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Fighting Fake Vaccination Cards

SALT LAKE CITY (4/1/2021) – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today called on Twitter, eBay, and Shopify to act immediately to prevent people from selling fake CDC vaccination cards on their platforms.  In a letter to the companies’ CEOs, a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general raises concerns about the public health risks of this fraud.

“It’s sad but not surprising that fraudsters continue to take advantage of people during the Pandemic, but we’re fighting back to protect Utahns,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Some of these fraudsters we can investigate but many use tactics that evade prosecution. So, we’re asking social media platforms to help us crack down on ads and promotions designed to exploit vulnerable citizens.”

Legitimate vaccination cards are given by providers when they administer the vaccine. People who buy fake cards can have their own information added to the card or add it in themselves, so it appears they have been vaccinated when they have not. These deceptive cards threaten the health of our communities, slow progress in getting people protected from the virus, and violate many state laws.

In their letter, the attorneys general ask the CEOs to:

  • Monitor their platforms for ads or links selling blank or fraudulently completed vaccination cards.
  • Promptly take down ads or links that are selling cards.
  • Preserve records and information about the ads and the people who were selling them.

Attorney General Reyes is joined in sending this letter by the Attorneys General of North Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Guam, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota,  Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the letter is available HERE.

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A.G. Reyes Sues to Protect Utah from Unconstitutional Ban on State Tax Cuts

SALT LAKE CITY (3/31/2021)—Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a 13-state lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Treasury, challenging a provision of the American Rescue Plan Act that punishes states for making any changes to any laws that would reduce taxes.  

On March 16, Attorney General Reyes, and 20 other state attorneys general also sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen highlighting the constitutional concerns regarding the American Rescue Plan Act’s federal tax mandate and requesting that the Secretary clarify her department’s interpretation of that provision. The Secretary’s response was ambiguous and directly contradicted what the principal proponent of the federal tax mandate, Senator Joe Manchin, expected the effect of that provision to be: that states would be forbidden from cutting taxes in any manner whatsoever through the year 2024. 

Attorney General Reyes said: “The Utah Legislature recently passed $100 million in tax relief to families with children, veterans and older residents receiving Social Security. But that relief is now at risk because the American Rescue Plan Act potentially denies states the ability to cut taxes. Today we joined in this lawsuit against the Administration in addition to earlier joint letter asking Secretary Yellen to confirm that the Act will not prohibit Utah and other states from providing much-needed tax relief.”

“This federal tax mandate is an unprecedented and unconstitutional assault on state sovereignty by the federal government, which would commandeer the State of Utah’s sovereign power to tax and spend and determine her own fiscal policies,” Alabama Attorney General Marshall added. “Today, I and the other state attorneys general filed suit against the Biden administration to block the enforcement of this grievous federal encroachment on states’ rights.”  

Similar lawsuits have also been filed in other jurisdictions by the states of Arizona, Missouri, and Ohio.  

A link to the lawsuit is here.

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Utah Attorney General’s Office Statement on Review of Banjo Technology

SALT LAKE CITY (March 30, 2021) — The Attorney General’s Office asked for this review and agrees with most of the commission’s findings. We commend the commission for their excellent work in producing two documents that will help state agencies evaluate new technology.  The commission confirmed what we always knew, that people’s private information was not at risk. 

The Attorney General’s Office maintains its essential and integral commitment to the liberties and rights of all Utah citizens.  Chief among these is the freedom from predators and other crime and we believe this system, had it been fully built out, would have saved lives. We will continue to use new technology to keep Utahns safe, and will utilize the commission’s guidelines in the process.  You can review our full response to the review at the following link:

https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2021-03-26-Ltr-to-Auditor-Dougall-re-Banjo-LiveTime-Technology-Review.pdf


Utah Sues to Stop Biden Oil/Gas Lease Ban

SALT LAKE CITY (March 24, 2021) – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a lawsuit to block Biden Administration’s plan to suspend oil and gas leases on federal land in Utah.  The lawsuit says Biden Executive Order 14008 is in violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA). 

