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  • 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.”

    Flint water tower

     



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Schuette Charges Six More in Flint Water Crisis

FLINT, MI — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the third legal action of his Flint Water Investigation, filing 18 criminal charges against four current and two former employees from two state departments. The charges are a result of actions taken by officials at the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services that contributed to the Flint water poisoning crisis by withholding vital information from the public about ongoing lead poisoning and allowing the continued distribution of corrosive water from the Flint Water Treatment Plant.

Schuette was joined at the announcement by Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Flint Water Investigation Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, and Chief Investigator Andy Arena.

A Total of Nine Defendants So Far

As of today, in total, Schuette has filed criminal charges against nine current and former state and local officials since the start of the investigation, which has included interviews with nearly 180 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. 

Schuette's investigation remains ongoing and the charges filed today do not preclude additional charges at a later date.  

The Third Legal Action of the Investigation Results in 18 New Charges

In the third legal action of the investigation, today a total of 18 criminal charges (12 felonies and 6 misdemeanors) were filed in Genesee County’s 67th District Court in Flint against six individuals, three from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and three from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

MDEQ Employee Charges:

Today’s charges include high-ranking officials at the MDEQ who failed in their duties to ensure the provision of safe drinking water and worked to make sure the Flint Water Treatment Plant stayed up and running regardless of the outcome or warning signs its operation was resulting in water poisoned with lead.

  • Liane Shekter-Smith: Charges allege that former high-ranking MDEQ official Liane Shekter-Smith, then-Chief of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, held key responsibilities for ensuring the provision of clean, safe drinking water for the citizens of Flint. Despite receiving notice of citizen complaints about water quality and knowledge of a Legionnaires outbreak and issues with lead levels, Shekter-Smith, in her high-ranking position that included supervision of key MDEQ employees, not only allegedly failed to take corrective action or notify public health officials but, in fact took steps to mislead and conceal evidence from health officials in phone calls revealed by the investigation.

Liane Shekter-Smith, former Chief of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance
1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)
1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor: 1 year and/or $1,000)

  • Adam Rosenthal: Charges allege that current MDEQ employee Adam Rosenthal, who worked in Shekter-Smith’s section, was warned by Flint Water Treatment Plant officials that they were not ready for operations and was later warned by the EPA that high levels of lead is usually due to particulate lead, signaling a corrosion problem. Charges allege that in 2015, Rosenthal willfully participated in the manipulation of lead testing results and falsely reported that the 90th percentile of the results for lead water testing was below the federal action level. Eventually, a July 28, 2015 report was altered to exclude some high lead tests and Rosenthal forwarded the altered report on. Previously charged MDEQ employees Busch and Prsyby were also allegedly involved.   

Adam Rosenthal, Water Quality Analyst
1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)
1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor: 1 year and/or $1,000)
1 count, Tampering with Evidence (Felony: 4 years and/or $5,000)
1 count, Conspiracy— Tampering with Evidence (Felony: 4 years and/or $10,000)

  • Patrick Cook: Charges allege that Cook, who is the current MDEQ official responsible for compliance with lead and copper monitoring, signed a permit in 2014 that was the last approval necessary for the use of the Flint Water Treatment Plant. Cook subsequently was aware of problems with the water in Flint but allegedly took no corrective action in his duty to ensure the provision of clean, safe drinking water in Flint. Cook allegedly mislead the EPA regarding the necessity of using corrosion control in Flint after the switch when he allegedly forwarded information he knew to be false to the EPA in response to its inquire. 

Patrick Cook, Specialist for Community Drinking Water Unit
1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor: 1 year and/or $1,000)
1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)
1 count, Conspiracy (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)

MDHHS Employee Charges:

Today’s charges allege that these MDHHS defendants discovered that Flint children were being poisoned by lead but suppressed that information, keeping it from reaching doctors and health officials who sought to protect the welfare of the children and citizens of Flint. 

Nancy Peeler, Robert Scott and Corinne Miller: In July of 2015, Nancy Peeler, Director of the MDHHS Program for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting, requested an internal report on blood lead level data in Flint children. That report, created on July 28, 2015 using sound scientific principles, showed a significant spike— higher than usual— in blood lead tests for Flint children for the summer of 2014.  However, the charges allege that that report was buried, never forwarded by Peeler or others to appropriate health officials. 

Peeler then joined with a different MDHHS employee, Robert Scott, the Data Manager for the Healthy Homes and Lead Prevention program, and created a second report, issued two days after the initial report. The second report falsely indicated no statistically significant rise in blood lead levels of children in the summer of 2014. 

Meanwhile, Corinne Miller, the then-Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and State Epidemiologist, received the first report but instructed others not to take action, rebuffing other employees who asked about next steps of action. The charges allege that Miller later instructed another MDHHS employee to delete emails concerning the original blood lead data report from July 28, 2015.

