Attorney General Jim Hood joined a bipartisan group today of 30 attorneys general in sending a letter to Congress, urging them to reject legislation that would block states from preventing and combatting fraud and abuse by the student loan industry.
The pending version of the Higher Education Act reauthorization (H.R. 4508, also known as the PROSPER Act) includes language to preempt state level oversight of private companies that originate, service, or collect on student loans. As drafted, the language attempts to immunize the student loan industry from the state-level enforcement and reforms underway across the country.
Describing the language as “an all-out assault on states’ rights and basic principles of federalism,” the letter urges Congress to strip the language from House bill and to omit it from consideration in the Senate.
As of the fourth quarter of 2017, U.S. borrowers owed an estimated $1.38 trillion in federal and private student loans—more than for auto loans, credit cards, or any other non-mortgage loan category.
“Mississippians alone have a total outstanding student loan debt balance of $12.69 billion,” said General Hood. “States are currently able to investigate and prosecute fraudulent student loan practices that are so egregious, students are provided with complete loan forgiveness. If Congress does not reject this legislation, states will no longer be able to provide these types of protections to consumers, and their vote will be another example of billion dollar companies buying legislation.”
In recent years, state attorneys general have investigated significant, far-reaching abuses in the student loan industry and won settlements returning tens of millions of dollars to student borrowers.
Major state-led investigations of student loan abuses in which Mississippi has recently been involved include:
- Education Management Corporation: The investigation uncovered that the school’s recruitment practices misled students about program costs, graduation rates, and job placement rates. As part of the multi-state settlement, state attorneys general obtained over $100 million in loan forgiveness, including more than $1.2 million for Mississippians.
- Corinthian Colleges: State attorneys general were critical in uncovering widespread misconduct at the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges, which made misrepresentations about post-graduate employment rates. The attorneys general worked to obtain relief for repayment of the students’ loans for tens of thousands of defrauded students nationwide. Nearly 6,000 Mississippians who attended and used loans at the for-profit schools were eligible for federal student loan cancellation.
The letter was led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and signed by the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the Executive Director of the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.
Timothy Wayne Avery, 40, was sentenced Monday morning in Pearl River County Circuit Court and ordered to pay more than $50,000 in back child support after pleading guilty to one count of non-support of a child, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Judge Anthony Mozingo ordered Avery to pay $53,248.12 in restitution after failing to pay child support for nearly 10 years. He was also ordered to pay a $100 investigative fee to the AG’s office and was sentenced to five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with those five years suspended and five years of supervised probation.
Avery was indicted in June 2017 and extradited to Mississippi after fleeing to Kentucky following his arraignment in July. A bench warrant was issued when he failed to appear in court. Avery was found in contempt of court at least three times for his failure to pay child support. He had previously been incarcerated and had his license suspended for refusing to support his children.
“This father thought it would be easier to run away from his obligation to his children rather than provide them the support they deserve,” said General Hood. “You can’t hide from the law, and I thank Judge Mozingo for making sure this man makes up for the monetary losses his children have suffered for too long.”
This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Purdie with the AG’s Child Desertion Unit.
A Jefferson Davis County man who recently got out of prison on a child exploitation sentence is headed back for another 40 years on more of the same charges, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Christopher Morgan, 27, of Bassfield, was sentenced Friday in Jefferson Davis County Circuit Court on three counts of child exploitation—two counts for possession of child pornography and one count for distribution of child pornography. On each count, Judge Prentiss Harrell sentenced Morgan to 40 years with 25 to serve and a $50,000 fine, which will all run concurrent.
Additionally, Morgan will serve the remaining 15 years of a 20 year sentence he received in 2010 on one count of child exploitation. When it was discovered that, upon his release from prison on that charge, Morgan was continuing to sexually exploit children, Forrest County Circuit Court Judge Bob Helfrich sentenced him to the remaining 15 years, which will be served prior to the 25 years he received Friday. Morgan must also continue to register as a sex offender.
An investigation by the attorney general’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force found that Morgan possessed hundreds of child pornography images on multiple devices, with victims ranging from pre-pubescent to preteen girls. He also shared a sexually explicit image in a chat room of a little girl who was a toddler.
“This guy went to prison for five years for child porn. When he got out with 15 years hanging over his head, we catch him doing the same activity again. Just like child molesters, many child porn perverts have to be managed for the remainder of their lives because their warped minds do not change,” said General Hood. “Now Judges Harrell and Helfrich made sure he will not exploit a child for the next 40 years.”
This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn of the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit.
Attorney General Jim Hood joined 54 attorneys general today in calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to quickly pass the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017 (S.2152), which would establish guidelines for restitution and ensure that victims receive timely and meaningful restitution.
Currently, a child pornography victim must pursue every case in which a defendant was found to possess that child’s image in order to receive restitution. Digital images of each child victim are trafficked worldwide, and there may be thousands of defendants found to possess each victim’s images. Further, victims may only receive a small amount of restitution in each case.
“Victims of this disgusting crime should not be treated any differently when it comes to restitution, and perpetrators should not get off the hook,” said General Hood. “Our office works hard to lock up the people who are exploiting our children, and the process should be completed with those victims being fairly compensated for the harm caused to them.”
