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 Announces Michigan to Receive Millions Under Settlement With Volkswagen Over Emissions Fraud
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced a settlement requiring Volkswagen to pay restitution to more than 10,000 Volkswagen owners and lessees as part of the settlement from Volkswagen over emissions fraud. Nationally, Volkswagen will pay more $570 Million to the states for violating state laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices by marketing, selling and leasing diesel vehicles equipped with illegal and undisclosed defeat device software.
“Today’s settlement announcement sets in motion a long overdue fix by Volkswagen, who knowing deceived both consumers and the environmental regulations of this country,” said Schuette. “Cheating to get ahead in this case broke the law and now Volkswagen will be held responsible for their mistakes and Michigan consumers will see the benefits.”
This agreement is part of a series of state and federal settlements that will provide cash payments to affected consumers, require Volkswagen to buy back or modify certain VW and Audi 2.0-liter diesel vehicles, and prohibits Volkswagen from engaging in future unfair or deceptive acts and practices in connection with its dealings with consumers and regulators.
Today’s coordinated settlements resolve consumer protection claims raised by State Attorneys General 43 states and jurisdictions, including Michigan, against Volkswagen. The company – collectively referred to as Volkswagen includes Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Porsche AG and Porsche Cars, North America, Inc. – collectively referred to as Volkswagen. The settlement also resolve actions against Volkswagen brought by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), California and car owners in private class action suits.
The attorneys generals’ investigation confirmed that Volkswagen sold more than 570,000 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesel vehicles in the United States equipped with “defeat device” software intended to circumvent applicable emissions standards for certain air pollutants, and actively concealed the existence of the defeat device from regulators and the public. Volkswagen made false statements to consumers in their marketing and advertising, misrepresenting the cars as environmentally friendly or “green” and that the cars were compliant with federal and state emissions standards, when, in fact, Volkswagen knew the vehicles emitted harmful oxides of nitrogen (NOx) at rates many times higher than the law permitted.
Under the settlements, Volkswagen is required to implement a restitution and recall program for more than 475,000 owners and lessees of 2.0-liter diesel vehicles, of the model year 2009 through 2015 listed in the chart below at a maximum cost of just over $10 billion. This includes 10,984 vehicles in Michigan.
Once the consumer program is approved by the court, affected Volkswagen owners will receive restitution payment of at least $5,100 and a choice between:
- A buy back of the vehicle (based on pre-scandal NADA value); or
- A modification to reduce NOx emissions provided that Volkswagen can develop a modification acceptable to regulators. Owners will still be eligible to choose a buyback in the event regulators do not approve a fix. Owners who choose the modification option would also receive an Extended Emission Warranty; and a Lemon Law-type remedy to protect against the possibility that the modification causes subsequent problems.
The consumer program also provides benefits and restitution for lessees (restitution and a no-penalty lease termination option) and sellers after September 18, 2015 when the emissions-cheating scandal was disclosed (50 percent of the restitution available to owners). Additional components of today’s settlements include:
- Environmental Mitigation Fund: Volkswagen will pay $2.7 billion into a trust to support environmental programs throughout the country to reduce emissions of NOx. This fund, also subject to court approval, is intended to mitigate the total, lifetime excess NOx emissions from the 2.0-liter diesel vehicles identified below. Under the terms of the mitigation trust, Michigan is eligible to receive $60,392,906.41 to fund mitigation projects.
- Additional Payment to the States: In addition to consumer restitution, Volkswagen will pay to the states more than $1,000 per car for repeated violations of state consumer protection laws, amounting to $570 million nationwide. This amount includes $13,106,500 paid for affected vehicles Volkswagen sold and leased in Michigan.
- Zero Emission Vehicles: Volkswagen has committed to investing $2 billion over the next 10 years for the development of non-polluting cars, or Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV), and supporting infrastructure.
- Preservation of Environmental Claims: Today’s settlement by state attorneys general preserves all claims under state environmental laws, and Michigan maintains the right to seek additional penalties from Volkswagen for its violations of environmental and emissions laws and regulations.
