DeWine Will Host CyberOhio Business Summit on March 31
On March 31st, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will hold his CyberOhio Business Summit at the Nationwide Conference Center in Lewis Center. The Summit will feature cybersecurity experts from across the country to provide business owners with practical, understandable, and actionable cybersecurity information. Attendees will learn how to better protect their businesses and themselves from the evolving cyber threat landscape. There is no cost to attend. Further information is available at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/CyberOhioBusinessSummit.
Attorney General DeWine Warns More Tax Scams Reported As Filing Deadline Nears
COLUMBUS—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned that more consumers are reporting tax-related scams with a few weeks remaining until the April 18 filing deadline.
In 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has logged more than 150 tax scams thus far in March, compared to 80 in January, and 175 in February.
“As we get further into tax season, we’re seeing more of these scams,” Attorney General DeWine said. “What we want people to remember is that if callers are threatening you, saying you have to pay immediately, or saying they’re going to put you in jail, it’s not the IRS.”
The most common tax scam reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is the “IRS” imposter phone scam. The ploy generally begins with a call claiming the recipient is in trouble with the IRS and must call a certain phone number to avoid arrest or legal action. Eventually, the person is asked to pay to resolve the supposed problem.
Con artists commonly lie to people claiming they owe back taxes, they have unfiled returns, they have an arrest warrant in their name, they’re receiving a “final notice” from the IRS, they will be prosecuted for tax fraud, or their assets, wages, or bank account will be frozen if they don’t pay.
The scam artists often ask people to pay using iTunes (or other) gift cards, instructing people to read the card numbers over the phone. With this information, con artists can drain the card’s funds. Once the money is gone, it is nearly impossible to recover.
To avoid phone scams:
- Don’t trust threatening callers. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, be very skeptical, especially if you never received any written notice.
- Avoid making payments over the phone. Don’t trust someone who demands that you pay immediately over the phone using a gift card or prepaid card, or who demands that you send a wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists. The real IRS won’t demand that you pay using one of these specific methods.
- Don’t respond to illegal robocalls. Don’t interact with the caller, and don’t dial the number left on your phone. Responding to a scam call can result in even more calls.
- Don’t rely on caller ID. Scam artists can make it appear that their calls are coming from a local number or from a 202 (Washington D.C.) area code number, even when they are located in another country.
- Check into call-blocking options. Check with your phone carrier and third-party services to determine whether call-blocking services could help you stop unwanted calls.
During tax season, individuals also should beware of tax-related identity theft, which generally occurs when an imposter files a fraudulent tax return using someone else’s Social Security number in order to obtain that person’s tax refund. To reduce the risk of tax identity theft, individuals should file their tax returns as soon as possible and make sure they trust their tax preparer.
In addition to tax scams targeting individuals, employers (such as businesses, schools, and nonprofits) should beware of phishing scams aimed at getting their employees’ personal information. Con artists may send a spoofed email to an HR or payroll employee, requesting a list of all employees and their W-2 forms. The email may appear to come from the head of organization, when it actually is from a scam artist. Employers should beware of these scams and report any W-2 thefts immediately to the IRS.
Updated Concealed Carry Laws Manual Available
COLUMBUS—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced March 23 that an update of his office’s Concealed Carry Laws Manual has been released reflecting recent changes enacted by Senate Bill 199. The updated manual is currently available online, and printed copies of the guide will be available from county sheriffs.
“Our Concealed Carry Laws Manual is great resource for Ohioans interested in concealed handgun laws or interested in obtaining a CCW permit, and it is available at no cost to citizens online,” said Attorney General DeWine.
Senate Bill 199, which became effective on March 21, 2017, included the following notable changes in law:
Active duty members of the armed forces may carry a concealed handgun without obtaining a license if they possess military identification and proof of training with handguns.
Concealed handgun licensees may carry concealed handguns in daycare centers unless otherwise posted.
Concealed handgun licensees may carry concealed handguns in airports as long as they do not pass screening checkpoints or enter restricted areas.
Ohio colleges and universities may permit concealed carry on campus.
Businesses and employers cannot prohibit concealed handgun licensees from keeping handguns in their privately owned vehicle as long as it is legally parked.
Concealed handgun licensees may have handguns in vehicles in school safety zones as long as they are locked in the vehicle.
The Concealed Carry Laws Manual and other concealed carry information can be accessed online at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/ConcealedCarry.
Ohio Man Accused of Falsifying Water Operator Training Certifications
YOUNGSTOWN — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced March 23 that a Youngstown-area man has been indicted for allegedly falsifying the training certificates of water department employees.
