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Sean D. Reyes
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Choose Kindness, Acceptance, Inclusion: National Bullying Prevention Month

October 18, 2018

This month we observe National Bullying Prevention Month. The Utah Attorney General’s Office urges Utahns to choose kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

Bullying impacts children of all ages. According to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, up to a third of students in the United States report being bullied at school. Additionally, in an increasingly digital age, cyberbullying has become a significant problem.

Bullying can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on a child’s mental and physical health. A child who is bullied is more likely to experience depression and anxiety, decreased academic achievement, substance abuse, and suicide.

Bullying prevention starts with you. Be kind to others and be proactive in shifting the prevalence of bullying in our schools and communities. Bullying is a behavioral style which must be – and can be – addressed through education and support.

Encourage children to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. Teach children to stand appropriately to kids who are bullying others. Most importantly, teach kindness and urge children to reach out to others who are being bullied.

Below are some additional resources to help prevent bullying:

Download the SafeUT App. This app, which the AG’s Office helped create, is available to students and parents and provides real-time help to youth through texting and a private space to submit tips about bullies in their schools. 

Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition is a local non-profit that provides training for students, parents, and educators. Their goal is to end bullying through kindness. 

Utah Parent Center provides information and resources to help parents better understand bullying, its impact, and strategies for prevention. 

Utah Legislation specifically addresses bullying in the state as well as requirements to educators about their role in creating bully-free environments.

If you see something, say something. Be kind and be part of the change. Preventing bullying starts with you.

Substantial Amount of Property Returned to Retailer Victimized by Pawn Shop Scheme

October 17, 2019

The Utah Attorney General’s Office received permission from the courts to return a substantial amount of property to the retailers victimized by the recent pawn shop scheme.

In August, the Attorney General’s Office filed felony charges against the manager of West Jordan Xtreme Pawn for a continuing pattern of buying and selling property with the knowledge that the merchandise had been stolen from various retail businesses in Utah. During the investigation, investigators seized an estimated $1.2 million in brand new merchandise, still in their original packaging.

On Friday, October 11th, property seized during this investigation was returned to the original retailers. Roughly one pickup truckload of merchandise identified as belonging to Home Depot will be delivered to their Riverdale Store at 12 PM.

Watch the media coverage below:

NarcX Proposed Statewide Initiative

October 16, 2019

The Utah Attorney General’s Office, Senator Dan Thatcher, Representative Eric Hutchings, and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs discussed ways state and local governments can partner to combat the opioid crisis during a press conference this morning. Additionally, they discussed implementing a statewide initiative using NarcX, an on-site disposal system for opioids.

In September, Riverton City joined with Utah Attorney General Reyes, the Opioid Task Force, and Intermountain Riverton Hospital to launch the use of NarcX in Riverton. A safe, easy-to-use liquid solution dissolves pills, tablets, capsules, liquids, and patches immediately on contact, making them non-retrievable. Riverton now houses multiple boxes of NarcX at disposal sites that are capable of safely destroying up to 5,000 unused, unwanted opioids.

Additionally, NarcX helps prohibit people from flushing opioids down the toilet, which can have harmful consequences on the environment.

Listen to the press conference below:

Read more about NarcX and the launch of the Riverton City initiative here.

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October 16, 2019

This October, we observe National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and reaffirm our commitment to break the cycle and ultimately bring about the end of domestic violence.

Domestic violence affects millions of people from every background, both men and women from every race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. It is not just punching and bruises. Domestic violence can be yelling, insulting, humiliation, isolation, and coercion. It can be gaslighting, stealing paychecks, and keeping tabs online.

Since 2000, about 42% of adult homicides in Utah were domestic violence related. Three out of four Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

There is zero tolerance for domestic violence.

If you suspect or know of someone who suffers abuse, please immediately seek help by calling your local law enforcement or reach out to one of the organizations listed below or call the Utah Domestic Violence LINKLineat 1-800-897-5465 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

If LINKLine advocates are experiencing an increased call volume, calls will be forwarded to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Utah Domestic Violence Coalition

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Sheroes United

You can find more information on resources available to your area in Utah below.

Utah Domestic Violence Help and Programs

World Mental Health Day

October 10, 2019

Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office observes World Mental Health Day to bring awareness about mental health and to recognize and acknowledge the need to advocate against the social stigma. With this year’s theme placing an emphasis on suicide prevention, we underscore that you are not alone. You are loved and you are greatly needed.

