Schuette Joins Detroit, Saginaw Schools to Promote OK2SAY Student Safety Program
Attorney General Bill Schuette announced new statistics at Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy, Detroit Cass Tech High School, East Lansing High School and North Rockford Middle School to highlight a successful first year of Michigan's statewide student safety initiative, OK2SAY. For 2014-15, more than 1,400 tips were submitted by students across the State of Michigan relating to bullying, cyber bullying and suicide, other tips included reporting drug use, weapon possession or assault.
OK2SAY is a confidential multimedia tipline designed to empower Michigan students, parents, school personnel, community mental health service programs, and law enforcement to share and respond to student safety threats.
Schedule a [FREE] presentation for your school and learn more about OK2SAY ➝ http://1.usa.gov/1PnSvuM
- Schuette: Michigan Harvest Gathering Will Provide more than 2 Million Meals in 2015
- November 24, 2015
LANSING — Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Food Bank Council of Michigan today announced the Michigan Harvest Gathering 25th Annual Giving Campaign has reached almost $400,000 in donations and 300,000 pounds of food. The donations collected so far will provide 2.1 million meals for Michigan families in need.
“As we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner this week, we must remember our neighbors who may not know where their next meal is coming from,” said Schuette. “The Michigan Harvest Gathering is the Michigan way to help combat this problem. I am so pleased with the success of this year’s campaign and I continue to encourage all who can to open up your pantry, or pick up a little extra at the grocery store to help feed those in need.”
The 2015 Michigan Harvest Gathering kicked off in September with events in Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids.
Michigan Harvest Gathering Background
Michigan Harvest Gathering was founded in 1991 by Attorney General Bill Schuette and his wife, Cynthia. Partnered with the Food Bank Council of Michigan, Michigan Harvest Gathering’s campaign has raised over 54 million meals for those in need. Since the foundation of the Michigan Harvest Gathering in 1991, nearly 10 million pounds of food, and $10 million have been raised to stock the shelves and pantries of food banks across the State of Michigan.
To donate or find out more about the Michigan Harvest Gathering visit feedmichigan.org. Families in need of assistance can call their regional food bank or dial 211 to learn who is serving food in their area.
- Schuette Announces $5.4M Settlement with Novartis
- November 24, 2015
LANSING — Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that Michigan has reached an agreement in principle to settle kickback claims against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation ("Novartis"). The settlement will resolve allegations that Novartis provided kickbacks to certain specialty pharmacies in exchange for recommending the drug Exjade to Medicaid and Medicare patients. Under the settlement, Novartis has agreed to pay $390 million to the United States and over forty states. Michigan will receiving $5,400,080.84. Exjade is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved medication for the treatment of chronic iron overload due to blood transfusions.
“Deceptive medical marketing practices threaten the health and well-being of Michigan families,” Said Schuette. “Michigan consumers shouldn't have to wonder whether financial incentives are negatively influencing their medical care.”
Background on Novartis Pharmaceuticals Settlement
The settlement stems from a whistleblower lawsuit, U.S. ex rel. Kester, et al. v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, et al., No. 11-CIV-8196, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Two of the specialty pharmacies named as defendants in the case, BioScrip, Inc. and Accredo Health Group, Inc., already agreed to pay $15 million and $60 million respectively to resolve claims that they accepted kickbacks from Novartis to promote Exjade. Michigan received $1,264,817.36 under those settlements.
Novartis, which is headquartered in East Hanover, New Jersey, is a subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG. In late 2005, Exjade was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") for the treatment of chronic iron overload due to blood transfusions. After launching the drug, Novartis marketed Exjade as a treatment for patients with a number of underlying conditions that affect blood cells or bone marrow, including beta-thalassemia, sickle cell disease, and myelodysplastic syndromes.
