Category Archives: Business Misconduct

Boycott Instagram

Instagram’s Arbitration Clause Makes Class Actions Against Instagram Impossible: “Instagram’s Binding Arbitration Clause Could Be the Worst Ever: It Seeks to Kill Off All Representative Actions… the photo-sharing company Instagram is following in eBay’s footsteps — with a pre-dispute binding arbitration clause and a class-action ban, along with a largely illusory opt-out provision. Learn how to opt out of the Instagram arbitration clause here.

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A few words about Debt Collection under Massachusetts Law

Massachusetts, like many states, has comprehensive legislation regulating the collection of consumer debt.  The Massachusetts statute is M.G.L. c. 93 § 49.  Any violation of the general debt collection statute is considered an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” under the Consumer Protection Act or M.G.L. c. 93A.  Massachusetts Attorney General’s Regulations also regulate the collection of consumer debt. The specific A.G. regulation is 940 CMR 7.00. It sets forth certain practices as  per se unfair or deceptive acts or practices, in connection with the collection of consumer debt in Massachusetts. Finally,  there are also regulations from the Massachusetts Division of Banks, which prohibit unfair debt collection practices by debt collection agencies. Those are: 209 CMR 18.00. Continue reading

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Update on Class Action Lawsuit Against Citizens Bank for Overdraft Fees

On 9/28/13, I received a check from the Citizens Bank Overdraft settlement for $6.33 (below).

Citizens Bank Overdraft  Fee Settlement Check

Citizens Bank Overdraft Fee Settlement Check

The letter said, “This check is issued pursuant to the terms of class action settlement in the cases styled as In Re: Checking Account Overdraft Litigation, Case No. 1:09-md-02036-JLK; Duval v. Citizens Financial Group, Inc., et al., S.D. Fla. Case No. 1:10-cv-21080-JLK; Daniels v. Citizens Financial Group, Inc., S.D. Fla. Case No. 1:10-cv-22014-JLK; and Blanksenship v. RBS Citizens, N.A., et al., S.D. Fla. Case No. 1:10-cv-22942-JLK.

You can get more information about the Settlement by visiting the settlement website at http://www.citizensoverdraftsettlement.com, call the toll free number, 1-888-273-0426, or by contacting the Citizens Overdraft Settlement Administrator at PO Box 3410, Portland, OR 97208-3410.”

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Important: If you are looking for information about the Citizens Bank Overdraft Settlement, the official website is here: https://www.citizensoverdraftsettlement.com//

On 11/19/12, I received this notice in the mail:

Most Commons Questions about the citizens bank overdraft class action:

1) How much will Citizens bank customers be paid out of the overdraft class action lawsuit settlement?

2) When will citizens bank reimburse overdrafts?

3) How to join the class action suit against Citizens bank?

I wrote Citizens bank customer service on May 4, 2012 asking about the settlement, because I too was affected by Citizen bank overdraft fees.

They wrote back:

“Dear Preston Leonard,

Thank you for your recent inquiry.  Please be advised if the court approves the settlement, impacted customers will be formally notified. If you have any further questions you may email us or call us at our 24 hour Customer Service at 800 922-9999.”

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Citizens Bank to pay $137.5m to settle overdraft suit

By Beth Healy and Todd Wallack, Globe Staff:

Quote from Globe Article:

“Citizens Bank customers hit with questionable overdraft fees could receive refunds under a settlement announced Wednesday in which the bank agreed to pay $137.5 million to settle charges it manipulated customers’ debit card and ATM transactions.  The bank was accused of processing the transactions in a way that made overdrafts more likely, boosting the income it collected from customers forced to pay overdraft fees.  Citizens did not admit wrongdoing in the case, which is being heard in federal court in Miami. The court must still approve the settlement….”

Read the rest of the story about the Citizens bank overdraft fee class action settlement here. Continue reading

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What is the difference between false advertising and puffery?

