Archives: 2013

  • December 20

    On Thursday, I joined Sen. Katie Stine and Rep. John Tilley in announcing bipartisan legislation addressing the resurgence of heroin in Kentucky. Last year, heroin overdose deaths increased 650 percent across the Commonwealth. We cannot stand idly by and watch our families be torn apart by this scourge. This legislation increases punishment for traffickers, promotes treatment for addicts, and increases public awareness and education. I’m proud to stand with Sen. Stine and Rep. Tilley to tackle this important issue head on. Make no mistake about it; this bill will save lives in Kentucky.

    Earlier this week, my office announced the winners of our 2013 Keep Kentucky Kids Safe video PSA contest. We started this annual competition for middle and high school students in 2010 as part of my office’s statewide prescription drug abuse awareness and prevention initiative. This year’s winning PSA was submitted by Calloway County High School. The students include Austin Alexander, Cameron Brown, Keaston Johnson, Braxton Bogard, Taylor Smith and Jacob Garland. Finishing second was a submission also produced by a group of students from Calloway County High, and the Clark County ASAP Youth Network from George Rogers Clark High School received an honorable mention for their video PSA. I want to thank all of the students who participated in this year’s contest. The videos that were submitted this year are creative and educational, and they will help alert all Kentuckians to the heavy toll that prescription drug abuse is taking on families across the Commonwealth. You can view the winning PSAs at ag.ky.gov/rxabuse. The first-place video will also be included with anti-drug PSAs the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy distributes to Kentucky television stations. Congratulations to all of the winners!

    With the holiday season upon us, I want to remind Kentuckians to consider toy safety information when buying gifts for children. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC), there were an estimated 265,000 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2012. Of those injured, more than 70 percent were children younger than 15 years of age. Keeping our kids safe is one of my top priorities. Be sure to follow the recommended age ranges on toy packages and read all instructions carefully before letting your child play with a toy he or she receives as a gift. Also, always be aware that young children can choke on small toy and toy parts. You can find more safety tips to keep in mind this holiday season, as well as a guide to the latest toy and product recall information, on the Office of the Attorney General’s website at ag.ky.gov or the CPSC’s website at www.cpsc.gov. I want the holidays to be as safe and happy as possible for all Kentucky families.

    Next week, Elizabeth and I are looking forward to spending Christmas with our two daughters. On behalf of my family and the staff here at the Office of the Attorney General, have a joyous holiday season and a blessed new year.

  • December 13

    Earlier this week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and I led attorneys general from across the country in asking the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its decision to approve the high-dose narcotic painkiller Zohydro Er. In October, the FDA approved the drug against the recommendation of its advisory panel, which voted 11-2 in opposition because of the drug’s potential for misuse and its lack of an abuse-deterrent formulation. The approval of this potent drug is very troubling because, unlike extended-release opioids containing abuse-deterrent properties, there is nothing that would prevent someone from easily crushing or injecting Zohydro ER to get high. Zohydro ER has the potential to exacerbate the prescription pill epidemic in the Commonwealth and given that abuse-deterrent properties are capable of being developed and required, the FDA’s decision to approve the drug doesn’t make sense. We do not want to see the great strides we have made in Kentucky combatting prescription drug abuse reversed. You can read the letter the bipartisan coalition of attorneys general sent to the commissioner of the FDA here.

    I want to also remind students that the deadline to apply for the Sarah Shay and Michael Donta Memorial Scholarships is now just one month away. In September, my office, along with the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, the Prosecutors Advisory Council and the parents of two young overdose victims, unveiled the details of two scholarships for high school seniors whose lives have been impacted in some way by prescription drug abuse. The scholarships are $1500 each, and the money will help two young people get a fresh start and a chance at completing their college education. You can find additional information about the Sarah Shay and Michael Donta Memorial Scholarships at ag.ky.gov/rxabuse.

    On Monday, I’ll be catching up with my radio friends at WLGC in Ashland, WBVR in Bowling Green, WKDZ in Cadiz, and WTTL in Madisonville. I’ll also be in Lexington to help announce how funds my office secured from the historic national mortgage foreclosure settlement will be used to help hard-working Kentuckians realize the dream of home ownership. Look for more details on that initiative next week.

  • December 6

    This week, I attended the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Fall Meeting in New Orleans. As co-chair of the NAAG Substance Abuse Committee, serving alongside Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, I had the opportunity to share a presentation with attendees about the rise of heroin in Kentucky and what we are doing to combat the problem.

    Unfortunately, deaths from heroin overdose continue to climb across the Commonwealth. In fact, heroin-related deaths in 2012 were more than triple those reported in 2011. That’s why my office is working with state lawmakers on legislation to try and stop this disturbing trend. At the same time, I am committed to increasing awareness in our state and educating our children about this issue. Through my Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, I share with middle and high school students in Kentucky the dangers of abusing prescription drugs and heroin. To date, we’ve reached more than 30,000 students, teachers and parents across the Commonwealth with our message, and I’m looking forward to speaking at even more schools in 2014.

    We welcomed great news this week from my Office of Consumer Protection. On Wednesday, a Franklin Circuit Court judge issued an order fining National College $1,000 per day for not complying with the subpoenas my office issued as part of our investigation of some for-profit colleges. To date, National owes $126,000. The judge also fined National's attorneys $10,000 for unprofessional conduct. It’s time for National College to stop the games, turn over the documents we’ve requested, and pay the fine. You can read more about the ruling here.

    I enjoyed catching up with Mary Walter on 84 WHAS this morning. I had the opportunity to share important information with listeners regarding copycat kynect health insurance exchange websites. I took action earlier this week against a company operating a website deceptively similar to the Kentucky health insurance exchange. The copycat website was kynect101.com, and it’s the third misleading site that we have taken down, corrected or blocked in an effort to keep Kentuckians safe from scams when shopping online for health care coverage. My Office of Consumer Protection and I have created a list of tips that can help you avoid these scams. You can find the list here.

    Protecting consumers from scams during the holidays is the focus of my latest column. Much like storms and natural disasters, the season of giving brings out the best and worst in people, and scam artists are always discovering new schemes to take advantage of the kindness of others. From ensuring that your donations are made to reputable charities to staying safe when shopping online, you can find lots of useful information in this month’s column. You can also read about all of the great work my office accomplished during the month of November in our newsletter, Kentucky General News.

    Finally, today is the deadline to submit entries for this year’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention PSA contest, and I’m looking forward to watching all of the creative videos that are sent in. We’ll be naming a winner next week!

    Have a great weekend and stay safe if you’re traveling on the roads.

  • November 22

    "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

    John F. Kennedy famously spoke those 22 words during his inaugural address on January 20, 1961. We still recognize that quote - one of the most well-known excerpts from a speech in American history - just as we remember the significance of a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository and the horrifying event at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas that took the president’s life and brought this nation to a standstill 50 years ago today.

    As we reflect on the life of President Kennedy, it’s important to remember his legacy - the contributions he made to our country and his vision to move America forward. The words of President Kennedy’s inaugural speech still serve as an inspiration to me, challenging me daily to be the best public servant that I can be for this Commonwealth.

    This morning, I had the opportunity to tape a "Kentucky Newsmakers" segment with Bill Bryant at WKYT. It’s always great to catch up with Bill and talk with him about the latest news and initiatives from the Office of the Attorney General. You can look for our segment to air on WKYT this weekend. Earlier this week, I also sat down for interviews with The Hazard Herald’s Cris Ritchie and WYMT’s Steve Hensley in eastern Kentucky. If you live in the area, be sure to check out "Issues and Answers" on Monday night to watch my conversation with Steve.

    During my trip to eastern Kentucky, I traveled to Hindman to present our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program at Knott County Central High School. We reached more than 600 students that day, encouraging them not to be the next generation lost to prescription drug abuse. I was happy to share our message with the kids, and I thank Principal Robert Pollard for allowing me to speak at his school.

    Joining me as guest speakers at the Knott County school program were two representatives from Operation UNITE, Carl Varney and Paul Hays. UNITE, which is a valued partner of the Office of the Attorney General, serves 32 counties across southern and eastern Kentucky, working tirelessly to rid communities of illegal drug use and educate the public about the dangers of using drugs. Carl, a coalition coordinator for UNITE, shared with the students his personal story of overcoming a prescription drug addiction. It takes a lot of courage for someone to stand up and speak about a past battle with drug abuse, and I appreciate Carl taking the time to share such an important message with the children. Across the counties it serves, UNITE has discovered that the average age of a person using drugs for the first time is 11-years-old. Drug addictions are devastating families across the Commonwealth, and we’ll continue doing everything we can to prevent it. If you’d like to watch our program from Knott County Central High, check out our YouTube channel here.

    With the holiday season quickly approaching, I also want to remind parents and caregivers across the Commonwealth of the valuable tools they can use to monitor the content of their children’s video games. Over the next few weeks, thousands of parents will make purchases for their families, which will often include children’s computer games and video games. A recently launched national PSA campaign encourages families to utilize the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) video game rating system and video game console parental controls. The ratings are designed to help give parents some guidance about the appropriateness of games they choose for their families. Using the game console parental controls, parents can even block games they don’t want their children to play. I applaud the ESA for creating this national awareness campaign. Making the right entertainment decisions for my children is incredibly important, and this initiative will help keep parents informed when buying video games for their families. You can watch the PSA at http://tinyurl.com/le2dcjj.

    Next week, Elizabeth and I are looking forward to spending time with family and friends during the Thanksgiving holiday. We want to wish you a blessed Thanksgiving, and I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy the company of your loved ones as well.

  • November 15

    Since 2010, I have traveled to more than three dozen middle and high schools across the Commonwealth alerting students to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. I am proud that to date, our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe message has reached more than 30,000 students, teachers and parents statewide. We are doing everything we can in the Office of the Attorney General to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse, and I strongly believe this initiative is paying dividends in the lives our children.

    On Tuesday, we’ll be taking our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to Knott County Central High School in eastern Kentucky. I’m looking forward to speaking with the students there, helping educate them about the consequences of misusing prescription drugs. Additionally, I always appreciate the support of our school leaders who allow us to come and share information on this important issue. Nationally, prescription painkillers are the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and health reports list Kentucky as having one of the highest rates of fatal overdoses in the country. I want you to know that I will continue working diligently to fight this problem, making Kentucky a safer place to live, work and raise a family. If you haven’t seen our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, I encourage you to check it out on our YouTube Channel. You can also subscribe to the channel to stay updated with all of the videos we produce.

    During my trip to eastern Kentucky, I’ll also be speaking with members of the media in Hazard. I’m looking forward to making stops at the Hazard Herald and WYMT, where I’ll sit down for a taping of "Issues and Answers." I am excited for the opportunity to update everyone in the eastern part of the state on the latest news from my office, including information on our ongoing efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and tips consumers can use to protect themselves from scams claiming to be associated with Kentucky’s rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

    Next Wednesday, I’ll be a guest speaker at the annual KACo Conference in Louisville, proudly talking with many state and local leaders about the great work that continues in the Office of the Attorney General.

  • November 8

    This morning, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Salvation Army Christmas Breakfast Roast and Red Kettle Campaign Kickoff in Lexington. Dr. Pearse Lyons, the founder and president of Alltech, found himself in the hot seat at this year’s roast. It was a joy to join local celebrities such as Dr. Lyons, UK Basketball Coach John Calipari and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray for such an important cause. The Salvation Army uses all of the money raised from the event to help Kentucky families in need.

