Archive for the ‘Attorney General’ Category

My Maine Ride owner agrees to 7-year license suspension, reimburse consumers up to $30,000

Posted July 30, 2014, at 12:46 p.m.
Last modified July 30, 2014, at 8:54 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The used car dealer sued by the Maine attorney general’s office earlier this year for unfair and deceptive trade practices has agreed to the suspension of his license to own a used car business for seven years and to reimburse consumers up to $30,000 for repairs to cars purchased from Bumper2Bumper Inc. and My Maine Ride.

Glenn A. Geiser Jr., 48, of Brewer signed the consent agreement July 11 along with Assistant Attorney General Carolyn A. Silsby, whose office filed a lawsuit against the longtime used car dealer on Jan. 31 in Penobscot County Superior Court.

“There is separate litigation continuing against Bangor Car Care, Inc., which is owned by Geiser’s mother,” according to a statement issued by the Maine attorney general’s office.

The provisions of the agreement — a copy of which was obtained by the Bangor Daily News — allow Geiser to work for someone else who is licensed to sell used cars, as long as that individual is not a member of his household. It also prevents him from seeking payment for money owed his firms after the repossession of a vehicle and filing an adverse report on a consumer’s credit report concerning funds owed for a repossessed car or truck.

Geiser will not be ordered to pay any fines, according to the agreement. If he violates any of its provisions, he would be found in contempt of court and fined up to $10,000 per violation under Maine law.

The agreement will not go into effect until it is signed by a judge. Superior Court Justice Ann Murray is handling the case.

“I am greatly humbled by the experience,” Geiser said in statement issued by his attorney, Joseph Baldacci of Bangor. “I tried the best that I could, and though I made mistakes, we sold almost 19,000 cars and employed 40 people at any given time.

“We all worked very hard to help, and although we as well as I made mistakes, we tried very hard to provide affordable transportation,” he continued. “Despite the publicity, I have been contacted by many customers who have thanked the business for providing the services and choices to them.

“My family and I look forward to continuing to be productive, caring, positive, and helpful citizens in our community,” Geiser concluded. “We love the State of Maine, the school system our children attend, and the community we live in.”

Under the terms of the proposed consent judgment, Geiser and his used car dealerships, My Maine Ride and Bumper2Bumper Inc., will be out of business until 2021, Attorney General Janet Mills said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. Additionally, several consumers will be eligible for partial restitution for repair costs and may be eligible for forgiveness of loan balances on repossessed cars.

“The companies Mr. Geiser relied on to exploit consumers will not do business with him in the future,” she said. “This should stand as a warning to any business that thinks it can cut corners and abuse Maine consumers.”

The companies that provided financing for Geiser’s customers, Persian Acceptance Corp., Westlake Services, LLC, Mid-Atlantic Finance Co., Source One Financial Corp., Consumer Portfolio Services Inc., United Auto Credit Corp. and Credit Acceptance Corp., have cooperated with her office, Mills said.

“We appreciate the willingness of these companies to provide relief to consumers who are stuck with loan payments for cars that were essentially worthless,” she said.

The finance companies have agreed to stop collection actions for consumers whose vehicles were repossessed and to remove all negative information relating to these loans from consumers’ credit reports, according to Mills. In addition, all have agreed that they will not provide financing for any future business owned or operated by Geiser.

The date by which consumers must file claims that is stated in the agreement is expected to be changed from Nov. 15 to a date later in the year, Baldacci said.

In a separate court action, Geiser paid a $7,000 fine in February after pleading no contest to 28 of 83 counts of using fake inspection stickers. At that time, Geiser also owed $9,000 in unpaid fines to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration for workplace safety violations in 2012 and 2013. Information about whether Geiser has paid the OSHA fines was not available Wednesday afternoon.

The lawsuit filed by the attorney general’s office alleged that Geiser and his dealerships targeted consumers with poor credit who needed financing, pressured them to buy cars that were not roadworthy and did not respond to customer complaints, according to a previously published report.

The Consumer Protection Division of the AG’s office received 86 complaints in the previous 13 months about My Maine Ride, 159 complaints about Bumper2Bumper since 2011, and 539 complaints about Bangor Car Care since 2003, the complaint said.

The state initially sought civil penalties, which could have run as high as $10,000 for each violation; a permanent injunction to bar Geiser and any entity in which he has an ownership interest from promoting, selling and/or financing used cars; and reimbursement for the cost of the litigation, including attorney and expert witness fees.

