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Tag Archive | "Michigan Attorney General"

Brides-to-be: use best practices with bankrupt retailers


 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette called attention to best practices to be used by Michigan consumers, in this case brides-to-be, when protecting themselves from bankrupt retailers. This notice results from the nationwide shutdown of bridal gown retailer, Alfred Angelo, which has left brides across Michigan wondering if they’ll be without a dress and without a refund on their wedding day.

“When businesses announce bankruptcies overnight, employees and consumers alike are left with frustration, fear, and uncertainty,” said Schuette. “The best thing to do is to take the necessary steps to limit your financial loss, protect your privacy, and reach a solution.”

Concerned customers can visit the Better Business Bureau’s report on Alfred Angelo’s closure at http://bbb.org/h/jubg where updates will be posted as more information becomes available. If you wish to be contacted regarding your order status once information is available, you can send an email to: alfredangelo@mjstrustee.com.

In the meantime, Schuette warned Michigan residents to beware of online donations and crowdfunding pages. When unfortunate events occur, it attracts potential scammers who are looking to take advantage of the situation. Beware of anyone who claims they can help you retrieve your dress from a store for a fee, or any crowdfunding pages looking to raise money for a dress they lost. Only communicate with a designated bankruptcy trustee.

Business Sudden Closure Consumer Tips

Additional best practices are listed in the Attorney General’s Business Sudden Closure Consumer Alert, and include steps to take to protect yourself when any business suddenly closes. (Go to Michigan.gov/ag and click on consumer alerts under resources, then shopping for products and services, then sudden business closures.) Most important, consumers need to act quickly to protect their rights and to help the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division investigate, and hopefully resolve, disputes that arise when a business suddenly closes.  Specific steps include:

The First Step: Limit Your Financial Loss

When faced with the sudden closure of a business, consumers who made purchases but have not received all of the goods or services they contracted for should immediately determine their method of payment and act accordingly:

  • If you paid with a credit card, contact your credit card company to dispute the charges and have all related charges removed from your bill.  You should be able to find information regarding how to dispute charges on your monthly statements.
  • If you paid by check, contact your bank to determine if you can stop any payment.
  • If you arranged for long-term financing, contact the financing company and dispute any payment for goods or services that have not been delivered.
  • If you arranged for some form of automatic payment plan, contact your bank or credit union to immediately stop any future withdrawals from your account.

The Second Step:  File a Complaint If a Business Closes And They Fail to Deliver Goods or Services

If a business unexpectedly closes, and they fail to deliver goods or services, you should file a complaint as soon as possible to help minimize any potential loss and maximize the Consumer Protection Division›s ability to intervene.  The Consumer Protection Division will try to recover as much as possible for consumers before a business files for bankruptcy.

  • Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-765-8388, and file an online Consumer Complaint using our website: michigan.gov/ag
  • If a business is located out of state, also file a complaint with that state’s Attorney General.
  • Gather receipts, invoices, or bills that show what items were ordered, what you paid, and when delivery was promised.
  • Document all transactions in order to assist investigators and to support any possible legal claims.
  • Keep any phone records or any notes that indicate which company employees you spoke with and when those conversations occurred.
  • Try to contact the company’s headquarters or “customer service” line or use their website to lodge a formal complaint with the company.

Protecting Your Privacy: A Business Closure and Your Personal Information

Even if a business suddenly closes, that business is still required to protect your personal financial information.

Complaints

Consumers may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division:

Consumer Protection Division

P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909

517-373-1140, Fax: 517-241-3771

Toll free: 877-765-8388

Online Complaint Form

https://secure.ag.state.mi.us/complaints/consumer.aspx

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“After the Disaster” consumer alert 


 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recognized the start of Severe Weather Awareness Week this week by releasing a new “After the Disaster” consumer alert providing Michigan residents with tips to avoid be scammed after a severe weather event.

“While most business and charities act with the utmost professionalism and ethics, there are some bad apples who chose to take advantage of another’s misfortune,” said Schuette. “I urge residents to look at this consumer alert before severe weather strikes.”

