Schuette: Flint Residents Should Be Aware Of Potential Water Crisis Scams
Schuette’s Consumer Protection Division released a consumer alert to help Flint residents protect themselves, their families and neighbors by being aware of common scams attempted during crisis situations. The consumer alert offers tips on avoiding scam artists and criminals who may attempt to exploit emergency situations like the one in Flint.
"The outpouring of support and volunteerism in Flint is a reassuring sign of the warmth and compassion Michiganders have for one another, especially during a crisis, and I strongly encourage those in need to seek help,” said Schuette. “But, even in these times of generosity and need, we must be aware of the common scams that could further hurt Flint families and those attempting to assist them. That can be done with a few simple steps before taking action.”
- Schuette Files Ceases and Desist against Utah Fundraiser for 23 Violations of the Public Safety Solicitation Act
May 5, 2016
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced a Notice of Intended Action and Cease and Desist Order against professional fundraiser Corporations for Character, located in Murray, Utah for violating the Public Safety Solicitation Act. Violations included sending pledge forms to those who had not pledged and taking advantage of vulnerable call recipients.
“Deceptive fundraising will not be tolerated,” Schuette said. “My office works daily to protect Michigan residents. You also can help by protecting yourself—research the charity before you give—and reporting suspected violations to my office. Trust your gut.”
Following a consumer complaint, the Attorney General required Corporations for Character—a licensed professional fundraiser under the Public Safety Solicitation Act—to produce call recordings and pledge forms to review for violations. The recordings revealed that Corporations for Character used sophisticated, pre-recorded messages controlled by a human operator that led call recipients to believe they were talking to a live person.
While many of the recordings included unsavory and aggressive solicitation tactics, the Notice of Intended Action only addresses clear violations of the Act, of which the Attorney General’s review found twenty-three.
The Notice of Intended Action orders Corporations for Character to cease and desist these violations and gives Corporations for Character twenty-one days to resolve the matter or face a civil action in court.
Schuette also reminded the public that some telemarketers keep 85% or more of each donation, encouraging donors to research their own charities and to give directly to the charity they have selected. For more information, see the Attorney General’s 2015 Professional Fundraising Charitable Solicitation Report.
In September 2015, the Attorney General’s office received a complaint from a Michigan resident regarding a Corporations for Character solicitation on behalf of the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The complainant alleged that she had not agreed to pledge to the Michigan FOP, yet received a pledge form in the mail requesting that she fulfill her “promised pledge” of $15 by a “due date.” The Attorney General’s office forwarded the complaint to Michigan FOP, which forwarded it to its professional fundraiser, Corporations for Character. Corporations for Character responded by producing the recording of the call conducted by its solicitor. The recording confirmed that the complainant never agreed to a pledge. Concerned that Corporations for Character’s misconduct may have extended beyond the complainant, the Attorney General’s office requested additional call recordings.
Corporations for Character produced 850 call recordings. The office’s review of these recordings confirmed twenty-three violations. The violations fell in four categories: (1) the call recipient received a pledge form from Corporations for Character falsely stating that the call recipient had pledged, i.e., violations of the same sort made to the Attorney General’s complainant; (2) the call recipient did not pledge but was sent an informational pledge form with a form showing a pledge amount and a due date; (3) the call recipient’s spouse agreed to pledge, but the form was addressed to the non-pledging spouse stating falsely that that person had pledged; and (4) the call recipient was elderly or otherwise unable to understand and was taken advantage of by the professional fundraiser.
Michigan’s Public Safety Solicitation Act governs solicitations on behalf of public safety organizations and requires professional fundraisers to be licensed by the Attorney General. It prohibits misleading and deceptive acts and taking advantage of the vulnerable, and also requires licensed fundraisers to record their calls.
The Attorney General also regulates charitable solicitations under the Charitable Organizations and Solicitations Act, likewise requiring registration for soliciting organizations and their professional fundraisers. Corporations for Character is also registered with the Attorney General under this Act and has contracts to solicit for five charitable organizations: VietNow National HQ, American Childrens Society, Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, Soldier’s Angels, and Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation. The Attorney General is reviewing Corporations for Character’s solicitations on behalf of these charitable organizations.
Listen to example phone calls: Phone call 1. Phone call 2. In each call, the call recipient did not agree to a pledge; nevertheless, Corporations for Character followed the call by sending the call recipient a pledge form informing of his or her “promised pledge” and requesting payment by a “due date.”
- Schuette Issues 22 Felony Fraud Charges Against Urgent Care Doctor
May 3, 2016
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that his Health Care Fraud Division has charged Dr. Bassel Altantawi, 45, of Farmington Hills, with nine counts of Medicaid Fraud, 12 counts of Health Care Fraud, and one count of Continuing Criminal Enterprise.
Altantawi is the only practicing physician at Canton Urgent Care, located at 43033 Ford Rd. in Canton.
Canton Township Police contacted the Health Care Fraud Division after receiving a complaint that Dr. Altantawi was allegedly billing for services not rendered. The subsequent investigation by the Health Care Fraud Division revealed evidence that Dr. Altantawi repeatedly billed Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for services he allegedly did not provide to patients.
“We will continue to identify and prosecute unscrupulous health care providers who waste limited health care dollars by fraudulently seeking payment for services they never provided,” said Schuette. “Michigan residents should feel confident that when they see a physician, they receive honest, quality care and accurate billing based on the services provided to them by a physician.”
Schuette filed the following charges against Dr. Bassel Altantawi on May 3, 2016 in the City of East Lansing’s 54-B District Court:
- Nine counts of Medicaid Fraud, punishable by up to 4 years in prison, and/or a fine of $50,000; and,
- 12 counts of Health Care Fraud, punishable by up to 4 years in prison, and/or a fine of $50,000; and,
- One count of Continuing Criminal Enterprise, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and/or a fine of not more than $100,000.