    From Lexington, I traveled to Versailles for a Keep Kentucky Kids Safe presentation at Woodford County High School. We met with a fantastic group of students today, and I really enjoyed sharing our prescription drug abuse prevention message with them. Ms. Forgy, the school’s associate principal, did an excellent job helping us organize the program at Woodford County High, and I’m grateful for her support. Around 1,250 students attended this morning’s presentation! My hope is that by presenting these programs at schools across the Commonwealth, we can save future generations of Kentuckians from the deadly consequences of prescription pill abuse.

    Right now, middle and high school students in Kentucky can help me spread the prescription drug abuse prevention message by participating in our annual PSA contest. Students should create a 30-second video warning others about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The contest deadline is just one month away, and the first place winner will receive an Apple iPad donated by the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. You can find all of the details about the competition by visiting my website at ag.ky.gov/rxabuse. I encourage all students to participate, and I’m looking forward to seeing many creative and informational videos.

    While you’re visiting the website, I hope you’ll check out my monthly column just posted this week. Protecting consumers from scams is the focus of the piece, and it’s also one of my top priorities as your Attorney General. Unfortunately, scammers will use the recent rollout of the Affordable Care Act as an opportunity to try and collect your personal and financial information. In the column, you can learn valuable tips from my Office of Consumer Protection to help keep you safe from scammers as you shop for health care coverage. This month’s column is available here. You can also read about all of the great work my office accomplished during the month of October in our monthly newsletter, Kentucky General News.

    Finally, this Monday is Veterans Day. It’s a time when our nation pauses to remember veterans both past and present. I am so grateful for the service of our military members, and I encourage you to join Elizabeth and me on Monday in recognizing and thanking our many veterans for their service to our country.

  • November 1

    As thousands of Kentuckians without health insurance seek out information and shop for insurance coverage, I want to make sure that all consumers are vigilant of scams claiming to be associated with Kentucky's rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Scammers will use this opportunity to try and collect your personal and financial information, and I joined Gov. Steve Beshear at a press conference earlier this week to alert Kentuckians about this important issue.

    On Monday, my office sent cease and desist notices to the operators of two websites reported to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. After entering data into the websites, consumers said they immediately started receiving non-stop phone calls seeking their information. Let me be clear, the only website Kentuckians should visit to enroll for healthcare coverage is kynect.ky.gov or healthcare.gov. Any website with a .com or .net at the end is a scam. My Office of Consumer Protection has put together a list of valuable tips that can help keep you safe from scammers. You can check those out here. Please protect your personal information, and if you notice anything suspicious report it by calling our Consumer Protection Hotline at 888-432-9257.

    On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to travel to south-central Kentucky for two Keep Kentucky Kids Safe programs. It was such a great day catching up with the students at Barren County and Warren East high schools. We spoke to more than 2,000 students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Since 2010, we've reached nearly 30,000 students, teachers and parents with our program! I'd like to thank concerned parent Mike Donta, Barren County Drug Task Force Director Jeff Scruggs and Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken, who all took the time to join me as guest speakers at the schools. I also appreciate so many of the great public servants who attended the programs, as well as the school leaders who allowed us to come and share such an important message. You can view photos from both school events on my Facebook page. Next Friday, we'll be taking our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to Woodford County High School.

    While in Warren County, I also had the chance to speak with the Bowling Green Rotary Club. I really enjoyed meeting with some great friends and updating Rotarians on news from my office and how we can work together to move Kentucky forward.

    Later today, I'll be joining U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan for an early learning town hall event in Williamsburg, Ky. Having access to affordable, quality early childhood education is incredibly important for our Commonwealth, and I'm looking forward to discussing ideas with Secretary Duncan about this issue during his visit to Kentucky.

    Next week, I'll be talking with the AFL-CIO at its biennial meeting in Louisville, and I'll also be catching up with my radio friends across the Commonwealth. On Monday morning, I'll be on the air with WLGC in Ashland, WKDZ in Cadiz, WBVR in Bowling Green and WTTL in Madisonville. I'll also be talking with Terry Meiners on 84WHAS in Louisville on Wednesday. I hope you'll tune in if you're in those areas.

  • October 25

    Prescription painkillers are the number one cause of accidental death in the United States. It’s a startling statistic plaguing the nation and our Commonwealth. The pills prescribed by doctors to help make us feel better are, in fact, killing Kentuckians at an alarming rate simply because the medications are being abused. This dangerous issue is an epidemic that is starting in home medicine cabinets, and I need your help to stop it.

    This Saturday, October 26, is the 7th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time, more than 70 prescription drug collection sites will be set up across the Commonwealth for you to drop off any old and unused prescription drugs you may have in your home. My office will be hosting a "Take-Back" event in Prestonsburg located at 361 North Lake Drive. You can also find a site in your community by visiting the DEA website here. I hope you will join us this weekend in our ongoing fight against prescription drug abuse.

    Earlier this week, we continued one of our initiatives created to warn Kentuckians about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and remind the public of how important securing and safely disposing of unneeded prescription pills is. With the generosity of Lamar Outdoor Advertising, prescription drug abuse awareness billboards are going up across the Commonwealth for a second year. Raising awareness about this issue through our billboard campaign is just one way we can help save lives. Lamar has donated the billboard space, and I’m grateful for the company’s help as we continue this important initiative. The Keep Kentucky Kids Safe billboards are already on display at locations in Lexington, and you can look for them in areas across central and southeastern Kentucky in the weeks to come.

    Next Wednesday, we’ll be taking our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe message to schools in Barren and Warren counties. I’m really looking forward to catching up with the students there about this important issue, especially during Red Ribbon Week. We’ll be meeting with 7th-9th graders in Barren County that morning, and we’ll speak to the student body at Warren East High School in the afternoon. I appreciate the support that we’ve received from these two school systems. My friend and Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partner Mike Donta will also be traveling with us to share with the students his story of losing his son to prescription drug overdose.

    Finally, I hope you’ll check out our latest video in our online "Face of Prescription Drug Abuse" campaign. We sat down with Dan Orman, assistant superintendent for Oldham County Schools, last month to tape this piece. Several years ago, Dan says school administrators became very concerned over a spike in drug and alcohol related offenses involving students. Since that time, faculty, staff and school board members have taken a proactive approach to help create positive changes in their schools. You can watch Dan’s message here to learn more about the great work school leaders there are doing. I am proud of the partnership the school district has formed with my office, and I appreciate its efforts to address and prevent these problems.

  • October 18

    This week, I was back in the courtroom for another hearing against the for-profit school National College over the false, misleading information its representatives provided students. I firmly believe National College should be sanctioned for failing to fully comply with my office’s investigation into this matter and request for documents. While the judge hasn’t yet issued a ruling, I appreciate his careful consideration in this case, and I will keep you updated as it progresses. Rest assured that my fight to protect consumers against the deceptive business practices of for-profit colleges will not stop.

    Later today, I’ll be catching up with several members of the media in western Kentucky. I’m looking forward to speaking with WSON’s Bill Stevens on his afternoon news radio program in Henderson. I’ll also be chatting with a reporter from WFIE-TV and sitting down with the anchors at WEHT-TV for the station’s 4 p.m. newscast. If you are in the Henderson area, I hope you’ll tune in. Recently, my office has had many significant developments in its fight to curb prescription drug abuse, and I’m eager to discuss those.

    For instance, a report released this month shows that the percentage of Kentucky teens misusing prescription drugs has dropped dramatically over the past four years. According to the 2012 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention School Survey, the declines have been the most significant since 2008, when my office, along with state lawmakers and other agencies across the Commonwealth, began intensifying efforts to fight prescription drug abuse.

    From the creation of Kentucky’s first and only statewide prescription drug abuse task force in 2009 to the launch of our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe campaign in 2010, an initiative that, to date, has reached more than 25,000 students, teachers and parents, I know the work we are continuing in the Office of the Attorney General to counteract this problem is paying dividends. Additionally, we’ve helped win the passage of comprehensive legislation to shut down pill mills and require doctors to check KASPER reports, and a drug policy report by Trust for America’s Health recognizes that. This month, Kentucky achieved a ranking of nine, on a scale of zero to 10, for its anti-pill-abuse policies.

    Still, the report underlines the prescription drug abuse epidemic with a staggering statistic: Kentucky has the third-highest rate of fatal overdoses - the vast majority from prescription pills - in the United States. Without question, this information represents the need for our efforts and shows that the work must continue.

    This weekend, I’ll be attending a charity event for the Louisville Metro Police Foundation. The foundation is such an important organization, and I am happy to support its mission. Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to protect us every day, and I would encourage you to take the time to thank one today for their service.

    Next week, I will be meeting with the Lexington-Fayette County Urban League, and I’ll also be announcing details on how you can help me prevent increased prescription drug abuse by taking part in a “Take-Back” event. We’ll have more information on that initiative coming soon.

  • October 11

    Raising awareness and educating Kentuckians about the dangers of prescription drug abuse are, irrefutably, two responsibilities of mine that I have cared very deeply about while serving as the Attorney General of our Commonwealth. I have seen the effects this problem has on Kentucky families. I have spoken with students who have lost family members to overdose, and I've met with parents who've lost their own children as a result of it. That's why my office continues its campaign to fight back against this issue.

    This week, I announced the start of our annual prescription drug prevention PSA contest for middle and high school students. The contest is a key component of our public awareness initiative to warn Kentucky kids about the consequences they face by taking pills not prescribed to them. As part of the competition, students produce a 30-second video showing the dangers of prescription drug abuse, and while the winners receive great prizes, my hope is that all participants take away a lasting message of knowing the devastating repercussions prescription drug abuse can have. I encourage all of our middle and high school students across the Commonwealth to get involved in this year's competition, and I'm eager to see all of the creative and informative videos that are submitted. You can learn more about the contest here.

    On Wednesday, I truly appreciated the opportunity to join Governor and First Lady Beshear at a press conference held to proclaim October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In Kentucky, one in three women is the victim of domestic violence at some point in her life, and every day in this country, three women are killed at the hands of their boyfriends or husbands. As the father of two daughters, this issue is incredibly close to my heart, and we need to ensure our families are kept safe from abuse.

    During the upcoming legislative session, Rep. John Tilley and Rep. Joni Jenkins will propose important pieces of legislation that will fill a dangerous gap in domestic violence protections. I support both of these lawmakers for their efforts, and I look forward to seeing this legislation pass. No one is immune to dating violence and abuse, and we must continue fighting for stronger laws to protect the rights of victims.

    On Thursday, we welcomed great news from my Office of Consumer Protection. Connecticut-based Affinion and its subsidiaries, Trilegiant and Webloyalty, will pay more than $30 million to 47 states, including Kentucky, and the District of Columbia to settle allegations that they misled consumers into signing up and paying for discount clubs and memberships.

    The companies operate a number of these programs offering a variety of services such as credit monitoring, roadside assistance and discounted travel. Many Kentucky consumers have alleged that Affinion charged them for services without their knowledge, and once consumers learned they were being charged, some had trouble cancelling or getting a refund. Kentucky's share of the settlement is $160,000. If you think you were improperly charged by Affinion or its subsidiaries, call my office at 502-696-5300 or file a complaint at ag.ky.gov. We're always working hard to protect Kentucky consumers, and I'm pleased that we were able to stop these deceptive marketing practices. You can find more information about the settlement here.

    On Monday morning, I'll be catching up with my radio friends across the Commonwealth at WAIN, WBVR and WKDZ. If you're in those areas, I hope you'll tune in.

    I will also be back in the courtroom next week for a hearing against the for-profit school National College over the false, misleading information its representatives provided students. I'll be sure to keep you posted on what happens. Hope you have a great weekend.

