Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Child Exploitation Unit of his office arrested 53-year-old George Henry Gemmell…
Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton is the lawyer for the State of Texas and is charged by the Texas Constitution to:
- defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas
- represent the State in litigation
- approve public bond issues
To fulfill these responsibilities, the Office of the Attorney General serves as legal counsel to all boards and agencies of state government, issues legal opinions when requested by the Governor, heads of state agencies and other officials and agencies as provided by Texas statutes.
The Texas AG sits as an ex-officio member of state committees and commissions, and defends challenges to state laws and suits against both state agencies and individual employees of the State.
Many Texans look to the Office of the Attorney General for guidance with disputes and legal issues. The agency receives hundreds of letters, phone calls and visits each week about crime victims’ compensation, child support, abuse in nursing homes, possible consumer fraud and other topics. To find out more about the Texas Attorney General, visit the official website at https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/.
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AG Paxton’s Child Exploitation Unit Arrests McLennan County Man for Possession of Child Pornography
AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Child Exploitation Unit of his office arrested 53-year-old George Henry Gemmell, of Hewitt, Texas, on five counts of possession of child pornography, a third-degree felony.
Child Exploitation Unit investigators linked Gemmell to an IP address for a device that was used to share child pornography.
A search of Gemmell’s home turned up numerous images of child pornography on his desktop computer.
During an interview, Gemmell, who works as a security guard, admitted that he downloaded and viewed child pornography.
Several digital storage devices were seized from his home for examination by the Digital Forensics Unit of the attorney general’s office.
Attorney General Paxton’s office works to protect children by using the latest technology to track down some of the most profoundly evil predators online.
Since its inception, the Child Exploitation Unit has made 324 arrests and obtained 567 convictions for possession of child pornography. Attorney General Paxton urges all parents and teachers to become aware of the risks children face on the internet and take steps to help ensure their safety.
If you suspect someone is producing or downloading child pornography you can report it to NCMEC. For more information on cyber safety, please visit: https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/initiatives/cyber-safety/.
6 Gas Stations Agree to Refund Customers for Hurricane Harvey Price Gouging
AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that his Consumer Protection Division settled lawsuits against two Texas gas stations accused of price gouging during the declared disaster for Hurricane Harvey. The attorney general’s office also secured Assurances of Voluntary Compliance with four Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex gas stations.
Under separate agreements, Encinal Fuel LLC and Lafayette C-Store will each pay $17,500 in civil restitution to refund Texans who were charged up to $9.99 a gallon for gas from August 31-September 3, 2017, at:
• Encinal Fuel, 28442 South IH-325, Encinal, TX; and
• Tejano Mart 505, 502 Lafayette Street, Laredo, TX 78041
Four gas stations also signed agreements promising to reimburse consumers who were charged $3.99 or more per gallon of gas during Harvey:
• Rush 24/7, 2410 S.Hampton Road, Dallas, TX 75224;
• Hans Texaco, 12920 Preston Road, Dallas, TX 75230; and
• Hans Chevron, 2590 E. Arkansas Lane, Arlington, TX 76014
• B Z Star, Inc., 3020 Big Town Blvd., Mesquite TX 75150
Texas consumers who believe they were victims of price gouging should submit a claim form with Attorney General Paxton’s Consumer Protection Division. Claim forms will be accepted for Encinal Fuel, Tejano Mart, Hans Chevron, Hans Texaco and B Z Star through June 30, 2019, while the deadline for Rush 24/7 claim forms is July 31, 2019.
“These latest settlements make things right for Texans who were charged excessive or exorbitant amounts for fuel during Hurricane Harvey,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The settlements also reinforce the message that my office will not tolerate price gouging of Texans by anyone looking to profit off disasters.”
To date, the Consumer Protection Division has finalized 61 Hurricane Harvey-related price gouging settlements totaling $307,801 with gasoline stations across Texas.
As Hurricane Harvey was approaching the Texas coast in 2017, Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster activating a provision of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act that makes price gouging on necessities – such as drinking water, food and gasoline – illegal.
In the wake of the hurricane, the attorney general’s office received numerous complaints about inflated prices at gasoline pumps. Many Texans emailed photos and receipts as evidence. Investigations are ongoing.