The settlement resolves allegations that between 2007 and 2012 Novartis paid kickbacks to three specialty pharmacies – BioScrip, Accredo, and US Bioservices. The pharmacies were selected by Novartis to be part of a closed distribution network through which most Exjade prescriptions in the United States were filled. Novartis created the distribution network, which it called EPASS, and therefore had significant control over how many patient referrals each pharmacy received. The pharmacies shipped most Exjade prescriptions to patients by mail and were supposed to call patients to set up the shipments and obtain consent for refills. The pharmacies billed themselves as specialty pharmacies that could arrange for these shipments and run educational programs for patients.
In their court filings, the government plaintiffs alleged that Novartis paid kickbacks to the pharmacies to corrupt the pharmacies' interactions with patients by inducing the pharmacies to exaggerate the dangers of not taking Exjade, emphasize Exjade's benefits, and downplay the severity of Exjade's side effects. The scheme began after Exjade failed to meet Novartis' internal sales goals and Novartis discovered that refill rates for Exjade were lower than anticipated.
In the course of the scheme, Novartis pressured the specialty pharmacies by threatening to exclude them from the EPASS network or to reduce the number of patient referrals they received from EPASS. In addition, Novartis set up a contest in which the pharmacy that kept patients on Exjade the longest would receive additional patient referrals from EPASS. The contest winner was determined by scorecards created by Novartis that were sent to each of the three pharmacies. Novartis also paid rebates to the specialty pharmacies, which made each patient referral valuable and incentivized the specialty pharmacies to encourage patients to stay on Exjade. The contest and the rebates were not disclosed to Exjade patients or their caregivers.
In their filings, the government plaintiffs also alleged that lawyers for Novartis raised concerns about the contest for nearly a year before it was implemented. According to the filings, Novartis went forward with the contest anyway after one senior executive was brought in to challenge the legal advice and another determined that the benefits of the scheme to Novartis outweighed the risk of violating the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.
To appease Novartis, all of the pharmacies put together plans to increase refill rates that included nurses placing phone calls to patients or caregivers. One pharmacy, BioScrip, told Novartis that BioScrip would make claims about Exjade preventing organ damage that the FDA had told Novartis it should not make in Novartis' promotional materials. Another pharmacy, Accredo, showed Novartis a call protocol that directed nurses to tell patients it was "extremely important" to take Exjade and to tell patients about the common side effects of the drug but not the more severe side effects, such as kidney or liver problems.
Novartis admitted many aspects of the scheme in a stipulation filed in federal court in connection with the settlement. Among other things, Novartis admitted that it indicated to BioScrip that it might terminate its distribution agreement or reduce the number of patient referrals it received from EPASS. Similarly, Novartis admitted that it told Accredo and US Bioservices that Novartis might reduce the number of patient referrals that they received from EPASS and that Novartis "pushed" Accredo and US Bioservices to implement plans in which nurses would call patients and encourage them to stay on Exjade. Novartis also admitted that it used the scorecard results to allocate EPASS patients to the specialty pharmacies.
The settlement also resolved allegations that Novartis paid kickbacks to other specialty pharmacies to promote the drug Myfortic to doctors. Myfortic is an immunosuppressant that is approved for use in kidney transplant patients.
The state settlements were negotiated by a team of states led by representatives from the Offices of the Attorneys General for California, Indiana, New York, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin.
- Schuette: Three Rivers Man Sentenced For Criminal Sexual Conduct at a Daycare Facility
- November 20, 2015
LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the sentencing of Cary Jones, 47, of Three Rivers for six counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct - Second Degree and two counts of Accosting and Soliciting a Child for Immoral Purposes by visiting Judge Kathleen Brickley in St. Joseph County’s 45th Circuit Court.
On 5 of the 6 counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct 2 he was sentenced to 150 months to 30 years as a habitual offender. On the final count he was sentenced to 171 months to 30 years. He was sentenced to 36 months to 8 years as a habitual offender on each of two counts of accosting a child.
"Our children are our most precious resource, and this sentence keeps children in St. Joseph County safe from a dangerous predator," said Schuette. "We continue to take action to arrest, aggressively prosecute and convict child sexual predators, and put them in prison and away from our kids."
Jones was convicted for six counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct - Second Degree and two counts of Accosting and Soliciting a Child for Immoral Purposes on October 15, 2015. The crimes took place at a home daycare, of which he was a resident.