The investigation also revealed that on day the first blood lead level report was created, July 28, 2015, there was communication between MDEQ Defendant Liane Shekter-Smith and MDHHS. This was the same time that MDEQ defendants allegedly were manipulating lead water results to conceal unsafe lead levels. Despite knowledge to the contrary, the investigation showed that Shekter-Smith allegedly told MDHHS that there were no lead issues with Flint’s drinking water. 

  • Nancy Peeler, Director, Program for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting
    1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)
    1 count, Conspiracy, (Felony, 5 years and/or $10,000)
    1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor, 1 year and/or $1,000)

  • Robert Scott, Data Manager for the Healthy Homes and Lead Prevention program
    1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)
    1 count, Conspiracy, (Felony, 5 years and/or $10,000)
    1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor, 1 year and/or $1,000)

  • Corinne Miller, Former Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and State Epidemiologist
    1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)
    1 count, Conspiracy, (Felony, 5 years and/or $10,000)
    1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor, 1 year and/or $1,000

Comments offered by Attorney General Bill Schuette:

“Some may wish or worry that the story of Flint will be slowly absorbed by other world events or lost in the noise and clatter of the 24-hour news cycle and short attention span of posts and tweets. Not on our watch.”

“The families of Flint will not be forgotten. We will provide the justice they deserve. And in Michigan, the justice system is not rigged. There is one system of justice. The laws apply to everyone, equally, no matter who you are. Period.”

“Providing justice to families of Flint means accountability. Those who committed crimes will be held accountable.”

“The victims are real people, families who have been lied to by government officials and been treated as expendable. But when our investigation is completed and our prosecutions are successful—and we believe they will be—then accountability and justice will be delivered to families of Flint and families of Michigan.”

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Schuette: Waterford Man Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Charges

LANSING ­– Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced former police officer Matthew Parsons, 48, of Waterford, has pleaded guilty to three felony charges related to the downloading of child pornography. The investigation into Parsons began after a tip was received from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). 

“While this man did not physically molest a child, he victimized them over and over every time he downloaded and shared child pornography, and as a father both acts are equally heartbreaking,” said Schuette. “I consider it to be one of my most important responsibilities to secure justice for Michigan’s most vulnerable.” 

On Wednesday July 27, 2016, Parsons pleaded guilty to (1) count possession of child sexually abusive material, one (1) count of using a computer to commit a crime and one (1) count of recording an unclothed person, in Oakland County Circuit Court before Judge Nanci Grant.

As a part of his plea he must register as a sex offender for 15 years. Parsons resigned from the Farmington Hills Police Department on June 15, 2016. Parsons felony plea also ensures that he will no longer be able to work as a law enforcement officer in the state of Michigan

Parsons will be sentenced before Judge Nanci Grant in Oakland County Circuit Court on Wednesday, August 17.

Schuette acknowledged the assistance of Farmington Hills Police Chief Charles Nebus and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in this case.

“I want to complement the work done by both Mr. Schuette and the Attorney General’s office as well as the Michigan Crimes and Internet Task Force on this case,” said Farmington Hills Police Chief Charles Nebus. “I am grateful for their assistance bringing this case to a conclusion.”

Case Background

Schuette’s investigation began following a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that an individual had been downloading child sexually abusive material. Following an investigation by Schuette’s team, it was found the individual downloading the images was Parsons.

The investigation revealed that Parsons had downloaded at least 10 videos of child sexually abusive material. Parsons also surreptitiously filmed an adult in the nude.

The investigation determined that none of the acts had been committed using city property or while Parsons was on duty as a police officer.

Schuette: OK2SAY Program Has Received Nearly 5,000 Tips

LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the release of the 2015 OK2SAY Annual Report. For the calendar year 2015, the OK2SAY program received a total of 2,169 tips in a variety of categories, including peer abuse, suicide, and cyberbullying. This brings the tips total for the OK2SAY program to nearly 5,000 in just two years.

OK2SAY was created as a result of the Student Safety Act and operates as an early warning system in Michigan schools to prevent tragedies before they occur. For the past two years, OK2SAY has provided students the opportunity to confidentially report potentially harmful or criminal activities 24 hours a day.

“The 2015 Annual Report showcases the significant and positive impact OK2SAY has had and will continue to have on Michigan students,” said Schuette. “The continued partnership between many groups keeps the program going, but more importantly it’s the students. They continue to step up and reach out when they hear something or see something. Students are really the heroes. Lives have been saved, school violence has been prevented, and many Michigan students have received the mental health services they needed.”

Fighting the Culture of Silence

OK2SAY is operated through a partnership between the Department of Attorney General, Michigan State Police, state agencies, schools, parents, law enforcement, and community leaders.

According to the U.S. Secret Service, in 81% of violent incidents in U.S. schools, someone other than the attacker had knowledge of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it. OK2SAY discourages the persistent culture of silence among students who fear being labeled a snitch. It gives a voice to students who might otherwise remain silent out of fear of retaliation or rejection. 

