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Sean D. Reyes
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Cases Surge for Utah Attorney General’s Office Investigations in 2020

SALT LAKE CITY – Our community is growing and changing, and unfortunately, the changes have led to an increase level of criminal activity.  That means law enforcement in the Utah Attorney General’s office–as well as law enforcement agencies across the state—are busier than ever. 

Here are some examples from November and December alone: Utah is confronting a growing number of “porch pirates’; people fencing stolen property on the internet; and neighborhoods plagued by nuisance businesses like illegal prostitution massage parlors.  The on-going issues of people trading online child pornography is also increasing.  Overall, the Attorney General’s office detectives and prosecutors have both been busy with a wide variety of crimes in our community this year and is actively working despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the second half of this year, there have been an increase in cases for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), in Statewide Enforcement of Crimes by Undocumented Residents (SECURE), and Crimes Against the Statewide Economy (CASE)

Compared to 2019 for example, the overall number of cases has gone up drastically (in ICAC for example, by 50%) and involve a wide variety of offenses. The following are examples of the kinds of cases within the last two months:

ICAC

  • The last two months of 2020 have been very busy for the ICAC Task Force.  We received over 350 referrals from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the month of November and will receive more than 200 NCMEC referrals for December.  In November Utah ICAC served 44 search warrants, conducted digital forensics on 80 cell phones and made 15 arrests.  
  • These cases have resulted in registered sex offenders being identified as the suspect and arrested for reoffending.  Other suspects have been identified as having live victims, some of which were abused in multiple states.  A significant percentage of the cases investigated involve infants and toddlers being sexually abused.
  • On a positive note, we have seen an increased response of parents proactively monitoring their children’s online activity and not only catching the dangerous behaviors prior to abuse occurring but reporting it to law enforcement.

Human Trafficking/Prostitution

  • The SECURE Strike Force executed three warrants on Monday 1214/20. One at a Massage parlor in Salt Lake, one on a Massage parlor in West Valley and one on a residence. The parlors were owned and managed by the same person. The residence that the warrant was served on was the residence of the owner of the Massage parlors. One possible victim of human trafficking was identified and connected to services through the AG victim advocate. The trafficking involved both potential sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Cash was found hidden in multiple locations. In all approximately $54,000.00 in cash was seized. Evidence of these businesses being used as part of a sex trade was found at both locations. The case was a joint investigation between West Valley PD and the SECURE Strike Force. Multiple agencies participated as part of the strike force. The case is being finalized and will be presented for screening with the Secure prosecutors in the near future. 

Selling Stolen Property

  • CASE had performed several controlled “sells” of “stolen” property.  Surveillance and research were conducted by agents showing the suspect was selling large amounts of product on various digital marketplaces such as Ebay and KSL.com.  He made over $150,000 dollars last year selling products.  A warrant was obtained and served on December 17th. Home Depot came along to provide expertise on stolen product information. Large quantities of products, believed to be stolen, such as power tools, sporting equipment, and electronic equipment were located and seized.  Heroin and paraphernalia were also located.  After serving the initial search warrant, based on information observed, additional search warrants were obtained for the firearms, a content search on a phone, and on bank records.  The suspect was booked on seven felony counts and three misdemeanors.

Package Theft (“Porch Pirates”)

  • The CASE Unit (joint task force between the UAGO, DPS, WVPD and WJPD) worked with Amazon on a “Porch Pirate” sting operation on December 15th and 16th.  In one case, a package was stolen within the first two hours of the operation.  Officers attempted to stop the suspects (a male driver and a female passenger) with lights and sirens but they fled.  They abandoned their vehicle and fled on foot in West Jordan.  By the time officers got to the area, the suspects could not be located.   The vehicle turned out to be stolen and had fled from SLCPD earlier in the day.  There was evidence in the vehicle that showed the suspects had been stealing packages for a significant amount of time.  DNA evidence was retrieved along with surveillance footage from neighbors and victims.  It is only a matter of time before the suspects will be identified and arrested.

These examples are only a snapshot of the total amount of activity law enforcement has been investigating this year.  Our thanks to the hardworking members of law enforcement who work hard to respond to these crimes.

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