Texans who believe they’ve been scammed or price gouged by any business should call the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at (800) 621-0508, email email@example.com, or file a complaint online at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint.
View a copy of the final settlement with Encinal Fuel here.
View a copy of the final settlement with Tejano Mart here.
View a copy of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with Rush 24/7 here.
View a copy of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with Hans Texaco 24/7 here.
View a copy of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with Hans Chevron here.
View a copy of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with B Z Star, Inc. here.
AG Paxton Joins Coalition Urging CFPB to Restore States’ Authority to Protect Consumers
AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today joined a 12-state coalition – led by Indiana and Arkansas – in support of a proposal by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to rescind a 2017 CFPB rule and replace it with a new one governing small, short-term loans.
The existing rule ignores the states’ traditional role as the lead consumer protection authorities, and it harms consumers’ freedom to make decisions about the types of financial products that best serve them.
In a letter to CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger, Attorney General Paxton and his counterparts stated that “the proposed rule respects the states’ role in maximizing consumers’ welfare by ensuring both that consumers are protected from illegal practices and that they have access to credit.”
“Texas and other states have designed a variety of regulatory approaches to small-dollar lending that are best-suited to the unique needs of their residents, rather than a one-size-fit-all directive from Washington,” Attorney General Paxton said. “No CFPB rule should intrude on the states’ responsibility to ensure that their residents can obtain credit on fair terms.”
Indiana, Arkansas and Texas are joined in the letter to the CFPB by Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.
Last year, Attorney General Paxton led a 14-state brief challenging the constitutionality of the CFPB and its Arbitration Rule, which would have increased the cost of credit for Americans and deprived them of a resource for resolving disputes between banks and consumers.
President Trump ultimately signed into law a joint resolution passed by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House that rescinded the rule.
View the letter to the CFPB here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=CFPB-2019-0006-27970.
AG Paxton’s Office Responds to Letter from House Subcommittee Attempting to Interfere in State Operations
AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office today rejected a demand from the chairmen of two U.S. House Ways and Means subcommittees to provide confidential documents and information related to a letter the attorney general sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last year.
The letter urged the repeal of an unlawful Obama-era rule on child welfare funding that harms children and families by limiting adoption agencies’ access to public resources based on the religious beliefs of agency employees.
The attorney general rejected the House subcommittees demands because the Subcommittee’s attempt to exercise control over core state functions violates constitutional principles of federalism.
In a letter to U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Danny Davis, Texas First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer explained that Texas is not a subdivision of the federal government, but operates as a dual sovereign within the Union.
The Supreme Court has recognized that preserving comity between the federal and state governments is a core value of our Constitution and Congress lacks the power to oversee a State’s exercise of its sovereign functions.
“Congress may use its spending power to encourage a State to adopt federal programs. That power, however, does not give a Congressional subcommittee authority to oversee a State’s exercise of a core sovereign function in determining whether that program has created a legal dispute between the State and the United States government,” First Assistant Attorney General Mateer wrote in the letter. “Nor does it give Congress authority to oversee a State’s decision to challenge such a rule solely because the State disagrees with a massive shift in federal agency policy governing the program without any underlying change in federal law.”
The letter also notes the Supreme Court has clearly stated that Congress is not “a law enforcement or trial agency” and cannot investigate “solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to ‘punish’ those investigated.”
First Assistant Mateer directed the Subcommittee to submit a public records request for non-privileged documents outside of the scope of potential litigation.
View a copy of the letter here.
Law Enforcement Division’s Sgt. David Samaniego Honored with National Award for Stopping Drug-Money Laundering Scheme
AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that Sergeant David Samaniego from the Law Enforcement Division of his office received the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director’s Award for his outstanding leadership on an investigation to stop a major drug-money laundering scheme.
Sgt. Samaniego serves in the Law Enforcement Division’s Money Laundering and Organized Crime Unit and is assigned as a full-time task force officer with Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso.