“OK2SAY is not about getting students in trouble; it is about getting them the help they need,” said Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etu, director of the Michigan State Police.

The Key Features of OK2SAY

  • Confidential Reporting: State law protects the confidentiality of the reporter’s identity. The identity of the reporting party will not be disclosed to local law enforcement, school officials, or the person about whom a tip is offered, unless the reporter voluntarily chooses to disclose his or her identity. If the reporter is a minor, the parent or guardian must also consent. 
  • Comprehensive Technology: Anyone can confidentially submit tips 24/7 using any of the five tip methods detailed below. Multi-media attachments like photos, videos, and links to additional information are encouraged.
  • Coordinated Intervention: Upon receipt of a tip, specially trained OK2SAY technicians at the Michigan State Police screen and forward tips to an appropriate responding agency including: local law enforcement, schools, local community mental health organizations, or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Accountability: Each responding organization is asked to complete an Outcome Report detailing the nature of the tip, how the tip was handled, and whether the tip situation was resolved or requires ongoing attention. This provides local entities an opportunity to illustrate that student safety threats are tracked and taken seriously. The 2015 Annual Report details the types and numbers of tips handled throughout the year.

How to Submit a Tip

OK2SAY encourages confidential tips on criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school employees, and schools. Tips can be submitted through the following ways:

Call: 8-555-OK2SAY (855-565-2729)

Text: 652729 (OK2SAY)

Email

Web

OK2SAY Mobile App: Available for download in app stores for iPhone and Android.

Schuette Opens Third Human Trafficking Commission Meeting

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today opened the summer Human Trafficking Commission meeting at the Department of Attorney General in the G. Mennen Williams state office building in Lansing. Today’s meeting featured guest speakers from Firekeepers Casino and Hotel who discussed their efforts with the Nottawaeseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi, who own Firekeepers Casino, to combat and raise awareness for human trafficking.

“The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission continues to do an excellent job bringing diverse groups together to build further awareness and work toward solutions to end the horrific crime of human trafficking,” said Schuette. “The more collaboration and effort there is on this issue the sooner we will be able to eradicate it from Michigan.”

Commission meetings often feature guest speakers to discuss the efforts they have taken to combat human trafficking in their field, and provide suggestions on how to collaborate on this important issue.

At today’s meeting, George Jenkot and Sam Abdo from Firekeepers Casino discussed the human trafficking awareness efforts they have undertaken within the casino and hotel. For example, they have begun a training program for tribal police and all members of the security team within the casino. The training program teaches employees how to identify the signs of human trafficking and the protocol they should follow to combat this horrific crime.

The program will now be shared with members of all 12 Michigan tribal governments at their annual meeting this fall.

Fall Human Trafficking Conference- September 29th

There was also an update on the Human Trafficking Commission’s fall conference, the first full-day conference offered by the Commission. The conference will be hosted by the Commission, along with the State Court Administrative Office and the Department of Health and Human Services, on Thursday, September 29, 2016 in Ann Arbor. The one-day conference, which is open to law enforcement, legal professionals, victim service providers, protective services workers,  judiciary staff and other human trafficking related groups, will serve as an opportunity to collaborate on how to bring further awareness to the issue of human trafficking and help eliminate the crime in our state.

Background on Human Trafficking

Around the country, and right here in Michigan, children, women and men are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude and other labor for little or no pay, resulting from the use of force, fraud or coercion.

Demand for illegal activities such as paid sex fuels human trafficking, turning both men and women into victims, permanently impacting the lives of those involved, their families and their loved ones.

Human trafficking is the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, after drug trafficking.  Victims of human trafficking are in bondage through force, fraud or coercion, solely for the purpose of sex or labor exploitation.  Children are especially vulnerable. 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2,515 incidents of human trafficking were recorded nationwide between January 2008 and June 2010.  Of those incidents, 1,016 involved the sexual exploitation of a child, 1,218 involved the sexual exploitation of adults, and 350 involved labor trafficking.

For more information, please visit the Attorney General’s human trafficking webpage.

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Schuette Charges Northern Michigan Man with Ten Felonies for Possessing Child Pornography

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today charged Randall Passmore, 33, of Manton with ten counts of Possession of Child Sexually Abusive Material.

“We must do everything we can to find justice for minors abused by predators,” said Schuette. “Every time the photo of a minor is shared by a predator, it is fresh abuse for the child and their family, more heart break and more pain.”

Passmore was arraigned Tuesday, July 26 in 84th District Court before Judge Audrey Van Alst, and bond was set at $20,000. He is currently held at the Wexford County Jail.

His next court date is August 2 at 1:30 p.m. in 84th District Court, in Cadillac. 

Case Background

The Michigan Department of Attorney General received the case after the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force in Pennsylvania received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that alleged Passmore was improperly communicating with a minor. The task force tracked the tip to Passmore in Michigan. The subsequent investigation led to the seizure of Passmore’s computer and the discovery of alleged child pornographic material.

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

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