“The Biden administration’s unlawful moratorium on federal land leasing threatens Utah’s oil and gas industry,” Attorney General Reyes said. “Not only does the industry add billions of dollars to Utah’s economy each year, it also supports over 32,000 jobs in Utah. Revenue from oil and gas leases and royalties help fund schools and local governments, as well as health, safety, and environmental projects across the State. Without any explanation, President Biden’s order stops lease sales in violation of federal law.”

In January, President Biden signed the Executive Order which declares a moratorium on future oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on all federal lands. The Executive Order halted all oil and gas leasing operations, days after the Interior Department halted development and exploration of existing leases. Together, these actions make-up the Biden Ban – what the industry calls ‘an aggressive, reckless abuse of Presidential power that threatens American families’ livelihoods and our national security.’ 

“By executive fiat, Joe Biden and his administration have single-handedly driven the price of energy up – costing the American people where it hurts most, in their pocketbooks,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry. “Biden’s Executive Orders abandon middle-class jobs at a time when America needs them most and put our energy security in the hands of foreign countries, many of whom despise America’s greatness.” 

The state of Louisiana led the lawsuit, which states: “The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Mineral Leasing Act set out specific statutory duties requiring executive agencies to further the expeditious and safe development of the abundant energy. In compliance with those statutes, the Department of the Interior has for decades issued leases for the development of oil and natural gas on public lands and offshore waters.” 

These leases allow America to reach its full energy-production potential. For the states specifically, they also provide significant environmental benefits because portions of the lease proceeds are invested into vital State environmental defense and restoration projects. In fact, each year the federal government returns billions of dollars to the States and environmental reclamation projects from OCSLA and MLA lease proceeds for critical environmental restoration and protection projects. 
 
The Biden Ban purports to protect the environment, but instead it constitutes what is likely the single-largest divestment of revenue for environmental protection projects in American history. Making matters worse, the agencies implementing the Order – the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Land Management – rushed to stop long-planned lease sales without any consideration whether the Biden Ban complies with the law, the public good, or the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. 

To facilitate the Outer Continental Shelf’s expeditious development, OCSLA directs the Secretary of the Interior to “administer the provisions of this subchapter relating to the leasing of the outer Continental Shelf.” To this end, OCSLA requires the Secretary to create a Five-Year Leasing Program and authorizes her “to grant to the highest responsible qualified bidder or bidders by competitive bidding, under regulations promulgated in advance, any oil and gas lease on submerged lands of the outer Continental Shelf” not covered by prior leases. OCSLA also requires the Department to review lessee requests for approval to explore and develop oil and gas resources. States are entitled to significant portions of the proceeds from Outer Continental Shelf leasing and production. The Mineral Leasing Act has similar provisions for onshore oil and gas development. These laws affirm Congress’s intent to responsibly use our own resources as a means of achieving energy independence. 

The state of Louisiana led the lawsuit, which states: “The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Mineral Leasing Act set out specific statutory duties requiring executive agencies to further the expeditious and safe development of the abundant energy. In compliance with those statutes, the Department of the Interior has for decades issued leases for the development of oil and natural gas on public lands and offshore waters.” 
 
These leases allow America to reach its full energy-production potential. For the states specifically, they also provide significant environmental benefits because portions of the lease proceeds are invested into vital State environmental defense and restoration projects. In fact, each year the federal government returns billions of dollars to the States and environmental reclamation projects from OCSLA and MLA lease proceeds for critical environmental restoration and protection projects. 
 
The Biden Ban purports to protect the environment, but instead it constitutes what is likely the single-largest divestment of revenue for environmental protection projects in American history. Making matters worse, the agencies implementing the Order – the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Land Management – rushed to stop long-planned lease sales without any consideration whether the Biden Ban complies with the law, the public good, or the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. 
 
In addition to Utah, the following states joined in the lawsuit filed this morning in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. 
 

See the filed copy of the lawsuit here.

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Stiff Sentence in Illegal Adoption Case

Phoenix, AZ (3/19/2021) – Although he’s still awaiting sentencing in Utah, former Maricopa County, Arizona auditor Paul Petersen will serve 11 years in prison, as the result of a sentences imposed earlier in Arkansas, and in Arizona on March 19, 2021.

