The deadline for filing claims for money lost in a Western Union scam is May 31, 2018.
Mississippians may be eligible to receive compensation if they were a victim of a fraud-induced transfer using Western Union between January 1, 2004, and January 19, 2017. A typical fraud transfer in this case would include a scammer getting their victims to wire them money by making the victim believe it was for a lottery, family emergency, online dating, and other tactics.
Compensation for victims of fraud will come from a $586 million fund administered by the Department of Justice’s Victim Asset Recovery Program. This fund is related to a multi-state settlement with Attorney General Jim Hood and 49 other states, the District of Columbia, and Western Union.
All complaints that were filed with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office covering the relevant time period were sent to Western Union after the settlement was announced. Those individuals and any Mississippians who reported to Western Union or another government agency that they had been the victim of a scam using Western Union will be sent a claim form in the mail. The claim form will be sent from the settlement administrator, Gilardi & Co. The form will contain instructions explaining how consumers may file their claim to receive compensation.
However, if you did not previously file a complaint, you may still be eligible to submit a claim directly to Western Union. If you believe you may have an eligible claim, please visit http://www.westernunionremission.com or call 1-844-319-2124 for more information on how to file a claim.
Filing a claim is free, so consumers should not pay anyone to file a claim on their behalf. No one associated with the claims process will ever call to ask for consumers’ bank account or credit card number.
“For years, Western Union allowed scammers to use its money transfer system to get payments from victims, even though they received hundreds of thousands of complaints about money transfers that were induced by fraud and deceit,” said General Hood. “Because they chose to ignore the problem instead of implementing policies and procedures to better protect consumers, they are now having to reimburse consumers for these loses.”
All completed claims forms must be mailed back to the settlement administrator by May 31, 2018. The Attorney General’s Office encourages Mississippians to reach out to our Consumer Protection Division if they have questions or concerns at 1-800-281-4418 or email@example.com.
A man from Kemper County is facing life in prison after being arrested Thursday on allegations of raping a relative who is a vulnerable adult, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Andrew McGraw, 53, was booked into the Kemper County jail after being arrested by the Kemper County Sheriff’s Office, who was assisted by investigators with the Attorney General’s Office. McGraw had his initial appearance Friday before Kemper County Justice Court Judge Mary Gully, where he was formally charged on one count of rape and one count of incest and received a $100,000 bond on each charge.
If convicted, McGraw faces up to 10 years in prison on the incest charge and life on the rape charge. 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 Michael Mattox of the Kemper County Sheriff’s Office, along with Investigators Crystal Tillman and Tonya Mangus of the AG’s Public Integrity Division. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Purdie with the AG’s Public Integrity Division.
Charles Myrick Winstead—an insurance agent from Terry—will serve 10 years in prison for embezzling $117,863.74 from a customer and converting the money for his own use, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Winstead, 54, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of embezzlement. Madison County Circuit Court Judge William E. Chapman III sentenced him to 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with 10 years to serve and 10 suspended. Upon his release, he will be placed on supervised probation for five years. Winstead must also pay $121,811.56 in restitution to Nationwide Insurance Company as well as court costs.
While employed as an insurance agent, Winstead advised one of his customers to cash in an insurance policy with a face value of $117,863.74 and then purchase a different policy. The customer took his advice by cashing the policy and turning the funds over to him. Winstead deposited the money into his own personal bank account and spent the money instead of submitting it to Nationwide Insurance Company. Upon learning of Winstead’s actions, Nationwide reimbursed the customer $121,811.56, which represented the principal and interest.
“While there is no sentence that would truly rectify the dishonest guidance this agent provided to his customer, I am satisfied knowing we have one more con artist behind bars and appreciate the sentence handed down by Judge Chapman,” said General Hood.
This case was investigated by Jerry Spell and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Steven Waldrup of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.
Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that his office recovered over $33 million from pharmaceutical manufacturer Watson, Inc., after a decision announced earlier this month by the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the company defrauded the state by manipulating the prices it charged for its drugs to the state Medicaid program.
