Skip to content
Main Menu
Utah Attorney General
Search
Attorney General
Sean D. Reyes
Utah Office of the Attorney General
Alerts
Close
Secondary Navigation

Paul Petersen Sentenced in Utah: Total of 11-15 Years

SALT LAKE CITY (4/20/2021) – Today, former Maricopa, Arizona County Assessor Paul Petersen received the maximum sentence for Human Smuggling and Communications Fraud in Utah Third District Court.  Petersen pleaded guilty to the charges in connection to organizing an adoption fraud scheme in Utah which he also ran in Arizona and Arkansas.  

Petersen will spend 1 to 15 years in prison, a sentence running concurrently with a five-year prison term in Arizona and a six-year term in federal custody for the Arkansas case.  In total, Petersen will spend between 11-15 years in custody between all these jurisdictions.

Petersen ran an adoption fraud scheme that victimized women from the Marshall Islands, who were pregnant and illegally transported into Utah and elsewhere in the United States. Petersen’s scheme violated international regulations seeking to regulate adoptions between the United States and the Marshall Islands, due to cultural differences in adoption practices and a long history of adoption abuses.

Petersen also defrauded many Utah couples, who paid $40,000 to adopt children under false pretenses about the legitimacy of the adoption, the prenatal care provided to the birth mothers, and other material details.

“Utah was proud to lead the way on this investigation,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “We were pleased to bring Arizona and Arkansas into our case and get convictions and significant sentences in both those states too.”

AG Reyes continued: “This case has been a priority for our office for many years. Today, we feel there is a bit more closure. Trying to protect child victims every day is emotionally and physically draining. But, as a team, we are encouraged that a maximum sentence in Utah validates the seriousness of these crimes and the hard work so many have invested in this case.”

“I want to thank the brave nurses and medical professionals who brought the information forward that initiated our investigation. Without them, Petersen may still be exploiting children and families,” AG Reyes continued. ” I’m honored to work with dedicated investigators, prosecutors, victim advocates, and other professionals in the Utah AG’s Office whose hard work put an end to a despicable network of human trafficking, smuggling, and exploitation.”

Assistant Attorney General Daniel Strong prosecuted the case.  He is the Section Director for the SECURE Strike Force, which targets major fraud, organized gun, drug, and human trafficking, and fraud cases.

“Petersen exploited families in the Marshall Islands and Utah to benefit himself financially,” Strong said.  “His abuse of the adoption process—which should be sacrosanct—is particularly egregious. This strong sentence represents the culmination of years of hard work for our team, and we are pleased to have helped deliver some measure of justice to the victims of Petersen’s crimes. We hope this sentence will help put an end to these types of adoption abuses.”

###


AG Reyes to Congress: Pass the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act

Letter: “As Attorneys General, we are on the frontlines of protecting public safety and ensuring that everyone in our jurisdiction can live their lives free of hate and discrimination”

SALT LAKE CITY (4/13/2021)Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes has responded to the national rise in hate crimes by joining a bipartisan coalition, urging Congress to pass the Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act.  The legislation would provide state and local governments and law enforcement agencies with the tools and resources to understand, identify, and report hate crimes to help prevent them.

This is an issue of personal importance to Attorney General Reyes, who said:  “I have been on the receiving end of hateful threats and violence. From the time I was young, I have witnessed friends and family victimized by the trauma of intolerance and the cruelty and terror of hate. It is one of the reasons I take this threat so seriously. And, as a law enforcement leader, I feel even more responsibility to hold violent, hate fueled perpetrators accountable.” 

The legislation specifically aims to help rectify inaccurate and incomplete data by providing federal grants to improve hate crimes reporting. The grants would be used to train employees on identifying, classifying, and reporting hate crimes in the FBI’s national database; assist with states’ development of programs to prevent hate crimes; increase community education around hate crimes; and create state-run hate crime hotlines.

