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  • Michigan Attorney General Announces First Semester Success of OK2SAY

    Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan State Police (MSP) Director Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue announced the success of Michigan's student safety initiative, OK2SAY, in its first semester. Since the start of this school year, OK2SAY has already generated 410 confidential tips submitted by Michigan students. These tips included reports of bullying, suicide threats, and child abuse. "If even one child's life is saved by OK2SAY, this program will have been a success.  OK2SAY has passed its first semester with flying colors," said Attorney General Bill Schuette.

    Read more: http://1.usa.gov/17IFXOK



RECENT NEWS
Press Releases
Schuette Announces Charges Against State Employee for Fraud

 

January 29, 2015           

 

LANSING  – Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that his Public Integrity Unit (PIU) has charged Werner Noll, 63, of Kalamazoo with fraud.  Noll has been employed by the State of Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) as an Elevator Inspector since 1998.  These charges follow an investigation by Schuette's PIU and LARA into Noll's alleged golfing activity and use of a state vehicle for private use while on the state taxpayers' dime.

 "At all levels of government, taxpayers deserve honesty and accountability from those who work on their behalf," said Schuette.  "Scam artists who aim to take advantage of state resources will face justice."

"We thank Attorney General Schuette and his staff for working closely with our department to bring this individual to justice," said LARA Director Mike Zimmer. "We are committed to upholding the highest level of honesty and integrity for the citizens we serve."

Case Background

            Last August, a Kalamazoo news reporter uncovered possible fraud by Noll after allegedly observing Noll play golf several times during normal State of Michigan working hours.  An Attorney General investigation revealed that Noll allegedly used state time for personal activities in 2012, 2013 and 2014 for a total of 84 days in question and a cost to taxpayers of more than $8,000.  It's also alleged that Noll used a State of Michigan vehicle during these personal activities.

On January 29, 2015 in the City of Lansing's 54A District Court, Schuette filed three counts of False Pretenses, a felony, which carries a punishment of up to five years in prison, against Noll. 

Schuette's Public Integrity Unit

On January 4, 2011, Attorney General Schuette created a new Public Integrity Unit (PIU) in the Attorney General's office to ratchet up the fight against corruption in state and local government, protect tax dollars and restore the public's trust in government.  The Public Integrity Unit allows the office to put an increased focus on public corruption cases, a priority Schuette identified upon taking office.

Since taking office in 2011, Schuette's PIU has filed 303 charges against 61 individuals holding positions of public trust, including state and local government officials.  To date, 45 defendants have been sentenced following their convictions on a total of 126 charges.

        A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

                                                                    Mugshot of Noll

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Schuette: Consumers Should Proceed with Extreme Caution on Pension Advances

 

January 27, 2015           

 LANSING  – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today issued a consumer alert through his Corporate Oversight Division cautioning consumers of the high risks associated with pension advances.

"Seniors who have worked hard through retirement deserve to know the high risks involved with pension advances," said Schuette. "I hope pensioners from across Michigan find our Consumer Alert helpful and do their due diligence to read the fine print before considering pension advances."

Pension advances, also known as pension sales, loans or buyouts, require you to sign over all or a portion of future monthly pension checks, typically for a five to ten-year term. In return, consumers receive a one-time lump sum payment from the pension advance company for an amount less than the total future pension payments signed over.  Even if you don't have a pension, you may be approached to invest in funding someone else's pension advance while being promised that your investment is "guaranteed."  

"Consumers always need to be vigilant about protecting themselves and their families when they consider any kind of loan, advance or investment," said Lisa Dedden Cooper, Manager of Advocacy for AARP Michigan.

What You Need to Know Before Getting a Pension Advance or Loan

  • Not all pension advances or loans are legal. There are Michigan laws that prohibit the assignment or sale of State or local pensions.  There are also federal laws that either prohibit or restrict the assignment or sale of military, federal employee and private employee pensions. The way the pension advance is structured as well as the interest rate will determine its legality. Learn about the structure of the pension advance and determine if the advance is legal before agreeing to one.