False advertising is found on product packaging, and any other form of advertising where the seller makes claims that “do not simply magnify in opinion the advantages the product has, but invents advantages and falsely asserts their existence.” It is at that point that the seller “transcends the limits of ‘puffing’ and engages in false representations and pretenses.” (false advertising).  United States v. New South Farm, 241 U.S. 64, 74 (1916)

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Cardmember Services Robocalls

Today I received a robocall from (202) 768-7192 and a pre-recorded voice announced an offer from “Card Member Services” to lower my interest rates. When I pressed one to be connected to an operator, a fellow who claimed to be named Mark came on the line.  I immediately asked for the name and address of the business he works for. He claimed that I called him when I pressed one, and that he was at an inbound calling center.  I asked what state he was in. He said Florida. I told him that caller ID showed the call as coming from the Washington D.C. and asked how that could be. He repeated the line about me pressing one.  I asked him for the physical address of the boiler room in which he was working. He replied: “I am not at liberty to tell you that information. There is nothing you can do.”  Someone owes me at least $500 for violating the TCPA. I thought the FTC shut this operation down already – apparently not.

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Stopping illegal robocalls is a top priority of the Federal Trade Commission, which recently announced the  FTC Robocall Challenge. Read on to learn about the contest: Continue reading

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Boycott Nestlé – Fair Labor Association identifies forced labor and child labor in Nestlé’s chocolate production chain.

Excerpts from: Sustainable Management of Nestlé’s Cocoa Supply Chain in the Ivory Coast—Focus on Labor Standards, June 2012.  Read the full report here.

FORCED LABOR

“Forced labor is addressed in Nestlé’s supplier code, by certain codes of Tier 1 suppliers and by certified cooperatives. Several studies have established the presence of forced / bonded labor and even child slaves in the cocoa sector. According to the SSTE certification/verification study, around 12% of adult workers were indebted and; around 25% of child laborers reported some coercion from parents/extended family members to work in the farms.” (page 41)

“During this assessment we observed gaps in the worker hiring and compensation processes that increase the risk of forced labor. As mentioned with respect to the employment relationship, the documentation that migrant workers bring is kept with “brothers,” who then force the workers to work on their farms. Since these “migrant” trainees are never paid, they may feel forced (mentally coerced) Continue reading

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Citizens Bank Profited Off Customer Math Errors, Class Action Lawsuit Alleges

Source: Huffington Post

“A new class action lawsuit against RBS Citizens alleges the bank has made millions off of customers that deposited more cash than they wrote down on their deposit slips, according to Courthouse News. The case, led by chiropractic office Todd Bowers Inc., says that instead of returning the extra money to customers, RBS Citizens siphoned it off to a non-customer account used for its own purposes.

“Citizens Bank developed a policy and employs a practice whereby customer funds are being diverted daily for the benefit and use by Citizens Bank without the knowledge, consent or approval of the customer,” the lawsuit alleges, according to Courthouse News.

Citizens Bank told The Huffington Post in an email that the bank is “reviewing the complaint and looking into this customer’s concerns.” Read the rest of the story here.

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Nutella Class Action Lawsuit

Nutella has agreed to settle a class action for marketing its chocolate and hazelnut spread as a healthy food, despite being high in saturated fat and sugar.

As a result of the settlement, “anyone who purchased Nutella in the last few years may be eligible to receive up to $20 from the class action settlement.” Read the rest of the story here.

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Class Action Claims Porn Distributors Extort People Over the Internet Who Use BitTorrent

By IULIA FILIP

“LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CN) – Pornography distributors have “a new business model”: threatening to sue Internet users for illegally downloading – whether they have or not – using the threat of embarrassment to shake them down for thousands of dollars, a class action claims in Federal Court…”

“[T]he complaint states: “The pornography purveyors utilize a technique known as trolling, whereby individuals hired by the various pornography purveyors search for Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with the use of file sharing software such as BitTorrent…”

“In effect, the pornography purveyors have developed a new business model using the court system to extort money from individuals who are merely identified by IP address and with no proof whatsoever that they downloaded copyrighted materials from the Internet. By extorting settlements of $1,000-$5,000 the pornography purveyors have developed a model whereby they can unlawfully gain more money than they can by selling access to their pornographic videos.”  Read the rest of the article here.

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Aggressive billing practices of hospitals and other medical providers

Patients have rights

Sometimes, medical bills contain serious inaccuracies.  Medical billing errors, or  balance-billing (which is illegal in some, but not all instances) can result in balances that are hundreds or even thousands of dollars over what they should be.  Some Massachusetts providers have aggressive debt-collection strategies, including suing patients in small claims court.  It is often a good idea to request your own records to make sure you are not being billed unfairly.  Massachusetts law provides the right  “upon request to receive an itemized bill including third party reimbursements paid toward said bill, regardless of the sources of payment.”  G.L. ch 111 70E.

