A Conversation with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi

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>>Welcome, General Bondi! Thanks for coming to the studios.>>Thank you! I’m thrilled to be here with you.>>Well alright, so session’s completely underway right now, but there’s a lot of things that have nothing to do, frankly, with the Florida legislative session and your office has been wrapped up in so many important issues in Florida, and I think the first one I would love to hear about is where does Florida stand in the fight against illegal drugs? I mean you have been on the issues of fighting pill mills and addiction. So where does that all stand?>>Well, it’s not only in Florida. It’s our entire country and our entire world. We’re working with other countries as well, but Florida, we’ve done so much that we’re very proud of. Of course when I took office we had seven Floridians die in a day from Oxycodone abuse, and I frankly couldn’t believe it. And so we all worked very hard together to pass tough legislation. Of the top one hundred Oxycodone dispensers – these are doctors – in the entire country, 98 of them lived in Florida.>>Well and that Oxy addiction>>Isn’t that crazy? >>transferred to, once you started cleaning that up, it transferred over to heroin addiction>>It did.>>Mixing it. So where was that?>>And the last we checked, the last we checked, of those 98 doctors, none of them now live in Florida.>>Well, that’s good.>>But, we knew, I mean you know, addicts are going to switch from one drug to another and the new drug of choice was, not actually a new drug, but it’s truly made a comeback is heroin. Heroin, fentanyl, car fentanyl, and U-47700, which is a synthetic. And it’s all these, these drugs can kill an elephant.>>Are they making these in Florida? Are they importing them? Where are they coming from?>>Well, most of them are, the heroin is manufactured in Asia, and it comes into our country through the traditional smuggling route of Mexico and across the border, and that’s why I’m all for protecting, for building a wall and protecting our border, because I don’t want drugs coming into our state. And so they’re coming in. But now, you know, you used to think of heroin – and this is so important for your viewers to know – heroin, a needle, a dirty needle, and a dark street corner in a seedy neighborhood at night, now it’s coming in pill form, powder form. You can smoke it in some vapor shop. I mean it’s crazy all the different ways. In Pinellas County alone, near our hometowns, the sheriff there had five overdoses. Five people dropped dead, I think between like ages of nineteen and twenty-three, in three days. And you know what they thought they bought on the street? A Xanax pill. So what’s the drug of choice, like among college kids? Xanax, Adderall, because they think it helps them study or focus or>>Right.>>So there are pill presses. They are mixing in these pill presses, not only heroin, but fentanyl, car fentanyl, which basically is an elephant tranquilizer. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. Can you believe that? And so, if anyone is listening, parents, kids, anyone, and somebody tries to sell you a pill on the street and you don’t know, and it says Xanax, it says Adderall, do not buy it! So we found out this was happening and one of my great staff members, I’m like, “How are they making these things here?” He looked online, Amazon and eBay. You can buy a Xanax and Adderall pill press. So let me give them some credit. I picked up the phone, I called both of them, and within an hour they were yanked off their websites.>>That’s good, that’s corporate stewardship right there.>>It is, it is. But>>You had to make the call, right?>>But this war on drugs is going on, and nationally, I’m co-chair with the national AG’s of the substance abuse committee nationally, so we’re fighting this all over the country. Heroin has a huge problem in New Hampshire, all over the country.>>Well addiction certainly was one of the key conversations during the last presidential campaign.>>It was.>>And this issue will continue to face Floridians and you know I’m>>and Americans.>>Yeah, and Americans, and we’re just grateful for the work that you’re doing and your office is doing on those issues.>>Thank you. >>So let me ask you the next question. So the other one that, of course, living in Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, we hear a lot about the work you’re doing on human trafficking. Some stations or radio talk shows talk a little bit about it, but I don’t know if the average Floridian out there going to work day in a day out thinks about this as an issue. What is the issue with human trafficking, how big, how bad is it, what can we do about it?>>Well it’s alive and thriving, sadly, and so we have three United States Attorneys, we have 20 elected state attorneys, and I fought to get legislation passed so my statewide prosecutors, we handle multi-county cases. So just my statewide prosecutors could also have jurisdiction, so just my statewide prosecutors alone right now, not the 20 state attorneys, not the three US Attorneys, just mine, right now have 90 defendants pending.>>Plus additional cases in each of the individual jurisdictions.>>Exactly, which is much bigger, so think how many victims are attached to each defendant. Human trafficking – it’s basically, it’s forced labor of course, but it’s also forcing young men and women into the sex trade, and that ties into the drugs. You know they’re immediately, and I call them kids, they’re little boys or girls, they’re teenagers, they’re young adults, but they’re immediately taken, addicted to drugs – the strongest types of drugs you can imagine and forced into a life of prostitution. So we’ve partnered once again with our great businesses. The truckers came to me and said let us be your eyes and ears. We’re out there on the streets. We’re seeing this so, we’ve got to be proactive. >>I heard that Uber is also helping as well.