Volkswagen will also pay $20 million to the states for their costs in investigating this matter and to establish a fund that state attorneys general can utilize for future training and initiatives, including investigations concerning emissions violations, automobile compliance, and consumer protection.
The full details of the consumer program will be available online at VWCourtSettlement.com and www.ftc.gov/VWSettlement.
2.0 Liter Diesel Models
EPA Test Group
Vehicle Make and Model(s)
VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen
VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen, Audi A3
VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen, Audi A3
VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen, Audi A3
VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen, Audi A3
VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen
CVWXV02.0U4S DVWXV02.0U4S EVWXV02.0U4S
VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Golf Sportwagen, VW Jetta, VW Passat, Audi A3
- Schuette Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Immigration Ruling
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today issued the following statement following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on United States, et al., Petitioners V. Texas, et al.:
“America is a beacon of hope across the world and deserves a hopeful immigration policy. The Supreme Court was correct today in ruling that the President's unilateral executive order on immigration, and attempt to bypass Congress, was constitutionally flawed. Now Congress has the opportunity to forge a hopeful immigration policy which also secures our borders.”
- Schuette Charges West Bloomfield Doctor with Possession of Stolen Prescription Drugs
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today charged West Bloomfield doctor Michael Arthur Roth, 74, with possession with intent to deliver schedule 2 narcotic Fentanyl, and 6 counts of identity theft in the 48th District Court. In the 38th District Court in Eastpointe, Roth also faces 3 counts of Larceny in a Building. The charges follow a September 2015 car accident where the drugs, as well as post-conception material, were discovered in Roth’s vehicle.
Roth has also formally been charged with violating the Michigan public health code, and faces potentially suspension of his medical license if convicted of the criminal charges.
“Dr. Roth’s actions jeopardized the safety of Michigan’s healthcare system,” said Schuette. “His attempt to break the law at the expense of his patient’s safety is not only illegal, but goes against the code he took upon becoming a doctor.”
“We appreciate the Department of Attorney General partnering with us on this important investigation that is finally coming to a conclusion,” said West Bloomfield Deputy Police Chief Curt Lawson.
Schuette acknowledge the support and cooperation of the West Bloomfield Police Department in this investigation which began in September of 2015.
Roth was arraigned in 48th District Court in Oakland County in front of Magistrate Howard Linden, assigned a $10,000 personal recognizance bond, and will appear next for a pre-exam conference in front of Judge Marc Barron on July 7. Roth was also arraigned in the 38th District Court in Eastpointe in front of Judge Carl Gerds III. He was assigned a $10,000 personal recognizance bond and will next appear in court on July 12 at 1 p.m. for a pre-exam conference.
An investigation into Michael Roth began after a September 2015 car accident in West Bloomfield. After the West accident, his car was impounded and Mr. Roth requested property from his car. Upon retrieving the property, local police found evidence of six prescriptions for Ciprofloxacin, a common antibiotic used with abortion procedures, which was allegedly written by Dr. Angel Ojeda, a doctor who runs the Eastland Women’s Center in Eastpointe, Michigan. The clinic’s primary focus is terminating pregnancies. Officers also found vials of Fentanyl, a drug commonly used as a sedative during termination procedures, as well as containers of post-conception material.
Medical records indicate that Roth sometimes worked out of Dr. Ojeda’s clinic. Dr. Ojeda and the women whose names were listed on the prescriptions alleged they had no knowledge of the prescriptions. Dr. Ojeda also stated that a large amount of Fentanyl was stolen from his office in December 2014. When interviewed, Ojeda stated he had never given Roth permission to have Fentanyl or Ciprofloxacin from his clinic, a statement which was corroborated by a clinic employee. A separate medical assistant employed at the Eastland Women’s Center allegedly admitted to stealing medical equipment and medications used in abortions from the clinic for Roth and that he was fully aware the materials were stolen.
A search warrant was completed on Roth’s home and office. Additional vials of Fentanyl were found at the home. Both the Fentanyl found in the car and in the house were matched to the Fentanyl that was allegedly stolen from the women’s clinic. The search warrant also revealed a large amount of cash with names and what is believed to be pregnancy information attached to each bundle of cash, medical materials such as syringes, disposable scalpels and empty containers similar to the ones filled with post-conception material found in Roth’s car.