Getting Help

If you  think you may have fallen victim to a scam related to medical services, or are experiencing billing abuses by a medical services provider, the Attorney General’s Health Care Division may be able to assist you.

You are also welcome to contact the following attorney: Preston Leonard, Esq. at (617)329-1295.

Click hereto file a health care complaint online.

Attorney General’s Health Care Division:

Hotline: (888) 830-6277

Fax: (617) 573-5386

Mail: Health Care Division, Office of the Attorney General, One Ashburton Place, Boston, MA 02108

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Facebook Settles FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers By Failing To Keep Privacy Promises

FTC Press Release 11/29/2011

The social networking service Facebook has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public. The proposed settlement requires Facebook to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promises in the future, including giving consumers clear and prominent notice and obtaining consumers’ express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established.

The FTC’s eight-count complaint against Facebook is part of the agency’s ongoing effort to make sure companies live up to the privacy promises they make to American consumers. It charges that the claims that Facebook made were unfair and deceptive, and violated federal law.

“Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “Facebook’s innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not.”

The FTC complaint lists a number of instances in which Facebook allegedly made promises that it did not keep:

  • In December 2009, Facebook changed its website so certain information that users may have designated as private – such as their Friends List – was made public. They didn’t warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance.
  • Facebook represented that third-party apps that users’ installed would have access only to user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users’ personal data – data the apps didn’t need.
  • Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with “Friends Only.” In fact, selecting “Friends Only” did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
  • Facebook had a “Verified Apps” program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn’t.
  • Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.
  • Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.
  • Facebook claimed that it complied with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the U.S. and the European Union. It didn’t.

The proposed settlement bars Facebook from making any further deceptive privacy claims, requires that the company get consumers’ approval Continue reading

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Best Buy Served with Class Action Lawsuit for Violating Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act

Leopold~Kuvin, P.A. filed a class action lawsuit (Case# 9:11-cv-81292-KLR) in the Southern District Court of Florida today against Best Buy Corporation for violating the Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act or “DPPA”, a federal statute that protects the privacy of personal information assembled by State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs).

The lawsuit alleges Best Buy has established a business practice of taking, storing, using and/or sharing customers’ personal or highly restricted personal information, without consent, when customers make a normal return of Best Buy merchandise. Their receipt indicates that Best Buy “tracks exchanges and returns … and some of the information from your ID may be stored in a secure, encrypted database of customer activity that Best Buy and its affiliates use to track exchanges and returns.”

The DPPA specifically prohibits Best Buy’s conduct and was instituted to protect consumers from abuses such as identify theft and stalking, which often result when information is unsecured and improperly stored. The class action alleges that Best Buy’s retention of data accessed on a driver’s license is not “use in the normal course of business” as described by the DPPA.”  Read the rest of the press release here.

 

 

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Power Balance to Cough up $57 Million

Coco Perez

“Those $35 silicone Power Balance bracelets have turned into a multi-million dollar mistake for brothers Troy and Josh Rodarmel.

The creators originally claimed their bracelets were scientifically proven to enhance strength, balance and flexibility, but later admitted it was a bunch of hooey.

Not long after coming clean about their BS of a product, a class action lawsuit was filed against Power Balance, and recently settled for $57 million…” Read the rest of the story here.

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Unlicensed plastic surgeon charges $700 to inject client’s posterior with fix-a-flat and cement

This didn’t happen in Massachusetts. But it happened.

Oneal Ron Morris, “who appears to have an “enhanced” rear end herself from police photos, first met her victim to discuss the procedure in May 2010. “They agreed on the price of $700 for the procedure, which was intended for cosmetic purposes,” Sgt William Bamford told ABC. But the patient soon complained of serious pains in her abdomen and throughout her body, and was hospitalised…” Read the rest of the story here.