In the letter to Congress, the attorneys general write: “For more than two decades, thousands of city, county, college and university, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies have voluntarily submitted hate crimes data to the FBI. However, based on the FBI’s 2019 report, most law enforcement agencies did not participate or reported zero incidents. Exacerbating this gap, less than 25% of law enforcement agencies are using the FBI’s current reporting system, which took effect this year. This lack of data creates critical gaps that inhibit our understanding of the hate problem. As the chief legal officers of our respective jurisdictions and states, improving hate crimes reporting is a priority. Without reliable statistics, the government cannot properly understand, investigate, and prosecute hate crimes or provide necessary resources to survivors.


“It took us many years to pass the most recent hate crimes bill in Utah,” said Attorney General Reyes.  “But we came together from diverse backgrounds and across different political ideologies to strengthen our communities with a unified voice decrying discrimination, violence, and the terrorism of hate.”

AG Reyes continued: “Today, we must do the same on a national level and ensure that violent crimes—motivated by hate—are identified, reported and then prosecuted. These crimes occur in Utah and every state of our nation. Whether based on religion, race, sexual orientation or other identifier, threats and violent acts of bigotry have no acceptable place in our society.” 

The letter is led by president of the National Association of Attorneys General, District of Columbia AG Karl Racine.  AG Racine launched a yearlong initiative in December 2020 called the People v. Hate. The initiative aims to raise awareness of hate and bias, prevent hate from taking root in our communities, support residents who have experienced hate, and develop and share best practices on improving hate crime data.


AG Racine co-led this letter with AG Schmidt, and they were joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, American Samoa, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, N. Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Click here to read the coalition’s letter to Congress


Op Ed: Victims of Crime Need Help, and Here’s How

By Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes ~ Published in the Deseret News on April 10, 2021

Unless the United States Senate acts quickly, victims of crime face drastic cuts to the vital services that help them find justice and healing. In 1984, Congress passed the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), establishing a fund financed by convicted federal offenders—not taxpayers—to support victim services. In Utah, those criminal fines have been used to serve thousands of victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, homicide, and other crimes. Among those service providers are Utah’s Children’s Justice Centers (CJCs), administered by my office in partnership with counties, private sector volunteers, business leaders, and experts in social work, education, law, healthcare, and law enforcement. At each of Utah’s 25 CJCs, trained and caring professionals guide child abuse victims and their families through the investigative process and provide medical, mental health, and advocacy services.

Over the past three years, the use of deferred and non-prosecution agreements in criminal cases has resulted in these fines going instead to the General Treasury, reducing available VOCA dollars by two thirds. CJCs currently use the bulk of its $3.7 million in VOCA grants to fund mental health services and pay for core victim service positions. The impending cuts, effective July 1 and expected to be even deeper in 2022, will mean fewer trauma-informed services for Utah child abuse victims. State victim compensation programs have been struggling as well, and are unable to reimburse medical bills, lost wages, and funeral costs as they normally would.

Fortunately, the fix is a simple one and it does not cost taxpayers a dime. The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 (“the VOCA Fix Act”) redirects penalties from these agreements to the VOCA fund and increases the federal contribution from these funds to state victim compensation programs. Last fall, every state Attorney General in the country sent a letter to members of Congress urging the passage of the VOCA Fix Act. Earlier this month, Congressional leaders received a similar letter signed by more than 1,700 national, state, tribal, local, and government organizations—including our CJCs and several other Utah service providers.

 The VOCA Fix Act has broad bipartisan and bicameral support, and we are very grateful to Utah Representatives Stewart, Curtis, Owens, and Moore for recently voting in favor of the measure. Now we are urging Sens. Lee and Romney to also support and co-sponsor this critical bill as it makes its way to the U.S. Senate.

 We cannot afford to wait. Just in early January, a case settled through a non-prosecution agreement, resulting in the $2.5 billion penalty going to the General Treasury instead of helping victims of crime. Each day we go without the VOCA Fix Act, we risk seeing more dollars diverted away from the Fund and victims denied critical services. Please join us in calling on our Utah Senators Lee and Romney to support and co-sponsor the VOCA Fix Act. Contact the Senate offices today by calling them, sending an email, or sending a letter. See more information at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/UT#senators.