Dr. Altantawi was arraigned before Judge Richard Ball and released on $25,000 personal recognizance bond. He is next due in court on Monday, May 9, 2016 for a preliminary conference.
Schuette noted the contribution of Blue Cross Blue Shield fraud investigators in assisting the Department of Attorney General with the investigation.
Any patient who was seen by Dr. Altantawi who believes that he billed for services never provided is encouraged to call the Attorney General’s Health Care Fraud Division hotline at 1-800-24-ABUSE.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant in this case is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
- Schuette Secures Restitution Order for Over $600,000 in 2014 Ponzi Scheme
April 29, 2016
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that a judge has ordered Shawn Dicken, of Bay City, to pay $663, 531.48 in restitution for her role in an extensive multi-county Ponzi scheme. Dicken was convicted in 2014 after an Attorney General investigation and sentenced to 140 months to 20 years in prison.
“This woman broke the trust she was given and in the process broke the law. She is serving jail time and now this order forces her to take responsibility for the life savings she stole from Michigan seniors,” said Schuette.
Due to her prison sentence, it is unknown if or when restitution payments will be made.
Beginning in 2011, Dicken was employed as the lead salesperson for The Diversified Group Advisory Firm LLC, an investment company. During her tenure with Diversified, misrepresented the investments she marketed to investors, saying investments offered by Diversified were without risk, completely liquid, featuring a guaranteed rate of return of between 9.5% and 10.44%.
Dicken failed to disclose the risks associated with the actual investment in question - a highly leveraged real estate investment that could result in the loss of all of the investors' money. Many investors, including senior citizens, risked their life savings. Dicken swindled investors out of more than two million dollars and investigation revealed she took an eight percent commission, pocketing approximately $160,000 for herself.
The Attorney General investigation revealed Dicken funneled investors' money into a Ponzi scheme operated by a Saginaw man, Joel Wilson. Wilson was sentenced in both Bay and Saginaw Counties for his role in the Ponzi scheme.
- Schuette Encourages Participation in National Drug Take Back Day
LANSING – In a continued effort to fight opioid abuse in the state of Michigan, Attorney General Bill Schuette is encouraging participation in National Drug Take Back Day on April 30, 2016. This initiative is designed to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding homes of potentially dangerous, expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs, with previous events collecting more than 4 million pounds of drugs.
“The sad fact is that kids who abuse prescription drugs often obtain them straight from the medicine cabinet,” said Schuette. “The take back initiative is a simple way to get rid of unused medications and help protect our children against the dangers of prescription drug abuse.”
Prescription drug and opioid abuse has tripled since 1990, creating a public health epidemic. Michigan has taken steps to address the growing issue by creating the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force. Schuette, chair of the task force subcommittee on Regulation, Enforcement, and Policy, helped release recommendations for curbing the drug and opioid problem in the state in October of 2015.
To discard medication residents should visit one of nearly 200 statewide safe disposal sites. The service is free and anonymous – no questions asked. Participating locations are listed on the U.S. Justice Department's website.
In addition, all Michigan State Police posts now serve as safe disposal sites for these unused medications Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Disposal sites can only collect pills and/or patches, no liquids, needles or sharps will be accepted. Since previous methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—are now known to pose public safety and health hazards, Drug Take Back Day is the safest way to dispose of medications.
- Schuette: Former Priest Sentenced to Up to 40 Years on Sex Abuse Charges
April 29, 2016
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that former priest James Rapp, 75, will serve 20-40 years in state prison following his conviction on 3 counts of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and 10-15 years for his conviction on 3 counts of Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. The charges stem from his time as a priest, teacher and coach at Jackson Lumen Christi High School in the 1980s.
“Today the victims of James Rapp received some closure after over 30 years of waiting,” said Schuette. “These victims were robbed of their childhood and that can never be undone. Today’s sentencing hopefully offers some solace knowing this man will never be able to hurt a child again.”
Over 30 years after the abuse occurred, more than a dozen victims of James Rapp were able to give victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing detailing their abuse by Rapp. Rapp was previously convicted and served time on similar offenses in Oklahoma.
“I am grateful for the efforts of the Detectives from my office and the staff of Attorney General Bill Schuette in bringing a successful resolution to the victims of these horrible crimes perpetrated against children,” said Jackson County Sheriff Steve Rand.
Rapp was originally charged with 7 counts of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and 12 counts of Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Under the condition of a plea agreement Rapp's sentences will be served concurrently.
In spring of 2013, more than 30 years after the alleged crimes occurred, two of Rapp's victims reported the sexual abuse to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, who then launched an extensive investigation that revealed several more victims. Charges were filed against Rapp in January and June 2015.
Jackson County was not the first place Rapp held a teaching position. He was ordained in 1959 and over the next 40 years held multiple teaching assignments across the country. In addition to teaching at Jackson Lumen Christi High School (1980-1986), Rapp taught in Philadelphia (1959–1961), Salt Lake City (1968–1973), and in Lockport, New York (1979–1980). Following Rapp's resignation at Jackson Lumen Christi, Rapp served as a priest and teacher in Naperville, Illinois (1987–1990) and Duncan, Oklahoma (1990–1998).
In 1999, Rapp plead guilty to charges involving sexual abuse of minors during his time as a priest in Duncan, Oklahoma. He was sentenced to two twenty year terms but with good time credit, Rapp was scheduled to be released from his Oklahoma prison sentence in the summer of 2016.
The case was prosecuted by the Attorney General Cold Case Sexual Assault Project. The project is funded by a United States Department of Justice grant awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women, to combat intimate relationship violence. The grant is administered by the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board.