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Netflix / Walmart Class Action

I am not representing clients in this matter. I have posted the emailed notice below for informational purposes only. Please read further for more information about the Netflix / Walmart Class Action. People have been asking if the mass email notifying them of this class action settlement is a scam.  You can read the Complaint here .  If you want to verify that this case is real, you can look it up on Pacer or Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) (http://www.pacer.gov/). This case is MDL No. 2029 (MDL stands for multidistrict litigation).  Again, I am not representing clients this matter. If you have questions, please go to www.OnlineDVDclass.com for more information.

11/16/2011 Update: I found a great article by Jeff Roberts on Yahoo finance about the email that went out on 11/15/2011 about the Netflix – Wal-Mart Class Action Lawsuit Settlement.  The article is entitled: “Netflix’s Email About DVD Price-Fixing Settlement Leaves Customers Confused.”

11/21/2011 Update: CNN.com has posted a story about the Netflix/Walmart Class action here: Netflix subscribers offered class-action payout from Wal-Mart

11/22/2011 Update: Rust Consulting has confirmed with me that they are Settlement Administrator and were responsible for the mass email informing putative class members of the settlement.  The 11/15/2011 mass email (see below) about the Walmart / Netflix class action settlement was not a scam.

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If You Rented Online DVDs from Netflix A Class Action and a Settlement with Wal-Mart May Affect Your Rights

Para una notificación en Español, llamar 1-877-389-4469 o visitar http://www.OnlineDVDclass.com

Records show that you paid a subscription fee to rent DVDs online from Netflix anytime from May 19, 2005 to September 2, 2011. We are emailing to tell you about a Settlement and lawsuit that may affect your legal rights. You may be eligible to receive a cash payment or gift card from the Settlement. Please read this email carefully. Go to www.OnlineDVDclass.com for more information. Continue reading

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Bad drug company GlaxoSmithKline in trouble again; this time paying record-setting 3 billion dollar settlement.

Excerpt from: Glaxo to Pay $3 Billion in Avandia Settlement By Published: November 3, 2011:

“The British drug company GlaxoSmithKline said Thursday that it has agreed to pay $3 billion to settle United States government civil and criminal investigations into its sales practices.  The settlement is the largest yet in a wave of cases brought against pharmaceutical companies for illegal marketing of drugs, passing the previous record of $2.3 billion paid by Pfizer in 2009. In recent years, drug companies have been the major targets of federal fraud investigations that cost Medicare and Medicaid tens of billions of dollars.” Read the rest of the story here.

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Toys ‘R’ Us to pay $20.6m in wrongful death suit for woman’s death caused by defective product from China

Boston Globe:

“A Colorado man whose wife died from injuries sustained in Andover on a swimming pool slide from Toys “R” Us was awarded $20.6 million in damages, one of the largest jury verdicts in Massachusetts this year.

In July 2006, Robin Aleo was visiting relatives in Andover when she went down an inflatable slide into the pool where her husband and baby daughter were swimming. When she reached the end of the slide, it bottomed out, causing her head to hit the pool deck as she entered the water. She suffered severe neck fractures that left her a quadriplegic, and she was removed from life support due to the severity of her injuries….”

Read the rest of the story here.

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The Salem News:

“Robin Aleo was at least the second person allegedly left paralyzed by such an incident on the Banzai Falls slide, of which more than 4,000 have been sold nationwide, according to court records.

A camp counselor in Missouri, Mark Grantham, was left a quadriplegic when the same thing allegedly happened to him on a Banzai Falls slide purchased at a Wal-Mart, according to court documents. His suit against both Wal-Mart and the Chinese manufacturers is still pending.

Jurors were not told about the Missouri case but did learn that the company that Toys “R” Us uses in China to safety-test products before they are imported, Bureau Veritas, was never asked to test the pool slide for compliance with federal safety regulations governing pool slides.

The product was tested for other product safety rules — and twice failed, once for containing lead in excess of federal limits — but not for compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Commission pool slide regulation, a former Toys “R” Us executive acknowledged during testimony on Wednesday.”

Read the rest of the story here.

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  • Mclatchy-Tribune Information Services

“The Banzai Falls in-ground pool slide was never tested to determine whether ti met fedaral safety standards for pool slides before or after it was imported from China by the retailer, a violation of federal law…”

Read the rest of the story here.

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Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Marketing – Philanthropy or Chicanery?

Is Pink Ribbon Cancer Marketing a Scam?