Over the course of the investigation, Department of Attorney General Investigators also spoke with a woman who alleged that in the late 1990’s Dr. Roth performed an abortion on two separate occasions in her residence.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation, all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
- Schuette Files Civil Suit against Veolia and LAN for Role in Flint Water Poisoning
FLINT, MI — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, joined by Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Special Assistant Attorney General Noah Hall, Special Counsel Todd Flood, Chief Investigator Andy Arena, Chief Deputy Investigator Ellis Stafford and the Flint Investigation Team, today announced that his office has filed a civil lawsuit in Genesee County (MI) Circuit Court. The suit will hold multinational water engineering services corporation Veolia accountable for professional negligence and fraud, which caused Flint’s lead poisoning problem to continue and worsen, and created an ongoing public nuisance.
The civil suit also includes the water engineering services corporation known as Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN), also for professional negligence that caused Flint’s lead poisoning crisis to continue and worsen, contributing to an ongoing public nuisance.
Schuette and Hall, a renowned environmental law expert who joined the Flint Water Investigative Team earlier this year, said they filed the suit to protest and advance the State of Michigan’s legal interests in the health and well-being of its citizens, and to hold Veolia and LAN accountable for the harms they caused in Flint.
“Many things went tragically wrong in Flint, and both criminal conduct and civil conduct caused harm to the families of Flint and to the taxpayers of Michigan,” said Schuette. “In Flint, Veolia and LAN were hired to do a job and failed miserably. Their fraudulent and dangerous recommendations made a bad situation worse.”
The suit alleges that Veolia and LAN committed or caused:
1. Professional Negligence: The suit alleges that Veolia and LAN either knew or should have known that high chloride levels in Flint River water would cause corrosion in lead pipes unless treated, resulting in dangerous levels of lead being ingested by those drinking Flint water. Veolia and LAN ignored several key warning signs, including citizen complaints of brown water, which a professional corporation should have seen as cause for further action before submitting reports to the public. Veolia and LAN totally failed to take these actions.
2. Public Nuisance: The suit alleges that the actions of Veolia and LAN irresponsibly interfered with the public right to health, safety, peace and comfort in Flint, in addition to violating the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, and that this conduct created a long-lasting, and possibly permanent, effect on these public rights. The nuisance, particularly corroded lead pipes that pose a threat to drinking water, is ongoing with no end in sight.
The suit also alleges that Veolia committed:
3. Fraud: The suit alleges fraud against Veolia for its false and misleading statements to the public regarding the safety of Flint’s drinking water and compliance with state and federal standards, in its taxpayer-funded analysis of the Flint water system.
There may be additional claims in the future against these or other companies.
The suit seeks to recover monetary damages, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars, for harms caused by Veolia and LAN in Flint. Because lead is dangerous to human health even at the lowest levels, Michigan citizens who have ingested poisoned water could face a range of immediate and long-term challenges in the areas of health care, special education needs, social services and replacement of water infrastructure. The suit seeks to recover these damages from Veolia and LAN.
Background on the actions of the two companies named in this civil suit:
Veolia: Global giant Veolia contracted with the City of Flint in February 2015 to address the quality of its drinking water. Veolia produced at least one report and one public presentation stating that Flint’s drinking water was “in compliance with State and Federal regulations, and based on those standards, the water is considered to meet drinking water requirements.” Schuette’s suit alleges that Veolia completely failed to recognize the ongoing corrosion in lead pipes or the resulting public health crisis that was unfolding at the time. The suit alleges that not only did Veolia fail to recommend any measures to address corrosion and resulting lead levels, but the recommendations it did offer would have caused the lead corrosion problem to worsen.
Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN): LAN is a Houston, Texas-based company that began working with the City of Flint in 2013 to prepare the city water plant to treat new sources of drinking water, including the Flint River. Schuette’s suit alleges that LAN issued a report to the City of Flint in 2014 to address compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act that did not address the issue of corrosion control and took no action to implement corrosion control. LAN then produced a second report, in August 2015, regarding Safe Drinking water Act compliance and again failed to address the hazards of lead in Flint’s water. One of LAN’s recommendations included flushing fire hydrants, which likely contributed to artificially low levels of lead in residential water tests.