  • Before you get a pension advance or loan, know how much you will actually be paying. To receive a lump sum, you will actually be receiving less, often much less, than the future sum of your pension payments. This is due to transaction costs, fees, and commissions of the pension advance salesperson. The APR for a pension advance typically ranges from 27% to 106% a year. Consumers need to find out how much pension income they are giving up to receive the lump sum payment.

  • Some advances require you to buy life insurance to name the company or the individual funding your advance as the beneficiary. In the case of your death, life insurance payments would be paid to the beneficiary to cover the balance owed. This specific requirement is yet another cost of a pension advance; be sure you take this into account when you are calculating the total cost.

  • You cannot repay a pension advance early.  Repayments to the investor funding the advance depend on extracting your pension benefits for the full five to ten-year period you agreed to.

  • Know the potential tax implications.  Consider the tax implications of a pension advance, determining if the lump sum payment will put you in a higher tax bracket.

  • Don't agree to a joint account and get all the details in writing.  Make sure to never give a pension advance company or salesperson joint access to a bank account. Also, know exactly what you are signing up for and make sure you have everything in writing.

Less Costly Alternatives to Pension Advances

There are many less costly alternatives to receiving a loan that do not hinder your future pension payments. Consider a small loan from a bank or credit union, or from a licensed small loan company. Even a cash advance on a credit card may be cheaper than the 27% to 106% rate that a pension advance charges. If possible, talk to an independent financial advisor to look into alternatives and determine the impact of a pension advance on your future financial goals.

Investors - Be Aware of Hidden Risks, Fees and Fine Print from Salespeople

No investment is "guaranteed," and investing in someone else's pension advance carries numerous risks despite what a salesperson may tell you.  Because of the increased risks of a pension advance investment, these salespeople may not disclose all the material facts of the investment. Ask them if the investment is properly registered and ask for company financial statements, a prospectus and other documents that disclose the risks of investing. Make sure the salesperson also discloses their own compensation for your investment, and how much he or she is keeping for commissions and fees. Check to see if the salesperson is registered to sell securities with state or federal regulators. 

More Helpful Resources on Pension Advances

Read Schuette's full consumer alert, Pension Advances Are a Shaky Deal for Borrowers and Investors Alike by visiting the following link: http://1.usa.gov/1L30bCc.  Additional information about pension advances is available from the Federal Trade Commission, "Pension Advances: Not So Fast".  The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) also provides resources for pensioners.

How to File a Complaint with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division

Complaints about an advance or loan on your pension, or about investing in someone else's pension advance or loan, may be made to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:

 

Michigan Department of Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909

517-373-1140
Fax: 517-241-3771

Toll free: 877-765-8388

www.michigan.gov/ag (online complaint form)

Contact the LARA Corporations, Securities, and Commercial Licensing Bureau

Complaints about an investment in a pension advance loan may be made to the Enforcement Division of the Corporations, Securities and Commercial Licensing Bureau, Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs at:

 

Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau

Enforcement Division

P.O. Box 30018, Lansing, MI 48909

517-241-9202

http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/bcsc/forms/enf/lce-992.pdf

 


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Schuette Secures Conviction of Oakland County Nursing Home Embezzler

 

January 27, 2015           

 

 LANSING  – Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced his Healthcare Fraud Division secured the conviction of a former nursing home employee for her role in an embezzlement scheme from an Oakland County nursing home. Tina Binkley, 44, of Lapeer County, pleaded guilty to one count of Embezzlement from Vulnerable Adults ($100,000 or more), a felony punishable by 20 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine or three times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater As part of the plea, Binkley has agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $460,266.82 to 136 victims. 

"Families deserve to know their precious loved ones in nursing homes are being cared for, not being exploited for personal financial gain," said Schuette. "I am happy to secure restitution for victims of this case so they and their families can begin to rebuild their lives."