>>How great is that? We honored Uber today for being so proactive. You probably heard in Sacramento an Uber driver had a fare, and the only way we’re gonna stop this, because it’s in the shadows, people have got to bring this out of the shadows, and so an Uber driver in Sacramento picked up a fare, and he heard something going on in the back of the Uber and, like, this isn’t right. He called the police and saved a 16 year old’s life and got a monster arrested. So Uber now, Florida is their prototype state, which is amazing, and in Florida on the Uber driver’s app, as a rider you have a different app, Uber driver’s see something different, and Uber is telling them the signs to look for for human trafficking.>>That’s great. We also heard about that flight attendant, remember the flight attendant going from Seattle to San Francisco…>>I heard you tell a story. Had to do with a sticky note, right?>>And she was on a flight, the flight attendant knew what to look for, like something isn’t right here. It’s an adult man, a younger female, so the young girl got up to go to the restroom, she put a sticky in the restroom and said, “Do you need help?” with a pen and the girl wrote “yes.”>>So really it’s about education and understanding the signs and what to look for.>>Education, that’s it. We’re training law enforcement. Emergency room physicians have come to us. We’re training them. It’s being vigilant in prosecutions as well as getting the word out and our website is www.youcanstopht.com. So please go online and look for the signs of how to spot this and never be embarrassed about reporting anything, anything suspicious. Law enforcement, they want to hear about it. >>Well those are two humongous issues that are relevant in every community across the board, and they are visible when you see them either rescued or arrested, either way it’s important. So one of the ones I think affects lives is another issue that really takes away from every Floridian’s ability to get care, and you’ve been working on Medicaid fraud, and you’ve had some great successes there, but there’s more work to be done. Tell us a little bit about, what’s the story and how are you finding it, and what needs to be done?>>Well, when I took office, my Medicaid fraud unit was based up here in Tallahassee, which is great, but I was in my Miami office, my South Florida office, which of course, I think, is the Medicaid capital of fraud of the state. And so I was down there and we had empty offices, lights off, and I’m like, wait a minute, so we revamped our unit a little bit, moved it basically to South Florida ->>Ground zero.>>Right, to ground zero and they had been working so hard on Medicaid fraud and just came out from United States Department of HHS, came out from HHS that we are number two this year in combatting Medicaid fraud for the entire country, and that’s $650 million that we recovered for Floridians, my unit, so I just want to commend Jim Varnado, Captain Mann, all of my great attorneys in that unit, they are working so hard.>>So tell me a little bit about how those Lieutenants in your divisions go about finding it and then catching them. I mean are these stings, or are they seeing bank transfers?>>All kinds of ways. Well now that we’ve gone to managed care, it’s changed up a bit, so there’s a lot of accounting involved, of course, and it’s a lot of billing for services not rendered. Shock. But that’s how you come in and that’s where they’re stealing our tax dollars, and I’m just so proud at that unit for what they are doing and consumer protection, my consumer protection unit, they’re out there every day. We saw people were trying to get gouged during the hurricane.>>That’s a great place>>I personally went out and chewed out a hotel. They were gouging people. It’s non-stop, but we want to make Florida the safest place to work, live and raise a family and our Governor’s doing a great job bringing businesses here.>>I love it. So the last thing I want to ask you about is a little bit about some legislation that just passed in the legislature, and that was the unanimous decision on receiving a death penalty in the state. Does that help the court system to move faster, or does it help Floridians to be absolutely sure? What does that mean for the system?>>We will, and there are a bunch of cases out there, and I can name them by name. Lambrix is one of them. Two of them we just got affirmed by the State Supreme Court, but where there’s been a lot of confusion is, of course, Florida was not unanimous, we had passed 10-2 but then you look at a state like Alabama. So there was case in Alabama, Smith was the case, and the jury recommended life. The judge did an override on that and gave the defendant death. He was executed after the United States Supreme Court upheld it and said it was okay.>>So now Florida’s…>>Again, that was a life recommendation, so there are different cases all over the country. Alabama’s had some similar issues as Florida, and the U.S. Supreme Court said hey we’re not even gonna hear this, Alabama, because what you’re doing is fine – paraphrasing – but so in Florida now it is unanimous, and the Governor, thank goodness, first of all our legislature just passed great legislation. We agree with it, the Governor signed it into law, so now there are a lot of cases we will be able to go forward on. Some of them are going to have to be re-sentenced, because they weren’t unanimous death recs, but let me tell one, one was disgusting, someone was violently raping his girlfriend’s stepdaughter, and her body was found in the Everglades, and that’s one that they said we can’t seek death on but go to a new penalty phase, and then another one where two young sisters 11 and 7, I believe, they were both raped repeatedly and murdered, and that’s another one that we can’t seek death on, so that’s why it was very important to us, but now going forward we’ve got a plan. We’ve got a death penalty scheme in place, and hopefully these executions will be taking place soon.>>Well, General Bondi, thank you so much for joining us, and we just appreciate the great work you’re doing on behalf of the citizens of the State of Florida, and we look forward to talking to you soon.>>Thank you, it’s a team effort.

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