The Attorney General filed the suit, known as State of Michigan vs. Veolia and LAN, today in the Genesee County Circuit Court in Flint, Michigan. Once the suit has been served on Veolia and LAN, those corporations will have 28 days to respond.
Additional statements from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette:
“We have two teams: a criminal team and a civil team. Two teams pulling one wagon, and that wagon is justice for families of Flint.”
“These civil charges today, the previous criminal charges and the additional charges to come, are an effort, a pathway to rebuild and restore trust and confidence in government to families of Flint and indeed to the families and taxpayers across Michigan.”
Statement from Noah Hall, currently serving as a Special Assistant Attorney General on the Flint Investigation Team:
“It is our duty, both civilly and criminally, to hold these parties accountable for their role in the poisoning of the families of Flint,” said Hall. “Today’s civil law suit is the first step in seeking damages caused by these companies that can help with Flint’s recovery and aid the residents of Flint who are still waiting for help.”
Hall joined the Attorney General’s Flint Investigation Team in March 2016. Hall is an expert in environmental law who is widely sought for opinions on key legal cases and has been featured in many publications in Michigan and nationally. He has taken a leave from his position at the Wayne State University in Detroit.
Statement from Todd Flood, currently serving Lead Investigator on the Flint Investigation Team:
“I’ve been given the responsibility to seek justice in this manmade catastrophe,” said Flood. “The people of the state of Michigan and citizens of Flint will, and should not expect any less, this suit brings the ability to make citizens whole.”
Flint Water Investigation
Schuette announced the start of his investigation into the Flint water crisis on January 15, 2016, instituting a conflict wall that legally separated him and his investigation team from the team of state lawyers representing the Michigan governor’s office and other state departments and employees.
Earlier in the investigation, on April 20, 2016, Schuette previously charged two state workers and one city worker with a total of 13 felony charges and 5 misdemeanor charges multiple felonies in the first stage of his Flint Water Crisis investigation on April 20, 2016.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby are scheduled for a preliminary exam hearing on July 20th in Genesee County Circuit Court. Michael Glasgow, formerly of the City of Flint, was also charged and later agreed to a plea agreement that is contingent on his cooperation as a witness in the case.
LAN (with Rowe Engineering, Inc.), “Analysis of the Flint River as a Permanent Water Supply for the City of Flint,” July 2011 (LAN’s 2011 Report) - available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/LAN_2011_Report.pdf
LAN, Proposal to the City of Flint for “Flint Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation – Phase II,” June 10, 2013 (LAN’s 2013 Proposal) - available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/LAN_2013_Proposal.pdf
LAN, Draft Operational Evaluation Report for the City of Flint, “Trihalomethane Formation Concern,” November 2014 (LAN’s 2014 Report) - available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/LAN_2014_Report.pdf
Veolia, “Response to Invitation to Bid for Water Quality Consultant,” Flint Proposal No.: 15-573, January 29, 2015 (Veolia’s 2015 Bid) - available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Veolia_2015_Bid.pdf
Veolia, “Interim Water Quality Report,” February 18, 2015 (Veolia’s 2015 Interim Report) - available at www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Veolia_2015_Interim_Report.pdf
LAN, Final Operational Evaluation Report, “Trihalomethane Formation Concern,” February 27, 2015 (LAN’s February 2015 Report) - available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/LAN_February_2015_Report.pdf
Veolia, Flint Water Quality Report, March 12, 2015 (Veolia’s 2015 Report) - available at www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Veolia_2015_Report.pdf
Boil Water Advisories:
- Schuette Statement on Approval of Waukesha Water Diversion from Lake Michigan
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued the following statement following the approval of the Waukesha Water Diversion Plan:
“I was disappointed to learn that the Governors of the Great Lakes will allow water to be diverted outside of our watershed to be used by municipalities outside the Great Lakes basin. The Great Lakes Compact was specifically designed to prevent the diversion of water from the Great Lakes and approving this application is setting a bad precedent. ”