  • October 4

    This week, the Office of the Attorney General received great news regarding our case against Purdue Pharma. A judge ruled that the pharmaceutical company will have to face a jury in Pike County for allegedly lying about the addictive nature of OxyContin and helping fuel a prescription pill epidemic that has devastated our state. Previously, the company filed a motion to change the venue of the case from Pike County to Franklin County, which I opposed.

    The judge also ruled to admit a considerable amount of evidence against Purdue, including information that the company knew OxyContin was being abused and diverted from its intended use. I am very appreciative of the court’s careful consideration on this, and I look forward to the day when Purdue faces a Pike County jury and answers for its conduct.

    You can learn more about these two key rulings here.

    Meanwhile, our ongoing effort to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse is the focus of my latest monthly column. In September, my office, along with the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), the Prosecutors Advisory Council, and two concerned parents, unveiled the details of two $1500 scholarships for eligible students whose families have been adversely affected by prescription drug abuse.

    The scholarships are in memory of 19-year-old Sarah Shay and 24-year-old Michael Donta. Shay, of Morehead, Ky., died of a prescription drug overdose in 2006. Donta, of Ashland, Ky., lost his battle with prescription painkiller abuse in 2010. Sarah and Michael’s parents, Dr. Karen Shay and Mike Donta, now travel with me across the state as part of our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe initiative to warn middle and high school students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. To date, we've presented our message to more than 25,000 students, parents and teachers. It is inspiring to see the passion both Karen and Mike have for reaching out and speaking to our students about this important issue. Scholarship applications are available here.

    While visiting the website, middle and high school students can learn how to get involved in our annual video PSA competition. As part of the competition, students produce a 30-second video showing the risks of prescription drug abuse, and the winners receive great prizes donated by NADDI and the Kentucky Pharmacists Association. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the creative and informative videos that will be produced.

    I hope you will also take a moment to check out our monthly newsletter. It was just posted this week and highlights more of the great work my office accomplished in September.

    Additionally, I encourage you to keep up with the latest news from our office on via Facebook and Twitter. Visiting our social media pages is one of the best ways for you to know what’s happening in the Office of the Attorney General.

    On Monday morning, I will be catching up with my radio friends at WLGC in Ashland and WTTL in Madisonville. If you’re in one of those areas, be sure to listen in! Have a great weekend.

  • September 27

    We had a very busy week in the Office of the Attorney General!

    On Monday, I was proud to announce that two high school seniors affected by prescription drug abuse will now have an opportunity for a second chance. My office, along with the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, the Prosecutor’s Advisory Council and the parents of two young overdose victims, unveiled the details of two $1500 scholarships that eligible students can now apply for. The scholarships are in memory of 19-year-old Sarah Shay and 24-year-old Michael Donta, who both lost their lives to prescription drug overdose.

    Since their passing, parents Dr. Karen Shay and Mike Donta have been instrumental in the success of our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program. I can’t imagine the pain these two parents have lived through, but their passion for reaching out to students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse is inspiring.

    In the spring, the Sarah Shay and Michael Donta Memorial Scholarships will be awarded to one young man and one young woman who have excelled in their personal and academic endeavors despite seeing firsthand the consequences of prescription drug abuse. You can learn more about the scholarships here.

    Mike Donta joined me on Thursday at Shelby County High School for our second Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program of this school year. We reached around 1300 students with our message that morning! I would like to thank Superintendent James Neihof and Principal Eddie Oakley for allowing us to come speak to a great group of kids. I also appreciate Mayor Tom Hardesty, County Attorney Hart Megibben, Shelbyville Police Chief Danny Goodwin and Chief Deputy Gene Witt, of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, for supporting our efforts by taking the time to attend the program. Check out this week’s Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program at Shelby County High here.

    Earlier this week, I joined Mayor Jim Gray for a wonderful announcement in Lexington. Thanks to funds my office recovered from a settlement involving a mortgage foreclosure servicing company and two of its subsidiaries, $750,000 will be spent on projects there aimed at preventing foreclosures and creating affordable housing. It is incredibly fulfilling for me to know that this money will be used to help so many families in the city.

    I also enjoyed a great Commerce Lexington Policy Luncheon this week. I had the opportunity to meet with several state and local leaders to discuss a variety of issues on the minds of Kentuckians and how to best move this state forward.

    One issue recently brought to the forefront involves the production of industrial hemp in Kentucky. On Wednesday, my office issued an advisory letter clarifying our state’s laws with respect to this issue in the Commonwealth. As the chief legal officer for Kentucky, it is my job to state what the law is.

    I support the idea of industrial hemp farming in Kentucky, so long as our farmers receive a waiver from the federal government and law enforcement officials can enforce it. However, putting hemp seeds into Kentucky soil is simply not legal at this time.

    Without question, some of our greatest assets are our Kentucky farmers, and they should be able to diversify and grow different crops. At the same time, our farmers must be protected, and they cannot be given misleading and false information about industrial hemp farming in Kentucky.

  • September 20

    This week, I had the opportunity to speak to a great group of young men at Trinity High School about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. This was the kick-off event for the 2013-2014 Keep Kentucky Kids Safe programs, an effort I am proud to be a part of each year. Since launching the program in 2010, we've taken our message to more than 20,000 middle and high school students across the Commonwealth. We are making a difference in this battle against prescription drug abuse. I would like to thank Trinity High School President Dr. Robert Mullen and Principal Dan Zoeller for allowing me to talk to their students, and I look forward to educating many more students and teachers this school year about the dangers of abusing these drugs. You can watch this week’s program at Trinity here.

    On Monday, we will announce the details of two scholarships created to help students affected by prescription drug abuse. The toll that the scourge of prescription painkiller abuse has taken on Kentucky families is alarming, and I refuse to lose another generation to this addiction. This money will help two young people get a fresh start and a chance at completing their college education. Look for the scholarship applications to be posted on our website Monday morning.

    Earlier this week, I joined representatives from The Housing Partnership, Inc. (HPI) and the Kentucky Housing Corporation to announce how funds my office secured from the historic national mortgage foreclosure settlement will help rehabilitate an apartment complex in Jefferson County. This was such a great event, and I’m proud that $600,000 from the settlement will be used to improve the neighborhood, while creating safe and affordable housing for 65 families.

    Additionally, I will be making an announcement on Tuesday in Lexington regarding projects there that will be receiving funding through a settlement with a mortgage foreclosure servicing company. Our mission is to rehab or create affordable housing and to provide assistance to agencies that counsel or help those displaced due to foreclosure. I’m eager to recognize the various organizations that will benefit from this money. We will have more details on the announcement next week.

    While in Lexington, I will also have the opportunity to speak at the Commerce Lexington Public Policy Luncheon. I look forward to meeting with many of our community leaders and discussing my views on how to best move Kentucky forward.

    Finally, I encourage you to join Elizabeth and me in taking a moment to remember the victims of the shooting at Washington Navy Yard earlier this week. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those men and women who died in the attack.

  • September 13

    This week, Louisville hosted the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) for its annual Fall Policy Conference. I enjoyed being able to show the members around my hometown and give them a glimpse of the great corporations and cultural attractions Louisville has to offer.

    During the conference, I also had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about pursuing criminals in the digital age. This is an important issue that my office works tirelessly to help combat. Earlier this year, my Cybercrimes Unit celebrated its 5th anniversary. Since its creation, we’ve launched 341 child pornography investigations and seized more than 403,000 child porn images and videos from the Internet. I am proud to say that the unit’s investigative efforts have also resulted in a 100 percent conviction rate.

    On Tuesday, we learned great news from the Food and Drug Administration. After being contacted by me and 42 of my colleagues, the FDA agreed to put warnings on long-acting and extended release opioid painkillers regarding the dangers of use during pregnancy. The statistics showing the number of babies being born addicted to prescription drugs are alarming. In Kentucky alone, instances of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) skyrocketed 2,500 percent from 2001 to 2011. We can help reverse this trend by educating patients about the dangers of these drugs.

    Next week, I will be in Louisville for two very important presentations. Thanks to mortgage settlement funds my office was able to secure from the nation’s five largest banks, 65 apartment units in a section of Louisville will be renovated. I am proud that The Housing Partnership, Inc. will be able to use the money to invest and improve the neighborhood while creating safe and affordable housing.

    On Monday afternoon, I will help kick-off a program that is very close to my heart. Our first Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program of the 2013-2014 school year will be held at Trinity High School. Nationally, prescription painkillers are the number one cause of accidental death in the United States. I have seen the effects these drugs can have on Kentucky families when abused, and I look forward to each school year when I can speak directly to our youth in hopes of putting an end to this problem. You can learn more about our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe efforts here.

  • September 6

    It's been a busy week in the Office of the Attorney General!

    On Wednesday, we taped one of our "Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse" videos with Dan Orman, assistant superintendent for Oldham County Schools. In his position, Dan has witnessed the problems of substance abuse firsthand. As a matter of fact, during the 2008-2009 school year, district leaders faced an alarming trend — 98 drug and alcohol-related suspensions. That's when faculty, staff and school board members took a proactive approach to help create positive changes in their schools. For that reason, this past school year for Oldham County Schools marked the fourth consecutive year that the total number of drug and alcohol-related incidents at school and school-sponsored activities has dropped.

    I encourage you to watch for Dan's message, which will be posted soon on our YouTube channel, to learn more about how his district has partnered with the Office of the Attorney General and what the district is doing to help address and prevent these problems among its students.

    Our "Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse" series is the focus of my latest monthly column. According to the 2012 Kentucky Health Issues Poll, one in three Kentuckians has a friend or family member who has experienced problems as a result of abusing pain killers. Prescription drug abuse is destroying families across the Commonwealth. Take a moment to read my column, and if you have a story about how your life has been affected by prescription drug abuse, please consider sharing it as a part of our online video series.

    On Thursday afternoon, I briefed members of the media on the investigation involving former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer. In April 2012, my office received an investigative referral after a completed audit of Farmer's tenure outlined a myriad of disturbing incidents. Our joint investigation with the FBI found that Farmer violated election campaign laws when he submitted more than $10,000 in false receipts for personal reimbursement to his 2008 re-election campaign account. The investigation also uncovered that his sister, a former employee of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, helped Farmer commit the crime.

    As a result, my office filed notice in Franklin Circuit Court on Thursday of their intentions to plead guilty to violating Kentucky election finance laws. These charges are in addition to federal charges that Farmer faces. The actions of Farmer during his time as agriculture commissioner are disappointing, and it is an issue I take very seriously. I want Kentuckians to know that these types of crimes where tax dollars are wasted will not be tolerated.

    Our monthly newsletter, which was just posted this week, highlights more of the great work my office accomplished in August. I hope you will take a look at it to learn more about our ongoing efforts to make Kentucky a safer place to live, work and raise a family.

    I'm looking forward to catching up with my radio friends across the Commonwealth on Monday morning at WLGC, WAIN, WBVR and WTTL. I'll be updating everyone on the latest news from my office, so if you're in those areas, be sure to tune in. Have a great weekend.

  • August 30

    This week, I had the opportunity to speak with a reporter from WAVE 3 about my ongoing fight to protect consumers against some for-profit colleges. You can watch the story here. In it, single mother Michelle Moffitt shares her own story of being left unemployed and in debt following her experience with National College. I sincerely believe some for-profit schools in Kentucky have violated the Commonwealth's consumer protection act by taking advantage of students just like Michelle. That's why my office has filed civil lawsuits against three of the schools and is investigating others. I am very proud of our continuing efforts to get relief for students.

