DeSoto County Resident Going to Prison for Child Exploitation

July 27, 2015
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A DeSoto County man is going to prison for child exploitation, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Jeremy Gregg, 43, of Hernando, pleaded guilty Friday to charges of child exploitation before Judge Gerald Chatham in DeSoto County Circuit Court. Gregg was sentenced to 10 years with five years to serve and 10 years of post-release supervision.  Gregg was ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, $1,000 to the children’s trust fund and must register as a sex offender upon release. He is restricted from owning any computer or smart phone during his post-release supervision.

Gregg admitted to possession of multiple images and videos of child pornography. Gregg used the keywords “pre-teen hard core” (pthc) to search for videos and images online. The case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with assistance from the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office.

“It is our duty to protect our most vulnerable residents and to make sure those who harm our children are held accountable,” said Attorney General Hood. “We will continue to go after these predators to keep them away from our children.”

This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Brandon Ogburn. 

 

 


Nurse Charged with Illegally Obtaining Patient’s Drugs

July 23, 2015
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A Ripley nurse is facing charges she took controlled substances away from patients, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Sarah Lepard, 27, of Ripley, turned herself into authorities Wednesday after being indicted by a Tippah County Grand Jury on two counts of acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled substance or prescription “by misrepresentation, fraud and the like” and one count of Medicaid Fraud. At the time the crimes are alleged to have been committed, Lepard worked as a licensed practical nurse at Golden Living Center in Ripley. The indictment charges Lepard with obtaining schedule two controlled substances, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, from two patients at the facility by signing the drugs out without dispensing to the patients prescribed the drugs.

Lepard was booked into the Tippah County jail and released on a $10,000.00 bond.  If convicted, she faces up to five years behind bars.  As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with assistance from the Tippah County Sheriff’s Office.  

 


ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD CALLS ON PHONE CARRIERS TO OFFER CALL-BLOCKING TECHNOLOGY TO CUSTOMERS

July 22, 2015
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Attorney General Jim Hood today joined 44 other state attorneys general calling on five major phone companies to offer call-blocking technology to their customers.  In a joint letter to the chief executives of the carriers, the attorneys general said a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule clarification allows telecommunication service providers to offer customers the ability to block unwanted calls, and verifies that federal law does not prohibit offering the services. 

In the letter to AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and CenturyLink, the attorneys general stated, “Every year, our offices are flooded with consumer complaints pleading for a solution to stop intrusive robocalls. Your companies are now poised to offer your customers the help they need.  We urge you to act without delay.”

Attorney General Hood said phone carriers had previously claimed they could not offer such services.  At a July 2013 hearing before a Senate subcommittee, representatives from the US Telecom Association and CTIA testified that “legal barriers prevent carriers from implementing advanced call-blocking technology to reduce the number of unwanted telemarketing calls.”

“The FCC has made it clear that phone companies can assist us in our fight against unwanted, annoying, and sometimes expensive calls,” Attorney General Hood said.  “We will continue to press these phone carriers to give their customers what they have been asking for – a way to stop these calls before they ever come through.”

Attorney General Hood said call-blocking options already exist for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service (NoMoRobo.com) and Android cell phones (Call Control), and the phone carriers should move quickly to implement and inform their consumers of these options.

Last September, 39 attorneys general, led by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, called on the FCC to allow phone companies to utilize call-blocking technologies.  The FCC chairman endorsed the request in late May and the FCC voted to pass the rule clarification on June 18.

The other state and territorial attorneys general offices that signed today’s letter are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Click here for a copy of the letter.


Attorney General’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Joins with Partners from the U.S. Attorneys’ Office and other Mississippi Law Enforcement Agencies to Host Training on Cell Phone Usage in Cyber Crimes

July 21, 2015
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icac task forceThe Mississippi Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force joins with partners from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, of the Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi, the Oxford Police Department, the Biloxi Police Department, the Adam’s County Sheriff’s Office and the Waveland Police Department to train more than 180 officers on techniques to address the increased usage of cell phones in crimes against children.

“Technology advances rapidly, and cell phones are found in practically every investigation of a crime against a child,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “With these advancements taking place, our ICAC task force is training this week in Natchez as part of a joint effort to update our federal and state officers on technical and legal issues in cell data investigations.”

Among the topics to be covered are:  the investigatory use of phone apps, GPS, cell phone tower data retrieval, social media, child witness interviews and a legal update on Fourteenth Amendment search and seizure of cell phone data in crimes against children investigations and prosecutions. Instructors of the sessions are Special Assistant Attorney General Jean Smith Vaughan, Attorney General Investigators Charlie Rubisoff and Jay Houston and ICAC Affiliate Waveland’s Chief of Police, David Allen.

“We are honored to partner with the Attorney General’s Office and other local departments on training officers on cell phone usage in cyber crimes. It is imperative that local law enforcement agencies perform ongoing training to keep up with advances in technology and educate as many officers as possible,” said Oxford Chief of Police Joey East. “We have to look at this training as an investment in our future. The age of people using cell phones is getting younger and with that comes the dangers of predators trying to make contact with them. This is an area where Law Enforcement cannot fall behind the curve, we must stay in front and lead the trend in education.”

The task force recently conducted two previous training sessions concerning cell phone usage in cyber crimes in Oxford and Biloxi. The same training was provided to approximately 40 School Resource Officers on Monday, July 20.

“This is a good example of the effectiveness and cooperative nature of the task force and why it is so important that we work together to rescue each child that falls victim to an online predator,” said Attorney General Hood.

The Attorney General’s Office formed the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force in 2007 with the ICAC Continuation Grant issued by the Department of Justice. The task force is dedicated to proactive and reactive investigations, the forensic analyses of electronic evidence, prosecutions of technological crimes against children and the education of law enforcement and the public. The unit now has over 60 local, state and federal law enforcement affiliate agencies and multi-disciplinary partners.

Attorney General Hood concludes, “with the rise in online predators and todays’ technology rapidly expanding, it is imperative that we are dedicated to keeping a close eye on what our children are doing online and on their cell phones.”

 

 


ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD URGES CONGRESS TO PRESERVE AUTHORITY TO ENFORCE STATE DATA BREACH AND DATA SECURITY LAWS

July 7, 2015
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Joining a bipartisan effort to ensure that any future federal data breach notification or data security law is effective and provides consumers with the best protection, Attorney General Jim Hood today joined a multistate letter to the U.S. Congress emphasizing the importance of maintaining states’ authority to enforce data breach and data security laws, and their ability to enact laws to address future data security risks.

Citing recent efforts in Congress to pass a national law on data breach notification and data security, Attorney General Hood, joined by 46 other attorneys general, cautions against federal preemption of state data breach and security law and argues that any federal law must not diminish the important role states already play protecting consumers from data breaches and identity theft, especially in states like Massachusetts whose laws provide greater protections than federal counterparts.

“As the vast majority of my colleagues and I have explained in this letter, any federal data breach protections should be an additional layer of protection for consumers,” said Attorney General Hood. “State laws already in place are critical tools that must not be preempted.  Maintaining state laws in addition to any new federal legislation ensures that all breaches – no matter how large or small – can be addressed.”

The letter points out a number of concerns with federal preemption of state data breach and security laws, including:

  • Data breaches and identity theft continue to cause significant harm to consumers.  Since 2005, nearly 5,000 data breaches have compromised more than 815 million records containing sensitive information about consumers – primarily financial account information, Social Security numbers or medical information.  Full-blown identity theft involving the use of a Social Security number can cost a consumer $5,100 on average.
  • Data security vulnerabilities are too common.  States frequently encounter circumstances where data breach incidents result from the failure by data collectors to reasonably protect the sensitive data entrusted to them by consumers, putting consumers’ personal information at unnecessary risk.  Many of these breaches could have been prevented if the data collector had taken reasonable steps to secure consumers’ data.
  • States play an important role responding to data breaches and identity theft.  The States have been at the frontlines in helping consumers deal with the repercussions of a data breach, providing important assistance to consumers who have been impacted by data breaches or who suffer identity theft or fraud as a result, and investigating the causes of data breaches to determine whether the data collector experiencing the breach had reasonable data security in place. Forty-seven states now have laws requiring data collectors to notify consumers when their personal information has been compromised by a data breach, and a number of states have also passed laws requiring companies to adopt reasonable data security practices.

The letter urges Congress to preserve existing protections under state law, ensure that states can continue to enforce breach notification requirements under their own state laws and enact new laws to respond to new data security threats, and to not hinder states that are helping their residents by preempting state data breach and security laws.

In 2005, 44 state attorneys general—including Attorney General Hood—wrote a similar letter to Congress calling for a national law on breach notification that did not preempt state enforcement or state law.

Attorney General Hood concluded, “In Mississippi, we hear about security breaches on a regular basis.  Our office works to ensure that businesses are complying with our security breach notification requirements and providing appropriate levels of protection to consumers whose information has been exposed.  If federal law took away state security breach laws like Mississippi’s, we’d be left without a meaningful method to make businesses take action in response to security breaches.”

In addition to Mississippi, the other state and territorial attorneys general offices that signed today’s letter are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Click here for a copy of the final letter.


Attorney General Jim Hood has joined in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Army Corps of Engineers

July 7, 2015
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Attorney General Jim Hood has joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Louisiana Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) challenging the legality of their new rule defining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Currently, the CWA gives the federal government limited authority to regulate the discharge of certain materials into “navigable waters,” which is defined as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.”

Attorney General Jim Hood stated, “The new rule has the potential of shifting primary regulatory responsibility over traditional state lands and waters from the states to the federal government. It gives unlawful federal power over the states, their citizens and property owners.”

