Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Thursday, March 14, 2002

ATTORNEY GENERAL CORNYN PRAISES HISPANIC JOURNALISTS FOR BEING THE VOICE OF MILLIONS

He tells national conference of the importance of the Spanish-language media in ensuring access to government

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn congratulated more than 200 Hispanic print journalists for their efforts in serving over 10 million Spanish-speakers nationwide. Attorney General Cornyn delivered the keynote address today during the 17th Annual Conference of the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) in Dallas.

"My commitment as the Attorney General of Texas has been to make government the most inclusive it has ever been for all of the people of Texas," said the Attorney General. "My mission has been a simple one: To see that all Texans receive equal justice under the law, without exception."

The Attorney General acknowledged that Hispanic media have brought to light many injustices that were previously unknown to government officials. He mentioned the problems of the half million colonia residents who for years were deceived by unscrupulous developers into buying substandard housing along the Texas-Mexico border. "The colonias make a compelling case for ensuring that every person has a voice in society, regardless of the language in which that voice is heard," said Attorney General Cornyn.

Attorney General Cornyn told conference participants that communications from Hispanic media have alerted his office about significant new cases of fraud that targets Spanish-speaking consumers.

One of the largest cases handled by Attorney General Cornyn involves a widespread door-to-door sales scheme by Houston-based Hispanic Air Conditioning and Heating, Inc. The now defunct company violated several state laws when selling thousands of central air conditioning units exclusively to Spanish-speaking households throughout the Southwest.

Attorney General Cornyn sued Hispanic Air Conditioning and Heating in 1999. Among the allegations cited were the company's failure to properly install the units, leading to a high failure rate, and the misrepresentations the company made regarding the units' warranties. Furthermore, while many sales were verbally negotiated in Spanish, consumers were given contracts written only in English, a violation of the Texas Home Solicitation Act.

In 2001, Attorney General Cornyn sued two other businesses engaged in deceptive door-to-door sales directed at Hispanic consumers. Perfect Water Solutions, Inc. of McAllen and LJC Water Treatment, Inc. of El Paso were sued in separate legal actions for selling expensive water filtration units through a team of traveling salespersons. These two companies failed to properly disclose to consumers of their right to cancel their contracts and did not provide the agreements in the language in which the sales were verbally negotiated.

In another important case, Hispanic media directly alerted the Office of the Attorney General of numerous reports nationwide of Hispanic-surnamed consumers receiving fraudulent collect calls from Mexico. Perpetrators of the scam used different tactics to convince consumers to accept charges, such as by posing as long-lost relatives. Once accepted, consumers were charged a minimum of $50 per call. Following an investigation, Attorney General Cornyn sued Austin-based Southwest Intelecom, Inc. in June 2001, accusing it of paying agents in Mexico to place the bogus calls.

Attorney General Cornyn also assured conference participants that he is working with diplomatic officials in Texas and the federal government to crack down on fraudulent immigration consultants. Hispanic media often report about consumers who pay thousands of dollars to unlicenced persons who pose as immigration attorneys. The perpetrators generally provide consumers with defective or unnecessary legal services related to immigration benefits. Since assuming office, Attorney General Cornyn has taken legal action against two such fraudulent operations.

To ensure that problems that need government service are not left unattended, Attorney General Cornyn established his Spanish Communications Group, one of the first government efforts of its kind. Attorney General Cornyn's office interacts with the Spanish-speaking public on a daily basis to ensure access to the agency's services, including consumer protection, child support, and compensation for crime victims.

Material developed as a part of this outreach effort is reflected in the Attorney General's Web site (www.oag.state.tx.us), among the largest online sources of information in Spanish developed by a government agency in the U.S.

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