Saturday, May 20, 2006

Fwd: Attorney General's News Briefs

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: AGNews <>
Date: May 19, 2006 9:19 AM
Subject: Attorney General's News Briefs
To: AGNews <>

This week's edition of the Attorney General's newsletter News Briefs is
now available for subscribers.

Please click the web address below to view the current issue.
May 19, 2006 -  Volume 4, Issue 20:

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The text version of the e-Newsletter is below.

Message from Attorney General Charlie Crist

When large corporations try to take more money from the pockets of
Floridians than they are entitled to, it's the role of the Attorney
General's Office to step in to help consumers. While we staunchly
believe in the right of businesses to make a legitimate profit, we
will not sit idly when proper business practices give way to improper

With that in mind, this week our office stepped up in three separate
areas, and the results will save Florida consumers literally hundreds
of millions of dollars.

First, we prevailed on behalf of Florida's electric customers when the
state Public Service Commission agreed to cut $568 million from a rate
increase sought by Florida Power & Light. The company, which serves
about half the utility customers in our state, had been asking for
some $1.7 billion in increases following two years of hurricane

We joined with Public Counsel Harold McLean, as well as such
interested organizations as AARP, the Florida Retail Federation and
the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, in challenging FPL's overall
request. We asserted that FPL's request was $600 million too high -
that consumers should not, for example, be forced to pay for such
things as repairing poles and infrastructure that were damaged after
being neglected by the company itself.

I was quite pleased when the PSC agreed that FPL was not entitled to
all it asked for. By cutting the rate hike by $568 million, the PSC
saved Florida consumers hundreds of millions of dollars while sending
the electric industry a clear warning that it had better be prepared
for the upcoming hurricane season.

Another major action this week involved the tobacco industry. We went
to court alleging that one of the companies, Brown & Williamson, has
refused to give Florida taxpayers $17 million to which they are
legally entitled. We asked a judge to order the company to turn over
the money, with interest, and to hold the company in contempt.

This case stems from Florida's landmark 1997 settlement with the
tobacco industry over health care costs associated with sick smokers.
Under that agreement, the companies are required to make payments to
the state based on how many cigarettes they sell - the more they sell,
the more money they have to give to the taxpayers of Florida. However,
we believe Brown & Williamson failed to count 7 billion cigarettes
when tallying up it sales.

By refusing to count the sale of these cigarettes, Brown & Williamson
effectively took money from the pockets of all Floridians. The company
has also refused to provide the state with all requested information
about the sales of these cigarettes. The 1997 settlement prevented
litigation that could have cost the tobacco companies untold sums of
money. We are simply asking the court to require Brown & Williamson to
live up to its part of that bargain and stop short-changing the
citizens of this state.

Finally, this week our office launched an investigation into
questionable charges that have been showing up on the telephone bills
of many Florida consumers. The phony charges for an internet shopping
service called Email Discount Network, usually in monthly amounts of
$12.95, have appeared on bills received by customers of BellSouth,
Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and SBC Communications.

The consumers who were hit with these charges never requested the
service, and they should not have to pay for it. Under Florida law,
phone companies are responsible for third-party billers who place
charges on their phone bills. We have begun an investigation into both
the phone companies that include the charges on their bills and the
company behind the supposed shopping service.

In each of these cases, our guiding principle has been the same - the
consumers of Florida deserve a fair shake from the companies with whom
they do business. And if a company crosses the line, we will step in
to help.

Charlie Crist


LAND FRAUD SCAM ARREST - Attorney General Crist announced the arrest
of a Broward County woman for her involvement in a South Florida land
fraud scam that defrauded international victims out of valuable plots
of land in Highlands and Okeechobee counties, today worth as much as
$910,000. The scheme targeted landowners who lived in Canada or Puerto
Rico. From June to December 2004, members of the ring created the
deeds and forged the victims' signatures, making it appear as if the
victims had willingly given up ownership of their properties. The
arrested woman, a notary public, then notarized the signatures
indicating she had properly witnessed the signatures and examined the
victim's identification.

MEDICAID FRAUD ARREST - In a case investigated by the Attorney
General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, a Pasco County woman was
arrested for more than $24,000 in Medicaid fraud after repeatedly
billing the Medicaid program for services she never performed as a
companion care provider. Investigators determined that the woman was
providing an hour or two of services to a Medicaid recipient each day,
while billing for 24 hours of care. She is accused of billing Medicaid
at least 49 times for services that witnesses say she did not provide.


Crist Seeks $17 Million, Contempt Citation Against Brown & Williamson

Companion Care Provider Arrested For $24,000 Medicaid Fraud

Crist Launches Investigation into Phony Phone Charges

Crist Applauds $568 million savings for
     Florida Power & Light Customers

Broward Woman Arrested for Role in $910,000 Land Fraud Scam


Crist: Cigarette Maker Owes State $17 Million

State sues cigarette maker

Cough up $17M more, state says

FPL customers to pay $1.1 billion for storm costs, reserve build-up

State regulators throw switch on FPL

Crist launches investigation on unauthorized phone charges

Crist investigates phone charges

Investors Stand By Little Green Pill Despite Lawsuit

Crist tours Lake Okeechobee dike, citing 'sense of urgency'

Prescription for peril

Notary Charged In Land Scam

Woman Accused Of Medicaid Fraud

Woman faces Medicaid fraud charge

Hearing set on spray-field permit

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