Announcements, information and updates from CWAG Members and Associates
The CWAG 2017 Winter Dinner is scheduled for Tuesday, November 28th, 2017  in Jekyll Island, Georgia at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. Registration is now open . If you have not received an email link inviting you to register via our new meeting portal, please contact meeting manager Alejandra Stephens.
CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota announced a Dedication Event to launch the South Dakota Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit (CDIU). The CDIU is a joint initiative involving the Social Security Administration, the Office of Inspector General, State Disability Determination Services (SD DDS), and state and local law enforcement agencies to prevent beneficiary fraud in disability programs administered by the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) as well as fraud related to other social welfare entitlement programs administered by the State of South Dakota. "This special Unit will focus on scammers who take money away from those who legitimately file claims and depend on these much needed resources," said Attorney General Jackley. "This is a cooperative law enforcement effort to weed out fraud and to protect those in need of assistance."
CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota announced the State of South Dakota is one step closer to bringing tax fairness to South Dakota retailers which would continue to sustain South Dakota's status as an income tax-free state.  The State Supreme Court agreed with Attorney General Jackley that, despite changing times, the Court was obligated to rule in favor of the defendants in State of South Dakota v. Wayfair, Overstock and Newegg. Significantly, the Court's swift decision recognizes that "as internet sales have risen, state revenues have decreased."  The Court further highlighted the need for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this issue, allowing states to require internet retailers to shoulder the same tax burden as in-state retailers do. "The retail landscape significantly changed with the inception of the internet and access to online shopping. Federal law currently shields out-of-state businesses from paying the same tax remitted by South Dakota businesses.  Today's decision paves the way to respectfully request the U.S. Supreme Court to provide that much needed fairness to save main streets and jobs across South Dakota," said Attorney General Jackley.CWAG Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California announced the filing of a settlement involving allegations that The Gatorade Company violated California consumer protection laws by making misleading statements about water in a mobile videogame application it used to promote Gatorade sports drinks to teens and young adults. The complaint alleges that in the videogame "Bolt!", Gatorade portrayed its products positively while inaccurately and negatively depicting water as hindering athletic performance. "Making misleading statements is a violation of California law. But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful, it's morally wrong and a betrayal of trust. It's what causes consumers to lose faith in the products they buy," said Attorney General Becerra. "Today's settlement should make clear that the California Department of Justice will pursue false advertisers and hold them accountable."

CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado announced that a court has ordered Stephen Wunder, Andrew Wunder, Bethany Wunder, and Christian Wunder, who owned and operated the Broomfield-based travel clubs Sea to Ski Vacations and Traditions Travel Group, to pay over $7 million to Colorado for defrauding consumers. The Wunder family promised members of their travel club deep discounts at exotic hotels and timeshares around the world. In reality, the Wunders did nothing more than search online travel websites to book their clients' travels. Consumers ultimately paid the Wunders thousands of dollars for a service they could have gotten online for free. "These individuals cannot be trusted to run a business," said Attorney General Coffman. "The court's seven million dollar judgement and order barring them from working in this industry again will help protect Coloradans, however, I am concerned that these defendants may be continuing to operate in other states. I urge all consumers to be careful and to do their homework before giving their hard earned money to any company, and to immediately report any fraud or suspicious behavior."

CWAG Associate Attorney General Karl A. Racine of the District of Columbia has introduced legislation to temporarily prevent the major credit-rating bureaus from charging to freeze a consumer's credit. Currently, under District law, the credit reporting agencies can charge consumers for a credit freeze unless consumers have been the victims of identity theft. The "Credit Protection Fee Waiver Emergency Amendment Act of 2017," and the "Credit Protection Fee Waiver Temporary Amendment Act of 2017," introduced to the Council of the District of Columbia, require credit reporting agencies to offer consumers free credit freezes. This will help consumers protect themselves in the wake of data breaches like the recent Equifax breach, an exposure of sensitive personal information that may have affected more than 350,000 District residents. "One way for consumers to protect themselves from identity theft in the wake of a big data breach like this one is to freeze their credit," Attorney General Racine said. "District consumers - especially lower-income residents - shouldn't have to pay for Equifax's mistakes, so our bill prohibits credit reporting agencies from charging consumers to protect themselves."