After reading the article below, you may find yourself wondering about how much of your pink-ribbon-emblazoned purchases actually go to cancer research.  The practice of pinkwashing, has been raising doubts in the minds of many consumers.

 

 

“BROCKTON —

As surely as the leaves change color every October, it’s time again for yogurt cups, sneakers, toilet paper and a slew of other products to turn pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer advocates are warning again this year that buying merchandise emblazoned with a pink ribbon or cotton candy-colored packaging is no guarantee that much of a shopper’s money will actually go to fighting the disease.

Some companies that use well-known symbols of breast cancer awareness on their products have legitimate agreements with reputable fundraising groups to donate a fixed share of the proceeds.

But others only promise vaguely to donate to breast cancer causes without specifying how much or to whom.”

Read more: http://www.enterprisenews.com/archive/x843641174/Shoppers-beware-Pink-ribbons-are-not-created-equal#ixzz1aarALUgJ

 

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Bank of America’s $5.00 Debit Card Fee

Bank of America’s $5.00 Debit Card Fee is this greedy corporation’s latest outrage.  Attorney Lloyd Constantine’s analysis  of the subject is all you need to read to understand why this new fee is is so outrageous.  His NY Times OP-Ed piece about Bank of America’s $5.00 Debit Card Fee is here.

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Albania Deleon, Owner of Asbestos Abatement Training School Sentenced to Prison Posed Major Public Health Risk; Was International Fugitive for Nearly Two Years

USAO – 9/13/2011

BOSTON, Mass. – The former owner of the country’s largest asbestos abatement training school was sentenced to prison today, after having fled the United States after her trial in November 2008. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton sentenced ALBANIA DELEON, 41, formerly of Andover, Mass., to 87 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $1,200,939.45 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $369,015 to AIM Mutual Insurance Company.

In November 2008, following a three-week trial, Deleon was convicted of a broad range of charges including that she sold training certificates to thousands of illegal aliens who had not taken the mandatory training course. Deleon then placed these unqualified individuals in temporary employment positions as certified asbestos abatement workers in public buildings throughout Massachusetts and New England. Deleon was also convicted of encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the United States, making false statements about matters within the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency; procuring false payroll tax returns, and mail fraud.

From approximately 2001 to 2006, Deleon owned and operated Environmental Compliance Training (ECT), a certified asbestos training school located in Methuen. ECT normally offered training courses on a weekly basis at its Methuen offices, however, many of the recipients of the certificates never took the required course. Instead, with Deleon’s knowledge and approval, ECT’s office employees issued certificates of course completion to thousands of individuals who did not take the course. These individuals filed the certificates with the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety in order to be authorized to work in the asbestos removal industry. Many of the recipients were illegal aliens who wished to skip the four-day-long course so that they would not forego a week’s pay.

Since ECT’s training course records were subject to inspection, Deleon sought to cover up ECT’s practice of issuing certificates to untrained applicants by having the applicants sign final examination answer sheets that already had been completed and graded, which she maintained in ECT’s files. Based on the evidence at trial and information supplied by the Division of Occupation Safety, ECT issued training certificates to over 2,000 untrained individuals.

Most of the individuals were employed by Methuen Staffing, Deleon’s temporary employment agency that specialized in asbestos abatement. She sent these employees to job sites throughout Massachusetts, including the Boston, Worcester, and New Bedford-Fall River areas, as well as to New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and down the eastern seaboard.

Deleon paid most of these employees “under-the-table,” that is, without taxes withheld, and reported to the IRS and her workers compensation insurance carriers only those employees that actually had taxes withheld, saving her over a million of dollars in tax and insurance payments.

Deleon was originally scheduled to be sentenced on March 23, 2009, but three days before, she fled without warning, eventually making her way out of the United States. On October 30, 2010, law enforcement authorities in the Dominican Republic, working in conjunction with the U.S. Marshal’s Service, arrested her in the capital city of Santo Domingo, where she was living under an alias and had dyed her hair blonde. In November, she was extradited to the United States.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said, “Today, justice was served, and Albania Deleon has finally faced the consequences of her crimes. I hope that this sentence sends a strong message to anyone who might contemplate fleeing to avoid punishment, that we do not give up on fugitives, and we will take all necessary means and resources to apprehend and prosecute them.”

