$600 Million Settlement Reached Following Equifax Data Breach

July 22, 2019

Mississippi to receive nearly $1.4 million of $175 million going to states

People affected by the massive 2017 Equifax data breach will receive 10 years of credit monitoring and may be eligible for restitution following a $600 million multistate settlement reached with the consumer reporting agency by attorneys general across the country, Attorney General Jim Hood announced. The state of Mississippi will receive $1,399,071.54 of the $175 million going to states, with the remaining $425 million set aside for eligible consumers.

On September 7, 2017, Equifax, one of the largest consumer reporting agencies in the world, announced a data breach, affecting more than 147 million consumers—nearly half of the U.S. population, including 1.3 million Mississippians. Breached information included Social Security numbers, names, dates of birth, addresses, credit card numbers, and in some cases, driver’s license numbers.

“The worst part about this data breach is that Equifax, as a credit bureau, knows firsthand how data breaches and resulting identity theft can impact consumers’ credit; yet, when they were notified of a problem in their cybersecurity in March 2017, they failed to correct it, allowing highly sensitive information to be exploited by an intruder through July 2017.” General Hood said. “We should be able to trust that our personal information is safe in the hands of an entity like Equifax, but when that’s not enough, consumers can be confident that I and other attorneys general will do all we can to require companies to pay up and protect their customers.”

A multistate investigation found that the breach occurred because Equifax failed to implement an adequate security program to protect consumers’ highly sensitive personal information, which enabled hackers to penetrate its systems. Despite knowing about a critical vulnerability in its software, Equifax failed to fully patch its systems. Moreover, Equifax failed to replace software that monitored the breached network for suspicious activity. As a result, the attackers penetrated Equifax’s system and went unnoticed for 76 days.

Under the terms of the settlement, Equifax agreed to provide a Consumer Restitution Fund of up to $425 million for consumer redress. The company will also offer affected consumers extended credit-monitoring services for 10 years and longer for affected consumers under the age of eighteen.

Equifax has also agreed to take several steps to assist consumers dealing with identity theft, including, but not limited to:

  • making it easier for consumers to freeze and thaw their credit;
  • making it easier for consumers to dispute inaccurate information in credit reports; and
  • requiring Equifax to maintain sufficient staff dedicated to assisting consumers who may be victims of identity theft.

In addition, Equifax has agreed to strengthen its security practices going forward, including:

  • reorganizing its data security team;
  • minimizing its collection of sensitive data and the use of consumers’ Social Security numbers;
  • performing regular security monitoring, logging and testing;
  • employing improved access control and account management tools;
  • reorganizing and segmenting its network; and
  • reorganizing its patch management team and employing new policies regarding the identification and deployment of critical security updates and patches.

Consumers who are eligible for redress will be required to submit claims online or by mail. Paper claims forms can also be requested over the phone. Consumers will be able to obtain information about the settlement, check their eligibility to file a claim, and file a claim on the Equifax Settlement Breach online registry. To receive email updates regarding the launch of this online registry, consumers can sign up at ftc.gov/Equifax. Consumers can also call the settlement administrator at 1-833-759-2982 for more information. The program to pay restitution to consumers will be conducted in connection with settlements that have been reached in the multi-district class actions filed against Equifax, and settlements that with the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In addition to Mississippi, other attorneys general participating in this settlement include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.


Fulton Man Receives Multi-Count Indictment for Insurance Fraud

July 19, 2019

A Fulton man who allegedly defrauded an Alabama resident was arrested Friday on one count each of insurance fraud, false pretense, and mail fraud, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

Matthew Perry, 34, was indicted by an Itawamba County grand jury on charges that claim he profited from and issued commercial liability insurance to the victim, knowing he could not provide coverage. The indictment states that Perry was not licensed to sell insurance in Mississippi, and the company listed as the insurer does not exist. He was booked into the Itawamba County jail pending an initial appearance.

If convicted on all three counts, Perry faces up to eighteen years in prison. 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 Justin Harris and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Lakeita F. Rox-Love, both with the AG’s Public Integrity Division. It was referred by Mississippi Department of Insurance.


Jackson Man Pleads in 2015 Burger King Armed Robbery Case

July 18, 2019

Joseph Warren, 23, of Jackson will spend five years in prison after pleading guilty to felony accessory after the fact to armed robbery, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

 

On February 6, 2015, Warren assisted an individual in an attempted armed robbery at the North State Street Burger King in Jackson by opening a door for the robber to enter. Warren was a Burger King employee at the time of the crime. He was sentenced Thursday by Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Adrienne Wooten to 10 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with five years to serve and five years suspended.

 

“Thanks to Judge Wooten for holding this man accountable for his role in this attempted crime,” General Hood said. “All aspects of crime are taken seriously in my office, and we seek justice in every case.”