CWAG Associate Attorney General T.J. Donovan of Vermont announced he has reached a settlement regarding a security breach involving the Social Security numbers of 660 Vermont Health Connect users. SAManage USA, Inc., a technology company that provides business-support services, agreed to alter its information security and legal compliance programs and to pay a penalty of $264,000. In July 2016, SAManage's IT ticketing system allowed an excel spreadsheet containing the 660 social security numbers to be viewed publicly without requiring authentication. "My office takes data breach very seriously," said Attorney General Donovan. "Vermonters are increasingly aware of the dangers of mishandling Social Security numbers, and we will continue to protect them by enforcing our data breach and consumer protection laws," he said. "This is an appropriate penalty given the given the specific facts of this incident and that the company fully cooperated with our investigation."

CWAG Associate Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts announced that ten individuals have been indicted in connection with a sex trafficking and money laundering operation in which women were sold for sex in Massachusetts communities through a purported online "escort" service that was a front for human trafficking. Authorities allege that about 12 to 15 women were trafficked using this website at any given time. The website provided profiles of the women and a calendar for available dates and locations for each woman. The Attorney General's Office obtained a court order to have the website taken down and it has since been removed.
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada announced the largest multi-defendant indictment in Nevada Attorney General history. Late last week, a Clark County Grand Jury returned a 68 felony count indictment against 24 defendants for their roles in filing 23 fraudulent insurance claims related to staged automobile accidents and thefts. The counts against the Las Vegas residents include racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, battery with a deadly weapon (all category "B" felonies), insurance fraud, a category "D" felony, theft in the amount of $3,500 or more, a category "B" felony, and attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more, a category "C" felony. The charged conduct was committed between September 2014 and May 2017. "This indictment sends a clear message of deterrence to fraudsters engaged in dangerous staged accidents in Nevada," said Attorney General Laxalt. "Unlike most fraud schemes, which pose an economic danger to potential victims, the alleged conduct put the lives of those on Nevada's roadways at risk for illicit profit. I am proud that investigators and prosecutors in my office are committed to protecting Nevadans by dismantling this, and similar, sophisticated criminal enterprises."CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington filed a lawsuit accusing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma of fueling the opioid epidemic in Washington state, embarking on a massive deceptive marketing campaign and convincing doctors and the public that their drugs are effective for treating chronic pain and have a low risk of addiction, contrary to overwhelming evidence. This deceptive marketing resulted in the deaths of Washingtonians and devastation to Washington families. The lawsuit contends Purdue conducted an uncontrolled experiment on the American public without any reliable clinical evidence that opioids are effective at treating chronic pain. To doctors and patients, Purdue consistently downplayed the risks of addiction from long-term use and deceptively represented opioids as safe for treating long-term chronic pain. By filing the state's lawsuit, Attorney General Ferguson has ended his participation in a multistate coalition investigating opioid manufacturers nationwide. Several states that have filed similar lawsuits are using outside attorneys to handle their cases. Washington is only the second state to handle its case internally. "Purdue Pharma ignored the devastating consequences of its opioids and profited from its massive deception," Attorney General Ferguson said. "It's time they are held accountable and pay for the devastation they caused."

CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico, with a bipartisan coalition of 39 Attorneys General and the National Association of Attorneys General, called on Congress to pass legislation that changes federal law to make treatment for drug addiction more affordable and accessible for Americans who most need it. "New Mexico's families, economy, law enforcement and healthcare system are in crisis due to the opioid and heroin emergency ravaging our state, and we lack the resources to adequately respond," said Attorney General Balderas. "That is why Congress must make drug treatment, specifically for opioid and heroin addiction, affordable for working New Mexico families. The 'Road to Recovery' Act will help those struggling with addiction gain access to treatment, and eliminate a decades-old Medicaid rule that limits residential treatment options."

Chris Coppin | Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General