The trial court concluded that, in defrauding Mississippi, Watson cost the taxpayers over $7 million when it reported Average Wholesale Prices (“AWPs”) that grossly exceeded the actual prices Watson charged its customers. These manipulated prices caused the state to overpay for prescription drugs for Medicaid recipients. Inflated prices varied from drug to drug, in some cases as much as 1,000 percent. As a result of this fraud, the trial court awarded the state statutory and punitive damages for a total of $33,408,546.72. The Watson case was one of dozens brought against other drug companies that also inflated drug prices causing Mississippi Medicaid to pay too much for prescription drugs.
“We have recovered over $200 million from drug companies in our Average Wholesale Price litigation for overcharges and penalties on drugs paid for by our Department of Medicaid. Of all the companies we have done battle with, Watson Pharmaceuticals is one of the worst offenders. The trial court found they overcharged the state by 1,000 percent on some drugs. A chancery judge in Rankin County issued a $20 million punitive damage verdict, which was upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court,” said General Hood. “These types of corporate robbers get away with it unless an attorney general holds them accountable.”
When monies are recovered by the Attorney General’s Office, as was done in the Watson case above, they are sent to various treasuries of the Mississippi Legislature. However, by way of House Bill 1475 this session, the Legislature is attempting to remove the prosecutorial powers of the Office of the Attorney General. If this bill passes, the $30 million from Watson, in addition to the more than $3 billion recovered since Hood took office in 2004, would never make it to the state’s treasuries, which includes the General Fund, Budget Contingency Fund, State and School Insurance Fund, and Health Care Expendable Fund. HB 1475 aims to shift prosecutorial authority from the AG to members of the “Outside Counsel Oversight Commission,” which was created by the Legislature and made up of the governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state.
“The corporate crooks are salivating at some of the bills introduced by some legislators trying to protect their corporate benefactors instead of their fellow Mississippians,” said General Hood.
Section 173 of the Constitution provides for an independently elected attorney general with all the powers of the Attorney General at Common Law, including the power to bring, control and manage litigation on behalf of the state. Additionally, the Supreme Court has stated, “As to all litigation, the subject matter of which is of state-wide interest, the Attorney General alone has the right to represent the state.” [Kennington-Saenger Theatres v. State, 196 Miss. 841, 18 So. 2d 483, 486 (1944).]
Additionally, House Bill 1238, which passed out of committee last week, would allow companies who are federally regulated, such as Watson, to claim they do not fall under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act. The Watson case was argued under that Act, and more than $5.2 million in civil penalties were recovered as part of the entire judgement.
“Should HB 1238 pass, it would be devastating to the protection of Mississippians,” said General Hood. “Much of the successes in our office have been protecting consumers from corporate wrongdoers, and the people of Mississippi deserve more than their lawmakers stripping those protections.”
Under General Hood, the AG’s office has recovered $224,137,686.96 in AWP litigation. An attached list provides each of those cases and amounts recovered.
Breakdown of damages recovered from Watson, Inc.:
Compensatory damages: $8,143,572.49
Civil penalties: $5,241,000.00
Punitive damages: $20,023,974.23
The Office of the Attorney General and the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Revenue filed a complaint last month against four wine companies after finding that the companies were illegally shipping wine into the state, including to underage Mississippians and dry counties.
In Mississippi, alcohol shipments to an individual or business are illegal if the purchase is not made directly through the ABC. The complaint, which was filed in Rankin County
Chancery Court, seeks injunctive relief against the following wine merchants: Wine Express, Inc. of Mt. Kisco, New York; The California Wine Club, of Ventura, California; Gold Medal Wine Club of Santa Barbara, California; and Bottle Deals Inc. of Syosset, New York.
During the course of the investigation by the AGO and DOR, agents attempted to make online purchases of wine from 63 vendors. Of those vendors, 22 of them (35%) sold and subsequently shipped products into Mississippi. The primary concern of those purchases were the ones made in the name of an underage person or delivered to a home without an individual over the age of 21 being there at the time of delivery.