Anthony Vigorito, 41, of Niles, was indicted by a Mahoning County grand jury today on the following six counts:
- Two counts of forgery, fifth-degree felonies
- Two counts of criminal non-compliance with Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6109 (Ohio’s safe drinking water law), unclassified felonies
- Two counts of tampering with records, third-degree felonies
Vigorito offered continuing education courses for water operators. He is accused of falsifying the training certificates of Youngstown employees, primarily in 2013 and 2014, by claiming they had taken the courses, when, in fact, they never took or completed the classes as required. Last month, 26 employees of the Youngstown Water Department pleaded guilty to falsifying their contact hours in the Franklin County Municipal Court, Environmental Division. They were ordered to pay a combination of restitution, fines, and community service. Certified water operators’ licenses also were suspended for a year.
The case was referred to the Ohio Attorney General’s Environmental Enforcement Section by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
An attorney with the Ohio Attorney General’s Environmental Enforcement Section was appointed as a special prosecutor by the Mahoning County Prosecutor to handle the case against Anthony Vigorito.
A copy of the indictment as prepared is available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.
Attorney General DeWine Announces Pilot Program for Families Harmed by Parental Opioid Abuse
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced March 22 the creation of a new pilot program that will serve families harmed by parental opioid abuse in more than a dozen southern Ohio counties.
Ohio START (Sobriety, Treatment, and Reducing Trauma) is an intervention program that will provide specialized victim services, such as intensive trauma counseling, to children who have suffered victimization due to parental drug use. The program will also provide drug treatment for parents of children referred to the program.
“Children with a parent or parents addicted to drugs tend to stay in foster care longer, and they enter foster care having experienced significant trauma. While mom and dad are high, these kids may go days without food or supervision. They may have witnessed a parent inject drugs, overdose, or even die,” said Attorney General DeWine. “By creating this program, we hope to help these 14 counties give the silent victims of the opioid epidemic – the children – the best care possible, while also helping their parents recover from their addiction.”
According to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, 50 percent of children placed in foster care in 2015 were placed due to abuse and neglect associated with parental drug use.
Ohio START will bring together child protective services, peer mentors, the courts, and behavioral health and treatment providers to work closely with families whose children have been abused or neglected due to parental addiction in Athens, Clermont, Clinton, Fairfield, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Perry, Pickaway, Pike, Hocking, Ross, and Vinton counties.
The program will primarily be funded through a $3.5 million Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office which will be shared among the counties over two and a half years. These grant funds will be specifically spent to help county child welfare agencies identify children who have been victimized due to parental drug use and provide them with specialized treatment for any resulting behavioral or emotional trauma. The grant will also fund victim services for parents with underlying victimization that may be contributing to their addiction.
Casey Family Programs, which partnered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to develop the Ohio START program, is providing an additional $75,000 for the pilot program. Both grants will be administered by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.
Child welfare workers will work with a certified peer mentor to meet with each family once a week to ensure the safety of the child and provide support to parents. If a child can safely stay in the home during this process, the child can do so with the oversight of caseworkers. Otherwise, kids will have regular visitation with their parents as they undergo drug treatment, which will be paid for by either Medicaid or private insurance.
Family reunification will occur after parents have a minimum of six months of documented sobriety.
“Children are the innocent, invisible victims of the opioid epidemic in Ohio. Ohio’s children services system has experienced an 11 percent increase in the number of children removed from their homes and a 19 percent increase in children staying in care longer due to how challenging it is for parents addicted to opioids to successfully recover,” said Angela Sausser, Executive Director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. “This grant opportunity allows us to pilot a model that could positively improve children’s safety, well-being, and permanency with their birth families.”
“This new investment with Appalachian child welfare agencies recognizes two important issues for Ohio: That the opioid crisis is breaking apart families as parents struggle with drug addiction, leading to the removal of children from the homes and placement with family or in foster care; and that the Appalachian communities and service providers lack critical resources needed to solve this crisis,” said Judge Patricia FitzGerald, Senior Director of Casey Family Programs. “This partnership will strengthen Ohio communities and help heal families struggling with opioids and other drugs.”
“This important investment into children and families by Attorney General DeWine could not have come at a more critical time for my agency and the 13 other agencies in southern Ohio,” said Gallia County Children Services Director Russ Moore. “We are facing an epidemic and we are in desperate need of any lifelines we can acquire. The Attorney General has provided us with a much-needed lifeline.”
Ohio START is modeled on a similar program in Kentucky that resulted in about half as many children returning to foster care due to parental addiction. Parents involved in the Kentucky program were also found to have twice the sobriety rate.
The effectiveness of Ohio START will be studied by partners with Ohio State University’s College of Social Work and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University. If the program is found to be a success, it may expand to other counties.
The $3,535,250 in VOCA grants allotted to this program are being awarded as part of the “Ohio Attorney General’s Expanding Services and Empowering Victims Initiative,” which was created in 2015 to determine how VOCA funds, which come from federal settlements, fines, and fees, could best be spent to serve victims of crime in Ohio.
Report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or by calling 800-282-0515.