AG Reyes Statement on Treasurer David Damschen

SALT LAKE CITY (4/11/2021) — Today, Utah State Treasurer David Damschen announced he will be leaving that office for a new job. He will become CEO of the Utah Housing Corporation at the beginning of May 2021. Upon learning this news, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes released the following statement:

Congratulations to my dear friend David Damschen and his family on the announcement of his new role as CEO of the Utah Housing Corporation. He will be a tremendous advocate for affordable housing in our state.  

For the past five years, David has been an effective custodian of taxpayer funds and an incredible public servant as State Treasurer. He is not only respected throughout Utah but across the country as a leader in his field

As a fellow, independently elected member of the state’s executive branch, I know his job as Treasurer is never easy and I’ve seen his dedication and the quality of his work firsthand. He leaves a talented team and a lot of momentum for his successor. 

David will be missed at the State Capitol, but we look forward to working with him in his new role.

Best wishes, David! 

###


The shooting of Two SL County Sheriff’s Deputies: Utah AG Office Statement

SALT LAKE CITY (4/10/2021) —

“All of us at the Utah Attorney General’s office are praying for the two officers of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s office, who were shot in the line of duty this morning. These officers and their sister and brother officers go to work every day protecting our communities, including individuals in our prisons and jails. They do this having no idea what threats of harm will come each day. They serve with professionalism and dedication. They and their families accept these risks willingly.”

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes added: “Please join our prayers for these brave officers and their families. Their sacrifices are unmeasurable and unimaginable.”

###


Visiting Utah’s Newest Children’s Justice Center (CJC)

The Children’s Justice Center in Park City, Summit County, is the newest of Utah’s 26 centers dedicated to serving victimized children across the state of Utah.

Violent crimes such as domestic or sexual abuse are always horrible, but these crimes become even much more abhorrent when they are committed against a child. Unfortunately, children are victims of violent and sexual crimes every day, and when they happen, the Utah Attorney General’s Office is ready to do everything it can to help.

The Utah Attorney General’s office plays an important role in establishing and maintaining facilities, known as Children’s Justice Centers (CJCs), throughout the state in almost every county in Utah. These centers exist to serve as a sanctuary for children who have been the victims of domestic or sexual assault. When a child is a victim of crimes like these, they can be taken to a Children’s Justice Center for treatment, to receive medical care, and receive counseling services. This is far better than taking victims to the intense environment of a police station. All CJCs work in conjunction with state attorneys and state investigators to review the cases in question and protect children.

On Tuesday, April 6, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes had the opportunity to visit Utah’s newest Children’s Justice Center. The facility, which was recently completed in Park City to serve Summit County, is the 26th such center located in the state. The building was constructed with state funds together with the help of several donors, and will now be able to serve child victims in its community.

The Park City facility is full of several attractive, comfortable, and modern spaces to do all it can to assist child victims and their families. A staff of therapists, attorneys, and investigators work in conjunction with the state and county to solve these difficult cases and provide the necessary care to the children in question. Some special features of the Park City CJC include its comfortable counseling rooms, which comes equipped with a therapy dog to help children to relax and open up. The facility also has an examination room, a large meeting/training room, a quaint living room, and great outdoor spaces to provide a comfortable and secure location for all child victims receiving assistance.

We are grateful and lucky to have these centers as a resource here in Utah. Through the hard work of CJC staff, children across the state will navigate and recover from their difficult circumstances. To learn more about the Utah Children’s Justice Centers, or to seek out their services, please visit www.utahcjc.org.


Utah Takes Action to Ensure Accurate Census Results

SALT LAKE CITY (4/8/2021) – Today, Utah led a bipartisan group of 16 states in filing a brief supporting Alabama’s request to stop the Census Bureau from using the counting method ‘differential privacy’.

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes issued the following statement  

“With all the important issues dependent on census data, Utah has a right to accurate data. But that is not what we’re getting,” Attorney General Reyes said. “The Census Bureau is statistically skewing the data for its upcoming report by using a method called ‘differential privacy.’”

“The inaccurate data will negatively affect already delicate redistricting efforts, as well as state and federal funding that are census-data driven. Utahns—especially in rural areas and minority communities—will be unnecessarily harmed using differential privacy.  The Bureau has alternative means to protect privacy without generating inaccurate data, and should use them.”