SPOT IT: Post-disaster scams

  • Price Gouging – Basic goods and services are top priorities after disaster strikes: the demand for certain services increases and scammers take advantage.
  • Scammers attracted by FEMA payments – Scammers swarm to weather disasters to take advantage of otherwise careful consumers who have FEMA money for repairs and want to act quickly to avoid further problems like mold or rot.
  • Emergency home repairs – Home repair and disaster cleanup scams can be avoided if you know what to look for and take your time before you hire anyone.
  • Government Imposters – Criminals use everything from legitimate government references and threats of government action, to promises of government assistance to trick disaster victims.
  • Sudden business closures – If a business suddenly closes that you have dealings with, act quickly to stop any further charges or any scheduled payments by your bank or card company.
  • Flood-damaged vehicles – Flood-damaged cars can be shipped across the country to a car lot in your neighborhood just days after a flood. Many flood-damaged cars appear for sale on the internet or at car lots far away from the disaster without any mention or obvious signs of the damage.
  • Disaster relief charity scams — Scam artists see disaster tragedies as opportunities to enrich themselves.

STOP IT: How to avoid being scammed

  • Check credentials: Michigan law requires a Residential Builder license for any project costing $600 or more.
  • FEMA inspectors verify damages, but they do not involve themselves in any repair, and they do not “certify” any contractor.
  • Weather disasters and other unpredictable conditions can trigger suddenly higher prices. File a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division if you suspect price gouging.
  • Don’t put your hard-earned money into a flood-damaged lemon: inspect vehicles closely or take it to an independent mechanic to inspect.

Report Fraud

If you have been the victim of a disaster-related scam, or if you would like to file a general consumer complaint, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division:

Consumer Protection Division P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909. Phone: 517-373-1140 Fax: 517-241-3771 Toll free: 877-765-8388. Online complaint form: https://secure.ag.state.mi.us/complaints/consumer.aspx

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More officials charged in Flint water crisis investigation


 

Schuette files criminal charges against two former emergency managers, two         ex-Flint employees; investigation now totals 43 criminal charges against 13 defendants

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed charges this week against two former State of Michigan Emergency Managers—Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose—with multiple 20-year felonies for their failure to protect the citizens of Flint from health hazards caused by contaminated drinking water.

“All too prevalent in this Flint Water Investigation was a priority on balance sheets and finances rather than health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” said Schuette.

Additionally, Schuette announced that Earley and Ambrose, along with ex-City of Flint executives Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson, also face felony charges of false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses related to their roles in a process that led to the issuance bonds to pay for a portion of the KWA water project.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Flint Water Investigation Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, and Chief Investigator Andy Arena joined Schuette in the announcement, the third round of criminal charges brought by Schuette in the Flint Water Investigation. Schuette has also filed a round of civil law suits against water supply engineering firms.

What Went Wrong

The false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretense charges against Earley and Amborse are based on the Defendants gaining authorization to borrow millions using the alleged reason of an environmental calamity.

Without the funds from Flint, the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) Pipeline would have to be mothballed. However, as a bankrupt city, Flint needed the Michigan Department of Treasury’s approval to get loans.

Emergency Manager Earley’s attempts to get funds in January and February of 2014 were rejected because the City was in receivership, had a $13-million deficit and no credit rating. State law banned the City from accumulating any more debt.

However, the Defendants allegedly used the Home Rule City Act emergency bond clause, created to deal with cases of “fire, flood, or other calamity,” to borrow the tens of millions required to pay for Flint’s portion of the KWA. The clean-up of a troublesome lime sludge lagoon—holding by-products of water treatment—became the vehicle to get a state waiver for the bonds.

To make the situation even worse, tucked inside the 15-page Statement of Purpose for an upgrade of Flint’s Water Treatment Plant system was a one-paragraph requirement that bound the city to use the Flint River as an interim water source, and the Flint Water Treatment Plant as the sanitizing and distribution center.

The Flint Water Treatment Plant, however, was not ready to produce safe, clean water to the citizens of Flint. Regardless, the Defendants mandated the City to use the Flint Water Treatment Plant as part of the deal to get the ability to issue bonds.

Defendants Croft and Johnson allegedly pressured employees of the Flint Water Treatment Plant to get the plant in working order before April of 2014, the scheduled date for re-start. When the deadline closed in, rather than sound the alarm, the defendants allegedly ignored warnings and test results and shut off the pipes pulling clean water from Detroit, and turned on the Flint River valves.