Mental health is prevalent among everyone from all walks of life. People of every race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or socioeconomic status are affected by mental health challenges. According to the Kem C. Gardener Policy Institute’s 2019 report on Utah’s Mental Health System, our country is in the midst of a mental health crisis with increasing suicide rates, untreated anxiety and depression, and a prevalence of serious mental illnesses. Utah has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country, where it is the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10 to 24. Tragically, Utah ranks the lowest in the nation for mental health, with a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care.

Unfortunately, despite the rising mental health crisis, the social stigma against mental illnesses remains a consistent presence. Ending the stigma is complex and will not happen overnight. While treatment and support are available for those that need it, the lines of communication must be open. The importance and inherent need for an open, understanding mind are more crucial than ever. The first step starts with listening to understand and simply be there for those around you.

For World Mental Health Day, we urge you to listen when someone reaches out to you. We urge you to have those important conversations about mental illness and educate yourself on what mental health is and then help teach others. Additionally, we urge you to be kind to those around you. Everyone is juggling a lot in their lives, whether it be stress, disappointment, grief, or pain, and all those things can add up quickly. Speak and act with kindness.

If you or someone you know is struggling, it is okay to get help. Doctors, counselors, and agencies are there for you with available resources and training. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741), or message a trained crisis counselor through the SafeUT app. These support lines are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Arizona Elected Official Charged with Human Smuggling, Sale of Children

Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office held a press conference to discuss the details of a case involving an alleged illegal adoption scheme and the subsequent 11 felony charges filed against Paul Petersen, an elected County Assessor for Maricopa County Arizona. Petersen was arrested in Arizona Tuesday evening.

Listen to the press conference below:

The files against Petersen include Human Smuggling, Sale of a Child, Communications Fraud, and Pattern of Unlawful Activity.

Allegedly, Petersen recruited, transported, and offered payment to over 40 pregnant Marshallese women to place their babies for adoption in the U.S. Due to a long history of adoption-related exploitation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, adoptions between the U.S. and the Marshall Islands are governed by an Interstate Compact that prohibits this type of international adoption.

“The commercialization of children is illegal, and the commoditization of children is simply evil,” said Attorney General Sean D. Reyes at the press conference.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office was first made aware of this case after a tip through the AG’s human trafficking tip line from concerned hospital workers in 2017. The AG’s Office worked in conjunction with multiple agencies out of Arkansas, Arizona, and the Marshall Islands. Petersen faces similar charges in both Arizona and Arkansas, making this a multi-state and international investigation.

Attorney General Reyes and AG prosecutors emphasized that there is no interest to “unwind” adoptions that have already taken place.

Daniel Strong, SECURE Strike Force Lead Prosecutor, said, “We don’t anticipate adoptions being overturned, and we are not seeking to overturn any adoptions.”

“Protecting the victims, as in all our cases, is paramount to us,” said Attorney General Reyes, mentioning the birth mothers and families, the children, and the adoptive parents who are equally classified as victims in this case. “We have resources available for all the victims and we will continue to provide these resources to all of the victims throughout this case.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by this case are encouraged to call the hotline set-up by the Attorney General’s Office: 801-839-5640. This hotline is supplied with investigators 24/7 with a Marshallese translator.

Watch the video of the press conference below:

Read the official release below:

October 8, 2019

Multiple Charges Filed in Three States

SALT LAKE CITY – This week, the Utah Attorney General’s Office charged Paul D. Petersen with eleven felony offenses, including Human Smuggling, Sale of a Child, and Communications Fraud. Petersen is an adoption lawyer licensed in Utah and Arizona and is the elected County Assessor for Maricopa County, Arizona. He was arrested in Arizona Tuesday evening.

Petersen is alleged to have run an illegal adoption scheme where he recruited, transported, and offered payment to pregnant Marshallese women to give their babies up for adoption in the United States. Due to a long history of adoption-related exploitation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, adoptions between the United States and the Marshall Islands are governed by an Interstate Compact that prohibits this type of international adoption. In addition, Petersen was charged with communications fraud after he allegedly failed to disclose the compact and other material aspects of his scheme to adoptive parents who paid him to facilitate their adoptions.

Petersen is alleged to have transported over 40 pregnant Marshallese women into Utah over the last three years as part of the scheme. 

The Utah Attorney General’s Office worked closely with authorities from Arizona, Arkansas, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands in parallel investigations of this scheme. Petersen faces charges for related offenses in Arkansas and Arizona.

“While Mr. Petersen is entitled to a presumption of innocence, our investigation uncovered evidence that he has committed horrible crimes,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Petersen’s illegal adoption scheme exploited highly vulnerable groups in two countries—the birth mothers and families in the Marshall Islands and the adoptive parents here in Utah.”