Further, purchases were made and delivered to locations within dry counties; areas where the people chose to not allow the sale or possession of alcoholic beverages in their community. There are currently 36 counties dry for alcoholic beverages with an additional 4 counties which have one of their two districts being dry.
In addition to these concerns, there is a revenue loss to the state of approximately $6 lost on every $25 bottle of wine. This revenue, if collected, would be used to fund services for the benefit of all citizens of Mississippi. If the injunction is granted, the companies would be required to train and educate their employees on liquor shipment laws in Mississippi and would also be required to place disclaimers in any advertisements placed in Mississippi to clarify such shipments are not available in the state.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and Attorney General’s Office are continuing this investigation, which will include a review of the records of the commercial shipping companies who delivered alcohol in this state. Additional suits may be filed for the deliveries that took place outside Rankin County.
A 34-year-old woman from Columbia surrendered to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Friday evening after being accused of taking money from a vulnerable person for her own use, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Devina Williamson was charged with one count of exploitation of a vulnerable adult for making more than $250 in debit card purchases from the account of the vulnerable victim. She was booked into the Marion/Walthall Correctional Facility on a $10,000 bond.
If convicted, Williamson faces up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 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 Shannon Cook with the AG’s Vulnerable Adult Unit and will be prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander of the AG’s Public Integrity Division.
Javondus Beasley of Jackson received a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole plus 80 years on Thursday after being found guilty on three counts of murder, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Beasley, 25, was convicted last month by a Hinds County jury on one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder in the 2013 shooting deaths of his neighbor, 29-year-old Eldra Gibson and Gibson’s friends 25-year-old Sherrod Brown and 22-year-old Ashley Taylor. Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill Sr. sentenced Beasley to life without parole on count one, 40 years on count two, and 40 years on count three. The sentence will run consecutively.
In October of 2013, Beasley entered Gibson’s home on Moon Street in Jackson with the intention of robbing the owner of the house then killed the owner and the other two victims that were in the house at that time.
“This man is headed to the exact place he deserves to be for committing these heinous murders,” said General Hood. “I’m thankful for the justice that Judge Weill and the Hinds County jury have delivered in this case, and I hope it brings some peace to the families who have suffered too much.”
The case was investigated by the Jackson Police Department with assistance by Perry Tate of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division. The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Jim Giddy and Marvin Sanders following the recusal of the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office.
Nearly 300 Mississippians will receive a note in the mail in the coming months letting them know they are eligible for payments starting at $285 after a $45 million settlement was reached with New Jersey-based mortgage lender and servicer PHH Mortgage Corporation for the company’s improper servicing of mortgage loans.
PHH, the nation’s ninth largest non-bank residential mortgage servicer, improperly serviced mortgage loans from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2012. Examples of these improper services included but were not limited to: failing to maintain accurate account statements, failing to timely and accurately apply payments made by borrowers, failing to properly process borrowers’ applications for loan modifications, and failing to maintain adequate documentation to determine whether PHH had standing to foreclose.
Borrowers who were subjected to PHH foreclosures during the eligible period will qualify for a minimum $840 payment, and borrowers who faced foreclosures that PHH initiated during the eligible period, but did not lose their home, will receive a minimum $285 payment. Approximately 270 Mississippians are eligible for a payment. A settlement administrator will contact eligible payment recipients via U.S. mail at a later date.
“Our settlement holds PHH accountable for harms homeowners suffered from improper loan servicing and shows our continued dedication to this area,” said General Hood. “The agreement requires new servicing standards to help ensure that PHH doesn’t repeat conduct that led to improper mortgage servicing and provides financial relief to aggrieved homeowners.”
The settlement agreement requires PHH to adhere to comprehensive mortgage servicing standards, conduct audits, and provide audit results to a committee of states. The settlement does not release PHH from liability for conduct that occurred beginning in 2013. The settlement was reached by Attorney General Jim Hood, 48 other state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, and more than 45 state mortgage regulators.