The agreements with the finance companies are available online at http://www.maine.gov/ag/news/cases_of_interest.shtml, Mills said Wednesday. Consumers who purchased a vehicle from a Geiser dealership and have a loan with any of the seven finance companies can call 800-436-2131 or email consumer.mediation@maine.gov to obtain information on how the settlements may affect them.

State of Maine v Glenn A. Geiser, Jr., Bangor Car Care, Bumper2Bumper, and My Maine Ride: First Amended Complaint :: Assurances of Discontinuance with Finance Companies

State Officials Announce Conclusion of Insurance Case and Return of More than $160,000 to Maine Consumer

Completed Case Highlights Importance of  Reporting Concerns and Utilizing Bureau’s Resources

GARDINER – Governor Paul R. LePage and Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa announced that a complaint investigation resulting in the return of more than $160,000 to a Maine consumer has been completed. The investigation, conducted by the Bureau of Insurance’s Consumer Health Care Division, involved insurance agent Paul E. Richard and American Equity, the insurance carrier he represented.

“Maine is fortunate to have a large number of insurance agents, agencies and companies that provide important products and services with integrity and concern for their clients,” Governor LePage said.  “In those cases, however, when consumers or business owners are taken advantage of, the Bureau of Insurance is available to provide guidance and to take effective action whenever possible.”

The investigation and subsequent hearing found that Richard had recommended that a seriously ill man in the Lewiston area surrender his $100,000 life insurance policy, which he and his wife had paid premiums on for nearly 20 years. Richard recommended that the couple use the $11,935 cash value of the policy along with other assets, to purchase several annuities totaling $46,770, for which he received $4,775 in commissions.

After the death of her husband, which occurred just over a year later, the consumer filed a complaint with the Bureau. Following an enforcement action and hearing, Richard’s insurance producer license was revoked and he was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $12,500 to the State of Maine and restitution to the consumer equal to the full amount of the commissions and fees he received, plus interest. (A copy of the decision and order is available on the Bureau’s website at www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance/orders/08-305amended.htm.) The $12,500 civil penalty represented the maximum amount for each of the following ten violations:

Violation 1: $1500 for persuading someone with a disabling and degenerative condition to surrender his life insurance policy, in violation of 24-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1420‑K(1)(H), 2152, and 2155.

Violations 2–4: $1500 each for intentionally failing to disclose, on each of three annuity applications, that the new annuities were replacing existing policies

Violations 5–7: $1500 each for instructing the consumers to deposit the proceeds of the asset liquidations into the wife’s personal account and pay for each of three annuities by personal check, in order to conceal the source of funds.

Violations 8–10: $1500 with respect to the nonqualified annuity that replaced the life insurance policy, and $250 each with respect to the two qualified annuities, for selling annuities without conducting any meaningful inquiry into their suitability for the consumers, and without making a meaningful effort to ensure that the consumers understood what they were buying.

American Equity terminated the agent’s appointment with the company, following its own investigation, and paid the consumer the lost value of the $100,000 insurance policy, plus interest, and refunded the purchase price of all three annuities plus interest, without imposing surrender penalties. In addition, the company paid a $50,000 civil penalty to the State. (A copy of the consent agreement is available on the Bureau’s website www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance/consent_agreements/2010-2014/10202.htm).

Last month, the investigation was closed when, following a collections action initiated by the Attorney General’s Office against Richard, the final funds were paid and distributed.

“We are happy that this matter was brought to our attention and that we were able to assist in rectifying this situation for the consumer, who had suffered substantial financial loss as a result of this agent’s actions,” Superintendent Cioppa stated. “We encourage anyone with questions about life insurance, annuities or other insurance types, or anyone seeking information about insurance agents and brokers, to contact the Bureau by calling toll-free 1-800-300-5000 or e-mailing Insurance.PFR@maine.gov.”

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Home Improvement Scams – WABI-TV

Russ spoke with Joy about keeping an eye out for scammers when looking to find some home improvement workers.

There are three Maine laws that deal with transient sales and home repairs. They are explained in detail in the Consumer Law Guide published by the Attorney General’s office (visit www.maine.gov/ag. See chapter 17 of the Guide for laws relating to construction. Chapter 13 deals with transient sales).

Among the key pieces of advice are these.

Always have a written contract for any job costing more than $3,000. There’s a three-day cooling off period before work starts; if you decide you don’t want the job done within those three days, you can cancel the deal. You and the contractor may–but you don’t have to–agree to settle any disputes that might arise through mediation or arbitration.

Don’t sign a contract that includes any blank spaces (to be filled in later). And Maine law says the contractor cannot ask for more than one-third of the total contract amount as a down payment. The Attorney General has a model contract for home construction (see chapter 18 of the Guide).