“She ran and tried to hide, but eventually the law caught up with her,” said Michael E. Hubbard, Special Agent in Charge of the US Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division in Boston. “Ms Deleon cynically defrauded the taxpayer and put her own workers and the public at risk due to her greed. Today’s sentence shows that individuals who
put illegal profits ahead of the welfare of society will deservedly be prosecuted and pay a very high price.”

“This sentencing sends a clear message to employers that seek to gain an unfair business advantage over their competitors by employing illegal workers,” said Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston. “The potential risk to public health and safety involving asbestos and lead abatement and training licenses made this investigation and the need to bring this individual to justice even more compelling.”

U.S. Attorney Ortiz; SAC Hubbard; and SAC Foucart; William Offord, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation; Scott Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of Investigations – Boston Field Division; James Ennis, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service; John Gibbons, United States Marshall for the District of Massachusetts; Anthony DiPaolo, Chief of Investigations for the Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau; and Heather E. Rowe, Acting Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety made the announcement today.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Holik, former AUSA Jonathan Mitchell of Ortiz’s Economic Crimes Unit and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter W. Kenyon, an EPA regional criminal enforcement attorney.

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Another Massachusetts Wage and Hour Law Violation Case; West Springfield Car Dealership Balise Motor Sales Agrees to Pay More Than $450,000 in Restitution and Penalties for Violating Wage and Hour Laws

Source:  Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office- 9/14/2011

BOSTON– A West Springfield car dealership, Balise Motor Sales, Inc (Balise), and its president, James E. Balise, Jr., have agreed to pay more than $450,000 in restitution, as well as a $7,500 penalty for violating the Commonwealth’s wage and hour laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office announced today.

“In these particularly difficult economic times, many employees are working longer hours to make ends meet.  Employers are required by law to pay their employees all of the wages they are owed, and our office will continue to ensure that workers’ rights are protected,” AG Coakley said.

In September 2010, the AG’s Fair Labor Division began an investigation after it received a complaint from a former employee alleging minimum wage and overtime pay violations.  Investigators reviewed the company’s payroll records and discovered that Balise was not calculating the proper overtime rate for employees who worked over 40 hours in a work week.  In addition, investigators discovered that Balise was not paying the minimum wage rate to some of its employees.

The AG’s Office requested that Balise also conduct a self-audit of its payroll records for the years of 2008 through 2010.  The audit revealed that Balise failed to calculate the proper overtime rate and, in some instances, failed to pay the minimum wage.  As a result of the investigation, Balise has agreed to pay $339,871.36 in restitution for the overtime violations and $110,766.27 for minimum wage violations to more than 270 employees.

The Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division is responsible for enforcing the prevailing wage, minimum wage and overtime laws, and the payment of wages laws in the Commonwealth. Workers who feel that these laws have been violated in their workplace are urged to call the Office’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465.  More information about the wage and hour laws is also available in multiple languages at the Attorney General’s Workplace Rights website: www.massworkrights.com.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Terri Flanagan Lamarre and investigated by Inspector Paul Gordon, both of the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division.

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AG Obtains Preliminary Injunction Against Owners of Peter’s Pond Community

AGO/September 08, 2011

BOSTON – AG Martha Coakley’s Office obtained an order prohibiting the owners of a Sandwich based manufactured housing community from continuing intimidating sales tactics to charge homeowners excessive fees for a questionable membership club in order to stay in their homes. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Paul E. Troy found the Commonwealth’s claims that the defendants violated the Consumer Protection Act held merit and therefore granted the preliminary injunction.

Last month, AG Coakley filed an enforcement action against Morgan RV Resorts, LLC (“Morgan”) and its sales team for violating the Massachusetts Manufactured Housing Act and the Consumer Protection Act by using intimidating sales tactics to force manufactured homeowners at Peters Pond in Sandwich to pay thousands of dollars in additional fees to remain in the community and avoid losing their homes.  The AG’s complaint alleges that Morgan sales people threatened homeowners that if they did not join a new membership program and pay up to $16,000 in membership fees their manufactured homes would be removed from their sites.  According to the complaint, nearly one hundred homeowners have paid to join the club out of fear that they would lose their homes.

