Attorney General

AG Investigators Searches SUNY Poly Office

An office used by a law firm that had employed lobbyist Todd Howe at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany was searched on Thursday by investigators from state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office amid investigations in economic development projects in New York, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

SUNY Poly confirmed the search in a statement.

“SUNY Poly cooperated fully today with the NYAG’s office request to search an office previously used by Todd Howe at our Albany campus,” SUNY Poly said in a statement. “We continue to cooperate fully with their investigation.“

The raid was first reported by Gannett’s Albany bureau.

The AG’s office has been investigating possible bid rigging at SUNY Poly’s development arm, Fuller Road Management.

Howe is an intersecting figure in the ongoing state and federal investigations into economic development projects, including the signature western New York effort known as the Buffalo Billion.

Howe had represented a number of companies with business before the Buffalo Billion and was listed as a lobbyist for SUNY Poly, which plays a key role in distributing economic development spending.

A former aide and confidant to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Joe Percoco, is under scrutiny as well after it was revealed he received payments from two companies with business in economic development projects while running the governor’s re-election campaign.

On Wednesday, the state Public Authorities Control Board approved an additional $485.5 million in spending for a cornerstone Buffalo Billion project at the RiverBend site, home to a SolarCity plant.

Cuomo has retained an independent investigator to review contracting and investigate the program.

Schneiderman Sues Domino’s Pizza Over Wage Theft

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Tuesday the filing of a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizz and its franchise subsidiary alleging the company underpaid workers by at least $565,000 at ten stores in the state.

The lawsuit also includes three Domino’s franchisees.

The suit is the result of a multi-year investigation by Schneiderman’s office into pay at the chain restaurant, finding the company urged franchisees to use payroll reports from their computer system even though they knew it would under calculate gross wages.

Domino’s makes updates to the payroll program each year, but did not fix what Schneiderman calls flaws in the system that resulted in the underpayments.

“At some point, a company has to take responsibility for its actions and for its workers’ well-being. We’ve found rampant wage violations at Domino’s franchise stores. And, as our suit alleges, we’ve discovered that Domino’s headquarters was intensely involved in store operations, and even caused many of these violations,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“Under these circumstances, New York law – as well as basic human decency – holds Domino’s responsible for the alleged mistreatment of the workers who make and deliver the company’s pizza. Domino’s can, and must, fix this problem.”

The AG’s office has previously settled cases with 12 Domino’s franchisees who own 61 stores, with those owners agreeing to pay $1.5 million so far.

The suit also includes allegations of fraud and franchise law claims stemming in part from the computerized payroll program.

AG’s Office Blasts House GOP Request On Exxon Probe

More than a dozen House Republicans this week are calling on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to turn over documents generated for an investigation into Exxon Mobil and the company’s impact on the environment.

“The Committee is concerned that these efforts to silence speech are based on political theater rather than legal or scientific arguments, and that they run counter to an attorney general’s duty to serve ‘as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens’ and to ‘assert, protect, and defend the rights of the people,’” the letter from the House Science, Space and Technology Committee states. “These legal actions may even amount to an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”

Attorneys general in 16 other states were sent similar letters as were eight environmental organizations.

The request is under review by Schneiderman’s office, but was blasted on Thursday by his office, calling it “remarkable that a do-nothing congress” on climate change is trying to divert attention from the investigation.

“The irony of this letter is breathtaking, as its signatories appear to be part of a multi-pronged media campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry aimed at suppressing the free exchange of ideas among scientists, academics, and responsible law enforcement,” said Schneiderman spokesman Eric Soufer. “New York will continue to work with and collaborate with its colleagues across the country, and those with expertise in this area, to protect its citizens from fraud.”

The letter from the House committee is seeking communications between Schneiderman’s office and environmental groups as well as interactions with AGs around the country related to the investigation as well as the Department of Justice.