You’ll likely want to check out a number of contractors before hiring one. Ask each of them how many jobs like yours they’ve done in the past year, and ask for references. Find out what kinds of insurance they carry. Beware of those who demand more than the one-third up-front payment or insist on cash. Also, be wary if the contractor asks you to get the building permit.Transient sellers must be licensed by the state, and an unlicensed contractor may not want to show up at your town hall.

For information on professions requiring a state license, visit www.maine.gov/pfr.

Be extra wary of transient repair “pros” who “spot a problem” you had not noticed. Once inside your home, they may break something and then point out that it “needs fixing.” The shady contractor may insist you come with him to inspect something, while one of his associates steals your valuables.

Those last few points are among the National Consumers League’s top 10 red flags of home repair scams. Read more at www.nclnet.org.

See the Federal Trade Commission’s reminder at www.ftc.gov/scam-alerts

The road to quick-fix driveway repairs is paved with bad intentions

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted May 25, 2014, at 10 a.m.

Click for top 10 red flags of home repair scams

If the birds are singing and some guy offers to seal your driveway for 200 bucks, it must be spring.

Our long-awaited break of winter’s grip means the home improvement scammers are making the rounds again. One of them actually visited us last summer, saying he had “just enough material from another job in the neighborhood” to give me a great deal. We sent him packing.

His fellow con artists are carrying on the tradition, going door to door offering “rock-bottom prices” and saying they’ve “never had a dissatisfied customer.”

If that’s true, why are they always in such a hurry? Why do they need to do the work immediately? Why must they be paid in cash?

The reason is simple. They need to get running, to stay ahead of the people who enforce the laws they are breaking.

There are three Maine laws that deal with transient sales and home repairs. They are explained in detail in the Consumer Law Guide published by the attorney general’s office (visit www.maine.gov/ag. See chapter 17 of the Guide for laws relating to construction. Chapter 13 deals with transient sales).

Among the key pieces of advice are these. Always have a written contract for any job costing more than $3,000. There’s a three-day cooling-off period before work starts; if you decide you don’t want the job done within those three days, you can cancel the deal. You and the contractor may — but you don’t have to — agree to settle any disputes that might arise through mediation or arbitration.

Don’t sign a contract that includes any blank spaces (to be filled in later). And Maine law says the contractor cannot ask for more than one-third of the total contract amount as a down payment.

The attorney general has a model contract for home construction (see chapter 18 of the Guide). For information on professions requiring a state license, visit www.maine.gov/pfr.

You’ll likely want to check out a number of contractors before hiring one. Ask each of them how many jobs like yours they’ve done in the past year, and ask for references.

Find out what kinds of insurance they carry. Beware of those who demand more than the one-third upfront payment or insist on cash.

Also, be wary if the contractor asks you to get the building permit. Transient sellers must be licensed by the state, and an unlicensed contractor may not want to show up at your town hall.

Be extra wary of transient repair “pros” who “spot a problem” you had not noticed. Once inside your home, they may break something and then point out that it “needs fixing.” The shady contractor may insist you come with him to inspect something, while one of his associates steals your valuables.

Those last few points are among the National Consumers League’s top 10 red flags of home repair scams. Read more at www.nclnet.org.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

***Scam Alert***AG Mills Warns of Phone Scam Claiming to be from Maine Office of Tourism

Press Release

05/21/2014 03:15 PM EDT

(AUGUSTA) Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills is warning Maine businesses to be aware of a phone scam that claims to be from the Maine Office of Tourism. The callers claim to be selling advertising in a publication of the Maine Office of Tourism and then demand an upfront, cash payment be paid over the phone immediately. These calls are not from the Maine Office of Tourism or any of their sub-contractors and do not appear to be legitimate.

“Beware cold calls that pressure you to make an immediate payment,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “A legitimate business will give you the time to think about your purchase and won’t require cash or a pre-paid debit card transaction based on a phone conversation. If you receive one of these calls – hang up. If you have questions, call the Maine Office of Tourism in Augusta. Never give personal or financial information out over the phone on calls you did not initiate. If someone calls you and asks you to make payment by money order or pre-paid debit card, that is very big red flag that you are about to be scammed.”

The Maine Office of Tourism can be reached at: (207) 624-7483

If you have questions about these or other consumer matters, please contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office at 1(800) 436-2131 or consumer.mediation@maine.gov.

When a solicitor calls, ask how much of your donation actually goes to charity

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted April 13, 2014, at 10:40 a.m.