“This impacts all Americans. Leading a bi-partisan group of 16 states, we have filed a brief supporting Alabama’s request to stop the Census Bureau from using differential privacy.”

Read the brief of Amici Curiae here.

###


Fighting Fake Vaccination Cards

SALT LAKE CITY (4/1/2021) – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today called on Twitter, eBay, and Shopify to act immediately to prevent people from selling fake CDC vaccination cards on their platforms.  In a letter to the companies’ CEOs, a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general raises concerns about the public health risks of this fraud.

“It’s sad but not surprising that fraudsters continue to take advantage of people during the Pandemic, but we’re fighting back to protect Utahns,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Some of these fraudsters we can investigate but many use tactics that evade prosecution. So, we’re asking social media platforms to help us crack down on ads and promotions designed to exploit vulnerable citizens.”

Legitimate vaccination cards are given by providers when they administer the vaccine. People who buy fake cards can have their own information added to the card or add it in themselves, so it appears they have been vaccinated when they have not. These deceptive cards threaten the health of our communities, slow progress in getting people protected from the virus, and violate many state laws.

In their letter, the attorneys general ask the CEOs to:

  • Monitor their platforms for ads or links selling blank or fraudulently completed vaccination cards.
  • Promptly take down ads or links that are selling cards.
  • Preserve records and information about the ads and the people who were selling them.

Attorney General Reyes is joined in sending this letter by the Attorneys General of North Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Guam, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota,  Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the letter is available HERE.

###


A.G. Reyes Sues to Protect Utah from Unconstitutional Ban on State Tax Cuts

SALT LAKE CITY (3/31/2021)—Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a 13-state lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Treasury, challenging a provision of the American Rescue Plan Act that punishes states for making any changes to any laws that would reduce taxes.  

On March 16, Attorney General Reyes, and 20 other state attorneys general also sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen highlighting the constitutional concerns regarding the American Rescue Plan Act’s federal tax mandate and requesting that the Secretary clarify her department’s interpretation of that provision. The Secretary’s response was ambiguous and directly contradicted what the principal proponent of the federal tax mandate, Senator Joe Manchin, expected the effect of that provision to be: that states would be forbidden from cutting taxes in any manner whatsoever through the year 2024. 

Attorney General Reyes said: “The Utah Legislature recently passed $100 million in tax relief to families with children, veterans and older residents receiving Social Security. But that relief is now at risk because the American Rescue Plan Act potentially denies states the ability to cut taxes. Today we joined in this lawsuit against the Administration in addition to earlier joint letter asking Secretary Yellen to confirm that the Act will not prohibit Utah and other states from providing much-needed tax relief.”

“This federal tax mandate is an unprecedented and unconstitutional assault on state sovereignty by the federal government, which would commandeer the State of Utah’s sovereign power to tax and spend and determine her own fiscal policies,” Alabama Attorney General Marshall added. “Today, I and the other state attorneys general filed suit against the Biden administration to block the enforcement of this grievous federal encroachment on states’ rights.”  

Similar lawsuits have also been filed in other jurisdictions by the states of Arizona, Missouri, and Ohio.  

A link to the lawsuit is here.

###


Utah Attorney General’s Office Statement on Review of Banjo Technology

SALT LAKE CITY (March 30, 2021) — The Attorney General’s Office asked for this review and agrees with most of the commission’s findings. We commend the commission for their excellent work in producing two documents that will help state agencies evaluate new technology.  The commission confirmed what we always knew, that people’s private information was not at risk. 

The Attorney General’s Office maintains its essential and integral commitment to the liberties and rights of all Utah citizens.  Chief among these is the freedom from predators and other crime and we believe this system, had it been fully built out, would have saved lives. We will continue to use new technology to keep Utahns safe, and will utilize the commission’s guidelines in the process.  You can review our full response to the review at the following link:

https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2021-03-26-Ltr-to-Auditor-Dougall-re-Banjo-LiveTime-Technology-Review.pdf


Site SettingsSettings