The preliminary injunction issued by the court prohibits Morgan and its sales team from soliciting or collecting membership fees from homeowners for the alleged membership club, and from destroying any documents or information. The order also requires Morgan to place all collected membership fees in an escrow account and on a monthly basis provide the Attorney General’s Office with a record of fees collected and any inquiries concerning Peters Pond membership programs.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks the recovery of monies that Morgan improperly collected for the club memberships, as well as penalties for violations of the Manufactured Housing Act and the Consumer Protection Act.  The lawsuit would also require that Morgan obtain proper licensure and cease all unfair and deceptive conduct. 

Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Engel of Attorney General Coakley’s Consumer Protection Division is handling this matter, with assistance from Assistant Attorney General Emily Armstrong and paralegal James Maloney.

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Extenze Maker Biotab TO PAY $1.75 MILLION FOR UNFAIR BUSINESS PRACTICES, INCLUDING FALSELY PROMISING MALE PENILE ENLARGEMENT

Orange County District Attorney/ Case # 30-2011 00491498 / July 21, 2011 – Press Release:

*This is the largest civil settlement stemming from a violation of a past injunction in Orange County history

SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) obtained a $1.75 million settlement today against a dietary supplement manufacturer and distributor for multiple violations of consumer protection laws, including falsely advertising that use of their product results in increased penis size. In addition to the new violations, the settlement against Biotab Nutraceuticals, Inc. (Biotab) is also the largest in Orange County history obtained for violating the injunctive terms of a previous OCDA consumer protection settlement.

The lawsuit pertains to Biotab products marketed and sold throughout the State of California and states that the company engaged in false and misleading advertising in the the marketing and sale of certain dietary supplement products, including ExtenZe, which they falsely claimed without any substantiation would enhance a man’s penis size.

In 2006, the OCDA obtained a $300,000 settlement against the principals of Biotab and the former manufacturer and distributor of ExtenZe, Dish Direct, Inc., for making the same untrue claims regarding penile enlargement. The 2006 settlement included injunctive terms prohibiting false advertising and unsubstantiated claims. The current case is both a violation of consumer protection laws and the previous injunction.

The current lawsuit also states that Biotab violated Proposition 65, which requires products that expose consumers to over one-half microgram of lead per day to be marked with a warning label. An investigation by the OCDA revealed that multiple lot numbers of the ExtenZe product contained over the legal limit of micrograms of lead without proper warning labels.

The 2006 injunction barred the company from selling supplements containing lead in violation of California law. As a term of the most recent settlement, Biotab is now required to follow a strict testing protocol for all of its products.

The current lawsuit also states that Biotab failed to reimburse customers in a timely fashion for returned products. In some cases, Biotab failed to provide any refund and also sent and charged customers for products that had not been ordered. These unfair business practices also constitute violations of the 2006 injunction.

Biotab, which has not admitted fault or liability, has agreed to injunctive terms to prevent any future unfair business practices related to the above offenses. In addition to the $1.75 million in civil penalties, which will be used for future enforcement of California consumer protection laws, Biotab is also required to pay restitution to consumers who have not already received refunds and who filed documented complaints with Biotab, the Better Business Bureau, or the California Attorney General between July 1, 2006, and July 1, 2011.

Deputy District Attorney Tracy Hughes of the Consumer Protection Unit prosecuted this case.

*     *     *     *     *
More Information about THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VS. BIOTAB NUTRACEUTICALS, INC from the Orange County Courts:

https://ocapps.occourts.org/civilwebShopping/DisplayCaseInformation.do?caseNbr=30-2011%2000491498&caseYear=2011&source=case_src_dtl#top_page

30-2011-00491498-CU-BT-CJC
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VS. BIOTAB NUTRACEUTICALS, INC     filing date 07/15/2011

BIO BEVERAGES, INC.    DEFENDANT    07/18/2011
TAMARA GIBSON    DEFENDANT        07/18/2011
ROBERT WINTER    DEFENDANT        07/18/2011
TONY RACKUCKAS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY    ATTORNEY        07/15/2011
BIOTAB NUTRACEUTICALS, INC    DEFENDANT        07/15/2011
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA    PLAINTIFF        07/15/2011

