A revised Harris County ordinance regulating Sexually Oriented Businesses (SOB’s) went into effect January 1, 2019, and will apply to areas of unincorporated Harris County.
The regulations include additional sections on prohibited conduct by employees, contractors and customers of SOB’s. Among the revisions is a specific prohibition against using “an anthropomorphic device or object”—a so-called sex robot—for sexual activities in a business. The ordinance has also been rearranged into sections based on SOB type to make reading and enforcement easier. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has obtained a court order to require the cleanup of an unlicensed automotive salvage yard that has been damaging the environment by allowing automotive fluids to contaminate the ground and water near the business.
District Court Judge Caroline Baker ordered Aloysius Ikwuezunma on October 26 to cease operating an automotive wrecking and salvage yard at 5607 Charrin Drive in north Harris County until he obtains a license from Harris County. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan’s effort to stop the sale of a fraudulent medical treatment has been upheld.
The Fourteenth Court of Appeals in an opinion issued last week affirmed an injunction obtained by Harris County Attorney Ryan that halts the promotion and distribution of a fraudulent medical treatment known as the “Miracle Mineral Solution.”
After Ryan filed a lawsuit in 2017, District Judge Randy Wilson ordered Shane Hawkins D/B/A Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, Chapter #119 to stop promoting or selling the “Miracle Mineral Solution.” This alleged medical treatment was called a “health sacrament” of the church and was touted as a cure for 95 percent of human diseases. The solution, also marketed as MMS, is actually a sodium chlorite product used in disinfectants and as an industrial bleaching agent. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, joined by the Texas Attorney General and the City of Houston, obtained a judgment for over $2.1 million in civil fines and penalties against the owners of Texas Tobacco smoke shop for selling synthetic marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana, known on the streets as “kush,” is a designer drug, typically manufactured overseas, that is marketed as a “safe” and “legal” alternative to marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is not marijuana at all but a dried leafy substance that is sprayed with powerful, added-in hallucinogenic chemicals (called synthetic cannabinoids) that are dangerous and highly addictive to the user. Kush is often sold in colorful packets, with names such as Spongebob and Zilla, in order to appeal to children, and is the second most abused drug by high school students, after marijuana itself. It is also illegal in Texas.
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, and Attorney General Ken Paxton have obtained a $2.16 million judgment against Happie Hippie Smoke Shop for selling dangerous, illegal synthetic drugs.
Judge Michael Landrum of the 113th Civil District Court signed a default judgment on April 14th awarding the State $2.16 million in penalties and $17,224 in attorneys’ fees finding 108 violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The court ordered the operators to halt all activities related to the production, transfer, possession, or sale of controlled substances, including synthetic cannabinoids.
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has won a major victory in the County’s lawsuit against Volkswagen, preventing federal law from stopping state and county claims.
Harris County and the State of Texas can proceed with their case against Volkswagen for violating air emissions because a judge has determined that the company’s recall of autos to change emission control devices is not preempted by federal law.
Volkswagen claimed the state and county could not continue the case involving tampering with emission control devices on its diesel-fueled cars, because federal – and not state -- law prevailed. However, state District Judge Tim Sulak of the 353rd District Court in Austin signed an order Wednesday finding that because the recalled vehicles were already on Texas roads, the state is not pre-empted by the federal government in enforcing environmental laws. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan is fighting to keep the opioid lawsuit filed on behalf of Harris County in a state district court.
Ryan is opposing an effort by opioid drug distributors to move the lawsuit to federal court. He has filed a motion seeking to have the case returned to state district court.
Three distributors—McKesson Corporation, Amerisource Bergen and Cardinal—moved Harris County’s lawsuit to federal court. They are also seeking to have the lawsuit transferred to a federal court in Cleveland, Ohio. If they are successful, Harris County’s motion to return the case to state district court will be ruled on in Ohio, not Houston, and the case will remain in Cleveland, Ryan said, resulting in a substantial delay in proceedings. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has filed suit to shut down a Southwest Houston strip club promoting prostitution and human trafficking.
The lawsuit against the owners and operators of the Chicas Locas club at 6440 Southwest Freeway was filed Tuesday following a lengthy investigation by the Houston Police Department’s Vice Division-Human Trafficking Unit. Investigators discovered women were being recruited from Cuba and Colombia under the guise of a casting call for models and dancers. Instead of providing work as promised, the victims were forced to dance as strippers and engage in commercial sex at Chicas Locas to pay off their debts to their traffickers.
The investigation also confirmed that prostitution was occurring frequently inside Chicas Locas and was being facilitated by the club’s managers. During a 16-month period, undercover officers made over 40 prostitution cases and promotion of prostitution cases at Chicas Locas. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, joined by the Texas Attorney General and City of Houston, obtained a judgment for more than $2.5 million in civil fines and penalties against Fantasy Smoking & Accessories for selling synthetic marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana, also known as kush, is a designer drug, typically manufactured overseas, that is marketed as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is not marijuana at all but instead is a dried leafy substance that is sprayed with powerful hallucinogenic chemicals that are dangerous and highly addictive to the user. It is often sold in colorful packets, with names such as Spongebob and Zilla to appeal to children and teenagers, and is the second most abused drug by high school students, after marijuana itself. It is also illegal in Texas. In June 2017, 16 people were hospitalized after overdosing on kush in Hermann Park. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan obtained temporary restraining orders against the landlords for a pair of illicit massage businesses in the County’s continuing fight to put a stop to human trafficking and prostitution.