    Additionally, I sat down with a reporter from National Public Radio's Marketplace on Tuesday to discuss the issues that have arisen between for-profit institutions and veterans. Last year, my office led a bipartisan effort against QuinStreet, Inc. and the company's predatory practices, which resulted in a $2.5 million settlement and a win for veterans. You can read more about the settlement here. Also, listen for our story with Marketplace to air on radio stations nationwide very soon.

    Wednesday marked 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic "I Have a Dream" address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a monument built in honor of a great Kentuckian. May we all remember Dr. King's legacy, recognize his achievements for civil rights and be reminded that he is proof one person can help change the world.

    Elizabeth and I will use this upcoming holiday weekend to spend time with our two girls. I hope you will have the opportunity to do the same with your family, as you soak up the last few days of summer. We should also take time to pause and celebrate our American laborers, who work tirelessly for the betterment of our Commonwealth and our country. Please have an enjoyable and safe Labor Day weekend.

    Lastly, I would like to wish all of our great college football teams across Kentucky the best of luck as this new season gets underway!

  • August 23

    It was a great week welcoming prosecutors from across the Commonwealth to the annual Kentucky Prosecutors Conference. The recipients of the 2013 Outstanding County Attorney Awards were Jenny Oldham, Hardin County Attorney since January 2011, and Mark Metcalf, who is in his third term as Garrard County Attorney. The recipients of the 2013 Outstanding Commonwealth's Attorney Awards were Laura Donnell, Commonwealth's Attorney for the 53rd Judicial Circuit representing Anderson, Shelby and Spencer counties, and Brent Turner, who serves as Commonwealth's Attorney for the 31st Judicial Circuit representing Floyd County. Please join me in congratulating the four of them on their outstanding work and service to our Commonwealth! You can see photos from the event here.

    Earlier this week, I announced that as part of the historic national mortgage foreclosure settlement, 1,833 Kentucky homeowners have received more than $63.7 million in settlement-related relief from the nation's five largest mortgage servicers. This is real relief for Kentucky families, and I am proud that the total amount provided to Kentuckians has exceeded our original estimate. You can learn more about the settlement from our press release.

    I also enjoyed attending this year's Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast on Thursday. The event is such a great tradition spotlighting the many outstanding products that are produced by our Kentucky farmers.

    The Conway girls started preschool this week. I hope you and your families are having successful back-to-school experiences. We will be gearing up to take our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe message, which alerts students to the dangers of prescription abuse, to more than a dozen schools across the state this year. We will have more details on how we will be expanding that initiative coming very soon.

  • August 16

    I enjoyed kicking off the Kentucky State Fair on Thursday at one of my favorite events, the Kentucky Commodity Breakfast. It is always a great day when you can serve home-grown products from Kentucky farmers. Our farmers are one of our greatest assets. If you plan to attend the state fair, make sure to try some of the Kentucky Proud products. I also encourage you to stop by our booth in the Kidz Biz section of the South Wing. We have important information on protecting yourself and your children from Internet predators, and our efforts to combat prescription drug abuse. Make sure to pick up some of our give-away items!

    We added a new video this week to our Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse series. Dawn Thompson, a mother of three from Shelbyville, Ky., talks about how her addiction to prescription painkillers nearly drove her to suicide. Dawn's courage, and determination to overcome the scourge of prescription pill addiction, is an inspiration. Please take a few moments to watch Dawn's video. If you've been affected by prescription drug abuse, share your story through our Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse video series on our Rx Abuse page.

    There was a great crowd at the Governor's Local Issues Conference in Louisville yesterday. I talked to leaders from across Kentucky about our efforts in the Office of the Attorney General to protect families, and how we can work together in the future to move Kentucky forward.

    Finally, like many of us in Kentucky, my thoughts and prayers have been with the families of the pilots aboard UPS flight 1354 and with the entire UPS family.

  • August 9

    I was back in Franklin Circuit Court this afternoon as our efforts continue to get National College to comply with a civil investigative subpoena we issued two-and-a-half years ago. I appreciate Judge Phillip Shepherd's careful consideration of this matter. We'll be back in his court again next Friday.

    I traveled to Northern Kentucky on Wednesday to announce a 14-count indictment against a long-time youth coach in Boone County on allegations he sexually abused six boys. 46-year-old Michael Edward Schweitzer was originally charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy. Since then, five more boys have stepped forward. My Office of Special Prosecutions is handling the prosecution of this case.

    I want to assure the parents of the children who've come forward that this case is a top priority for me and my office. Schweitzer has coached football, basketball, baseball and wrestling for 20 years. If your child may have had contact with Schweitzer, have a family conversation about this matter and contact the Boone County Sheriff's Department if there is any evidence of abuse.

    For more information, please see our press release.

    I'm looking forward to attending the 2013 Kentucky State Fair Commodities Breakfast on the opening day of the state fair next Thursday, August 15. If you're going to the fair, stop by our booth in the law enforcement section of the South Wing. We'll have give-away items and important information about keeping your kids safe online and combatting the scourge of prescription drug abuse in Kentucky.

  • August 2

    I appreciated the opportunity to meet this afternoon with members of the Community Task Force in Paducah to brief them on recent meetings in Washington to discuss the Gaseous Diffusion Plant. My discussion with senior energy department officials focused on the future of the plant and its 1100 employees, and efforts to clean up the nuclear material from the site. I also let officials know that Kentucky is tired of bearing the brunt of costs associated with new environmental policies curbing the use of coal.

    It is the federal government's responsibility to clean up an environmental mess here in the Commonwealth. This administration must not turn its back on the environment and people of Kentucky. Be assured, I won't let that happen. For more information on today's meetings, please see our press release.

    There was a great crowd last night at the Alben Barkley Dinner. I was an honor to attend the dinner with Clay Barkley, the great-grandson of the former Vice President Barkley. Clay is the Civil Director in my Office.

    Of course, I'm looking forward to meeting with folks at the 133rd Annual Fancy Farm Picnic tomorrow. I'll be speaking and attending a number of events. If you're making the drive to Graves County and St. Jerome Parish, make sure to say hi.

  • July 26

    I was in Franklin Circuit Court again today in our continued effort to get National College to comply with a civil investigative subpoena we issued in December 2010. I appreciate the Court's careful consideration of this matter.

    We have good news to report in our fight against prescription drug. The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy today released a report that shows, for the first time in a decade, overdose deaths declined in 2012.

    Kentucky is also, for the first time, below the national average when it comes to prescription drug abuse, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    The implementation of House Bill 1 last year has helped us gain ground in our fight against prescription drug abuse in communities across the Commonwealth. There is no doubt in my mind that passage of this landmark legislation has helped save lives.

    While this is welcome news, the 2012 Overdose Fatality Report also shows an alarming increase in heroin related deaths-up 550 percent from 2011. My Office is currently working with state lawmakers on legislation to try and stop this disturbing trend.

    Earlier in the week, I was in Washington, D.C. to meet with Department of Energy (DOE) officials regarding the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. In a meeting with Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman, I expressed my concerns that Kentucky is bearing the brunt of costs associated with new environmental policies curbing the use of coal. I also stressed that it is the federal government's responsibility to clean up an environmental mess here in the Commonwealth. I've asked Dep. Sec. Poneman to increase funding for cleanup at the site.

    It's time for the United States government to stand by the people of Paducah and do what's right. For more information, please see our release.

    I was pleased there was a quick resolution to a matter involving my Office and nationally syndicated columnist John Rosemond. Please see the press release.

    As always, I enjoyed my visit with Bill Bryant to tape this week's episode of Kentucky Newsmakers. The program will air on WKYT. Bill and I talked about the latest news in the AG's office, the Senate Race, the next Governor's race, and Fancy Farm.

    The warm welcome I received yesterday from members of the Berea Chamber of Commerce was greatly appreciated. I also enjoyed stopping by the FBI-LEEDA Identity Theft Training in Louisville to help welcome attendees.

  • July 19

    A veteran investigator in my Drug Investigations Branch has received statewide recognition for her work investigating convicted pill mill owner Ernest Singleton. Singleton was found guilty in U.S. District Court last month of illegally dispensing prescription drugs to thousands of patients through his pain clinics in Georgetown and Dry Ridge.

    Yesterday, Lynne Thompson was one of three investigators to receive the Narcotics Officer of the Year Award from the Kentucky Narcotics Officers' Association (KNOA). I am thrilled that Lynne's efforts have been recognized and I am proud to have her as a member of my staff. For more information, please see our press release.

    A Madison County grand jury yesterday handed down indictments in two separate cases investigated by my Department of Criminal Investigations. Former Madison County Clerk William Gabbard faces one count of failure to make required disposition of property over $300, while a deputy jailer in the Madison County Detention Center is charged with one count of official misconduct.

    I'll be back in Franklin Circuit Court next week in our lawsuit against National College for allegedly misrepresenting job placement numbers to its students. The Court ordered National to comply with the subpoena we issued in 2010 related or provide legal justification for failing to do so. I look forward to sharing more information with you following Monday's hearing.

    I'll also be on the road later in the week, visiting with WKYT's Bill Bryant for Kentucky Newsmakers and speaking to the Berea Chamber of Commerce lunch at noon on Thursday, July 25.

  • July 12

    It was great visiting with folks in Winchester earlier this week. I was the keynote speaker at the Winchester Rotary Club and welcomed the opportunity to update Rotarians on the latest news and priority issues within the Office of the Attorney General. I appreciate all the Rotary Club does to address important issues within the community, particularly those that affect Kentucky youth.

    In other news this week, we announced the sentencing of Owsley County Clerk Sid Gabbard after he pled guilty to abuse of public trust and tax evasion charges. Gabbard was sentenced to five years probated following his payment of more than $61,100 in restitution, and repayment of back taxes. He also resigned his post.

    The charges against Gabbard are the result of an investigation by my Department of Criminal Investigations and the Department of Revenue's Division of Special Investigations. For more information, please see our press release.

    We put another child pornographer behind bars this week. Lawrence Circuit Judge John Preston followed our recommendation and sentenced 51-year-old Thomas Meade of Blaine, Ky. to five years in prison for possession and distribution of child pornography.

    The charges against Meade are the result of an investigation by my Cybercrimes Unit. My Office of Special Prosecutions helped bring this case to a successful close in Lawrence Circuit Court earlier today.

  • July 5

     
    Elizabeth and I enjoyed some family time yesterday as we celebrated the nation’s birthday and the birthday of our youngest daughter, Alex. I hope you had a great 4th and that you were able to thank a veteran for his or her service to our great nation.
     
    Despite the holiday, we had a busy week in the Office of the Attorney General. I went to Franklin Circuit Court on Monday to argue our case against National College and why it should comply with a civil investigative subpoena we issued in December 2010. We’ve issued seven civil subpoenas to for-profit colleges doing business in Kentucky.  National College is the only school that has not responded to our questions. Rather than answer our subpoena, National filed a meritless lawsuit claiming we lacked authority to investigate them.  The trial court ruled in our favor, as did the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court refused to exercise its discretion to hear National's appeal, so the case is back in Franklin Circuit Court on a narrow issue. 
     
    The Court has ordered National to comply with the subpoena by July 15 or provide legal justification for failing to do so. We filed suit against National College in Fayette Circuit Court in September 2011 over allegations the school misrepresented job placement numbers to its students, however we have been unable to investigate the full extent of its operations while the Franklin Circuit case about our subpoena authority has been on appeal.
     
    I appreciate Judge Phillip Shepherd’s careful consideration of this matter and was pleased that he recognized during the court proceedings that this matter is of the utmost importance to the Commonwealth and consumers, and it should be resolved quickly. 