Starting in 2016, Sgt. Samaniego led a collaborative law enforcement investigation – dubbed Operation Green Hill – that caught a money launderer working for a Mexican drug cartel. The De La Cruz-Aguilar cartel smuggled an estimated 200 kilograms (nearly 441 pounds) of illegal drugs through the El Paso ports of entry every month. Marijuana and cocaine were sold from North Carolina to El Paso, and hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug deals were laundered through various financial institutions and sent back to Mexico.
Operation Green Hill effectively crippled the cartel, whose leader, Raul Angel De La Cruz-Aguilar, was indicted on multiple counts of money laundering and narcotics smuggling charges. He remains a wanted fugitive in Mexico. Nine co-conspirators, including the money launderer in El Paso, were arrested, convicted and are serving sentences ranging from 24 to 151 months in federal prison.
Sgt. Samaniego received his award in Washington, D.C., yesterday during a ceremony hosted by FinCEN, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department. FinCEN’s mission is to safeguard the U.S. financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering.
Last month, Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso presented Sgt. Samaniego with two awards for his work on Operation Green Hill – Partner of the Year and Financial Crimes Case of the Year.
“Sergeant Samaniego’s leadership on Operation Green Hill helped law enforcement root out a serious money laundering operation associated with a dangerous Mexican drug cartel, and I’m pleased that his hard work has been recognized with national and regional awards,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The volume of drugs moved by the cartel endangered the health and welfare of Texans and others. Texas is a safer and better place because of Sgt. Samaniego’s work, and I am grateful to all those in law enforcement who serve the people of our state.”
Notification of Opinion
Original Request for Opinion RQ-0255-KP: Whether a local law enforcement agency’s “no-chase” policy limits a peace officer’s duty to prevent and suppress crime and exposes the peace officer to civil liability for later harm caused by the offender the peace officer failed to chase
Opinion Summary – KP-0249: While Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 2.13 imposes a duty on peace officers to prevent and suppress crime, policies that encourage officers to seek alternative methods of pursuit in an attempt to ensure the safety of the public and law enforcement officers generally do not conflict with this duty.
An officer observing a governmental employer’s no-chase policy is unlikely to incur personal liability for harm caused by a fleeing offender. In instances when an officer exercises discretion under a no-chase policy, the officer will likely qualify for official immunity. In circumstances where official immunity does not apply, an officer will have other defenses, as courts have generally held that an officer has no legal duty to arrest a suspect to prevent third-party injury. Further, subsection 101.106(±) of the Texas Tort Claims Act entitles a governmental employee.to dismissal if a suit is based on conduct within the scope of their employment and could have been brought under the Act against the governmental unit.
Notification of Opinion
Original Request for Opinion – RQ-0256-KP: Whether certain prompt-pay provisions in chapters 843 and 1301 of the Insurance Code apply to claims filed by out-of-network emergency care providers
Opinion Summary – KP-0250: A court would likely conclude that the deadline provisions of sections 843.338 and 1301.103 of the Insurance Code relate to prompt payment and, therefore, apply to claims filed by out-of-network emergency care providers pursuant to section 843.351 or 1301.069 of that Code. However, a court would likely conclude that the penalty provisions in sections 843.342 and 1301.137 do not apply to claims filed by out-of-network emergency care providers pursuant to sections 843.351 or 1301.069.
The Legislature provided a penalty regime through sections 843.342 and 1301.137 of the Code for insurers who do not make timely payments on eligible clean claims submitted to them. Thus, the Department cannot impose an additional penalty. But depending on the circumstances, a court could conclude that a particular enforcement action to compel the claim payment required by statute to a non-network emergency care provider is not in the nature of a penalty and is within the Department’s authority to implement.
Notification of Opinion
Original Request for Opinion – RQ-0257-KP: Whether individuals convicted of a felony are eligible to run for office in Texas after completing their sentence and having their voting rights restored
Opinion Summary – KP-0251: Subsection 141.00I(a)(4) of the Election Code provides that to be eligible as a candidate for public office a person must “have not been finally convicted of a felony from which the person has not been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities.”
The restoration of a convicted felon’s qualification to vote under Election Code subsection 1 l.002(a)(4)(A) after fully discharging a sentence does not restore his or her eligibility to hold public office under Election Code subsection 141.001(a)(4).