05 18 16 Sst Letter to Ny Ag by Nick Reisman

Schneiderman: Abelove Case Not About Making An Example

As Attorney General Eric Schneiderman assumes oversight of an investigation into the shooting death of a Troy man by police, he said on Tuesday his office was not trying to make an example out of District Attorney Joel Abelove.

Abelove, whose office initially presented the case to a grand jury and returned no bill for the officer who shot Edson Thevenin, was sued by Schneiderman, who was empowered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate incidents in which civilians die in interactions with police.

In the days after the lawsuit was filed, Abelove’s office later struck an agreement with Schneiderman to pursue the investigation into the April incident. Cuomo had previously re-issued an amendment to his order empowering Schneiderman to investigate the case.

Schneiderman said the situation in Troy is “unique” and that other district attorneys have complied with the executive order, which was first issued last year.

“We have received cooperation from every district attorney in the state,” Schneiderman said. “This is a unique situation.”

As for the case itself, Schneiderman said his office was reviewing the shooting of Tehevnin, who died after a chase with police in Troy.

“We’re committed to conducting a full investigation into the shooting and how the investigation was conducted and no one is off the hook for that,” he said.

Abelove Steps Aside In Troy Police Shooting Case

From our colleagues at TWC News Albany:

The office of Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove says the DA has reached a settlement with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over a lawsuit related to a recent shooting.

The AG’s office sued Abelove, accusing him of violating an executive order issued last year that gives the AG’s office the authority to investigate police-involved shootings involving unarmed citizens, or those thought to be unarmed.

This all centers around the case of Edson Thevenin, who was shot and killed by a Troy police sergeant during a traffic stop last month. The sergeant was later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by a grand jury.

Under the agreement with the AG, Abelove’s office will turn over its files on the case to Schneiderman’s office.

Schneiderman Sues Rensselaer County DA Over Special Prosecutor Power

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Wednesday filed a lawsuit seeking to compel Rensselaer District Attorney Joel Abelove to comply with an executive order governing the investigation of police-involved deaths of civilians.

The case stems from the April 17 death of Edson Thevenin, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Troy following a car chase with law enforcement.

The suit claims a grand jury in Rensselaer County was convened without notice to the attorney general’s office and Abelove had presented evidence. The grand jury ultimately declined to indict the office involved in the shooting.

Schneiderman’s office claims Abelove had initially signaled he would provide information to the attorney general’s team to determine whether there was jurisdiction to purse the case against the police officer, but ultimately did not.

The suit claims Schneiderman’s office was on the ground in Troy the same day as the incident.

Gov. Andrew Cumom last year signed an executive order empowering Schneiderman’s office to assume the investigation and prosecution of cases in which civilians are killed during interactions with police as a special prosecutor. The order stemmed from multiple cases in which police killed unarmed civilians, but a grand jury chose to not indict the officers after being presented with evidence by local district attorneys.

Cuomo at the time said the effort was meant to remove doubts raised by police reform advocates that the prosecution was too close with police officers involved in the deaths.

“My office has worked collaboratively with district attorneys across the state in pursuit of that goal, conducting fair, comprehensive, and independent investigations in every case within our jurisdiction,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, as we’ve alleged today, District Attorney Abelove’s actions not only violate the law, but directly undermine the public’s confidence in law enforcement, making the jobs of police officers and district attorneys throughout the state more difficult.”

Cuomo this year proposed to make Schneiderman’s special prosecutor power in police-related death cases permanent, a move that faces opposition among Republican lawmakers.

Schneiderman: Trump Will Be An ‘Essential’ Witness

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is an “essential” witness in the class-action lawsuit filed against his online learning business, Trump University, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

“I am very pleased the judge has indicated her intention to move as expeditiously as possible to trial, as thousands of Mr. Trump’s alleged victims have been waiting years for relief from his fraud,” Schneiderman said. “We believe that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sexton will be essential witnesses at trial. As we will prove in court, Donald Trump and his sham for-profit college defrauded thousands of students out of millions of dollars.”

Schneiderman earlier in the month had indicated Trump may not be called in the trial at all, given he was already deposed in the California lawsuit.

