Attorney General Appoints Two Willamette University Law Clinic Faculty as Special Assistant Attorneys General to Work with Law Clinic Students on Cases of Misconduct Targeting the Hispanic Community
Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced the filing of a lawsuit against a California resident and four California corporations that allegedly targeted Oregon's Hispanic community by engaging in unlawful trade practices while marketing an English language instruction course called "Ingles con Ritmo." The lawsuit is part of a cooperative effort between the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Willamette University College of Law Clinical Law Program (Program).
Named in the lawsuit prepared by Program students under the supervision of a Program professor are four California corporations, including Tono Records, Tono Publishing, Promo Music, and Millennium Three Corporation; and an individual defendant, Dulce Ugalde (aka Dulce Rickards), of Baldwin Park, Calif., an officer of Tono Records and Tono Publishing. The lawsuit was filed in Marion County Circuit Court by Special Assistant Attorney General David Friedman in conjunction with DOJ's Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection attorneys. Friedman is a visiting assistant professor of clinical legal studies in the Program.
The lawsuit alleges that from 2002 to 2005 the defendants targeted members of Oregon's Hispanic community by advertising "free" English-language instruction courses entitled "Ingles con Ritmo" (English with Rhythm) and later charged exorbitant shipping and handling fees. The defendants repeatedly demanded additional payments for products that consumers never ordered or received. Thereafter, the defendants falsely represented themselves as third-party debt collectors and lawyers and threatened legal action in an effort to extract more money from the victims. In all cases, the victims owed the defendants nothing.
The lawsuit seeks to permanently enjoin the defendants from doing business in the state of Oregon and asks for restitution to all Oregon victims and civil penalties.
"DOJ is extremely pleased to be part of this innovative partnership with the Program," Myers said. "It is a cooperative effort in which both partners greatly benefit from the association."
In 2006, Professor W. Warren H. Binford, Program director, and Friedman were appointed Special Assistant Attorneys General by Myers. Binford and Friedman have since worked with Program students to establish the facts of and prosecute civil cases involving financial fraud and consumer protection issues in conjunction with DOJ. "Many of Willamette's law students are committed to public service and using their legal training to protect vulnerable members of our society," Binford said. "Willamette's partnership with DOJ provides a unique opportunity for students to act on their commitment in a meaningful way."
Program students began work on this case in the fall of 2006. Elan Martinez, a third-year student from Albuquerque, N.M., was involved in the initial investigation and coordinated efforts with local police. Jared D. Boyd of Salem, also a third-year student, conducted legal research on the admissibility of certain evidence. Laurie Nelson of Eugene, fluent in Spanish and a May 2007 Willamette College of Law graduate, provided valuable work translating affidavits and served as a liaison to consumers involved in the case. Third-year student Lonn Johnston of Portland drafted the complaint filed in Marion County Circuit Court. Friedman supervised the students' work. Filing of the lawsuit was approved by DOJ's Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection Section after reviewing the proposed complaint and the evidence developed in the investigation.
The state investigation was aided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which investigated Tono Records nationally. FTC attorney Sarah Schroeder of San Francisco praised the Willamette students' work in the investigation. "The students we worked with gained valuable hands-on experience constructing a consumer fraud case," Schroeder said. "They are well on their way to becoming great attorneys. It was a pleasure working with them."
The Program enables students to represent clients in actual legal cases and transactions under the close supervision of Willamette faculty. The goal of the Program is to instill in students a strong sense of professionalism, standards of excellence and an appreciation for the importance of reflection and balance in the practice of law. Program offerings include specialized clinics in business law, trusts and estates, child and family advocacy, and general civil practice, including consumer protection legal issues. Consumers wanting more information on this Program or consumer protection in the state of Oregon may contact the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. DOJ is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Stephanie Soden, (503) 378-6002
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org
David A. Friedman, Willamette U. College of Law, (503) 480-0280 email@example.com
Anne Marie Becka, Willamette U. College of Law, (503) 370-6760 firstname.lastname@example.org