 

Prosecution was handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders upon recusal by the Hinds County District Attorney. It was investigated by the Jackson Police Department and AG investigator Perry Tate.


Clinton Man Arrested for Possessing Child Pornography

July 18, 2019

A Clinton man was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of child exploitation for possession of child pornography, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

Bryan Warren, 59, was arrested at his home after an investigation into his suspicious online activity. He was booked into the Clinton Police Department and had an initial appearance Thursday, where bond was set at $50,000.

If convicted, Warren faces up to 40 years in prison. 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 the AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force with assistance from the Clinton Police Department, which is an ICAC affiliate. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.


Hinds County Man Convicted of Deliberate Design Murder

July 16, 2019

A Hinds county jury found Charles Kuebler, 35, of Jackson, guilty of deliberate design murder. Kuebler has been convicted a second time for the June 30, 2010, murder of Tamra Stuckey, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

A Hinds county jury found Kuebler guilty today of deliberate design murder and using a gun in the commission of a felony following a retrial. On June 30, 2010, Kuebler shot and killed 28-year-old Tamra Stuckey in the head while she was sleeping.

The second jury trial of  Kuebler, 35, of Jackson, concluded Tuesday with a verdict finding Kuebler guilty of deliberate design murder. Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd ordered Kuebler to serve life in prison for deliberate design murder and to serve five years to run consecutively for using a gun in the commission of a felony.

“We appreciate the jury for quickly returning a guilty verdict and we thank Judge Kidd for sending this man to prison to think about his senseless acts of violence resulting in the death of the victim,” General Hood said. “Our office will continue to fight against and prosecute any case dealing with violence against women.”

The case was originally prosecuted by the Hinds District Attorney’s Office in 2011.  That conviction was reversed by the Mississippi Supreme Court and a new trial was ordered.  The Hinds County District Attorney’s office was removed due to a conflict of interest and the  Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division received the case in 2016. Prosecution was handled by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Steven Waldrup. The case was investigated by JPD with assistance from PID investigator Perry Tate.

 


AG Hood Asks Congress for Relief for Flood Victims

July 16, 2019

Additional letter sent to Army Corps of Engineers seeking information, including reimbursement for state response to opening of Bonnet Carré Spillway and an update on the pumps

Attorney General Jim Hood sent a letter to Congressional leaders on Monday seeking immediate funding to compensate individuals, businesses, and governments for the economic harm caused by flooding in both the Mississippi Delta and the intrusion of freshwater into the Mississippi Sound. In addition, General Hood is seeking funding to begin the restoration of natural resources and a comprehensive environmental study of the Mississippi Sound, and he is asking Congress to amend a law to give Mississippi a voice on the Mississippi River Commission.

Last month, General Hood called a meeting with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Major General Richard Kaiser, Institute for Marine Mammal Studies Director Dr. Moby Solangi, Department of Marine Resources Executive Director General Joe Spraggins, and counsel for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to discuss the water’s impact on both the Sound and the Delta, following the Corps’ decision to re-open the Bonnet Carré Spillway a second time this year. The group agreed that a state and federal collaborative environmental study of the Mississippi Sound is essential, and they learned that the Corps was communicating with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding solutions for flooding in the Mississippi Delta.

“Collaborating across agencies and expertise on this dire issue is important to achieve a solution to such a multifaceted problem,” General Hood said. “The freshwater diverted from the Mississippi River through the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway has decimated the saltwater creatures in the Mississippi Sound.  It is the BP disaster all over again.  Our Gulf Coast fishermen, the seafood and tourism industries are being victimized again.  Our oyster reefs are wiped out.  It will take years to restore them, while leaving hundreds out of work.  I respectfully ask Congress to immediately appropriate money to keep these industries afloat.  The federal government also owes a duty to help those residents of our South Delta, who have been flooded for months and lost their homes and livelihoods.”

General Hood also requested Congress amend 33 U.S.C.A § 642 to ensure a civilian appointee from Mississippi sits on the Mississippi River Commission. Although the Mississippi River makes up the entire western border of our state and greatly impacts Mississippi due to its location on the Gulf of Mexico where the river empties, the state has not had a civilian appointee on the Mississippi River Commission in decades. This change would offer the state fair representation in discussions prior to spillway openings and other decisions surrounding flood management that directly impact the people of Mississippi.

In addition to the previously mentioned letter to Congress, General Hood sent a letter on Monday to Maj. Gen. Kaiser following their June meeting and requested the Corps’ plan to address the following:

  1. Reimbursement to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources for their expenses in responding to the increased opening of the BCS;
  2. Expansion of the current limited testing being conducted by the Corps into a more immediate and multidimensional study of the harm to marine resources in the Mississippi Sound, including but not limited funding of tests by the Department of Marine Resources and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies;
  3. Reimbursement to Mississippi regions for the loss of natural resources and the economic harm from that loss; and
  4. Incorporation of Mississippi entities into river and flood management.

