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The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

CEPI Newsletter April 2020

This monthly compendium of news reports about corruption and ethics issues is brought to you by the Center for Ethics and Public Integrity (CEPI). Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute express a view as to the accuracy of news accounts or affirm any position taken by the authors of the hyperlinked articles.

This month's CEPI Newsletter is primarily devoted to COVID-19 related issues.

COVID-19

Webinar

Prosecuting COVID-19-Related Crimes: Lessons Learned from Superstorm Sandy, Current Trends, and Promising Enforcement Models: Prosecutors and law enforcement agents are invited to join a webinar on April 7, 2020, from 2:00-3:15 PM EST that focuses on the investigation and prosecution of frauds and other crimes in which bad actors use COVID-19 as part of their scheme. Speakers are a team from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office that successfully addressed financial and other crimes in the wake of Superstorm Sandy; a federal prosecutor and a state prosecutor who are leading a COVID-19 task force in Pennsylvania that is on the front lines of the coming war; and an Associate Deputy Attorney General, who will discuss Department of Justice-wide approaches to COVID-19-related prosecutions. Speakers will share lessons from past experiences that may help today’s COVID-19 prosecutions, types of schemes being seen now and expected in the future, and how task forces are approaching this work.

Corruption

Enforcement

Prosecutors Form Western Pa. Task Force to Investigate COVID-19 Fraud: In Pennsylvania, the Attorney General’s Office and a U.S. Attorney’s Office have announced the formation of a COVID-19 task force. Leaders of that task force will present at the webinar described above.

DOJ and States Creatively Respond to Fraud Amid COVID-19: Lawyers at a multinational law firm predict that state and federal enforcers will be bringing civil and criminal enforcement actions against those who attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to commit crimes.

DOJ Moves Against ‘Despicable Scammers’ Operating Fake Covid-19 Vaccine Website: Federal prosecutors in Texas have enjoined a website that was selling a bogus coronavirus vaccine.

Guest Announcement: Special Issue on Fighting Corruption in the Health Sector: A compilation of articles that look at anticorruption, transparency, and accountability in the health sector may be of use to COVID-19-related crimes enforcers.

Opinions

Some Recent Commentaries on Corruption and the Coronavirus Pandemic: The Global Anticorruption Blog captures early opinions about possible connections between corruption and COVID-19.

SFO Needs Urgent Fix to Fight Covid-19 Fraud: At the FCPA Blog, a commentator argues that the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office needs to make certain changes to be prepared to deter, detect, and prosecute COVID-19-related frauds.

Ethics

A Guide to Each State's CLE Changes Amid COVID-19: Law360 provides a helpful overview of CLE adjustments and requirements across the states in light of COVID-19.

Legal Ethics in the Age of the Coronavirus: The DC Bar offers guidance to help lawyers continue to discharge their ethical duties during a pandemic.

COVID-19 Leaves Backlogged Courts with a Justice Pile-Up: In decisions that may well have ramifications for defendants’ statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial, courts around the country have entered orders delaying hearings and trials. Law360 surveys the situation in federal courts.

Resources

NAAG has launched its AGO-only website to disseminate useful information, facilitate the exchange of effective strategies, and highlight best practices to help attorneys general in their work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The site is only accessible to AGO staff. To request access, click here. All requests will be reviewed and approved by NAAG staff within 24 hours. When approved, you will receive login credentials and instructions via email.

NAGTRI’s own Center for Consumer Protection has a website, consumerresources.org, that acts as a national hub of consumer protection information and resources for consumers from state and territory attorneys general. The site provides the latest consumer news and tips and contact information for each attorney general’s consumer protection division. Readers can also file a consumer complaint with their attorney general, and learn what attorneys general are doing to combat COVID-19-related scams and price gouging.

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a website providing ways to report COVID-19-related frauds, learn about federal enforcement efforts, and see resources it can provide.

A variety of law firms and bar organizations have also provided publicly-accessible resources to their clients and others:

Non-COVID-19-Related State Corruption Cases

Macomb County Prosecutor Charged with Running a Slush Fund: The Michigan Attorney General’s Office has charged a local prosecutor, Macomb County’s Eric Smith, with running his office as a criminal enterprise and embezzling over $600,000 for country club catering, home security cameras, campaign expenditures, and other allegedly inappropriate expenses. Smith’s former operations chief, the current operations chief, and a local businessman were also charged.

Child Services Caseworker Groped Mom He Was Investigating, State Says: The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has charged a caseworker for the state Department of Children and Families with second-degree official misconduct and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact. Gilberto Ortiz Jr. is accused of sexually touching and sending an explicit video of himself to a woman he was assigned to investigate.

NJ Corrections Officer Charged with Sucker-Punching Handcuffed Delinquent: Jason Parks, a senior correctional police officer, has been charged in connection with allegations he punched a handcuffed inmate twice, knocking his head against a wall. Parks also tried to cover up his actions. He faces charges brought by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office related to the assault and the related obstruction.


Amie Ely is the Director of the Center for Ethics & Public Integrity and the Editor of the CEPI Newsletter and may be reached at 202-326-6041. The CEPI Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General. Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please e-mail aely@naag.org.

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