The States of Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana seek a declaration from the federal district court that the rule exceeds CWA authority and is not in accordance with the law.

The new EPA/Corps rule redefines “waters of the United States” expanding CWA jurisdiction by an estimated 4.65 percent.  The rule purports to clarify the meaning of “waters of the United states.” However, in effect, the new rule broadly increases federal authority, decreases state control, and subjects broad categories of water features to federal regulation.  For example, the rule’s definition of “tributaries” is broad enough to include dry ponds, ephemeral streams, intermittent channels, and ditches so long as these features are “characterized by the presence of the physical indicators of a bed and bank and an ordinary high water mark.”

Attorney General Jim Hood concluded, “the rule’s broad definitions and complicated standards make it unrealistic to expect that the rule will be applied consistently across the nation. The resulting expansion of federal authority will require the states to establish water quality standards for miles of newly regulated waters, and force state agencies to devote more resources to permitting activities. Landowners, farmers in particular, will have to seek permits or face substantial fines and criminal enforcement actions.”

This litigation is not the first time in which the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office has participated in lawsuits challenging regulatory actions taken by the current EPA administration.

•           In 2012, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office joined other states in challenging the EPA’s new Clean Air Act regulations.  On June 29, 2015, the United States Supreme Court agreed with the position advocated by Mississippi and other states by finding that the EPA interpreted the Clean Air Act unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to issue new regulations.  See State of Michigan, et al. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, – U.S. -, 135 S.Ct. 1541, 191 L.Ed.2d 558 (2014).

•           In 2008 the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office filed suit challenging the EPA’s primary and secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone.  See Mississippi v. E.P.A., 744 F.3d 1334, 1341 (D.C. Cir. 2013).


Attorney General Hood will continue to advocate on behalf of Mississippi citizens against federal overreach.

 


Tennessee Resident Arrested for Selling Counterfeit Goods

July 6, 2015
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A Tennessee resident has been arrested for the sale of counterfeit goods in Kosciusko, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Ali Said Khdeir, 33, of Memphis, was recently arrested following an undercover joint operation by the Attorney General’s Office Intellectual Property Task Force and the Attala County Sheriff’s Department. Khdeir is accused of selling counterfeit goods and possession with intent to sell counterfeit goods. During the operation, investigators observed Khdeir selling a large number of alleged counterfeit goods, including NFL hats and the prescription pills, Viagra and Cialis, to a general store in Kosciusko. Khdeir, a resident of Tennessee, had transported these counterfeit goods into Mississippi from out of state.

If found guilty, Khdeir faces up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.  As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

Khdeir was booked by the Attala County Sheriff’s Department. The case is being investigated by Investigator Lee McDivitt and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Shaun Yurtkuran of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

 


Attorney General Announces Terms of Settlement Allowing Dollar Tree to Acquire Family Dollar Stores

July 6, 2015
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Attorney General Jim Hood announced the terms of a settlement that Mississippi and 16 other States have reached with Dollar Tree, Inc., following a review of the company’s proposed acquisition of Family Dollar Stores, Inc.  The merger combines two large national chains of deep discount stores.

This announcement follows a coordinated effort among Mississippi, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other state attorneys general.  The group conducted a national review of the transaction, which resulted in the state attorneys general requiring Dollar Tree to sell more than 300 Family Dollar stores to a new competitor in order to complete the acquisition.  All of the affected stores are to be sold and re-branded as Dollar Express stores, a new chain of deep discount stores being launched by Sycamore Partners.  To accomplish this move, Mississippi and the other attorneys general have filed their lawsuit and proposed consent judgment in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.

“Dollar stores provide affordable access to household essentials. The states have worked with the FTC, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree to ensure that the acquisition of Family Dollar does not lessen competition or create a hardship due to increased prices or store closures. As a result of these discussions, the parties do not intend to close or relocate any stores in Mississippi,” said Attorney General Hood.

Dollar Tree also will be required to report or notify the Attorney General’s Office of future acquisitions, store relocations, or closings.

Dollar Tree operates stores under both the Dollar Tree and Deals banners although there are no Deals stores currently in Mississippi.  Stores using the Dollar Tree banner typically price all merchandise for $1. Family Dollar stores offer additional merchandise for slightly higher prices.  The stores tend to be smaller in size and are often located within or near neighborhoods.

“These stores are located across Mississippi in both small towns and in our larger cities and suburbs,” said Attorney General Hood. “We wanted to ensure that competition would remain in areas where these stores were near each other, which will in turn result in the best prices and merchandise.”

Sycamore Partners is expected to acquire the stores being divested over the coming few months and operate them under its Dollar Express banner.

Dollar Tree (NASDAQ: DLTR) is headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia and operates more than 4,200 stores nationwide. Family Dollar (NYSE: FDO) is headquartered in Matthews, North Carolina and operates more than 8,000 stores nationwide.