Jones was home during a majority of the time that the children were being supervised by the owner of the daycare. He often provided transportation from school to the daycare and would sometimes be left alone with the children at the residence.
- Giving Wisely: Schuette Partners with Nonprofits to Help Michigan Citizens Make Smart Donations
- November 19, 2015
LANSING — The Michigan Nonprofit Association, Council of Michigan Foundations, Michigan Association of United Ways, and Attorney General Bill Schuette today released a helpful resource to help Michigan donors make wise charitable gifts this holiday season.
“Michigan residents have generous hearts and their donations support the selfless work of the charitable organizations who assist those in need across our state,” said Schuette. “Giving Wisely helps educate donors to ensure their financial gifts will do the most good and that every dollar makes a difference.”
As the holiday season approaches and many charities begin end of the year fundraising appeals, the free Giving Wisely handout provides timely and critical advice to anyone considering a donation. The resource informs Michigan citizens how best to avoid scams when making their charitable contributions and recommends caution when dealing with fundraising telemarketers.
Giving Wisely also reminds citizens to carefully choose which charities to financially support and encourages donating time and talents to engage with the charity’s work directly. The Giving Wisely handout is available for download and can be read on the Attorney General's website at www.michigan.gov/AG, Michigan Nonprofit Association's website www.mnaonline.org, and the Council of Michigan Foundations website www.michiganfoundations.org.
Attorney General Schuette: Protecting Consumers and Combatting Charity Fraud
Since taking office in 2011, Schuette’s Charitable Trust Section has combatted charity fraud and helped to educate Michigan families and businesses to make the most of their generous donations.
In September, Schuette ordered Childhood Leukemia Foundation Inc. (CLF), a New Jersey-based 501(c)(3) charity, to cease and desist its harassing phone calls to Michigan residents. Schuette’s action was also based on complaints that CLF filed false and misleading financial statements drastically overstating CLF’s charitable activities to hide that 80-90% of their donations received go toward fundraising costs, not children.
In May 2015, Schuette joined a federal and multistate crackdown on four phony cancer charities for scamming $187 million from consumers across the country.
On February 26, 2014, Schuette announced a $45,000 settlement with professional fundraiser Associated Community Services (ACS), of Southfield, to resolve complaints that it wrongly used the Attorney General Office's name to convince senior citizens to contribute credit card information via fundraising calls. ACS was a professional fundraiser for Children’s Cancer Fund, Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Society.
Before you write a check, please feel free to call the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section (517) 373-1152 to inquire about a charity or ascertain information that a charity has provided to you. Check on an organization's license and learn more about charities, public safety organizations, and the laws they must follow by visiting www.michigan.gov/agcharitysearch.
- Schuette Announces Conviction of Oakland County Insurance Broker on Racketeering Charges
- November 18, 2015
LANSING — Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the sentencing of Oakland County insurance broker, John Flaherty, 70, of Troy. He was sentenced by Judge Daniel P. O’Brien, in Oakland Circuit Court, to serve 14 months to 20 years imprisonment and ordered to pay $1.3 million restitution to his victims following a conviction on one count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise (Racketeering).
“Local insurance agents trusted that this man was doing legitimate business when in fact he was taking advantage of them and their customers in order to benefit himself,” said Schuette. “This violation of trust is against the law and will not be tolerated.”
The charges were filed after it was discovered that Flaherty was allegedly pocketing insurance premiums paid by local insurance agents on behalf of their customers and intended for the insurance companies, using his insurance brokerage firm, Alternative Insurance Services, Inc.
The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that Flaherty, starting as early as 1999, would take small sums of insurance premium money from agents and spend it on himself rather than forwarding it to the insurance companies to whom the money was owed. Flaherty used the money to pay for expensive cars, clothing and even to live in a hotel for over a year, while he was using additional premiums to pay the mortgage on a home he owned. Flaherty was able to cover the fraud for years by taking money from other premiums to cover the money he stole. However, once his business slowed he was unable to continue covering the fraud. All told, Flaherty had taken $1.3 million.