“It is heartbreaking that these families from both countries were so cruelly manipulated,” Reyes added.

“This case first came to us from concerned hospital workers cold-calling our human trafficking tip line,” said Chief Criminal Deputy Spencer Austin. “We always say, ‘If you see something, say something.’ I think these charges prove that if you do say something, we will listen. We will use every resource at our disposal to put a stop to these horrendous crimes.”

Attorney General Reyes wishes to thank those who came forward to report these crimes, as well as the many different agencies who assisted in this international investigation. Most importantly, the Attorney General thanks the victims of this scheme, for sharing their stories with our investigators.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has set up a hotline to assist anyone affected by Petersen’s offenses: 801-839-5640. Caseworkers with the Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah are in place and ready to help any victims of this scheme.


Utah AG Conference Room Dedicated to Utah’s First Female Attorney

October 2, 2019

Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office, in partnership with Better Days 2020 and Women Lawyers in Utah, dedicated the meeting room in the AG’s office as the “Snow Carleton Conference Room” after Cora Georgiana Snow Carleton, Utah’s first female attorney.

Listen to the dedication audio here:

Cora Georgiana Snow Carleton (1844–1915) and Phoebe Wilson Couzins (1839–1913) were the first two women admitted to the Utah Bar in 1872; and they were admitted on the same day.

Carleton studied law for three years with her father, Zerubbabel Snow, who was then the Attorney General of the Utah Territory and later a territorial Utah Supreme Court Judge. A committee appointed by Chief Justice McKean of the territorial Utah Supreme Court examined and approved Carleton’s application for admission. Carleton served as territorial librarian and later moved to Wyoming and entered politics. She served as an alternative delegate to the 1892 presidential convention. Carleton later moved to San Diego, where she was a member of the Board of Education. She died in 1915.

Utah was one of the first states or territories to welcome a woman into legal practice. However, it would be another two decades before another woman was admitted to the Utah bar.

Cora Georgiana Snow Carleton showed immense determination as she made inroads for women to enter the professional workforce. Without a doubt, Cora knew that standing side by side with her male counterparts would pave the way for women to enter the law. She would be proud to know that we are honoring her memory in this way. Her legacy will continue to champion women of all ages to become attorneys at law.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is proud to honor Carleton by dedicating the Snow Carleton Conference to forever remember the sacrifices she made on behalf of the State of Utah. We as men and women are better 147 years later, because of her courageous and steadfast actions.

“These pioneering women may not have had long resumes of accomplishments, but what they were able to do and the impact and influence that they have resonates for generations and we can still feel it now,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “That’s why we do this, is to continue that legacy going forward and learn from the strength of women in our history to perpetuate that power forward into future generations.”

Watch the live stream of the dedication below.

ICAC Task Force Combats Proliferation of Child Sex Abuse Images

October 1, 2019

The proliferation of images and videos featuring the sexual abuse and torture of children, often referred to as child pornography, has increased exponentially over the years. Last year, tech companies reported an astounding 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused.

By Rich Harris | New York Times | Source: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Utah is not immune to the rapid expansion of this epidemic. The Utah Attorney General’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in inundated with combatting child sexual abuse in the State of Utah. Recently, the New York Times featured the ICAC Task Force in an article reporting on the increasing amount of reported child sexual abuse imagery in an increasingly virtual age.  

It was a sunny afternoon in July, and an unmarked police van in Salt Lake City was parked outside a pink stucco house. Garden gnomes and a heart-shaped “Welcome Friends” sign decorated the front yard.

At the back of the van, a man who lived in the house was seated in a cramped interrogation area, while officers cataloged hard drives and sifted through web histories from his computers.

The man had shared sexually explicit videos online, the police said, including one of a 10-year-old boy being “orally sodomized” by a man, and another of a man forcing two young boys to engage in anal intercourse.

“The sad thing is that’s pretty tame compared to what we’ve seen,” said Chief Jessica Farnsworth, an official with the Utah Attorney General’s Office who led a raid of the house. The victims have not been identified or rescued.

The year was barely half over, and Chief Farnsworth’s team had already conducted about 150 such raids across Utah. The specially trained group, one of 61 nationwide, coordinates state and regional responses to internet crimes against children.

The Utah group expects to arrest nearly twice as many people this year as last year for crimes related to child sexual abuse material, but federal funding has not kept pace with the surge. Funding for the 61 task forces from 2010 to 2018 remained relatively flat, federal data shows, while the number of leads referred to them increased by more than 400 percent.