The suit alleges Trump University was essentially a sham college that claimed Trump himself vetted the instructors and would provide the secrets to the businessman’s success.

His appearance as a witness in the trial would likely come in the middle of the general election campaign.

Schneiderman Reaches Deal With Insurers For Hep C Coverage

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Tuesday announced it had reached a deal with seven health insurance companies to cover chronic Hepatitis C treatment.

The agreement with the commercial insurers Affinity Health Plan, Empire BlueCross BlueShield, Excellus Health Plan, HealthNow, Independent Health, United Healthcare/Oxford, and MVP Health Plan will provide for treatment options without requiring members to develop an advance complication, such as liver scarring.

At the same time, the agreement stipulates the insurers cannot deny coverage because the member uses alcohol, drugs or because the authorizing physician is not a specialist.

“New Yorkers diagnosed with Hepatitis C deserve to be treated, and these agreements will vastly improve access to the medications needed to cure their disease,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“Hepatitis C is a potentially life-threatening disease and thousands of New Yorkers are diagnosed each year. My office will do everything possible to ensure treatment for Hepatitis C is available, so that patients can be cured and we can minimize the spread of the disease to others.”

Before the agreement, five of the seven insurers limited coverage for the disease to those with advanced liver scarring or other complications from Hepatitis C. Now, insurers will be required to end restrictions to coverage before the treatment is deemed medically necessary.

The agreement was applauded by Democratic Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, whose father was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and died of liver and kidney failure in 2007.

“Many patients are forced to wait until they are in the late stages of the disease; after serious liver damage has already occurred,” the lawmaker said. “We are lucky to be at a point where new drugs are able to cure this once incurable disease with a simple regimen of medication with little side effects.”

Schneiderman Opens Investigation Into Voting Irregularities

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Wednesday opened an investigation into claims of voting irregularities during the Tuesday presidential primaries in New York.

The primaries, the first truly competitive races for both parties’ presidential contests in modern history in New York, saw record high turnout, especially on the Republican side.

But at the same time, there were complaints of more than 125,000 voters being purged from the rolls in New York City when they showed up at the polls to vote.

Meanwhile, Schneiderman’s office says it fielded more than 1,000 complaints from a voter hotline during primary voting.

“That’s why today, we have opened an investigation into alleged improprieties in yesterday’s voting by the New York City Board of Elections,” Schneiderman said. “If necessary, we will initiate inquiries in additional areas of the State where voting irregularities appeared unusually high. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and if any New Yorker was illegally prevented from voting, I will do everything in my power to make their vote count and ensure that it never happens again.”

The probe comes as City Comptroller Scott Stringer has said he plans to audit the city board of elections over voting problems on Tuesday as well.

The New York City Board of Elections has long come under criticism for its handling of local elections. Meanwhile, good government advocates say the confusion during yesterday’s primary voting suggested the state’s voter registration laws should be expanded to make it easier to register to vote.

AG Reaches Agreement To Extend Price Cut For Naloxone

The state has reached an agreement with a pharmaceutical company that would extend the price cut for an effective antidote that reverses opioid overdoses for all government agencies, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Tuesday announced.

Under the agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the company will cover a $6 rebate per dose of naloxone, which automatically increases, dollar-for-dollar, to match the expected growth in the drug’s wholesale price.

The rebate is available to the AG’s office and all public entities, including the Department of Health, the city of New York, county governments and drug treatment centers.

“The price reduction announced today will save lives and help agencies across New York fight the scourge of heroin abuse,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Thousands of lives have been saved as a result of the use of naloxone, and it is my hope that getting this powerful, opiod antidote in the hands of more agencies will give those struggling with addiction a second chance at life and sobriety.”

The agreement comes amid heightened concerns over the availability of heroin and its impact on opioid addiction, especially in rural and suburban areas. The GOP-led Senate this year is pledging to once again deal with the heroin addiction issue and hold hearings on the matter.