General Hood requested a response from General Kaiser by August 15.

Click here for a copy of the letter to Congress.
Click here for a copy of the letter to General Kaiser.


CONSUMER ALERT: STAYING WEATHER AWARE AND AVOIDING SCAMS BEFORE AND AFTER TROPICAL STORM BARRY

July 12, 2019

With Tropical Storm Barry spreading across the north-central Gulf Coast, Attorney General Jim Hood encourages consumers to prepare now for dangerous storm conditions to stay safe.

Tropical storms and hurricanes can bring storm surges, flooding, and high winds. These storms have the ability to cause massive destruction from hundreds of miles inland, and General Hood wants to be sure residents are prepared both before and after the storm.

“It is important that Mississippi citizens are aware of how to avoid scams, before and after a disaster situation,” said General Hood. “Before a storm, consumers should look out for price increases on storm supplies.  I have investigators checking prices of emergency supplies such as water and generators, as well as gas prices, across the coastal counties to record pricing in the event price gouging becomes an issue.”

In the aftermath of a tropical storm or any natural disaster, some scammers see this as an opportunity to take advantage of Mississippi residents trying to rebuild their homes and get their lives back to normal. ”We want to remind Mississippians of steps they can take to prevent themselves from being scammed by dishonest contractors and repair people,” General Hood said.  “Our office has created a guide that outlines the exact questions to ask when seeking clean up and repairs so that storm victims have one less thing to worry about during this process.  Our investigators are also in the coastal counties providing copies of this guide that includes a standard form home repair contract to make sure that people do not fall victim to bad actors.”

Click here to download the Attorney General’s Consumer Tips for Storm Victims guide and model contract.

Here are several ways Mississippians can be proactive in preparing  before the storm:

  • Safeguard your personal information files by putting them in a secure, waterproof location such as a safe deposit box or home safe.
  • Assemble an emergency supply kit. Supply this kit with flashlights, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and duplicates of crucial information if evacuation becomes a reality.
  • If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate, supply your home with adequate amounts of food and water in case you lose power for several days. Also consider any special circumstances for individuals with disabilities or the elderly, and plan according to their needs.
  • Anyone who suspects price gouging should use their camera phone to capture the price and other evidence and immediately send it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by emailing aginfo@ago.state.ms.us

Here are some tips to protect you and your loved ones during the disaster recovery process:

  • Verify that the company you are considering is insured. Ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance.
  • Do your research. Contact our Consumer Protection Division or the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi to see if they have complaints against the company. Ask for several local references, and make sure to follow through on checking them. Look online at reviews of their work.
  • Take time to shop around, and be suspicious of any price that seems unusually high or low. Get written estimates from more than one company, and check with friends or family who’ve had tree work done recently to see what they paid and who they recommend.
  • Ask how the job will be done and if they will perform the work according to industry standards. For tree removal services, pay attention to the “lingo” such as “topping a tree,” “lion’s-tailing” or “using climbing spikes to prune a tree.” Sometimes these techniques will be presented as a way to save money by removing more of the tree at one time; however, these practices can injure or kill trees, and trees pruned by one of these methods usually requires more expensive restoration work in the future in order to save it.
  • Ask about post-job clean up and debris removal. Before the job is started, ask if the company will remove the tree, damaged roof, or other items from your property as well. If you don’t, it could lead to you having to also pay for debris removal.

In the aftermath of any storm, if you suspect home repair fraud or think you may be the victim of a scam, please contact the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at (601) 359-4230 or (800) 281-4418. For additional tips and services on preparing for possible tropical storms and hurricanes, visit https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.


Former Lee County Deputy Sheriff Facing Charges for Threatening Sheriff

July 12, 2019

A former Lee County deputy sheriff is facing charges that he threatened to harm Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Mike Mayhew, 45, of Plantersville, turned himself in Wednesday to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office following his indictment by a Lee County grand jury. The indictment accuses Mayhew of telling a witness to tell Sheriff Jim Johnson “he has an ass-whipping coming”. Mayhew allegedly made the statement in retaliation for the lawful action taken by Sheriff Johnson. The lawful action taken by the sheriff was reporting the deputy to our office last year for submitting false timesheets for work that he had not done. Mayhew was indicted on those charges last year.

Mayhew was booked into the Lee County Jail and released on a circuit court bond. If convicted, Mayhew faces up to three years in prison. 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 Roger Cribb and will be prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division. The AG’s office received this case upon request of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.