Binkley pleaded guilty in connection with her scheme to embezzle more than $460,000 from approximately 136 residents of Boulevard Health Center (BHC), a Rochester Hills nursing home facility. The embezzlement scheme took place between May 2010 and April 2013 while Binkley was employed as the facility's business office manager. 

Background on Binkley Case

BHC fired Binkley in April 2013 after she failed to follow standard financial reporting procedures. BHC self-reported major bookkeeping discrepancies to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). The accountant hired to examine their books more closely following Binkley's termination discovered several significant points of financial concern. LARA then referred the case to the Department of Attorney General for further investigation.

Schuette's charges alleged that between 2010 and 2013 Binkley used her position as the BHC business office manager to embezzle $460,266.82 from 136 residents at the facility. As business office manager, Binkley was authorized to access and manage funds in two separate accounts including: the BHC general account, where facility income was deposited and day-to-day facility expenses were paid; and the Resident Trust Fund (RTF) account, which contains funds presented to BHC by residents, deposited into the account and held until residents request funds for their incidentals. 

Attorney General investigators analyzed BHC bank records which revealed a scheme to embezzle funds as Binkley transferred residents' overpayments for room and board from the general account into the RTF account and later made cash withdrawals from the RTF account for personal expenses.  

Resident overpayments to the BHC sometimes occur because many residents pay out-of-pocket for room and board and skilled nursing care while waiting for Medicaid or other insurance to be approved.  In this case, residents or their representatives were not advised of the switch to Medicaid or other insurance in a timely manner.

Binkley embezzled funds by directing subordinate employees to make cash withdrawals and turn the cash over to her. Investigation revealed the subordinates were unknowing accomplices in Binkley's alleged scheme. BHC has cooperated with the Attorney General at every stage of this process and there is no indication of any lingering concerns with the facility's books beyond the charges alleged against Binkley in this case.

Binkley is scheduled for sentencing on March 2, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. before Hon. Martha Anderson in the Oakland County Circuit Court. This amount was determined by a forensic audit that was conducted at the expense of the facility. 

                                                                   Mug Shot of Binkley2

 

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Schuette Charges St. Clair County Man in Alleged Murder-For-Hire Scheme

 

January 22, 2015           

 LANSING  –   Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that his Criminal Division has charged Michael Christopher Still, 28, of St. Clair County with solicitation of murder in Branch County and a further charge as a fourth habitual offender.  The Attorney General’s Criminal Division will be handling the prosecution based on a request from the Branch County Prosecutor’s Office.

Still is currently being held at Ionia Correctional Facility on unrelated charges.  The charges filed by Schuette follow an investigation by Schuette’s Criminal Division and the Michigan State Police.  

“A murder-for-hire plot would have devastating consequences for the victim and the victim’s family,” said Schuette. “Thankfully, law enforcement was able to thwart this alleged plan before it could be carried out.”

Case Background

On April 10, 2014, officials at Lakeland Correctional Facility intercepted a letter that was returned to Still as undeliverable.  In the letter, Still allegedly attempted to solicit a former prison inmate to kill Still’s ex-girlfriend. 

On January 21, 2015 in 3-A District Court, Schuette filed one count of Homicide – Solicitation of Murder, a felony, which carries a punishment of up to life in prison, against Michael Christopher Still.  Schuette also filed notice to supplement Still as a fourth time habitual offender due to his prior criminal record.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. 

Mug Shot of Still

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Schuette Statement to Commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

 

January 19, 2015           

 LANSING  –   Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today issued the following statement commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. day:

 

"While we all work to emulate the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King by bringing light and love into to our daily lives, today as a country we pause to reflect on a life spent working to unite our country by ending the evils of segregation and discrimination.

 

Dr. King's legacy lives on in many ways, including words I would like to share with you today:

 

‘Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.' — Martin Luther King Jr."

 Through light and love, we find more understanding and the ability to remain agreeable and find common ground, even when we disagree.

 

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