Petersen will serve five years in prison in Arizona, to run concurrently, or on top of, the six-year federal term imposed in Arkansas. These sentences come after Petersen pleaded guilty to charges related to an illegal adoption case that also includes charges in Utah.  Petersen’s Utah sentencing date, earlier set for Monday March 22, has been postponed until further notice.

The Arizona judge imposed the five-year sentence, seen as sending a message to other would-be human traffickers.  Petersen pleaded guilty to felony offenses in all three states in the case: Medicaid fraud in Arizona, human  smuggling and communications fraud charges in Utah, and federal charges of harboring immigrants for profit in Arkansas.

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said he was pleased a strong message is being sent to human smugglers and traffickers.

“It’s vital to send a message to those who would even think about exploiting and defrauding vulnerable parents and their children,” Reyes said.  “Although no court can make the victims whole or undo the damage Petersen has caused, this strong sentence represents a measure of justice for the many people Petersen exploited and harmed, both in the United States and in the Marshall Islands.”

 “This also demonstrates the power of collaborating at the state and federal level and across multiple states in investigations and prosecutions,” Reyes continued.  “I applaud all of the dedicated professionals in Utah, Arkansas and Arizona for this welcome outcome.”

“We look forward to seeing Petersen sentenced in Utah in the coming weeks,” Attorney General Reyes added.

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More/News Coverage:

Archive: Utah AG: Petersen Pleads Guilty in Utah

Read AZ Central

Video: ABC 15 Arizona

AZ Family.com


AG Reyes & 21-State Coalition File Suit to Block Biden’s Illegitimate Keystone Cancellation

  • Power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce belongs to Congress, not executive
  • Biden does not have power to overturn permit granted by an Act of Congress
  • Pipeline would create thousands of jobs, bolster U.S. energy independence

SALT LAKE CITY (3/17/2021) — Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined 20 other state attorneys general in filing suit today, led by Montana and Texas, in United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas to block President Joe Biden’s unconstitutional and illegitimate attempt to cancel Keystone XL Pipeline (KXLP).

Despite several exhaustive studies undertaken by the Obama State Department that concluded the Keystone XL pipeline would boost the U.S economy, create American jobs, and safely transport oil throughout the country without increasing greenhouse gas emissions, Biden revoked the permit via executive order mere hours after reciting his oath of office. However, he did not have the power to do so.

Attorney General Reyes said: “President Biden’s decision to revoke the permit for the Keystone pipeline will harm Americans—increasing heating and fuel costs, as well as disrupting transportation that will lead to increased costs for agricultural products and consumer goods. Once again, President Biden ignores separation of powers by revoking the permit even though Congress specifically authorized it in 2011. His decision kills jobs and the significant investments that states and communities have already made”.

“The power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce belongs to Congress – not the President. This is another example of Joe Biden overstepping his constitutional role to the detriment of Montanans,” Montana Attorney General Knudsen said. “There is not even a perceived environmental benefit to his actions – his attempt to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline is an empty virtue signal to his wealthy coastal elite donors. It shows Biden’s contempt for rural communities that would benefit from and support the project.”

The lawsuit states, “The decision to provide or withhold permission to construct and operate an oil pipeline across the international border with Canada is a regulation of international and interstate commerce. Under the Constitution, this power resides with Congress.” Therefore, “President Biden’s decision to revoke the Keystone XL permit exceeded the scope of his authority under Article II of the Constitution.”

The attempt to block the construction and operation of the pipeline is also “contrary to law and an affront to the Constitution’s separation of powers,” as Congress expressly permitted the project in the 2011 Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act.

The Act required Obama to grant the application to construct and operate the cross-border facilities or report within 60 days to Congress why he thought the pipeline disserved the national interest. If he failed to grant the permit or make a negative national interest determination within that time, it provided that the KXLP permit “shall be in effect by operation of law Obama signed the bill into law, but then denied the permit because, he complained, Congress had not given him enough time to consider the matter.  He did not report to Congress why he thought the KXLP disserved the national interest—which means the pipeline was authorized by default rule.