    We also announced this week the final payments for Eastern Livestock victims. We distributed an additional $56,500 to Kentucky farmers who were swindled by the now-defunct Eastern Livestock, but who weren’t listed in the original indictment. This brings to nearly $900,000 the total amount of restitution we distributed to Kentucky farmers caught-up in Eastern’s check-kiting scheme.  I am very proud of my staff and proud of the fact that we never lost sight of the victims, and never gave up trying to recover the money they lost. For more information, please see our press release.
     
    I’ll be hitting the road next week, traveling to Winchester on Tuesday to speak to the Rotary Club. If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello.  I’m also looking forward to talking to Lisa Clark with WAIN Radio in Columbia, Ky. on Monday morning about the latest news from my office.  I hope you’ll tune-in.

     
  • June 28

    Yesterday, Kentucky Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power (AEP), announced its intention to seek a 31 percent rate increase to recover costs associated with the Mitchell Plant asset transfer. I believe a 31 percent residential rate increase is far too much for hard-working Eastern Kentucky residents to absorb during these tough economic times. Be assured, we will oppose this filing before the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

    It was great to stop by and welcome attendees of the National Association of Attorneys Generals (NAAG)'s "Negotiation Skills" training in Louisville earlier this week. Some of Louisville's finest litigators, including some of my senior staff members, assisted with this important training. I shared with the group our many accomplishments in the Office of the Attorney General, from making the Internet a safer place for Kentucky kids to combating prescription drug abuse and investigating abuses within the for-profit college industry. I am proud of the work we're doing here in Kentucky and I am proud of the partnerships we've forged through NAAG.

    I'm looking forward to going back into the courtroom on Monday to present oral arguments in the lawsuit we've filed against National College for allegedly misrepresenting job placement numbers to its students. Our case is being heard in Franklin Circuit Court. National College is one of three for-profit colleges I've sued as part of my investigation into potential abuses in the for-profit college industry.

    Finally, Kentucky lost a true class act this week with the passing of Judge Ed Johnstone. He was a credit to the bench and his contributions to the Commonwealth of Kentucky won't soon be forgotten. My prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

    My prayers are also with all of our military men and women who sacrifice so much each and every day to defend our freedom. It is because of their bravery and dedication that we are able to celebrate Independence Day. Please have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July.

  • June 21

    On behalf of the Unified Prosecutorial system and law enforcement across the Commonwealth of Kentucky, it was an honor to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Kosair Charities Child Advocacy Center in downtown Louisville. This center at 5th and Kentucky Streets brings together under one roof all of the services children in crisis may need. That includes intervention services, law enforcement assistance, forensic interviews and counseling.

    God bless Kosair Charities, Humana and all of the partners who had the vision, dedication and generosity to make this national model a reality in my hometown.

    I am pleased to announce the conviction in U.S. District Court yesterday of the operator of two pill mills in Kentucky. William Singleton faces between five and 20 years in federal prison for illegally dispensing prescription drugs to thousands of patients. This conviction was a collaborative effort between my office and our state and federal law enforcement partners, and it shows that we are serious about trying to make a dent in the scourge of prescription painkillers in the Commonwealth. Singleton will be sentenced in October.

    As a father of two young girls, I know how important early childhood education is. That's why it was an honor to join U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan yesterday as he announced the administration's plan to expand early childhood development in this year's budget cycle. We know that a child who can't read at age seven or eight is likely to become a dropout at 16. I applaud the administration's efforts to make high-quality preschool programs available to all lower and middle class families in America.

    I truly hope this policy initiative becomes a reality.

    Also this week, Urban Outfitters did the right thing and halted sales of its "Prescription Line" of products. These products, which included pint glasses, shot glasses and flasks made to look like prescription pill bottles, made light of an epidemic that kills thousands of people each month in the United States. Please see our press release.

  • June 7

    I had a terrific time at last night's annual Wendell H. Ford Dinner in Louisville. I was honored to serve as emcee at an event that brings together Democrats from across the Commonwealth. My friend and colleague Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, was the keynote speaker. It was gratifying to hear the praise from General Biden and others about Kentucky's strong leadership. I am energized and excited about the future of our great Commonwealth.

    The annual dinner also serves as a reminder of Wendell Ford's tremendous service to Kentucky and the nation, from his work in the area of civil rights and minority and women's issues, to his service in the National Guard. He is a great Kentuckian and an inspiration to those of who have dedicated our lives to public service.

    I also welcomed the opportunity to speak at the Metropolitan Housing Coalition's annual meeting this week. I briefed attendees on the national mortgage settlement and our efforts to ensure that struggling Kentucky homeowners receive the relief they are due.

    In addition to the more than $61.1 million in settlement-related relief from Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, Chase and Wells Fargo, 7,801 eligible borrowers in Kentucky will receive more than $11 million for mortgage servicing abuses. Checks to borrowers who submitted valid claims will be mailed June 10 through June 17. These checks come from a $1.5 billion pool we negotiated and set aside as part of the National Mortgage Settlement. For more information, please see our press release.

    My Cybercrimes Unit marked its 5th anniversary this week. Since its creation in June of 2008, the Unit has launched 341 child pornography investigations, seized more than 403,000 child pornographic images and videos from the Internet and processed more than 6,100 hard drives and removable devices, for a total of 133 Terabytes of data.

    We've also obtained 114 child pornography convictions — for a 100 percent conviction rate! That includes the arrest and conviction of a retired Florida school teacher who traveled to Kentucky to have sexual relations with what he believed to be two juveniles. Dale Chisena Sr. is now serving a 30-year prison sentence.

    I am so proud of our many accomplishments. My cybercrimes investigators have truly made the Internet a safer place for Kentucky kids. For more information, please see our press release.

  • May 31

    The show of support I witnessed yesterday from law enforcement and the community at the funeral for Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis was incredibly moving. I was reminded, once again, how proud I am of our law enforcement family. Officers from across Kentucky and the nation were among the estimated 2,000 people who turned out to pay their respects to Officer Ellis and provide a shoulder to lean on for the slain officer's family. My prayers are with Ellis' wife and children who are trying to make sense of this senseless act of violence.

    I was pleased to join First Lady Jane Beshear, Senate President Robert Stivers and Representative John Tilley at the Recovery Kentucky Task Force Ceremony at the Capitol to announce grants for two Recovery Kentucky centers. Walmart presented $20,000 to help fund programs at Trilogy Inc. in Hopkinsville and Cumberland Hope in Evarts.

    We are making progress in the fight against prescription drug abuse in Kentucky, but we must do more. We must expand treatment options available to those who want to turn their lives around. There are about 2,400 treatment beds in Kentucky, but a recent SAMSHA survey shows there are 280,000 Kentuckians who need alcohol and/or drug treatment. Only about 31,000 of those 280,000 people are currently getting help.

    I've sued the makers of OxyContin for allegedly creating an epidemic of prescription drug abuse and for misleading the public about the addictive nature of this powerful painkiller. If we are successful, I'll use money from the lawsuit to expand treatment opportunities in Kentucky.

    Backed by 23 of my colleagues, I have again called on Urban Outfitters to stop selling its "Prescription Line" of products. These are pint glasses, shot glasses and flasks that mimic prescription pill bottles. These products make light of an epidemic that kills more than 1,000 Kentuckians each year.

    My colleagues and I recently sent a letter to Urban Outfitters CEO & Chairman Richard Hayne. We've urged him to remove these products from store shelves and join with us to fight prescription drug abuse. For more information, please see our press release.

    I had a great evening attending and speaking at the Shelby County Jefferson Jackson Dinner on Wednesday night. There was wonderful fellowship with fellow Democrats. I am excited about the future of the Democratic Party in Kentucky.

    Today, more than 250 volunteers came together, in partnership with Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and KaBoom, to construct a playground to serve at-risk and previously homeless children at St. Vincent de Paul in Louisville. It was an honor to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for this wonderful new playground and to witness folks coming together to make our community a better place for kids in need.

    Finally, my Cybercrimes Unit celebrates its 5th anniversary next week. I am looking forward to sharing some exciting news about our many accomplishments over the past five years.

  • May 24

    Our nation has once again witnessed strength, determination and incredible bravery in the face of disaster.  From the teachers who helped save their students’ lives to the first responders who dug through debris in search of survivors, so many heroes emerged from Monday’s devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.

    While disasters like this bring out the best in people, they can also bring out the worst. If you plan to make a donation to assist storm victims in Oklahoma, please make sure you donate to a reputable relief agency, like the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army or efforts organized through your place of worship.  For more information, please see our press release.
     
    Relief for Kentucky homeowners under the national mortgage foreclosure settlement has topped $61 million.  That’s according to the fourth post-settlement report released this week by the independent settlement monitor.  More than 1,700 struggling Kentucky homeowners received more than $61.1 million from Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, Chase and Wells Fargo through March 31, 2013.
     
    While this is certainly good news, there have been some complaints from consumers that the servicers are not meeting their obligations under the settlement.  I am collaborating with my colleagues around the country to determine the best way to resolve these complaints to ensure that consumers receive the relief entitled to them.  More information is available in our press release .

    I’m looking forward to speaking at the Recovery Kentucky Task Force ceremony next Wednesday, May 29 at the Capitol. Two Recovery Kentucky centers, Cumberland Hope Community Center and Trilogy Center for Women will receive grants from the Walmart Foundation.
     
    Please join me this Memorial Day weekend in remembering the men and women in our armed forces who have lost their lives protecting our freedom.  Elizabeth and I will also continue to pray for the safe return home of those currently serving overseas.   
     
    Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.
     
     
  • May 17

    Each year, approximately 15 million Americans have their identities stolen, resulting in financial losses of more than $50 billion. Identity theft not only jeopardizes a person’s financial security, it jeopardizes their security.  
     
    I am pleased to again partner with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central and Eastern Kentucky to host a free “Shred Day” for Lexington residents tomorrow. The public is encouraged to bring documents that contain bank account numbers, credit card information, Social Security numbers, and other personal data to the Lowes Home Improvement store at 2300 Greg Lag Way between 9 a.m. and noon.
    Cintas will shred the documents on site. We’ll offer a similar service to Louisville residents this fall. For more information, please see our
     
    I was incredibly moved by the strength and courage of the families who attended our Victims’ Rights Day Service and dedication of names onto the Kentucky Homicide Memorial at Resthaven Cemetery on Monday. The names of 33 homicide victims were added to the memorial. As we remembered each one of these victims and their families, we also reflected on the victims lost in the nation’s deadliest drunk driving crash.
    Tuesday, May 14, marked the 25th anniversary of the Carroll County bus crash. Karolyn Nunnallee’s 10-year-old daughter Patty was the youngest of those killed in the crash. The grief that Karolyn and her family have endured, and all of the victims of the bus crash, is unimaginable.  
     
    Speaking during our Victims’ Rights Day Service, Karolyn had a powerful message for all who have been affected by violent crime. She said, ‘we can either become bitter or better, and we can make change if we so choose.’ Karolyn chose to make a change, turning her grief into action.  
     
    It is because of Karolyn’s courage and commitment that Kentucky now has lower DUI limits and a nearly 20 percent decline in the number of DUI crashes. Thanks to her efforts, our children ride on safer school buses.
    So many other families touched by tragedy have helped change our Commonwealth for the better; from strengthening our DUI laws to establishing the VINE notification system and creating important legislation, like my comprehensive Cybersafety law and landmark legislation to combat prescription drug abuse.  
     
    My staff and I will continue to work every day to ensure that your voices are heard.
  • May 10

    National retailer Urban Outfitters has crossed the line by selling pint glasses, shot glasses and flasks made to look like prescription pill bottles. To equate painkillers with alcohol or even suggest that they be used together is very dangerous and the height of irresponsibility.

    Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and I, along with our colleagues from across the country, will be sending a letter to Urban Outfitters to urge the retailer to stop selling these products. For more information, please see the press release we issued this week.

    On Monday, May 13, my Office of Victim Advocacy and I will host the annual Crime Victims' Rights Day Service and the Kentucky Homicide Memorial dedication of names at Louisville's Resthaven Cemetery. Thirty-three names have been added to the homicide memorial. I hope you will keep these families, and all of Kentucky's crime victims, in your prayers.

    We will also remember the victims of the Carrollton bus crash during Monday's ceremony. Tuesday, May 14 marks the 25th anniversary of the deadliest DUI crash in our nation's history. Twenty seven people, mostly children, died when Larry Mahoney drove the wrong way, drunk, on the interstate in Carroll County. Thirty four others were injured in the crash.

    Karolyn Nunnallee, whose 10-year-old daughter died in the crash, will be the featured speaker at our Victims' Rights Day event. Karolyn's courage and commitment to her family helped turn this tragedy into an opportunity for change. Her efforts helped strengthen the nation's DUI laws, lower DUI limits, and increase school bus safety for all children.

    If you're in the Columbia, Ky. area, tune into WAIN Radio on Monday morning. I'll be talking to Lisa Clark about the latest news from my Office.

  • May 3

    A former Eastern Kentucky pain clinic owner pled guilty this week to charges he defrauded the Medicaid program. Dr. Lee Balaklaw was ordered to pay more than $140,000 in restitution and is barred from participating in all federally funded health programs for at least five years. I appreciate the hard work of my Medicaid Fraud division in investigating and prosecuting this case. Our commitment to combatting Medicaid Fraud have not gone unnoticed. In 2012, we earned the title of one of the most aggressive Medicaid Fraud Units in the country. For more information, please see our press release.

    Also this week, I released a new video public service announcement. These brief video PSAs cover a variety of topics related to the work we are doing in the Attorney General's Office to make Kentucky a safer place to live, work and raise a family. This month's PSA is on our new "Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse" video series.

    Visiting the backside of Churchill Downs this week reminded me of how wonderful it is to be a Kentuckian at Derby time. On Tuesday, I enjoyed catching up with more than a dozen radio stations from across the state taking part in the Kentucky Derby Festival's AT&T Morning Line at the Derby Museum. On Wednesday, I talked with Louisville TV and radio stations covering Dawn at the Downs about the work we're doing in the Attorney General's Office.

    Churchill Downs and the Derby hold a special place in my heart. My family and I will always cherish the chance we had in 2010 to watch Stately Victor, the horse I co-own with my father, run in the Kentucky Derby. This was a dream come true and a fitting tribute to my childhood friend Victor Perrone, whose life ended far too soon.

    This year, Elizabeth and I look forward to making new Derby memories with family and friends. My top pick for Derby 139 is Normandy Invasion.

    Whatever your Derby tradition, we hope that you have a safe and enjoyable Derby weekend.

  • April 26

    We had two great Keep Kentucky Kids Safe programs yesterday in Perry and Pike counties. I am truly grateful for the incredible support our programs receive from local law enforcement and community leaders. I was particularly pleased to have Pike County Sheriff "Fuzzy" Keesee join me at Mullins Middle School. Elected to office in 1962, he is Kentucky's longest serving Sheriff.

    Since I launched the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program in 2010, I've visited dozens of middle and high schools, warning more than 20,000 students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. I will never forget the students who have quietly and bravely shared with me how prescription pills have affected their families. I heard from more students yesterday, some as young as 11, and my heart continues to break for the children who are bearing the scars of this scourge.

    One young boy tearfully shared with me how his mother was attacked by an addict. Another girl sat in the audience with tears in her eyes. She lost her father two weeks ago to a prescription drug overdose. These are 5th, 6th and 7th graders whose lives are forever changed. It was hard not to get choked up as I looked at the pain on so many of their faces.

    As always, I am grateful for the concerned parents, like Mike Donta, who join me at these programs. It was also an honor to have Operation UNITE Vice President Dan Smoot participate in yesterday's programs.

    If you have expired or unused prescription medications at home, make sure to safely dispose of them. Law enforcement across Kentucky will be collecting prescription drugs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow as part of the DEA's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Visit http://goo.gl/YAlRp to find a collection site near you.

    I enjoyed speaking this morning to nearly 200 elementary school students attending the Kentucky Junior Historical Society Conference. My parents taught me at an early age the importance of an education, a love of history, a passion for public service and a love for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

    I encouraged our junior historians to explore public service. It is a chance to change the communities and world in which we live. And if they leave Kentucky someday, I hope they'll come back home to give back to a place that has given us so much.

    I'd like to thank the Courier Journal Editorial Board for inviting me to sit down with them on Wednesday. I am proud of all that my staff and I have accomplished over the past five years. I hope you'll take a few minutes to watch the video.

  • April 19

    Our thoughts and prayers this week have been with the residents of Boston and those whose lives have been forever changed by Monday's bombings. On Wednesday, I spoke with my friend and colleague Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to let her know that Kentuckians were praying for the residents of her beloved city and that we stand ready to assist the victims of this horrific crime.

    General Coakley and I want Kentuckians to know that the best way to support the victims in Boston is to donate to reputable organizations such as the American Red Cross or The One Fund Boston. For more information and tips for wise giving, please see our press release.

    I updated the Kentucky County Clerks Association this week on my efforts to help Kentucky homeowners who have struggled in the wake of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. That includes the lawsuit I filed earlier this year against MERSCORP Holdings, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc. (MERS) for violations of Kentucky law. Kentucky's statute is clear. It requires mortgage assignments to be recorded with County Clerks. MERS directly violated that law by creating this system that provides no public record of sales or transactions and deliberately circumvents paying recording fees to states. Since MERS creation in 1995, we believe its members have avoided paying more than $2 billion in recording fees nationwide.

    Our participation in the historic $25 billion national mortgage foreclosure settlement has brought nearly $58 million to Kentucky to aid homeowners and communities. To date, the five participating banks have reported providing assistance to 1,562 Kentuckians. I am proud of our efforts to hold banks accountable and to provide second chances to those who were wrongfully foreclosed upon.

    It was a great day for Lexington and for the entire state yesterday as international law firm Bingham McCutchen opened its global services center at the University of Kentucky's Coldstream Research Campus Business Park. The center will employ 250 people who will support 1,000 lawyers around the world. As Kentucky's chief law officer, it was a privilege to personally welcome Bingham to the Commonwealth and I look forward to a successful partnership.

    Also this week, I was extremely pleased that the FDA heeded the bipartisan advice of state attorneys general and blocked generic drug manufacturers from producing a crushable form of OxyContin. This drug has fueled addiction and overdoses across Kentucky and the nation. To have allowed generic, crushable OxyContin on the market would have been a serious step backwards in our efforts against opiate painkiller abuse.

    I will be talking to students in Pike and Perry counties next week about the dangers of abusing prescription painkillers. Operation UNITE's Dan Smoot and my friend Mike Donta, whose son lost his battle with prescription drug addiction, will join me at Perry County Central High and Mullins School in Pike County. For more information on our efforts to combat prescription drug abuse, please visit ag.ky.gov/rxabuse.

    I also hope you'll take a few moments to check out some of the other press releases we issued this week:

  • April 12

    I appreciated the opportunity yesterday to speak to the State Building and Construction Trades Council in Lexington. I am always glad to talk about our many accomplishments in the Office of the Attorney General. I was particularly pleased to talk about the progress we're making in combating prescription drug abuse in Kentucky and the work we're doing to protect servicemembers and consumers from the predatory practices of some for-profit colleges.

    Kentucky is lucky to have an organization like the Building and Construction Trades Council which has provided a powerful voice for hard working Kentuckians for 75 years now.

    On Wednesday, my Office of Special Prosecutions obtained an indictment of a former Eastern Kentucky University director on tax fraud charges. The charges against 44-year-old Michael Jones of Lexington were the result of an investigation by the Department of Revenue's Division of Special Investigations. Please see our press release for more information.

    A child pornography case investigated by my Cybercrimes Unit in the fall of 2011 has resulted in the sentencing of a Lexington man in U.S. District Court on charges he received child pornography. Thirty-three-year-old Jason Meade was sentenced yesterday to 103 months in federal prison. Meade was also ordered to remain under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for the rest of his life.

    Finally, I'm looking forward to receiving a "Pure Michigan" gourmet basket from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette after the U of L Cardinals defeated the Wolverines Monday night to win the NCAA Championship title. What a game and what a night it was in Atlanta. Congrats to the Cards for keeping the National Championship trophy in Kentucky. Elizabeth (a U of L graduate) and I are also so proud of the U of L Women's team and their stunning season.

  • March 29

    As Attorney General, I have made it a priority to provide police with the tools they need to tackle today’s many modern law enforcement challenges.  This week I announced that 78 rural law enforcement agencies across the Commonwealth will receive mobile data terminals (MDTs) in the coming weeks to help process electronic warrants.  It was an honor to personally deliver MDTs to local law enforcement in both Carroll and Franklin counties.  These in-car computers allow officers to check vehicles, driver’s licenses and access outstanding warrants while out in the field.  

    We were able to utilize funds through the nearly $4 million Rural Law Enforcement Grant my Office received in 2009 as part of the American Resources and Recovery Act. This grant funded implementation of the electronic warrant management system (eWarrants) in rural counties across the state to address the backlog of nearly 300,000 un-served warrants.  The eWarrants program has been a tremendous success with service rates for warrants jumping from as low as 10 percent under the paper-based system to more than 80 percent. For more information and a list of the counties that will receive MDTs, please see our press release.

    We had a great Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program in Boone County on Tuesday.  I appreciated the community leaders and local law enforcement who joined us as we warned nearly 1,000 students at Camp Ernst Middle School about the dangers of abusing prescription painkillers.   Check out our video from the program and make sure to monitor and secure all prescription medications in the home.  If you have unneeded or unused prescriptions, take them to a dedicated drop box or participate in the National DEA Take Back Day on Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m..

    I’m looking forward to talking to my radio friends in Ashland (WLGC), Cadiz (WKDZ), Bowling Green (WBVR) and Madisonville (WTTL) on Monday.  I’ll update their listeners on all of the latest news from my Office. 

    Elizabeth and I will be cheering on Coach Pitino and his Cardinals tonight as they take on Oregon in the NCAA Sweet 16.   We also wish you and your family a safe and joyous Easter. 


  • March 22

    It was a privilege to again join Holly Petraeus, Assistant Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to focus attention on consumer issues facing our nation's servicemembers and their families. Mrs. Petraeus, Brig. Gen. David Ehrhart (USAF, Ret.) and Francis King with the U.S. Department of Justice were guests on a panel I moderated in Nashville, TN this morning at the National Association of Attorneys General-Southern Region meeting.

    In 2011, Mrs. Petraeus, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper and I co-hosted an event at Fort Campbell to provide soldiers and their families with the tools and information they need to protect themselves against unscrupulous businesses.

    On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of serving as guest lecturer at the University of Tennessee's College of Law. I talked about a variety of consumer protection issues and my investigation of the for-profit college industry.

    My Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners and I received a warm welcome at West Jessamine and George Rogers Clark high schools yesterday. We were able to talk to nearly 2,000 students about the heavy toll that prescription pill abuse has taken on our state and on our families.

    I was grateful for the strong show of support from community leaders in both Jessamine and Clark counties, including State Senator Tom Buford and State Representative Donna Mayfield, who took time out of their busy schedules to attend our program. Although we don't always see eye-to-eye politically, Sen. Buford and Rep. Mayfield, who are Republicans, are in agreement that prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that knows no political or socio-economic boundaries.