Defendants and Charges

Darnell Earley: Earley, of Lansing, was appointed as Flint’s Emergency Manager by Gov. Rick Snyder, serving from September 2013 until January 2015.  He is charged with the following:

*False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

He allegedly participated in a process that allowed the use bonds to fund the construction of the KWA pipeline despite the City’s problem with its high debt level. The City of Flint, with MDEQ approval, used an exception to state law by claiming the bonds were needed to fund an emergency cleanup of a retention pond, when in fact the funds were intended to pay for the KWA. During that time, the defendants actively worked in various fashions to discourage a return to using water produced by the Detroit Water and Sewer Department, require the use of Flint River water through a Flint Water Treatment Plant, that was deemed unready for service by several people involved with its management, and to ensure the construction of the KWA.

*Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

*Misconduct in Office, Felony, 5 Years and/or $10,000.00

He allegedly allowed the Flint Water Treatment Plant to produce water despite knowledge the plant was not ready for use, allowed Flint to enter into a contract requiring use of the Flint Water Treatment Plant during that time, and authorized false and misleading public statements that the water was safe to drink.

*Willful Neglect of Duty in Office, Misdemeanor: 1 Year and/or $1,000.00

He allegedly failed to perform his duty of protecting the public health.

Gerald Ambrose: Ambrose, of Wyoming, Michigan, began working for the City of Flint in January 2012, first as finance director for three emergency managers and then succeeded Earley when he was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder as emergency manager from January 2015 to April of 2015. He is charged with the following:

*False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

He allegedly participated in a process that allowed the use bonds to fund the construction of the KWA pipeline despite the City’s problem with its high debt level. The City of Flint, with MDEQ approval, used an exception to state law by claiming the bonds were needed to fund an emergency cleanup of a retention pond, when in fact the funds were intended to pay for the KWA. During that time, the defendants actively worked in various fashions to discourage a return to using water produced by the Detroit Water and Sewer Department, require the use of Flint River water through a Flint Water Treatment Plant, that was deemed unready for service by several people involved with its management, and to ensure the construction of the KWA.

*Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

*Misconduct in Office, Felony, 5 Years and/or $10,000.00

He allegedly obstructed and hindered a healthcare investigation conducted by the Genesee County Health Department with regard to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

*Willful Neglect of Duty in Office, Misdemeanor: 1 Year and/or $1,000.00

Allegedly failed to perform his duty of protecting the public health.

Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson: Croft was the City of Flint’s Director of the Department of Public Works from December 2011 to November 17, 2015. Johnson served as the City of Flint’s Utilities Director for the Department of Public Works. They are charged with the following:

*False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

Croft and Johnson are alleged to have aided and abetted Defendants Ambrose and Earley in in a process that allowed the use bonds to fund the construction of the KWA pipeline despite the City’s problem with its high debt level. The City of Flint, with MDEQ approval, used an exception to state law by claiming the bonds were needed to fund an emergency cleanup of a retention pond, when in fact the funds were intended to pay for the KWA. During that time, the defendants actively worked in various fashions to discourage a return to using water produced by the Detroit Water and Sewer Department, require the use of Flint River water through a Flint Water Treatment Plant, that was deemed unready for service by several people involved with its management, and to ensure the construction of the KWA.

*Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

13 Defendants in Flint Water Case so Far 

As of today, in total, Schuette has filed 43 criminal charges against 13 current and former state and local officials since the start of the Flint Water Investigation, which has included interviews with approximately 200 witnesses.

The first round of criminal charges from Schuette’s Flint Water Investigation were filed on April 20, 2016 against two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) employees and one City of Flint employee. Schuette’s second legal action took place on June 22, 2016, when he filed a civil suit against water infrastructure firms Veolia and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam for their roles in the Flint water poisoning crisis. In July, Schuette filed 18 criminal charges against four current and two former employees from two state departments.

“The crisis in Flint was a casualty of arrogance, disdain and a failure of management.  An absence of accountability. We will proceed to deliver justice and hold those accountable who broke the law,” commented Schuette.

Schuette’s investigation remains ongoing and the charges filed do not preclude additional charges later.  A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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