Further, Biden’s permit revocation and the administration’s attempts to carry it out also do not comport with the Administrative Procedure Act, violate the non-delegation doctrine, and are arbitrary and capricious.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare the section of Executive Order 13990 cancelling KXPL’s cross-border permit unconstitutional and unlawful and seeks to prevent the Biden administration from taking any action to enforce the permit revocation.

In addition to Attorney General Reyes, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming, have joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs.

Injuries to Plaintiff States:

The Keystone XL pipeline would cross into the United States in northern Montana, proceed through South Dakota and terminate in Nebraska where it would connect to other existing Keystone pipelines that travel to state-of-the-art refining centers in predominantly along the Gulf Coast. Seventeen areas in the proposed project area were identified as minority and/or low-income populations.

If Biden’s unilateral decision is legally effective, the highly anticipated jobs, businesses, and investments will not materialize, and these communities will lose out on a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity. It will also have a ripple effect that adversely impacts the economy and environment in non-pipeline states.

Approximately 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day would be transported from where it is produced in Canada and Montana to a large refining hub near the Gulf Coast and supplement refining capacity in Illinois, ensuring a reliable domestic and global energy source, bolstering U.S. energy independence and global leadership.

An estimated 42,100 jobs with $2 billion in associated earnings throughout the United States would be created. Additionally, communities along its path would be infused with tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

The pipeline’s area covered by the previous authorization extends from the border about 1.2 miles to and including the first pipeline isolation valve in Montana. Although it is a tiny piece of the Keystone XL project, it is the fulcrum around which it and the larger 2,687-mile Keystone System turns – it is also already substantially complete.

See the lawsuit here

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AG Reyes & Utah Officials Welcome Interior Secretary Haaland’s Decision to Visit Utah

Applaud administration’s decision to extend 60-day review period timeline of Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments

SALT LAKE CITY (3/17/2021) – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and U.S. Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Representatives Chris Stewart (R-Utah), John Curtis (R-Utah), Burgess Owens (R-Utah), and Blake Moore (R-Utah), Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Senate President Stuart Adams, and House Speaker Brad Wilson Reyes issued the following statement in response to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s announcement of her upcoming visit to Utah to tour Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments.

As Utah leaders, we urged the administration to extend the 60-day timeline outlined in President Biden’s Executive Order calling for a review of our national monuments and invited Secretary Haaland to visit Utah to tour the monuments and engage state, local, and tribal leaders. We are encouraged that the administration has extended the deadline for review of Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments, and we welcome Secretary Haaland’s decision to travel to Utah, tour the monuments in question, and receive meaningful input from the local elected officials and residents. Her trip to Utah will allow her the opportunity to speak with the people who live and work on the lands, whose voices may otherwise go unheard, before making any recommendations to the President. We are also confident that this trip will successfully highlight the need for a permanent legislative solution for determining appropriate boundaries for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, with statutory protections to prevent abuses under the Antiquities Act for the State of Utah. We look forward to continuing our work on these issues with Secretary Haaland after her visit.”

An online version of this release can be found here.


Tax Cuts: Utah Joins Other States in Letter to Treasury

SALT LAKE CITY—Today Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined attorneys general from 20 other states (21 total) in questioning a provision in the Biden Administration’s pandemic rescue plan that prohibits states like Utah from using any portion of the money for tax cuts.

The states wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, citing unclear language, and asking to confirm that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act does not bar the states from providing tax relief.  The letter adds that the prohibition is “unclear, but potentially breathtaking”.

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said: “The Utah Legislature recently passed $100 million in tax relief to families with children, veterans and older residents receiving Social Security. But that relief is now at risk because the American Rescue Plan Act potentially denies states the ability to cut taxes. I joined with attorneys general from 20 other states in asking Secretary Yellen to confirm that the Act will not prohibit Utah and other states from providing much needed tax relief.”

Utah is one of more than a dozen states who have passed or are considering tax credits or cuts that could be affected by relief fund limitations.  

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Read the response from Treasury Secretary Yellen here.