 

Consumer rights and charitable solicitations

The caller was straightforward, stating up front that hewas being paid to solicit funds on behalf of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters. 

The cause: to aid the families of fallen firefighters. No argument there. However, as a consumer advocate, I had to ask the question. How much of what you raise goes to the federation?

The response stopped me cold.

“I’ve been instructed to tell people who ask that, [that] at least 15 percent of the money goes to that cause,” the caller said.

“Fifteen percent?” I asked in disbelief.

The caller thanked me for my time and ended the call.

He was being accurate. Companies that solicit Maine consumers by phone must register with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Outreach Calling, the firm making the call to our home, reported last year that during 2012, it returned exactly 15.00009885 percent of funds it raised to Maine State Federation of Firefighters.

Outreach made similar reports to Maine on the 16 other charities for which it raised funds.

“Cancer” was a key word in the names of five of those charities; other beneficiaries included veterans, children and public safety groups. Several of the groups also received around 15 percent of funds raised; in 10 instances, the return to each was almost exactly 10 percent.

Why employ a phone solicitor that gives back only a fraction of what it collects?

“We do it because it’s effective, and it raises money for us,” said William Vickerson, the attorney in Portland representing Maine State Federation of Firefighters.

He told me that most members of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters are volunteers, and fundraising is not their strong suit. If they sold cookies or calendars, they’d have overhead that would eat into any proceeds raised.

“With us, the gross profit is also the net profit,” Vickerson said when pressed on the 15 percent return.

He said Outreach has been responsive to concerns he has voiced in the past when consumers complained about particular callers or solicitation techniques. He also said most of those complaints were unfounded, based on recordings of the calls which Outreach routinely makes.

You might wonder why you receive such calls, if you’ve been placed on the National Do-Not-Call list. Charitable causes are one of those exempt classes as are political calls, which we’ll all receive soon in growing numbers.

Some consumers when called routinely say, “Put me on YOUR do-not-call list,” and some of them report success (results may vary).

Charity Navigator, a major watchdog group, rates more than 7,000 charities on its website (www.charitynavigator.org), including two dozen involved in fighting breast cancer. Together, the charities raised $1.8 billion; but the percent of its budget that each spends to raise money varies, from a low of 2 percent to a high of 91 percent.

Advocates like to see at least half of all money raised going to the cause to which they were donated; so, we think, do donors.

Charity Navigator, Guidestar and other research groups offer help in choosing which causes to support. GreatNonprofits.org offers people familiar with a charity’s operations a chance to share experiences with others.

Last year, the Tampa Bay Times and California-based Center for Investigative Reporting did extensive research and rated America’s 50 Worst Charities. Outreach Calling made the list, based on returns of 9.8 percent to 15 percent for six charities reviewed in 2010 and 2011.

William Vickerson says, so far, Maine State Federation of Firefighters has not been able to find a fundraiser that can do better in Maine.

Asked if the federation will keep looking, he replied, “We’ll do it. We always do.”

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

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Work-at-home scams — WABI-TV

Video Link

Russ and Joy discuss work-at-home scams.
The State of Wisconsin published a guide detailing work-at-home scams. You can find this guide online at http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/WorkAtHome189.pdf

Attorney General Janet Mills Announces Lawsuit Against Used Car Dealers

PRESS RELEASE

02/07/2014 08:52 AM EST

(AUGUSTA) Attorney General Janet T. Mills announced today that her Office has filed a lawsuit in the Penobscot County Superior Court against Glenn A. Geiser, Jr. and his dealerships – Bangor Car Care, Inc., Bumper2Bumper, Inc. and My Maine Ride – for unfair and deceptive trade practices in connection with the promotion and sale of used cars.

The complaint alleges that the defendants target consumers with poor credit who need financing, pressure them to buy cars that are not road worthy and then not respond to customer complaints. The State is seeking civil penalties and a permanent injunction to bar Geiser and any entity in which he has an ownership interest from promoting, selling and/or financing used cars. “These kinds of practices give Maine businesses a bad name,” said Attorney General Mills. “Targeting vulnerable people and duping them into buying cars that are not safe not only defrauds the consumer but puts every person traveling our roads at risk. We intend to put a stop to it.”