On January 24, 2018, Vince Ryan sued the property owners of 4444 FM 1960 W and 14437 Bammel N. Houston and their tenants, Flushing Spa and 14437 Massage Spa, for harboring prostitution at these unlicensed massage establishments in Northwest Harris County. These locations are well-known by law enforcement for prostitution and investigations into human trafficking. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan won a court order on Monday stopping a Houston company from dumping hazardous waste into the city’s storm sewer system.
The temporary restraining order prevents Wright Containers, LLC, 6633 Lindberg in southeast Houston, from accepting more waste and disposing of the waste into the city’s system. Judge Jeff Shadwick of the 55th State District Court ordered Wright Containers to return for a hearing on January 19. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan today sued Arkema, Inc., whose Crosby plant released toxic substances into the air when chemicals stored at the site burned during flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.
Ryan is asking a state district court to hold the company legally responsible for violations of Texas environmental laws and to recover the County’s costs for responding to the week-long incident. Dozens of first responders were tied up at the scene for days as organic peroxides ignited when the company’s back-up refrigeration units failed during the days following the storm. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has obtained a restraining order closing a warehouse operating as an unlicensed bar in south Houston near the Texas Medical Center.
On Tuesday, Judge Kyle Carter of the 125th District Court of Harris County ordered the Dixie Warehouse bar at 3365 Dixie Drive closed immediately and to remain closed until a valid liquor license is obtained. Read More
At a meeting hosted by Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt committed to using the full authority of the EPA to remove dioxin from the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.
Ryan, members of the County Attorney’s Office, and other stakeholders met Thursday with Pruitt to discuss the cleanup. Last week Pruitt signed a Record of Decision that approved a $115 million cleanup plan of the toxic site that will remove highly contaminated material and secure the less contaminated areas. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and Commissioner Jack Morman praised Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to order the removal of the dangerous material in the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday approved a plan to permanently remove dioxin, one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man, from the San Jacinto Waste Pits - a Superfund site that was heavily flooded after Hurricane Harvey.
“I want to thank EPA Administrator Pruitt for this decision,” said County Attorney Ryan. “We appreciate that he visited the San Jacinto site personally and that he had EPA personnel checking it out to discover the dioxin exposure after the hurricane.” Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan won a restraining order and asset freeze against the owners of two smoke shops and their supplier to stop the sale of synthetic marijuana, an illegal drug known on the streets as “kush.” .The lawsuit stemmed from a lengthy investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, Conroe Police Department, and Houston Police Department to target the distributors of synthetic marijuana.
The restraining order prohibits the owners of Discount Smoke & Gift Shop at 11106 Veterans Memorial and Mr. Smoke & Gift Shop at 2946 Gears Road from selling kush and other illegal substances. Narcotics officers executed a federal search warrant and retrieved large quantities of kush, as well as hashish, ecstasy, marijuana, hydrocodone, and other controlled substances, which were hidden throughout the stores. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and Children at Risk today announced a collaboration to fight the horrific crime of human trafficking.
Project AWESOME—Attorneys Working to End Sexually-Oriented Massage Establishments—will partner the County Attorney’s Office and Children at Risk with lawyers from the Reed Smith law firm to close down unlicensed massage parlors which often are fronts for prostitution and human trafficking that force women and children who have been trafficked to work as prostitutes.
Reed Smith will provide volunteer lawyers to supplement the work being done by the County Attorney’s Office to shut down these businesses by various means as public nuisances. Children at Risk has initially identified over 200 unlicensed establishments which will be targeted immediately. Read More
Katz’s owners agreed to pay the $1.175 million fine to settle lawsuits filed by the state and county. The lawsuits resulted from a series of undercover investigations by Harris County Sheriff’s Office narcotics officers that led to the seizure of more than 3,000 packets of synthetic marijuana. The investigation revealed the Katz stores had sold many thousands of packets of kush.
The penalty is the largest ever paid in Texas from a case involving the sale of synthetic marijuana. Read More
County Attorney Vince Ryan was honored Friday by the State Bar of Texas Office of Minority Affairs and the Steering Committee of the Texas Minority Counsel Program (TMCP).
County Attorney Ryan was chosen to receive the 2015 TMCP Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented before an audience of more than 500 attorneys at the TMCP Keynote Awards Luncheon at the Westin Houston Memorial City. Read More
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan today filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., for fraudulently manipulating emission controls in their vehicles, thus allowing them to spew dangerous chemicals into the county’s air.
Ryan is seeking civil penalties in excess of $100 million for the estimated 6,000 diesel Volkswagens sold in the county. However, the number of tampered vehicles could increase as the county continues its investigation. Read More