Police Chief Pleads Guilty

Other defendants plea to gang activity, weapons, murder, rape, and theft charges

Michael Capriglione, Chief of police for the Town of Newport, has pled guilty to charges stemming from official misconduct. In May 2018, Capriglione ordered the deletion of a surveillance video, which depicted him striking another vehicle in the parking lot of Newport Police Department while driving a departmental vehicle. Capriglione pled guilty to Official Misconduct and Careless Driving and will be sentenced following a pre-sentence investigation by the Court. Deputy Attorney General Sonia Augusthy, director of the DOJ Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Delaware State Police and Frank Robinson, on behalf of the DOJ.

An 18-year-old member of the Shoot to Kill (STK) gang pled guilty to gun and gang charges. Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney secured the plea from Chaz Cowan of New Castle to 3 counts of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited and 1 count each of Illegal Gang Participation, and Non-Compliance with Bond Conditions. In February 2018, Cowan, barred from having a gun because of a felony conviction of Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile in 2015, appeared in a YouTube music video holding a gun. While out on bail in a few months later, Cowan violated a no contact order with co-defendants and cellular phones in November 2018 when police arrested him during a car stop. Police arrested Cowan again in January 2019 after a search warrant — conducted in response to a number of shootings — turned up firearms as well as pictures of Cowan holding at least two of them. A Superior Court judge immediately sentenced Cowan to 1 year in prison, followed by 6 months of either home confinement or work release, then 1 year of probation.

A man and woman have pled guilty to Murder by Abuse or Neglect First Degree in the 2018 beating death of 15-month-old Chosen Smith. Deputy Attorneys General Jim Kriner and Diana Dunn secured the pleas from Tameke Wright, 23 and Lavar Harris, 38, in Superior Court. The couple were babysitting the child in February 2018 when they drove the child to the hospital and reported that he had fallen off a futon. The child died minutes after arriving at the hospital. Upon examination, it was discovered that the child had abrasions and bruises all over his body as well as abusive head injuries, including a fractured skull. The Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma. Detective Devon Jones of the Wilmington Police Department arrested Wright and Harris the following week. Both defendants face a sentence of 15 years to life in prison when sentenced in June. DOJ paralegal Jayna Quillen and victim services specialist Bettina Jones also participated in the prosecution.

A 55-year-old Dover man is awaiting sentencing for raping a teenager. Tyrone Evans pled no contest in Superior Court to Rape Fourth Degree and Unlawful Sexual Contact Second Degree. In June 2018, Evans exposed himself to the teenager and began having sexual intercourse as the victim slept. A Superior Court judge will sentence Evans in March; there is no minimum prison time but the crimes carry as much as 18 years in prison. Deputy Attorney General Kathleen Dickerson prosecuted the case with assistance from Detective Dale Boney of the Dover Police Department, administrative assistant Penny Mannering, social worker Lorraine Freese, paralegal Sue Balik and investigator LaVincent Harris.

A nurse who worked at Brookdale Assisted Living Center in Hockessin has pled guilty to stealing from a resident of the facility. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Barchi of the DOJ Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) secured the plea from Jennifer Wilson, 31, of Wilmington. In October 2018, Wilson went into a resident’s dresser drawer and took $180 and a credit card, which Wilson used to purchase a television. Wilson pled guilty in the Court of Common Pleas to Theft Under $1,500 and was immediately sentenced by a judge to 1 year of probation, ordered to pay $560.94 in restitution, and reported to the Adult Abuse Registry. Wilson was referred to the Division of Professional Regulation where disciplinary action on her nursing license is pending. Corporal Joshua Walther of the Delaware State Police investigated the case with assistance from MFCU chief special investigator Bruce Pinkett.


Delaware Part of Settlement of Fraud Suit With Walgreens

Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced Thursday that Delaware has joined the United States, the District of Columbia, and all 49 other States in settling allegations against Walgreens Boots Alliance (Walgreens). The agreement in principle settles allegations of fraudulently over dispensing insulin pens and violating the False Claims Act for billing Medicaid at rates higher than its usual rates for certain prescription drugs.

The first settlement resolves claims that from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2017, rather than dispensing the quantity of insulin called for by a patient’s prescription, Walgreens exceeded the prescription amount and falsified information on claims submitted for reimbursement to Medicare and Medicaid, including the quantity of insulin and/or days’ supply dispensed.

Walgreens admitted to programming its computer system to define a full box of five insulin pens as the minimum dispensing package size. This definition prevented Walgreens pharmacists from being able to dispense fewer than five pens even though a patient’s prescription called for a smaller number of pens. This resulted in state Medicaid programs paying for a substantial number of claims that the programs would not have approved if Walgreens had reported the correct supply of medication based on the prescription.