Register of Actions
Results 1 – 10 of 150000000000[Previous Page 1 of 2 Next]
ROA #    Add to Cart    +/-    Docket Entry    Filing Date    Pages
15            CASE REASSIGNED TO DEREK HUNT EFFECTIVE 07/25/2011.    08/08/2011
14            CLERK’S CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE BY MAIL OC GENERATED    08/08/2011    1
13            MINUTES FINALIZED FOR NUNC PRO TUNC MINUTES 08/08/2011 02:33:00 PM.    08/08/2011    1
12            MINUTE ORDER DATED 7-25-11 CORRECTED NUNC PRO TUNC.    08/08/2011
11            CASE DISPOSED WITH DISPOSITION OF STIPULATED JUDGMENT    07/21/2011
10            COMPLAINT DISPOSED WITH DISPOSITION OF STIPULATED JUDGMENT.    07/21/2011
9            THE COURT ENTERS JUDGMENT AS TO COMPLAINT.    08/08/2011
8            CORRESPONDENCE (INJUNCTION AND FINAL JUDGMENT PURSUANT TO STIPULATION) FILED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA ON 07/21/2011    07/21/2011    15
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA ON 07/21/2011
7            CLERK’S CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE BY MAIL OC GENERATED    07/25/2011    1
6            MINUTES FINALIZED FOR CHAMBERS WORK 07/25/2011 10:41:00 AM.    07/25/2011    1

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Filed under Business Misconduct, Class Action Investigations

Companies in the Spotlight: Upper Crust Pizzeria to face federal review

By Jenn Abelson Globe Staff / October 12, 2011

“A federal grand jury is scheduled to hear testimony this week about the alleged exploitation of immigrant workers at Upper Crust Pizzeria, according to several sources with direct knowledge of the inquiry.

Previous coverage

Labor troubles at Upper Crust

Labor troubles at Upper Crust

Reporter Jenn Abelson covered complaints from former employees – and a probe by the US Department of Labor – on employment practices at the pizza chain.

“Earlier this year, the Globe reported that at least two federal agencies, the Department of Labor and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were investigating the Boston-based pizza chain.

The labor department is looking into accusations that Upper Crust rescinded thousands of dollars in back overtime payments the agency required the company to make to employees in 2009. Immigration officials have been examining whether Upper Crust harbored and exploited illegal immigrant workers…”

Read the rest of the Globe story here

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Filed under Boston News, Business Misconduct, Companies in the Spotlight

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office Reaches Agreement with Cataldo Ambulance Service – Company will refund customers and change practices as part of the agreement

Related Story: Class action lawsuit against Cataldo Ambulance Service

Source: Attorney General Martha Coakley – Press Release – December 03, 2009

BOSTON– Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office reached an agreement with Cataldo Ambulance Service Inc., resolving allegations the company unlawfully balance billed customers who used Cataldo ambulances in the aftermath of auto accidents. Under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, medical service providers are barred from billing customers for amounts in excess of motor vehicle insurer payments for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits in a variety of circumstances. The Attorney General’s Office filed an Assurance of Discontinuance in Suffolk Superior Court today under which Cataldo agreed to reimburse consumers for any balance billing payments they have made from January 1, 2006 to the present, correct any reports previously made to credit reporting agencies relating to the balance billing demands, and remove any liens placed on consumer property without consumer consent.

The Assurance filed today alleges Cataldo charged consumers for the portions of the company’s ambulance bills that the auto insurers had already rejected as unreasonable. This “balance billing” practice fails to remove the individual patient from disputes that should occur between the insurer and the service provider, as is intended by Massachusetts law.

“We are pleased that Cataldo Ambulance Inc. has resolved this issue with our office,” said Attorney General Coakley. “Medical service providers should not balance bill customers already covered by the automobile insurance PIP coverage. This is unfair to customers, and can have an unwarranted and harmful impact on the consumers’ credit scores.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Cataldo may not balance bill customers covered by PIP in violation of Massachusetts law, report unpaid balance billing amounts to credit reporting agencies, or place liens on consumer property related to balance bill amounts that are not received as part of a judgment. Cataldo must also make a payment to the Commonwealth of between $50,000 to $100,000, based on the level of restitution that it is determined to be owed to customers.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Peter Leight and Glenn Kaplan of Martha Coakley’s Insurance and Financial Services Division.

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Filed under Boston News, Business Misconduct