families and law enforcement officials while also recognizing Arkansas’s missing children and adults. Registration is open for families and law enforcement.

“I am honored to have Representative Petty keynote the event because through the devastating loss of her daughter, she has done so much for her community and state by sharing her story and advocating for those families of the missing,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Never Forgotten – Arkansas Takes Action has developed into an important platform to provide law enforcement and families of the missing with the necessary training, resources and support,”

The law enforcement training begins at 9:30 a.m. with Colleen Nick from the Morgan Nick Foundation and Mike Nance with National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) who will speak about resources to provide families in missing persons cases. This program will also offer an overview of Amber, Silver and Endangered Missing Alerts by the Arkansas State Police.

During the family sharing sessions, families will have the opportunity to share their personal stories and connect with other families in a virtual setting. Open discussion will also be held with representatives from the Arkansas Crime Information Center, Arkansas State Crime Lab, Arkansas State Police and the FBI.

This program has been approved for three hours of Continuing Law Enforcement Standards Credit (CLEST). Approval of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) is pending.

In 2018, Rutledge released the first comprehensive resource guide for families of missing which is available to be downloaded or ordered for free at ArkansasAG.gov and NeverForgotten.ar.gov.

For more information about the event or other trainings offered by Attorney General’s Office, please visit ArkansasAG.gov.

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