In the second settlement, Walgreens agreed to pay to resolve claims that it overbilled Medicaid by failing to disclose and charge the lower drug prices it offered through its Prescription Savings Club discount program. By doing so, Walgreens received more money in reimbursements from the states’ Medicaid programs than it should have.

“Medicaid is a critical public service that thousands of Delawareans depend on and is one of our State’s highest annual expenditures,” said Attorney General Kathleen Jennings. “Dishonest practices like overbilling and falsifying records undermine Medicaid’s solvency, violate public trust, and waste taxpayer money. Walgreens’ acknowledgement that they knowingly engaged in fraudulent over-dispensing signifies that we will not tolerate fraud and abuse in important programs like Medicaid.”

Under the settlement, Walgreens will pay the United States and the States a total of $269.2-million dollars under the two settlements. Delaware’s Medicaid program will receive a total of $586,000 from the agreements; $575,000 for the over-dispensing of insulin pens, and $11,000 for the false claims to Medicaid for the overcharging for discounted drugs.

“As conscientious stewards of taxpayer funding, we thank the Attorney General’s office for pursuing this case and reaching a settlement on behalf of our Medicaid program,” said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a board-certified family physician. “While our Medicaid clients should expect to receive the medicine and the care they require, it is critical for us – at every level of government – to reduce unnecessary and wasteful health care spending.”

Walgreens, headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, and incorporated in Delaware, operates the largest retail pharmacy chain in the U.S., with 8,309 locations across all 50 states.


Prison Sentence for Man Who Beat Nephew With Pipe

Other defendants plead to rape, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, assault, and theft charges

Deputy Attorney General Anna Currier secured a prison sentence for a 60-year-old Wilmington man who pled guilty to beating his nephew with a metal pipe. After an argument, Mark Herring took a 2-foot-long pipe from the basement of a home he resided in along with his nephew, and repeatedly beat him as he slept, causing injuries including skull and facial fractures, as well as brain hemorrhages. In September 2018, Herring pled guilty to Assault First Degree and Possession of a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony. A Superior Court judge sentenced Herring to 5 years in prison, followed by 2 years of probation. DOJ social worker Jenn Kutney-Soper assisted with this case.

Deputy Attorney General Jenna Milecki secured a guilty plea from a Newark man whose sexual assault of a minor. In May 2017, Liberty Wiggins, 25, had consensual sex with a minor despite his being 24 at the time. Wiggins pled guilty to one count of Rape Fourth Degree and faces up to 15 years in prison when sentenced by a Superior Court judge in May. Wiggins will also have to register as a Tier 3 sex offender. Paralegal Jayna Quillen and social worker Claudia Melton assisted with the case.

A Superior Court judge sentenced a 22-year-old Seaford man for a hit and run accident that claimed the life of a young girl. Dwayne McConnell received an 18-month prison sentence, followed by one year of home confinement then 18 months of probation for the April 2018 accident. McConnell struck 9-year-old Germani Truitt-Handy as she crossed the street after checking her family’s mailbox along German Road in Seaford. In December 2018, McConnell pled guilty to Operation of a Motor Vehicle Causing Death and Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Car Accident. Deputy Attorney General Michael Tipton prosecuted the case.

Two former employees of a day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities pled guilty to Crimes Against a Vulnerable Adult after an incident at the center in Millsboro. Witnessed by several people, in August 2018, Tomika West, 40, of Seaford, and Cherise Hazzard, 28, of Lincoln, restrained a client of the program by pulling her by the ponytail as she tried to leave. A Superior Court judge immediately sentenced both West and Hazzard to 6 months of probation. Both women will be placed on the state’s Adult Abuse Registry. Deputy Attorney General Christina Kontis of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit prosecuted the case along with Chief Investigator Bruce Pinkett.

A woman and her daughter involved in a fraud scheme pled to charges of Falsifying Business Records and misdemeanor Theft by False Pretense. Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Deputy Attorney General Lisa Barchi secured the pleas from Anna Barnes, 54, and Ann Margaret Johnson, 37, both of Morrisville, PA. For about a year beginning October 2016, Johnson was registered as a Personal Care Attendant with Easter Seals of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, allowing her to be paid to care for her mother, Barnes. In 2017, Barnes moved and became a permanent resident of Pennsylvania, and began receiving Pennsylvania Medicaid, but continued signing and submitting timesheets for care to Easter Seals in Delaware. Both women received a sentence of 6 months of probation and were ordered to make restitution to Easter Seals. Barnes, who pled no contest, must repay $1,500 and Johnson, who pled guilty, must repay $516. DOJ special investigator James Armstrong investigated the case with assistance from special investigator Paul Reutter.