    Sadly, I was reminded again of the heartbreaking toll prescription pill abuse has taken on our children. After our program in Clark County, a young woman shared with me how prescription drugs and other substance abuse tore her family apart. Her parents, both addicts, were incapable of raising her. Fortunately, family members stepped in to help, but it has been a painful road for this young girl. Far too many children in Kentucky are bearing this difficult burden.

    That's why I'll continue traveling the state with concerned parents, like Karen Shay and Mike Donta, and my state and law enforcement partners to urge students to say no if someone, other than their doctor, offers them a prescription medication. Our next school program is Tuesday, March 26 at Camp Ernst Middle School in Boone County. For more information on our visit to Clark and Jessamine counties, please see our press release.

    If you or your family has been touched by prescription pill abuse, share your story through my Prescription Drug Abuse page. Videos may be submitted as a video response to any of our video clips.

  • March 15

    I was pleased today to join 13 of my colleagues in support of the Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act sponsored by Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Tom Harkin (D-IA). This bill ensures that federal education dollars will be used to serve and educate students rather than to finance advertising campaigns.

    Why is this important? In fiscal year 2009, 15 of the nation's largest for-profit education companies spent $3.7 billion on advertising, marketing and recruitment. They also received at least 86 percent of their revenues from federal student aid programs.

    As I have examined the questionable business practices of some for-profit institutions and led a national working group of state Attorneys General examining issues surrounding for-profit colleges, I have seen far too many students left with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and no degree. Dreams of a better life have turned to nightmares for many.

    During these tough economic times, it is vital that taxpayer dollars be spent wisely and that those seeking a better life for themselves through higher education not fall victim to the abusive and deceptive marketing practices employed by some for-profit colleges. For more information, please see our press release.

    I was among 47 Attorneys General this week who urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make generic pain pills harder to abuse. I hope you'll take a moment to see our press release on this important issue.

    Also this week, I announced Kentucky's participation in a $7 million multistate settlement with Google over privacy concerns involving the Internet giant's "Street View" program. From 2008-2010, Google collected information from unsecured WiFi networks as it captured images for its "Street View" service. This is a fair settlement that recognizes the privacy rights of individuals whose information was collected without their permission, and requires Google to help educate consumers on how to better secure their personal information.

    I had the privilege this week to attend the Kentucky Women Remembered event in the Kentucky Capitol to honor Lois Howard Gray, Thelma Stovall and Mary Eugenia Wharton. These distinguished women have changed our state for the better. To learn about their contributions check out this link, and the next time you visit the Capitol, stop by and see their portraits now hanging in the West Wing.

    I'm looking forward to visiting with students in Jessamine and Clark counties on Thursday, March 21 as part of my Keep Kentucky Kids Safe prescription drug abuse awareness initiative. As always, I am grateful to be joined by Kentucky's drug czar, Van Ingram, and two courageous parents, Dr. Karen Shay and Mike Donta.

    Finally, I hope you'll take a moment to watch my recent visit with WKYT's Bill Bryant on Kentucky Newsmakers.

  • March 8

    The men and women of the United States Armed Forces risk their lives every day to defend our great nation and preserve our freedom. As Kentucky's chief law officer, I want to do what I can to help our nation's heroes and their families. That's why I joined with the Department of Justice and the Attorneys General from Illinois, Indiana and North Carolina to develop a legal "toolkit" to protect our servicemembers and veterans from unscrupulous businesses and scam artists.

    This toolkit will be provided to all Attorneys General to assist their offices in identifying and addressing common consumer protection issues facing servicemembers, including abusive lending practices, student debt and for-profit colleges that prey on military men and women, as well as identity theft. For more information, please see our press release.

    Earlier this week, I joined Governor Beshear, House Speaker Stumbo, Senate President Stivers and others as House Bill 217 was signed into law. This measure makes common sense improvements to Kentucky's landmark prescription drug legislation. These changes will make it easier for doctors and patients to live within the confines of the law, yet it upholds the original intent to fight prescription drug abuse in Kentucky.

    This law is working. Approximately half of the state's pain clinics have shut their doors and for the first time in a decade prescriptions for the most abused/diverted drugs like Oxycodone, hydrocodone and Opana are down, in some cases nearly 50 percent. (More information here.)

    My Office of Consumer Protection announced this week the recovery of lost membership fees for hundreds of former customers of a Lexington, Ky. health club. We have sent refunds totaling more than $36,000 to nearly 600 consumers for the unused portion of membership fees at the former Shapes New Dimensions, Inc.

    We also joined with other states and the federal government in reaching a $22.5 million criminal and civil settlement with Par Pharmaceutical Companies, Inc. I am proud of the work we are doing to recover money for Kentucky taxpayers and to bring to justice to drug companies that put profits ahead of patient care. We've recovered or been awarded nearly $300 million for the state and federal Medicaid program. That's why my Medicaid Fraud Unit was named one of the most aggressive unit's in the country for fighting fraud.

    It was great visiting this morning with WKYT's Bill Bryant during a taping of Kentucky Newsmakers. We talked about a variety of issues including the advisory opinion I issued yesterday on industrial hemp in Kentucky, our investigation of Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing and how our participation in the national mortgage foreclosure settlement has provided second chances to thousands of Kentucky homeowners. Kentucky Newsmakers airs this weekend on WKYT Channel 27 in Lexington or you can watch it online at WKYT.com.

  • March 1

     Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion on the Prescription Pill Epidemic as part of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) meeting this week in Washington, D.C.  General Bondi and I co-chair NAAG’s Substance Abuse Committee and have worked closely in our fight against a problem that kills more than 1,000 Kentuckians each year.  Florida loses seven people a day to prescription drug overdoses. General Bondi’s commitment to this issue and to cracking down on the illegal pill mills in her state has quite literally saved lives in Kentucky.   
     It was gratifying to share some of the progress we’ve made here in the Commonwealth combatting prescription drug abuse through increased law enforcement initiatives, legislation and awareness; however, we must remain vigilant.  New national statistics, according to our nation’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, show that drug overdose deaths increased for the eleventh consecutive year in 2010, the latest year for which we have data. I appreciate Director Kerlikowske taking time to participate in our panel discussion and am grateful for all he is doing to combat this scourge.   A video from the panel discussion is available online at http://www.naag.org/2013-winterspring-meeting-videos.php .
    Yesterday’s vote by Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a victory for women, families and communities across Kentucky and the nation.   This important legislation has brought the issue of domestic violence out of the shadows and served as an invaluable tool for those of us who investigate, prosecute and work every day to prevent domestic violence deaths.   
    Indiana’s Attorney General Greg Zoeller and I launched the fifth annual March Against Hunger food drive competition in Louisville yesterday.  This is a friendly competition that challenges attorneys and law firms on both sides of the river to donate goods and raise money for regional food banks. Since 2009, March Against Hunger participants have donated more than 34,100 pounds of food and raised more than $127,000.
    I hope Kentuckians will step up to the plate and help stock the shelves of our food banks that serve as a lifeline for struggling families.   For more information, please see our press release or visit www.marchagainsthunger.org.
    As General Zoeller and I remarked during yesterday’s press conference, this weekend marks a painful anniversary for our two states.  Saturday is the one-year anniversary of the deadly tornadoes that ripped across Southern Indiana and Kentucky.  Please keep in your thoughts and prayers the families who lost so much on that day. 
  • February 22

    One year after I announced Kentucky's participation in the $25 billion national mortgage foreclosure settlement, I am proud to report that more than1,500 Kentucky homeowners have received $55.5 million in consumer relief from the nation's five largest mortgage servicers as of December 31, 2012. Additionally, relief claims totaling more than $2 million are in process, bringing Kentucky's total consumer relief to $57.5 million.

    Nationally, the third post-settlement report released yesterday shows that the banks have provided more than $45 billion to 550,000 borrowers. This direct relief has helped keep people in their homes and provided second chances for struggling families. For more information, please see our press release.

    We have taken action this week against another drug company that has put profits ahead of patient care. We filed suit on Feb. 20 against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the manufacturer of Avandia, a prescription drug used to treat diabetes. Our lawsuit alleges that GSK violated Kentucky's Consumer Protection Act by engaging in deceptive advertising, overstating the effectiveness of Avandia and hiding the drug's risks from Kentuckians. In fact, doctors from the Mayo Clinic found that 87 percent of the authors who wrote scientific articles about the safety and effectiveness of Avandia had financial ties to GSK.

    Our complaint seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation against GSK. For more information, please see our press release.

    Kentucky families struggling to heat their homes this winter have received additional assistance as a result of a coordinated effort between my Office of Rate Intervention, the Kentucky Public Service Commission and Community Action Kentucky. We've obtained nearly $50,000 in additional aid for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) thanks to a payment from a March 2012 settlement between federal regulators and Constellation Energy over its alleged manipulation of the wholesale energy market.

    This additional funding was used immediately to assist Kentucky households who were facing the loss of their electric services. More information is available in our press release.

    I'm looking forward to attending next week's annual meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). The prescription drug epidemic will be among the topics of discussion. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and I are co-chairing the NAAG Substance Abuse Committee and will lead a panel discussion on prescription pill diversion, national trends, law enforcement response and treatment options on Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 3-4 p.m.

    We are honored to have Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, among our panelists. A video from the panel discussion will be available through NAAG's website at naag.org under the 2013 Winter Spring Meeting.

  • February 15

    Mike DontaThere is no greater pain than that of a parent who has lost a child. Because of the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, far too many Kentucky parents have endured this heartache. Many, like my friend Mike Donta of Ashland, Ky., have courageously stepped forward to share their stories. Mike's son lost his three-year battle with prescription drug addiction in 2010. Since then, Mike has traveled with me through our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to warn middle and high school students about the dangers of abusing prescription pills.

    Mike Donta also shares his son's story in a video we posted as part of our "Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse" video series. We posted the video on what would have been his son's 27th birthday. I encourage you to take a few moments to listen to Mike's story. And if you or your family has been affected by prescription drug abuse, please share your story. Videos may be submitted as a "video response" to any of our "Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse" clips, which can be viewed on our Prescription Drug Abuse page.

    I announced a $12 million multi-state settlement with Victory Pharma earlier this week. The settlement resolves allegations Victory Pharma provided illegal kickbacks to health care professionals to induce them to prescribe four of its drugs. Under the settlement, the Kentucky Medicaid program will receive more than $426,000. Please see our press release for more information.

    I am proud of the work my Medicaid Fraud Unit is doing to protect taxpayers and consumers from drug companies that engage in these types of illegal business practices. Since 2008, we've recovered or been awarded nearly $300 million for the state and federal Medicaid programs and last year we were named one of the most aggressive Medicaid Fraud Unit's in the country.

    The hard work of my Office of Special Prosecutions resulted in the maximum sentence for a Marshall County man during his retrial on murder and arson charges. A Trigg County jury recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole for 42-year-old George Luna in the 2007 beating death of Debra Hendrickson of Benton, Ky. I hope this verdict brings some measure of comfort and closure to the victim's loved ones. More information is available in our press release.

  • February 8

    Drug companies that market their products for non-FDA approved uses are not only breaking the law, they're putting the public's health at risk. Yesterday, I announced a $5.5 million settlement with AstraZeneca to resolve allegations of off-label marketing of Seroquel, a drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of schizophrenia and various bipolar disorders in adults.

