The audacity of the scam artists in New York is mind-boggling, and that includes well-known businesses as well as street hustlers. Protecting the people is the job of New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The following are a few of the recent cases handled by Schneiderman's office in which New Yorkers were bilked by unscrupulous people or businesses.
In July, the Attorney General announced a settlement with Per Se, a Manhattan fine-dining establishment, for failing to pay its waitstaff a 20% surcharge, designated as a "service charge," from January 2011 through September 2012. Instead of directing the money to the workers for whom it was intended by the restaurant's patrons, it was used for the restaurant's operations. Per Se, once called the "best restaurant in New York City" by the New York Times, was ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution to its workers.
Another case, started by a whistleblower, resulted in a settlement that returns $2.5 million to New York State's Medicaid program. In announcing the agreement reached with Trinity Homecare LLC, a pharmacy primarily owned by Walgreens, Attorney General Schneiderman said Trinity allegedly submitted claims to Medicaid for a greater amount of drugs than it could document were actually delivered. "The hemophilia drugs dispensed and sent to patients in this case can cost as much as a new car," he said. "The rules are plain. Pharmacies that deliver drugs to Medicaid patients must document that the patient received that medication — and in the right amount."
Following the Second Circuit's decision affirming U.S. District Judge Denise Cote's finding that Apple orchestrated a conspiracy among publishers to raise the price of E-books, Attorney General Schneiderman said, "The court's decision shows that even the biggest, most powerful companies in the world must play by the same rules as everyone else. This victory takes us a major step toward recovering $400 million that Apple illegally overcharged E-book readers." New York, one of 33 states and the U.S. Justice Department involved in antitrust lawsuits, played a leading role in the damages phase of the litigation. New York consumers are expected to receive about seven percent, or $28 million, of the $400 million settlement.
In a July 8 press release , Attorney General Schneiderman announced a $136 million multi-state settlement with Chase Bank USA N.A. and Chase Bankcard Services Inc. in which he said, "Chase's consumer credit card debt collection practices were harmful to families when it pursued collections cases based on false and outdated information." About 5,300 Chase customers in New York State are expected to net $5,950,000 in restitution, with an additional $11,272,338 paid to New York State as part of the settlement. Schneiderman was one of 47 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia involved in the legal action, which resulted in Chase's agreement to reform its credit card debt collection practices.
Schneiderman announced the arrest of Sharif King, 29, of Manhattan, for allegedly perpetrating an identity theft scheme in which he claimed to be a record company executive, hired employees and then stole their identifies in order to open credit cards, apply for a loan, steal a vehicle and collect on an insurance claim. The details of this scam are worthy of a 250-page novel. Charged on a 15-count indictment, King faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
As part of a larger investigation into energy service companies, the Attorney General announced a $1.25 million settlement with HIKO Energy, LLC, which allegedly lured thousands of consumers with false promises of lower rates, then fleeced customers with much higher bills; enrolled new customers without their knowledge or consent, and made it difficult for customers to cancel their enrollments in a timely manner. Claim forms have been sent to more than 25,000 current and former HIKO customers so they can obtain refunds. The press release noted that Schneiderman's ongoing investigation into energy service companies (or ESCOs) has returned millions of dollars to consumers, including nearly $2 million recently to customers of Columbia Utilities Power LLC pursuant to a 2011 settlement.