Typically, consumers at Geiser’s businesses are shown cars that failed to pass inspection so they cannot be taken out for a test drive. Known mechanical defects are not disclosed to the consumer, as required by State law. When a consumer decides to buy, defendants complete the financing documents and tell the consumer to return at a later date to pick up the car after it has gone into the shop for an inspection sticker. Many consumers already desperate for transportation are unable to get their cars when promised, and some have made payments on cars they did not receive. Some discover after they take delivery that their cars should not have passed inspection. Many cars break down or develop serious mechanical issues soon after purchase, but the defendants refuse to fix the problems. The Attorney General’s complaint also alleges that the defendants’ response to consumer complaints is rude and abusive and calculated to discourage consumers from seeking redress. These acts also constitute an unfair trade practice.

Maine law requires used car dealers to post a conspicuous notice that a car is an unsafe motor vehicle if it does not meet Maine’s inspection standards and is displayed for sale. The dealer must also disclose certain information about a used car’s history, including any known mechanical defect, even if it has been repaired, and to obtain written acknowledgement from the buyer. The buyer of an unsafe motor vehicle must tow it from the dealer’s lot.

For information about the Used Car Information Act, or to file a complaint, consumers may contact the Consumer Protection Division at http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer or by calling 1-800-436-2131.

The Maine State Police and the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles assisted with the Attorney General’s investigation. The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Carolyn Silsby and Linda Conti.

#

Supporting documents

State v. Geiser Complaint

State v. Geiser exhibits

Maine attorney general makes public aware of grocery voucher scam

By Ryan McLaughlin, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 30, 2013, at 4:13 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Attorney General Janet Mills is warning Maine residents to be wary of a grocery voucher scam targeting the elderly.

The scam claims to offer individuals ages 60 and up $3,000 in free groceries and a Life Alert device.

The scammers have indicated a new government assistance program qualifies them for the phony benefits.

The pre-recorded phone calls ask recipients to press certain buttons before speaking with a representative. Those reporting the scam to Mills’ office did not speak with anyone and hung up the phone before a representative was reached.

“This is a new twist on an old scam,” said Mills. “There is no government program handing out free grocery vouchers or Life Alert devices to seniors. These are scammers sending out millions of pre-recorded calls looking for anyone who will take the bait and hand over personal information, which often includes credit card numbers, social security numbers and birthdays.”

 

Anyone with questions about these or other consumer matters should contact the consumer protection division of the attorney general’s office at 800-436-2131.

 FMI:  CONSUMER FORUM: New twist on old scam

 

Beware the driveway-paving scams

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director, Northeast CONTACT

Posted Sept. 22, 2013, at 1:15 p.m.

In the past few days, I’ve obtained some quotes for having my driveway sealed. It’s a job I had hoped to handle myself, but allergies in nature and too many petrochemical products have forced me to contract it out.

The more recent quotes are a bit higher than the first one I was given; they came from people at established businesses in the Bangor area. The first one came from a fellow I had never met who knocked at our door.

He said he had a deal for me; my radar is always on, but it kicked into high at once. He had been sealing a driveway in my neighborhood, he said, and he had a little sealer left over. He could give me a deal on my driveway – $250, and he could do the job that afternoon (it was a little after 2 pm when he made his pitch).

It seemed we could seal the deal on a handshake, no contract needed. I noticed the unmarked vehicle a companion waited in, and asked for a business card. The man didn’t have one but said he’d drop one off “in about an hour.” I haven’t seen him since.

Police are all too familiar with workers who claim to be professional pavers, while doing “hit and run” jobs that often leave residents less than satisfied. The materials they use may be substandard, and they sometimes hand homeowners a bill that’s a lot higher than the price that was quoted.

Such practices are not just poor business, they’re illegal. Now, I have no direct evidence that my visitor was trying to scam me; but he did not follow the three Maine laws that state that door-to-door sellers of home repairs must:

— Provide written contracts, which include a binding job estimate;

— Wait three days after the contract is signed before beginning work;

— Allow a buyer to opt out of the agreement during that three-day period.

If he was registered with the state, he did not offer to show me his registration. If he had a permanent place of business in the town in which he was doing business, his unmarked vehicle and lack of a business card did not reflect any attachment to the community.

Steer clear of anyone who tries to sell paving or sealing services door-to-door. Legitimate contractors know how much material they need for a given job, and they bring that material to the job and no more. There are no “leftovers” and no deals to be had because of them.

“They seem to come in waves,” Brewer’s Deputy Police Chief Jason Moffitt told me last week. “Don’t sign any contracts with people who just show up in your yard,” he advised. Take your time, check with known local companies, and keep an eye on older neighbors who might be targeted.

Visit the website of the Maine Attorney General (www.maine.gov/ag) and click on Consumer Law Guide for more on door-to-door sales and sales of home repairs and similar services.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

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