Jefferson City, MO. -- Attorney General Chris Koster repeated his earlier warnings that the Second Injury Fund is near the end of its sustainability and faces the prospect of collapse. Koster again called on members of the General Assembly to pass reforms for the Second Injury Fund in the final days of the legislative session.
Koster said bipartisan efforts in both chambers of the Legislature have yielded a tentative agreement among the various stakeholders, and he encouraged legislative leaders to enact this agreement.
"For two years the Attorney General's Office has requested guidance from the Legislature concerning the Second Injury Fund and its impending insolvency. If the Legislature fails to act, that failure could potentially saddle the state of Missouri with the liabilities of the Fund. The Legislature's failure to provide direction will leave the Attorney General's Office with a series of unpalatable decisions that could place the state in unnecessary and substantial financial risk."
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster said today a Shelby County jury has found Jeffrey McClure, 44, to be a sexually violent predator. McClure has been committed to the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Service in Farmington. The judgment and commitment order was signed by Circuit Court Judge William Alberty.
The Attorney General’s Office pursued the commitment of McClure as a sexually violent predator after he served a 10-year prison sentence for first degree statutory sodomy. From 1998 to 2000, McClure sexually abused a boy on numerous occasions, starting when the boy was 11 years old. Previous to this offense, McClure pled guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 1989 and was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
“It is critical that we keep those who could commit further violent sexual acts off the streets and away from those they could harm,” Koster said. “It is important for individuals who are deemed sexually violent predators to get the help they need while the community is protected.”
Those committed by the court as sexually violent predators go into the custody of the Missouri Department of Mental Health. They have the right to have their cases reviewed annually to determine if their mental abnormality has changed, making them unlikely to commit further acts of sexual violence if released.
Currently, 167 sexually violent predators have been committed in Missouri. This is the fifth commitment this year. Sexually Violent Predator commitments are handled by the Public Safety Division in Koster’s office.
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster said today Linn County Circuit Judge Gary Ravens has sentenced Shane Colby Roberts, 32, to 25 years in state prison after he pled guilty to 2nd degree murder in the 2006 killing of a Knox County man. The case was heard in Linn County on a change of venue.
Koster said Roberts and his sister, Angela Knowles, attempted to rob the Knox County home of Larry Callahan, 57, in October 2006. Roberts and his sister shot Callahan twice in the chest with a shotgun. Knowles was sentenced to a 25-year prison term in March.
Koster said his office assisted the Knox County Prosecuting Attorney’s office in the prosecution of the case.
Attorney General Chris Koster has teamed up with The Century Council, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, to release a fun and innovative Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix Public Service Announcement . In the animated PSA, Koster encourages kids to say “YES” to a healthy lifestyle and “NO” to underage drinking.
Jefferson City, Mo. -– Attorney General Chris Koster said today his office has reached a settlement with a St. Charles-based company, Dealers Warranty, LLC, d/b/a Mogi, and its owner, Brian Marino. The consent judgment, entered today by Judge Lucy Rauch of St. Charles County, settles a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General and Director John Huff of the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration.
According to Koster, Marino operated a call center that is no longer in business. Dealers Warranty marketed vehicle breakdown coverage with direct mail post cards and by telephone. The post cards were designed to lure consumers to call a toll-free number by deceptively implying that “Dealers Warranty” had information that the consumers’ warranty was “about to expire.” This company also used robo-dialing to contact consumers throughout the United States. Once on the phone, salespeople would sell vehicle breakdown coverage with a generalized and often deceptive description of the coverage. Because of its deceptive use of the name Dealers Warranty, in early 2009 the company did begin operating under the name “Mogi” before ultimately closing its doors.
Missouri law requires that motor vehicle extended service contracts with consumers be written and that the issuers or providers of such contracts be registered with the Department of Insurance. Missouri law also requires that motor vehicle service contracts made with consumers must clearly and conspicuously describe the consumer’s right to cancellation, along with other rights. Yet, Dealers Warranty and Brian Marino ignored these requirements. Instead, if a consumer asked questions during the sales call about cancellation, the sales managers at Dealers Warranty were instructed to check a box in the computer enrollment system that would delay the delivery of a written contract document until the window for refund had passed.
Finally, Dealers Warranty also sold breakdown coverage under the pretense of the “additive scam.” The consent judgment entered today establishes a restitution fund intended to provide a full refund to any Missouri consumer sold this illusory coverage. The auto additive coverage contracts were structured by sellers as so-called “product warranties” with the intent to avoid regulation. Consumers were often surprised by the additives they received in the mail. The sale of breakdown coverage in this manner is the unlawful sale of insurance without proper licensing and oversight. Marino has been enjoined from any future sales of this type of coverage.
“I want to emphasize to consumers their right to see a written service contract and agree to its terms. Under Missouri law, the failure to contract in writing is a violation of Missouri’s Motor Vehicle Extended Service Contract law,” Koster said.
Customers who purchased coverage under “service contracts” by telephone often later realized the significant limits to coverage. Customers asking for a cancellation or refund when they discovered the provider would not pay a claim were often denied a refund or made to go to great lengths to obtain a partial refund.
“This company used a ‘bait and switch’ scheme and preyed on consumers’ fears of not having adequate vehicle breakdown coverage. I believe these telephone sales centers have been rife with fraud, and Missouri continues to be at the center of this deception. This office will continue to pursue and prosecute businesses that target unsuspecting, innocent consumers.”