Articles on this issue:

Deseret News: https://www.deseret.com/utah/2021/3/17/22336124/republican-attorneys-general-threaten-legal-action-covid19-relief-tax-cuts

Politico:

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/17/ohio-yost-sues-biden-administration-476769

AP:

https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-personal-taxes-arizona-coronavirus-pandemic-west-virginia-d924f907e9879189289d4b5d4ae846df

CBS:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/federal-stimulus-state-tax-cuts/

Settlement With American Medical Collection Agency Over 2019 Data Breach

SALT LAKE CITY (March 11, 2021) — Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today announced that Utah, as part of a coalition of 41 Attorneys General, has settled with Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau d/b/a American Medical Collection Agency (“AMCA”) resolving a multistate investigation into the 2019 data breach that exposed the personal information of over 7 million individuals, including more than 21,000 of Utah’s residents and potentially exposed the personal information of up to 21 million individuals throughout the United States.   

Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau is a debt collection agency.  Under the name American Medical Collection Agency, or AMCA, the company specialized in small balance medical debt collection primarily for laboratories and medical testing facilities.  An unauthorized user gained access to AMCA’s internal system from August 1, 2018 through March 30, 2019.  AMCA failed to detect the intrusion, despite warnings from banks that processed its payments.  The unauthorized user was able to collect a wide variety of personal information, including Social Security numbers, payment card information, and, in some instances, names of medical tests and diagnostic codes. 

On June 3, 2019 AMCA provided notice to many states and began providing notice to over 7 million affected individuals that included an offer of two years of free credit monitoring. On June 17, 2019, because of the costs associated with providing notification and remediating the breach, AMCA filed bankruptcy.  To continue the investigation and take steps to ensure that the personal information of their residents was protected, the multistate coalition participated in all bankruptcy proceedings through the Attorneys General of Indiana and Texas.  The company ultimately received permission from the bankruptcy court to settle with the multistate, and on December 9, 2020, filed for dismissal of the bankruptcy. 

“When you go to the doctor, you expect your private information to be kept private,” said Attorney General Reyes. “In this case, that trust was violated. The companies involved didn’t do enough to protect patients’ personal data. We’re pleased there is a now remedy for Utahns victimized by this breach and encouraged that our collective efforts as states have spurred more protections for consumers moving forward.”

As part of the settlement, AMCA may be liable for a $21 million total payment to the states.  Because of AMCA’s financial condition, that payment is suspended unless the company violates certain terms of the settlement agreement. 

Under the terms of the settlement, AMCA and its principals have agreed to implement and maintain a series of data security practices designed to strengthen its information security program and safeguard the personal information of consumers. These include:

  • Creating and implementing an information security program with detailed requirements, including an incident response plan;
  • Employing a duly qualified Chief Information Security Officer;
  • Hiring a Third-Party Assessor to perform an information security assessment; and
  • Cooperating with the Attorneys General with investigations related to the data breach and maintaining evidence.

The Attorneys General of Indiana, Texas, Connecticut, and New York led the investigation, assisted by the Attorneys General of Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and joined by the Attorneys General of Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.


Utah Division of State Parks And Recreation Manager Charged with Felonies amounting to over $1.3 Million

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 9, 2021. The Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO) announced today that charges were filed against a former State of Utah Department of Natural Resources employee, Daniel Wayne Clark of Kaysville, Utah, for 5 counts of Communication Fraud, each a second degree felony; 1 count of Pattern of Unlawful Activity, a second degree felony; 1 count of Obstruction of Justice, a third degree felony; and Using Position to Secure Privileges, a second degree felony.

The charges come after an internal state purchasing audit of the Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks and Recreation was conducted in early March 2020 which showed that Clark awarded multiple construction and paving bids to his company, Colt Paving, Inc., for which Clark is the president and sole employee.

Charging documents reveal that Clark, a State of Utah employee since June 16,1997, used his position as Construction and Development Manager to produce false quotation bid sheets, authorize payment to his company (Colt Paving, Inc.), and deposited the money into his bank account for fictitious projects at various state park locations. Over the past 20 years, defendant’s fraudulent scheme resulting in obtaining over $1.3 million dollars to which he was not entitled.

The Department of Natural Resources disciplined and terminated Clark from his position on July 23, 2020. The Department of Natural Resources fully cooperated with the AGO during the investigation. The AGO Justice and Investigations Division filed the charges against Clark in Third District Court. A second degree felony conviction can result in an indefinite prison term of one to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

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