    AstraZeneca illegally promoted Seroquel's off-label uses in children and adolescents well before establishing that the drug was not safe or effective for any use by that age group. This type of deceptive marketing is not tolerated in Kentucky. I'm pleased that we were able to reach a settlement that recovers millions of dollars for vital state programs and for Kentucky taxpayers. Please see our press release for more information.

    It was a privilege to speak to Commonwealth's Attorneys and County Attorneys gathered in Lexington yesterday for their annual conferences. Working together with members of the prosecutorial community, we have accomplished a great deal for Kentucky families. We've implemented the Electronic Warrant Management System (eWarrants) system in Kentucky's rural communities, warned kids about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, made the Internet a safer place for our kids and we've been a voice for the Commonwealth's most vulnerable citizens.

    While in Lexington, I also had the opportunity to address the winter meeting of the Kentucky County Judge Executive's Association. I've worked with many of our Judge Executives to tackle issues that affect families, local communities and our Commonwealth. I truly value the friendships I have forged with community leaders across the state and look forward to our continued efforts to make Kentucky a safer place to live, work and raise a family.

    I'd also like to thank the members of the St. X Business & Professional Association for their warm welcome at the Olmstead in Louisville this morning.

    Don't forget you can follow all of the latest news and events from the Office of the Attorney General on Twitter @kyoag, our Facebook page, our YouTube channel, and now on Instragram at instagram.com/kyoag.

  • February 1

    Since 2001, one of the most prolific alleged pyramid schemes in North America has operated right here in Kentucky. Earlier this week, I joined with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to announce legal action against Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing following a two-year investigation by my Office and the FTC. The Attorneys General from Illinois and North Carolina joined us in filing a federal lawsuit against the Lexington-based company last week and on Monday, Jan. 28 we were able to secure, with a court-appointed receiver, Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing's corporate headquarters in Lexington and a warehouse in Danville. The court-appointed receiver is now in control of FHTM's assets.

    Our investigation of FHTM began after North Dakota, Montana and Texas took legal action against the alleged pyramid operation. After receiving about a dozen complaints, we issued subpoenas to the company in August of 2010 and August of 2011 to look into possible violations of Kentucky's Pyramid Sales Act and the Consumer Protection Act.

    What we have uncovered is troubling. We believe Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing has operated a massive pyramid scheme involving more than 100,000 people across the U.S. and in several other countries with damages to consumers in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    More than 90 percent of those who bought into FHTM lost their money. Be assured, we will try our best to get it back.

    I appreciate the assistance we received from Lexington Police and Kentucky State Police and the City of Lexington as we initiated this action. For more information, please see our press release.

    Yesterday, I announced Kentucky's participation in a $120 million multi-state settlement with Lender Processing Services, Inc. (LPS) to resolve allegations that the company "robo-signed" documents and engaged in other improper conduct related to the mortgage loan default services it provides. Kentucky will receive nearly $1 million under this settlement. This is part of our ongoing effort to ensure that the nation's largest banks and mortgage servicers are held accountable for the mortgage foreclosure crisis that has harmed so many families.

    This week marks the end of one of the busiest months for my Office that I can recall as Attorney General. In addition to the LPS settlement and our efforts to shut down an alleged global pyramid scheme, we've filed suit against the Mortgage Electronic Registrations Systems, Inc. (MERS) as part of our investigation of mortgage foreclosure issues in Kentucky; sued our fourth for-profit school (Spencerian College) for misrepresenting job placement numbers to consumers and alerted thousands of students in Bullitt and Marion counties to the dangers of prescription drug abuse through my Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program.

    I was thrilled to see the latest report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which shows a decline in the non-medical use of prescription pain relievers among all age groups in Kentucky. For the first time in years, we are below the national average for prescription drug abuse. Our efforts are paying off.

    Our many accomplishments over the past month and years are a testament to the hard work and dedication of my staff and our partners in cities and counties across Kentucky. I appreciate your commitment to making a difference for families in every corner of the Commonwealth.

    I look forward to talking about all of the news from my office with WTTL Radio in Madisonville, WLGC in Ashland and WKDZ in Cadiz on Monday morning!

  • January 25

    When I announced Kentucky's participation last year in the historic $25 billion national mortgage foreclosure settlement, I vowed to consumers that our work was not over. During the negotiations for the national settlement, I felt Kentucky had significant civil claims against the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS).

    On Jan. 23, my office filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court against MERSCORP Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiary, MERS, for violations to Kentucky law.

    By law, mortgage assignments must be recorded in the appropriate County Clerk's office with a $12 fee that is collected by the clerks on behalf of the Commonwealth. Our lawsuit alleges that MERS violated Kentucky law by failing to record mortgage assignments with County Clerks when mortgages were sold or transferred from one bank to another. We also believe MERS ripped off the Commonwealth of Kentucky by failing to pay recording fees to the County Clerks.

    By creating a system that provides absolutely no public record of sales or transactions, MERS has destroyed the integrity of the public land recording system in the Commonwealth. Hundreds of thousands of Kentucky loans are registered in the MERS system. When homeowners struggled to pay their mortgages at the height of the housing crisis, many couldn't find out who owned their loans or who to call to request a loan modification.

    Our lawsuit also alleges that MERS violated Kentucky's Consumer Protection Act by committing unfair, false, misleading or deceptive conduct. MERS could be fined up to $2,000 per violation.

    For more information on our lawsuit against MERS, please see our press release or watch the video of our press conference.

    It was an honor to speak yesterday at the Different Faces of Substance Abuse conference in Lexington. This annual event brings together prevention and treatment specialists, social workers and law enforcement from across the Commonwealth to develop and improve strategies to combat drug abuse in Kentucky communities.

    I am grateful for all these folks are doing to help families that have been torn apart by addiction and illicit drug use. I also appreciate all they are doing to help me combat the fastest-growing drug problem in the U.S., prescription drug abuse.

    I was pleased to report that we are making progress. Nearly half of the state's known pain clinics have shut down in the wake of tougher regulations. For the first time in a decade, prescriptions for the most abused/diverted drugs, like Opana, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, are down. And after years of delays, Purdue Pharma will finally have to go before a Kentucky court and jury to respond to our allegations that they misrepresented the addictive nature of Oxycontin.

    To learn more about the progress we've made combating prescription drug abuse in Kentucky, watch our video from yesterday's Different Faces of Substance Abuse conference.

    You can also visit our Prescription Drug Abuse page.

  • January 18

    It has been a very busy week with new developments in our investigation into the questionable business practices of some for-profit colleges in Kentucky, our fight against pill mills and prescription drug abuse.

    On Wednesday, my Office filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Spencerian College alleging that the for-profit school misrepresented job placement numbers to consumers. This marks the fourth lawsuit we've filed as part of my ongoing investigation of the for-profit college industry.

    Spencerian, which is owned by the Sullivan University System, provided students with information that it knew was false. Our investigation found that the job placement numbers Spencerian promoted publically were, in many instances, 30 to 40 percent higher than the numbers it reported to its national accreditor.

    I believe Spencerian was more concerned about getting its hands on student loan money than in educating students and placing them in jobs. They preyed on people who were trying to build better lives. Our complaint seeks an injunction against Spencerian to prohibit further deceptive trade practices and civil penalties of $2,000 per violation.

    If you attended Spencerian from 2007 until the present and want to file a complaint or provide information to my Office, please visit ag.ky.gov and click on "Student Complaints."

    On Monday, we announced the arrest and indictment of 44-year-old Ernest "Will" Singleton and several of his business entities for prescription drug and money laundering conspiracies.

    The charges against Singleton, who operated pain management centers in Georgetown and Dry Ridge, are the result of an 18-month investigation by my Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) working in partnership with the DEA, IRS and Kentucky State Police. The U.S. Attorney's Office is handling the prosecution. Please see our press release for more information.

    I appreciate Senator Jimmy Higdon and Rep. Terry Mills joining me at Marion County High School yesterday to talk to students about the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse. I am grateful for all they are doing to ensure that Kentucky doesn't lose another generation to this scourge. Thanks to Principal Stacey Hall and Superintendent Chuck Hamilton our program was broadcast to all Marion County schools yesterday.

    My Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners and I also received a warm welcome at North Bullitt High School yesterday where we spoke to more than 1,500 high school and middle school students. As always, I am grateful to Dr. Karen Shay, Mike Donta and the other concerned parents who travel with me to talk about the heavy toll prescription drug abuse has taken on their families. For more information, please see our press release.

    Also, make sure to watch the new public service announcement we are distributing with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy on heroin abuse.

    On Monday, January 21 my Office will be closed along with other state government agencies in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Whether privately, or as part of a public celebration, let us all take a moment to remember Dr. King's legacy and his message of hope, healing and peace.

  • January 11

    After years of delays, Purdue Pharma will finally have to answer allegations that they misrepresented the addictive nature of the drug Oxycontin before a Kentucky court and a Kentucky jury. A decision this week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit returns a lawsuit filed by my Office in 2007 to Pike Circuit Court.

    Purdue Pharma's actions helped fuel an epidemic of prescription drug abuse that has taken a heavy toll on families and communities across Kentucky. I believe this trial will result in a big recovery for the state that can be used to enhance treatment for those addicted to powerful painkillers like Oxycontin. Please see our press release for more information.

    It was gratifying to see how the $600,000 my office secured from the National Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement has helped rehabilitate a foreclosed apartment complex in Lexington. This was one of many examples of how the $58 million in settlement funds we secured for Kentucky is making a difference for communities and providing a second chance for struggling Kentucky homeowners.

    The deadline is nearing for homeowners to apply for cash payments of up to $2,000 under the Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement. Applications are due by Jan. 18. Consumers must have faced foreclosure from 2008 to 2011 and had a loan with or serviced by Citi, Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase or Wells Fargo. For more information, visit NationalMortgageSettlement.com.

    It was good to see my friends with the Jefferson County Teacher's Association at the Capitol on Tuesday as the legislative session got underway in Frankfort. I am proud to stand with teachers across the Commonwealth. Education is always a priority when the General Assembly is in town.

    Next week, I'm looking forward to joining my Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners at North Bullitt High School in Shepherdsville and Marion County High School in Lebanon. I appreciate the opportunity to speak directly to students about the deadly consequences of abusing prescription drugs.

  • January 4

    Struggling Kentucky Homeowners will benefit from a one-year tax relief extension recently approved by Congress. I was among 43 Attorneys General who last November urged Congressional leaders to pass critical legislation to extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 prior to its Jan. 1, 2013 expiration. With the extension, borrowers who receive debt relief such as loan principal reduction or short sale loan forgiveness will not be required to pay taxes on the loan amount forgiven.

    This tax benefit is a victory for homeowners who have mortgage debt forgiven and is critical to those who are seeking benefits under the National Mortgage Settlement.

    I'm looking forward to joining Gov. Beshear and other state leaders in Lexington on Monday, Jan. 7 to showcase what can happen to foreclosed properties when government and the private sector work together. I am proud that a significant portion of the $58 million Kentucky received under the National Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement has helped revitalize Kentucky neighborhoods and has helped provide a second chance to families who have lost their homes.

    Securing relief for Kentucky homeowners affected by the mortgage foreclosure meltdown is one of our many accomplishments from 2012. I hope you'll take a moment to see all that we achieved last year for you and your family.

    In other news, I am grateful to the attorneys and victim advocates in my Office of Criminal Appeals who fight every day to ensure that justice is upheld and that the voices of Kentucky's crime victims are heard. An Appeals Court ruling this week in the Michael Carneal case is a testament to their hard work and dedication.

    Finally, my congratulations to the Louisville Cardinal 2013 Sugar Bowl Champions! Coach Strong and his team showed the Florida Gators and the nation the value of hard work and never giving up.