Koster said the Missouri Senate recently approved legislation that would bring some reasonable oversight to this industry. “I want to personally thank Senator Scott Rupp for his leadership in working to bring common-sense regulation to an industry in great need of additional oversight. I also thank Senator Mike Kehoe for his support, as well as House Minority Leader Mike Talboy and Speaker Steve Tilley, sponsors of the companion House bill. I applaud their leadership and am hopeful that the House will soon pass and Governor Nixon will sign SB 132 into law.”
Koster said under the settlement agreement, Marino must pay the state $125,000 in restitution and civil penalties and is prohibited from any further violation of Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act, No-Call laws, Motor Vehicle Extended Service Contract law and Insurance laws.
Koster encourages consumers who have complaints about businesses selling motor vehicle extended service contracts to contact the Attorney General’s Office at ago.mo.gov or by phone calling the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection hotline at 1-800-392-8222.
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster today announced his support for new language regarding Missouri’s dog-breeding laws that was reached by Governor Jay Nixon and Missouri agriculture and animal welfare groups. If the General Assembly chooses to accept the agreement, the Attorney General and local prosecuting attorneys will have original jurisdiction to enforce the law.
“If the legislature chooses to support this solution, the Attorney General’s Office will be ready on day one to aggressively enforce Missouri’s new dog-breeding laws,” Koster said. “Our intention is to add new prosecutorial resources to Operation Bark Alert, and we will continue to work aggressively to change Missouri’s reputation to a state that respects the humane treatment of these animals.”
Koster pledged that if these new enforcement tools are passed by the General Assembly, he will devote a full-time attorney to focus on prosecuting wrongdoers, will open a toll-free hotline to receive complaints and dedicate a portion of the Attorney General’s website to receiving tips from the community. He estimates a full-time attorney will be able to handle approximately 100 cases per year.
Koster said the new language will give the Attorney General’s office authority to obtain civil penalties from dog breeders who violate the law, including violating provisions that require:
The language also gives the Attorney General’s Office the authority to file criminal charges for “canine cruelty,” as well as the authority to seek enhanced penalties for repeat offenders.
“We are excited about Attorney General Koster’s support of this agreement and his commitment to strong enforcement in this area,” said Kathy Warnick, President of the Humane Society of Missouri. “The Attorney General and the Humane Society of Missouri share the goal of cleaning out bad actors, be they licensed or unlicensed, in our state’s commercial dog-breeding industry.”
(Jefferson City, Mo.) – Attorney General Chris Koster said today a Marion County jury has found Manuel Cazares, 34, guilty of two counts of 2nd degree murder and one count of armed criminal action. The case was heard on a change of venue from St. Charles County. Cazares, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, lived in Hannibal at the time of the murders.
Koster said the jury handed down their guilty verdict after being presented with evidence that Cazares had entered the home of his ex-girlfriend, Amanda Thomas, and found her asleep in bed with Carl Epley. Cazares then murdered Thomas and Epley, stabbing them to death.
Judge Nancy Schneider has set Cazares’ sentencing for June 20. He faces 10 to 30 years or life in prison on each murder count and not less than 3 years in prison for armed criminal action.
Greene County, Mo.— Attorney General Chris Koster has obtained a consent judgment against Robert Peterson, of Springfield, for alleged violations of the Missouri Air Conservation Act.
Koster said Peterson, doing business as Accurate Building Inspections, performed asbestos abatement work at a commercial building in Springfield. Peterson falsely advertised that he was a registered asbestos abatement contractor and failed to give the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) advance notification of the project. In addition, Peterson took dangerous asbestos-containing material to a landfill in unlabeled trash bags and provided documentation to the landfill incorrectly asserting that the material was safe.
“Missouri’s Air Conservation Law was enacted to protect both citizens’ health and our environment,“ Koster said. “The Attorney General’s Office will not look the other way when these violations occur.“
Koster said under the judgment, the court assessed a civil penalty of $10,000; issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Peterson from violating the Air Conservation Act; prohibited the defendant from conducting any work related to asbestos abatement without obtaining the required registration from DNR; and ordered Peterson to provide DNR a detailed accounting of all work or services he has performed as an asbestos abatement contractor. The court suspended $8,000 of the penalty contingent on Peterson’s compliance with the terms of the judgment.
Jefferson City, Mo.— Attorney General Chris Koster said today Kristi M. Smith, 34, a provisionally licensed professional counselor in Caruthersville, has been charged with four felony counts of Medicaid fraud, one count of forgery, and one count of stealing by deceit. Smith is charged with submitting fraudulent claims for payment to Medicaid for children’s counseling services she did not perform and for forging parents’ and foster parents’ signatures on documents used to support the false billings.
Pemiscot County Prosecuting Attorney William Carter has requested that the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit handle the case because of a conflict.
Koster said his Medicaid Fraud Control Unit led the investigation, which was prompted by a call to the Medicaid Fraud Hotline. The investigation revealed that Smith billed the state for more than $3,264 in false claims from November 2009 to September 2010.
“One of my top priorities as Attorney General is to go after those who would cheat Missouri taxpayers by committing Medicaid fraud,” Koster said. “We will continue to search for the unscrupulous people who would perpetrate this kind of fraud and recover public money stolen from our health care system.”
Smith is charged with six class C felonies, punishable by up to 7 years for each violation, plus penalties and restitution.
As in all criminal cases, the charges against the defendant are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until or unless proven guilty in a court of law.