Residents Of Two Newark Apartments To Receive Funds As A Result Of DOJ Consumer Fraud Action

Payments Part of Resolution of Case against Autumn Park and Hidden Creek Apartment Complexes

Residents of two apartment complexes in Newark are eligible to receive some funds as a result of an action by the Delaware Department of Justice Consumer Protection Unit alleging the apartments were advertised to have amenities that they did not have or which were not operational. The owners and property manager of Hidden Creek are also prohibited in the future from renting residential apartment units anywhere in the state suffering the same types of issues.

The Consumer Protection Unit last week settled its suit, which was filed in March 2017, against Metrodev Newark, LLC, the owners of the former Autumn Park Apartments on Winterhaven Drive, Water Polo IV, L.P. the owners of Hidden Creek Commons on Hobart Drive, and the Metropolitan Management Group, Inc., the entity hired as property manager for the two complexes.

Anyone who was a tenant at Autumn Park between March 13, 2012 and June 30, 2017, or a tenant of Hidden Creek between March 13, 2012 and the present can complete a claim form at https://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/fraud/cpu/aptset/ to receive funds as a result of the action. Tenants can also contact the Consumer Protection Unit at (302) 577-8600 or via email at consumer.protection@delaware.gov.

Prompting the consumer suit were over 80 consumer complaints filed by tenants with DOJ complaining of lack of HVAC services, faulty appliances, plumbing issues, health and safety concerns, and a lack of responsive maintenance. Both complexes had numerous code violations. Despite all this, advertising for the complexes consistently promised amenities such as free heat and hot water, air conditioning, fully equipped kitchens, and 24-hour emergency repair. The Consumer Protection Unit alleged that the failure to provide the promised amenities and services, after having repeatedly advertised their availability, were misrepresentations, false promises and omissions in violation of Delaware consumer fraud laws.

As a part of the settlement, the defendants are prohibited from renting residential apartment units in Delaware that suffer from open code or municipal health, safety, or welfare violations that were active at the time of renting a unit to a tenant. Defendants may not rent units that lack facilities or amenities as advertised or promised to the public, and are prohibited from using false or misleading advertisements. The only property currently under defendants’ ownership or control in Delaware is the Hidden Creek Commons community.

As a part of the settlement, the defendants will provide training to their staff to ensure they are knowledgeable of the requirements of the Delaware Residential Landlord Tenant Code, New Castle County Tenants and Rental Code, and state and federal fair housing laws. The defendants will also institute training for tenants to ensure that tenants are aware of their rights under the Delaware Residential Landlord Tenant Code and the New Castle County Tenants and Rental Code.

Finally, the defendants will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $400,000. These funds will be used to make payments to affected tenant consumers who complete the claim form and provide supporting documentation. Remaining funds will go to the state’s Consumer Protection Fund to repay the costs of the investigation and to fund other consumer protection activities in Delaware.

“This case was a priority of former Attorney General Matt Denn because tenants were living in conditions that were unacceptable,” Attorney General Kathy Jennings said. “I am proud of the work that DOJ has done to send the message that such misleading conduct should not be tolerated.”

This case was handled for the Consumer Protection Unit by CPU Assistant Director Gillian Andrews, Deputy Attorney General Gina Schoenberg, Special Investigators Robert Schreiber, Bruce Pinkett, and LaVincent Harris, and Paralegal Angela Williams.


Delaware Announces Settlement to Reform Debt Buying and Collection Practices

Attorney General Matt Denn announced today that Delaware joined 41 other states and the District of Columbia in reaching a settlement regarding debt collection practices with Encore Capital Group Inc. and its subsidiaries Midland Credit Management, Inc. and Midland Funding, LLC, one of the nation’s largest debt buyers.

Debt buying involves buying and selling overdue debts from creditors and other account owners. Often purchased for pennies on the dollar, debt buyers seek to recover the full balance from consumers through collection attempts by phone and mail. Debt buyers, including Midland, also take consumers to court to collect the debts they purchase.

The settlement resolves the States’ investigation into Midland’s collection and litigation practices. The agreement settles claims that Midland signed and filed affidavits in state courts in large volumes without verifying the information printed in them, a practice commonly called robo-signing.

The settlement requires Midland to reform its affidavit signing and litigation practices. As a result of the investigation and settlement, when Midland files a lawsuit, it must have account documents about the debt before they file the case, including the amount of the debt, proof of an agreement, and an explanation about why any additional fees are justified.

As part of the settlement, Midland will completely eliminate or reduce the judgment balances of approximately 20 Delaware consumers for a value of $27,133 in cases where Midland used an affidavit against them in court. Midland will notify impacted consumers by mail of the balance reduction and no further action is necessary from the consumers.