Tierney Blog

State AGs Take Action Against Immigration Services Fraud

There are reports of a jump in fraud against immigrants seeking immigration legal services. State AGs have been using their civil and criminal tools to combat this type of exploitation.

Following a months-long undercover operation, the NJ OAG just announced that it’s seeking civil penalties against 28 businesses for selling immigration services they weren’t authorized to provide.

Back in July, the Washington AG followed up on earlier civil actions by filing criminal charges for contempt and prohibited practices against two individuals who had repeatedly defrauded immigrants by selling immigration services they were not qualified to provide.

And earlier in 2018, the Cal DOJ filed criminal charges against three individuals who allegedly defrauded undocumented immigrants and families seeking lawful permanent residence in the US.  The charges now include 32 counts of felony grand theft,  conspiracy, and violations of the state’s UPL statute and immigration consultant law.

These are just three examples.  For more, check the State Center’s Consumer Protection Report by searching for “notario” or “immigration” where you’ll find actions taken by other states including Nevada, Illinois, and Texas.  These cases can provide a model for other AGs who are surely hearing reports of similar exploitation among vulnerable residents.

For more resources on immigration services fraud, see our earlier post on notario fraud (by Faisal Sheikh now at the ACS State AG Project), the ABA’s Fight Notario Fraud Project, or manuals, like this one, drafted by nonprofits that focus on immigration services.

The Takeaway: Why Attorney General Races Draw National Attention (and Donations)

The US Supreme Court in 2006 gave the states the special right to sue the federal government when other organizations can’t. But the real reason it’s happening is because of the integration of our economy.
— James Tierney

From WNYC’s The Takeaway:

As the state’s “top lawyer,” attorney generals have become national players in fights over everything from the health care law and immigration, to marijuana and gay marriage. They were also responsible for bringing in close to $100 million in election donations this year. James Tierney, Former Attorney General for Maine and founder of StateAG.org, breaks down why attorney general races matter — and what they're worth.

Click the ‘play’ button below to hear this segment.

FTC Shuts Down FL-Based Health Insurance Scam

The Federal Trade Commission swept into Florida and got a federal judge to shut down a Florida operation that was selling fraudulent or "worthless" health insurance plans. Tens of thousands of people across the country were victimized, and the operators appear to have been on the radar of at least some AGs.  

Health insurance scams have been proliferating as the federal government dismantles the Affordable Care Act. And Florida is among the nation’s biggest targets when it comes to scammers using robocalls to pitch fake health insurance.

The FTC did this one without the involvement of the FL AG. But looking at the issue nationwide, this is exactly the kind of issue that the FTC and AG consumer divisions should be prosecuting together. Collaborations increase the amount of monetary penalties that can be imposed and allow the agencies to pool their resources. Read about successful collaborations here and here.  

AG Prosecutions Targeting Debt Collectors

Consumer debt has become big business, and debt collectors are increasingly the subject of AG prosecutions.  

Over the last decade, private equity firms have built up significant stakes in payday lenders and other subprime consumer lenders. The private equity-backed debt buying business has boomed.  And consumer debt has reached an all-time high. Against this backdrop, a number of notable AG prosecutions have been brought against debt collectors.  

The National Consumer Law Center just awarded its "Rising Star" award for 2018 to two Texas AAG's who won a $25 million penalty and injunction against a major debt collector. The case was litigated for four years, and the penalty was imposed by a jury following a two-week trial.  

The NY AG and the FTC teamed up and just recently won a federal temporary restraining order against a NY-based debt collector.  The order included an asset-freeze over all of the defendants’ assets.

A search through AG actions in this area shows that debt collectors are under scrutiny by AGs, the FTC and advocacy organizations. Consumers continue to be plagued by abusive debt collection practices, and more enforcement by state AGs is undoubtedly on the horizon.  

Bipartisan State Efforts to Control Prescription Drug Costs

At the top of the agenda for the 800 state health policymakers who crowded into this year's annual conference of the National Academy for State Health Policy were bipartisan state efforts to control the costs of prescription drugs.  24 states have passed legislation designed to hold back price increases and almost all of them have been challenged by drug companies in lawsuits that will be defended by state attorneys general.

This is an issue that is only going to loom larger for all attorneys general, their legislatures, and their administrative agencies in the months ahead.

Ky. AG Fosters Stratgeic Partnerships to Fight Consumer Scams

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is wisely partnering not just with the AARP, but also with local and county governments, various faith based groups and over 100 non-profit and retail organizations as he issues consumer warnings on a wide variety of scams. This is exactly how it should be done.

FTC Partners with State AG Offices

Although much is written about State v. Federal government acrimony, the day-to-day world of governing is often markedby repeated success.  Today the Federal Trade Commission gave its fourth "Partner Award" to the NY AG Buffalo Regional Office in their joint efforts to crack down on illegal debt collection practices.  Previously, the FTC had given "Partner Awards" to the AG Offices of Colorado and Florida.


Minnesota AG Trial Against For Profit School Begins

Attorneys general have been investigating, suing and settling with for-profit schools for the last several years. Working with a plethora of federal agencies, the AG's have reached a number of sweeping settlements that have brought some relief to students whom the AG's and federal agenices asserted had been the victims of fraud. Until now, none of those investigations had actually gone to trial which is what makes Minnesota AG Lori Swanson's case against Globe University so interesting. This bench trial is expected to last four weeks.