Much of the federal money goes toward training new staff members because the cases take a heavy emotional and psychological toll on investigators, resulting in constant turnover.

The Internet is Overrun with Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong?

By Michael H. Keller and Gabriel J.X. Dance

To read the rest of the article go here.  

Investigators in Salt Lake City searching a home for abuse content. Confiscated electronic material in a mobile forensics lab. Jessica Farnsworth, an official with the Utah attorney general’s office who oversaw the operation. | Kholood Eid for The New York Times

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) is a multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes individuals who use the Internet to exploit children. The Utah Attorney General (UAG) ICAC Task Force was created in 2000 and is now one of 61 ICAC task forces in the country. They focus on crimes related to sexual exploitation of a minor – whether possessing, distributing, or manufacturing child pornography, enticing minors over the internet, or exchanging material deemed harmful to minors. The UAG ICAC Task Force has 32 local, state, and federal police agencies involved in the task force.

You can learn more about ICAC and how to keep your family safe, check out the ICAC Task Force here:

Utah Attorney General’s Office Responds to McCluskey Attorneys’ Statement

September 27, 2019


SALT LAKE CITY –  Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office responded to a statement made by the McCluskeys’ attorneys and distributed on September 20. In that statement, the McCluskeys’ attorneys criticized the University for filing the motion to dismiss. As counsel for the University of Utah, the AG’s Office disagreed with their criticisms. The AG’s Office statement reads as follows:

The University of Utah and the Attorney General’s Office do not take the position in the motion to dismiss that “every concern expressed in Lauren’s McClusky’s complaint is without merit,” as the McCluskeys’ lawyers claim. Rather, the brief filed with the federal court explains that neither Title IX nor the U.S. Constitution permit lawsuits for money damages when campus police or staff do not prevent a student from being harmed by an intruder on campus. As the motion makes clear, the McCluskeys’ legal theories are unprecedented—no court has concluded that a school is liable under Title IX or the U.S. Constitution in these circumstances. As the University’s attorneys, the Attorney General’s Office is responsible for providing the University with the best legal defense possible.  Filing the motion—a common response to a lawsuit in circumstances like this—is part of that defense.
This does not mean that the University did not listen to the concerns expressed by the McCluskey family, or that it is not taking responsibility for its students’ safety. Since Lauren’s death, University representatives have repeatedly met with the McCluskeys and many other campus constituents, and the University has taken specific steps to make the campus safer and to ensure its police officers are more responsive to potential relationship violence, including restructuring the campus police department and providing training to its police officers. The University’s actions show it has taken seriously the concerns raised by Lauren’s murder. 
Additionally, the motion repeated the allegations made in the McCluskeys’ complaint and the legal standards applicable to the two legal theories of the complaint. It was not meant to, and did not, blame the victim, dismiss the important issue of campus safety, or minimize in any way the terrible tragedy of Lauren McCluskey’s death. 
Filing the motion does not preclude the parties from engaging in further discussions to resolve the case. The Attorney General’s Office and the University look forward to continuing these discussions, while still meeting court deadlines, such as the deadline for filing a response to the complaint. 


Reach Out for National Suicide Prevention Month

September 27, 2019

During the month of September, we observe National Suicide Prevention Month. It is a time to unite to remember those we’ve lost to suicide, and to reaffirm commitments to work together to drive research, community engagement, and provide the necessary resources to help those in need. This month, the Utah Attorney General’s Office urges everyone to reach out to those around them, to connect, and to be compassionate.

Suicide is a complex, public health issue that affects every person in every community. Despite the strides Utah has made in addressing this crisis, suicide is still a leading cause of death in our state. An average of 592 Utahns die by suicide each year. Even more staggering, is the average of 4,538 Utahns that attempt suicide. These are your neighbors, brothers, sisters, spouses, friends, colleagues, and children. Engaging with and caring for one another is the key to end the stigma that so often comes with mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

Despite the tragic number of people who have reported thoughts of suicide, who have attempted suicide, and those who have lost their lives by suicide, the topic is still met with silence and shame. We urge you to reach out, listen without prejudice, and offer support.

Listed below are resources and organizations dedicated to shining light on suicide prevention. These organizations will help you learn to recognize warning signs and know what actions to take.

If you or someone you know is struggling and/or having thoughts of suicide, please reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741), or message a trained crisis counselor through the SafeUT app. These support lines are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is proud to partner with organizations such as the Jason Foundation, the SafeUT Commission, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI), and Life’s Worth Living Foundation. These organizations help raise awareness of the prevalence of suicide in the State of Utah and provide resources and education on suicide prevention.

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