The attorneys general sent a letter to House leadership, which reads, in part: “Preventing victims from collecting full restitution protects defendants, who are shielded from having to pay meaningful costs to those they have harmed… While nothing can undo the harm done to these victims by perpetrators who produce, share and views these images, Congress can act to make it easier for victims to receive meaningful restitution.”
The National Associations of Attorney General (NAAG) letter was sent today to House leadership as the U.S. Senate already passed the bill on January 23. NAAG previously supported similar legislation in 2014, which also passed the Senate, but not the House.
Mississippians who need to shred sensitive documents should pack them up, as four cities across the state will soon hold the annual Community Shred Days.
Attorney General Jim Hood announced the 12th annual event, which is an opportunity for consumers to better protect themselves against identity theft. Shred Days coincides with National Consumer Protection Week.
The events will be held on March 9 in Jackson and Tupelo, March 16 in Hattiesburg, and March 17 in D’Iberville at the following locations:
Friday, March 9th
The Home Depot
6325 I-55 North
Starting at 7:30 am – 2:00 pm**
3929 N. Gloster Street
Starting at 8:00 a.m. – noon**
Friday, March 16th
6072 US Hwy 98
Starting at 8:00 am – noon**
Saturday, March 17th
3615 Sangani Boulevard
Starting at 8:00 am – noon**
**We will be onsite at each location’s start time until the truck at that location is full.
Participants may bring up to three bags or boxes of sensitive documents (paper only!) to be shredded at no charge. This service is first-come, first-served, and it is not open to businesses. A shredding truck will remain at each location until the truck is full or the scheduled end time, whichever occurs first.
General Hood reminds consumers that simple things, such as taking out the garbage, can expose them to identity theft. Consumers should shred receipts, pre-approved credit offers, or convenience checks that haven’t been used, as well as other documents that may contain sensitive material.
Additional partners include: AARP, BancorpSouth, Better Business Bureau, Brightview Federal Credit Union, Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, EPL Inc., Eagle Express Federal Credit Union, The Home Depot, Iron Mountain, Jackson Area Federal Credit Union, Members Exchange Credit Union, Mississippi Credit Union Association, Mississippi Federal Credit Union, Mississippi Public Service Commission, Mississippi State University Extension Service, North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, Premiere Shredding, Inc., Secretary of State’s Office, Statewide Federal Credit Union, Sunbelt Federal Credit Union, TAGMA, Triangle Federal Credit Union, Trustmark Bank, Wal-Mart, and other Mississippi Consumer Partnership members.
For more information about the event or about protecting your identity, visit www.agjimhood.com. Any questions or concerns can be addressed by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 601-359-4230, toll free at 1-800-281-4418, or by email at email@example.com
Attorney General Jim Hood joined 22 attorneys general in filing a petition Thursday to formally commence their lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission’s illegal rollback of net neutrality. The coalition filed a petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after the FCC published the final rule rolling back net neutrality in today’s Federal Register.
“The repeal of net neutrality would have dire consequences for consumers and businesses in Mississippi and across the country who rely on and have a right to a free and open internet,” said General Hood. “A repeal would allow internet service providers to control and slow down consumers’ lawful internet activity, which is unfair and un-American.”
As the Attorneys General will argue in their suit, under the Administrative Procedure Act the FCC cannot make “arbitrary and capricious” changes to existing policies, such as net neutrality. The FCC’s rule fails to justify the Commission’s departure from its long-standing policy and practice of defending net neutrality, while misinterpreting and disregarding critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses. Moreover, the rule wrongly reclassifies broadband internet as a Title I information service, rather than a Title II telecommunications service, based on an erroneous and unreasonable interpretation of the Telecommunications Act. Finally, the rule improperly and unlawfully includes sweeping preemption of state and local laws.
Click here to read the petition. The lawsuit is led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A 37-year-old man from Brandon was arrested today after being charged with one count of child exploitation for possessing child pornography, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Robert Donald Ehrhardt III was arrested at his home following an investigation of suspicious online activity. He was booked into the Rankin County jail awaiting his initial appearance.
If convicted, Ehrhardt faces up to 40 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by Wayne Lynch with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with assistance from the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.
Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that the State of Mississippi has settled its claims with CGL Facility Management, LLC for $750,000, as the fourth settlement in the MDOC prison bribery scandal. CGL provides facility management, project management, and corrective and preventative maintenance services to correctional facilities.
“As a company that continues to contract with the state, I am pleased with CGL for cooperating and quickly resolving this matter for $750,000 on a $1,565,000 contract,” said General Hood. “We successfully disgorged CGL of a substantial portion of the value of their public contract.”
To date, the attorney general has recovered $6,550,000 on behalf of Mississippi taxpayers related to the MDOC prison scandal.
This settlement ends the fourth of 11 civil actions the attorney general filed on February 8, 2017, accusing 10 individuals and 12 out-of-state corporations of using alleged “consultants” as conduits to pay bribes and kickbacks to then-Commissioner Christopher Epps for the awarding and retention of MDOC contracts through a pattern of misrepresentations, fraud, concealment, and other wrongful conduct.