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Entries in Fraud (3)

Monday
Feb252013

Lawmakers Tell Facebook’s Zuckerberg to Help Protect Sandy Hook Victims From Fraud

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A trio of lawmakers representing Newtown, Conn., where Sandy Hook Elementary School is located, wrote a letter to Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to complain on behalf of families and victims who say they may have been exploited for their loss by bad actors on the popular social media site.

Since the tragedy Dec. 14, Facebook users have created hundreds of unofficial tribute pages dedicated to the victims of Sandy Hook, including more than 100 tribute pages for first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, who is hailed as a hero for shielding her students as she was gunned down in the shooting in which Adam Lanza allegedly killed 26 students and teachers.

But not all of the people behind some of the tribute pages have good intentions.

The letter, which is signed by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, asks Zuckerberg to remove Facebook pages cited in complaints submitted by Donna Soto, Victoria’s mother, and Kaitlin Roig, a Sandy Hook teacher who survived the shooting, “for violating the above terms of service.”

“Many give the appearance they were created by loved ones in the names of the victims. Unfortunately, many of these pages have become vehicles for harassment, intimidation and possibly financial fraud,” the trio wrote. “Pages providing platforms for people to violate the privacy of families as they grieve, or seek financial gain through soliciting donations under false pretenses, or generating Facebook ‘likes’ for marketing purposes, should not be given quarter in the Facebook community.”

The lawmakers note that shady tributes violate several of Facebook’s terms of service, such as providing false personal information on Facebook, creating an account for someone else without permission and bullying, intimidation and harassment.

“If you do not believe these pages violate your terms of service, please detail in a written response why,” the letter reads. “If Facebook is already looking into this matter, please detail what you have done thus far to address the take-down requests from Donna Soto and Kaitlin Roig.”

Esty’s office did not immediately provide a copy of the Soto/Roig take-down request, but the congressional offices pledged to work with Facebook to address their constituents’ grievances.

“We recognize that Facebook receives a large volume of reports and requests each day, but this issue deserves and needs priority enforcement of your own well-established policies,” the letter concludes. “We trust you will do the right thing.”

A Facebook spokesperson who asked not to be identified said the company “has been working closely” with families and a foundation representing Sandy Hook victims “to identify, review, and take action” on content posted to Facebook “in line with our terms.” The source said Facebook has also created a “dedicated staff” to address concerns related to the Sandy Hook shooting, and Facebook briefed Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen on its efforts.

“Hours after the tragedy, we reached out to law enforcement to provide assistance. We are continuing to work closely with the families and the foundation representing the victims of Sandy Hook to ensure that we respond as quickly as possible to concerns,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “For the past few months, our rapid response team has acted swiftly to remove inappropriate materials flagged by the foundation and the families. We will continue to be vigilant.”

The spokesperson did not comment directly on the Soto/Roig take-down request.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan272012

Romney Attacked Over Medicare Settlement

ABC/Matthew Putney(MIAMI) -- Mitt Romney’s enemies have unleashed a torrent of attacks in Florida over Medicare fraud conspiracy committed by a company Romney helped run in the 1990s.

The pro-Newt-Gingrich superPAC Winning Our Future has released a one-minute trailer and a “dramatic new film presentation” called “Blood Money,” accusing Romney of personally profiting from Medicare fraud.

This follows the group’s half-hour, disaster-movie-esque “King of Bain,” which detailed layoffs by companies purchased by Bain Capital, the firm Romney launched.

The labor union AFSCME joined in on the attack, releasing a Florida ad tying Romney to Medicare fraud, and the Democratic National Committee Friday blasted an opposition-research memo to reporters leveling the same accusations. The ads may or may not resonate in Florida, where voters elected Gov. Rick Scott (R) in 2010 despite a massive Medicare-fraud penalty paid by his health-care management company.

What’s the story behind Romney the sensationalized “Blood Money” accusation?

It all stems from Damon Corp., a medical-testing company run by Romney and Bain in the 1990s, which was caught in a widespread federal investigation into Medicare fraud at lab companies.

In 1989, Bain took over Damon Corp., then based in Massachusetts, and Romney sat on Damon’s board from 1990 until 1993, when Bain sold the company to Corning Inc.

During Romney’s tenure at Damon, the company allegedly defrauded Medicare for millions of dollars by offering packages of blood tests that resulted in doctors ordering unnecessary lab-work, paid for by Medicare. Damon offered suites of blood tests that, in some cases, were unrelated. Doctors could order Damon’s lab-work in these packages -- but Damon did not inform those doctors that it would bill Medicare for the superfluous tests included in the packages.

After Bain sold the company to Corning, federal investigators caught Damon and a host of other medical-lab companies engaged in similar activity. Damon pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud in 1996 and paid a total of $119 million, including a criminal fine and a civil settlement. The United States Attorneys Bulletin outlined the sweeping investigations, known as LABSCAM, in its April 1997 issue. Other companies, such as SmithKlineBeecham, were also caught engaging in fraudulent activity and were forced to pay fines.

This isn’t the first time all Damon Corp. has come up in Romney’s political career. When he ran for governor in 2002, his Democratic opponent pointed out the Damon fines.

Confronted over it in 2002, Romney told media he “blew the whistle” on Damon’s fraudulent Medicare activity when he found out about it. And he did -- to some extent.

“We put in place a program to stop that immediately,” Romney told reporters on Oct. 9, 2002, according to a Boston Globe account. “That’s how you blow the whistle.”

Romney’s present critics are quick to point out that U.S. attorneys didn’t see it that way. Damon’s prosecutors credited Corning, not Romney or Bain, with discovering and ferreting out the alleged fraud.

Romney and the Damon board did, however, contact Damon’s lawyers, seek their counsel, and change Damon’s policies.

We can expect Romney’s opponents to keep surfacing one key number, however: the $473,000 Romney reportedly gained from the sale of Damon Corp.

See the ad, which takes facts from the Damon case to accuse Romney of “Blood Money," below.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Sen. Blumenthal: Leave Social Security Alone; Fight Waste, Fraud

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., says when it comes to balancing the budget, you better not touch Social Security.

"I believe that we should not be balancing the budget on the backs of people who are most vulnerable and who need government assistance most," Blumenthal told ABC News.  "I think that we will need to address Social Security if the current trends continue sometime after the next ten years or so but not as part of dealing with the deficit."

While cutting Social Security long has been seen as politically perilous, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the tide may turning.  Forty-six percent of those surveyed support trimming early-retirement benefits, up 10 points from six years ago; and 42 percent favor raising the retirement age for full benefits from 67 to 68 -- up nine points from 2005.

Blumenthal, however, thinks Social Security is fine as it is.

"Social Security will be solvent between now and the year 2037 and if we are embroiled in trying to cut Social Security while balancing the budget, we will do neither," the Connecticut Democrat told ABC News.

Despite widespread criticism of President Obama for not addressing entitlement reform in his recent budget proposal, Blumenthal expressed confidence that Obama would begin leading the conversation about cutting the deficit soon.

"[The president] has set down a marker," Blumenthal said.  "He has provided a beginning for reducing our debt and our deficit, and I'm certainly going to be advocating for even stronger measures."

The stronger measures Blumenthal speaks of involve combating waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare.

"Look, I pursued waste and fraud in Medicare over 10 years as attorney general," Blumenthal said of his tenure in Connecticut.  "What we have won back from waste and fraud is just the tip of the iceberg, just a drop in the bucket.  And I think there are hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe a trillion, in waste and fraud in Medicare that we can recover."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio