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Fighting Robocalls: Utah AG Reyes Joins 51 Attorneys General, 12 Telecommunication Companies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 22, 2019



FIGHTING ILLEGAL ROBOCALLS: UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES JOINS 51 ATTORNEYS GENERAL 12 TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANIES

SALT LAKE CITY—Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes has announced an agreement to protect phone users by fighting illegal robocalls and to make it easier for attorneys general to investigate and prosecute ‘bad actors’. This agreement is the result of a bipartisan, public/private coalition of 51 attorneys general and 12 phone companies. 

The phone companies have agreed to adopt eight principles to fight illegal robocalls in order to help protect phone customers and to punish bad actors. The principles, available here, address the robocall problem in two main ways: prevention and enforcement.

Phone companies will work to prevent illegal robocalls by:

  • Implementing call-blocking technology at the network level at no cost to customers.
  • Making available to customers additional, free, easy-to-use call blocking and labeling tools.
  • Implementing technology to authenticate that callers are coming from a valid source.
  • Monitoring their networks for robocall traffic.

Phone companies will assist attorneys’ general anti-robocall enforcement by:

  • Knowing who their customers are so bad actors can be identified and investigated.
  • Investigating and taking action against suspicious callers – including notifying law enforcement and state attorneys general.
  • Working with law enforcement, including state attorneys general, to trace the origins of illegal robocalls.
  • Requiring telephone companies with which they contract to cooperate in traceback identification.

Going forward, phone companies will stay in close communication with the coalition of attorneys general to continue to optimize robocall protections as technology and scammer techniques change.
 
“The principles offer a comprehensive set of best practices that recognizes that no single action or technology is sufficient to curb the scourge of illegal and unwanted robocalls,” said Levi Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Columbia University Henning Schulzrinne. “I hope that all parts of the telecommunication industry, both large and small, will commit to rapidly implementing these principles and work with state and federal authorities to make people want to answer their phone again without fear of being defrauded or annoyed.”
 
The coalition of attorneys general, led by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, includes attorneys general from all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
 
The coalition of companies includes AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Consolidated, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, and Windstream.
 

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Utah Attorney General and 10-state Coalition Obtains Victory in Blocking the 2015 WOTUS Rule

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 22, 2019



UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL AND 10-STATE COALITION OBTAINS VICTORY IN BLOCKING THE 2015 WOTUS RULE


SALT LAKE CITY—Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today announced that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia granted summary judgment in favor of Utah and 9 other states in their lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule and kept an injunction against the Rule in place while federal agencies finalize its replacement.

“The 2015 WOTUS Rule is a clear example for federal overreach that infringed on the States’ traditional role as primary regulators of land and water resources within their borders,” said Attorney General Reyes. “We are proud to have fought for this relief, and we look forward to reforms that will permanently relieve farmers and landowners of the unnecessary burdens that the 2015 WOTUS Rule created.” 

In its ruling issued Wednesday afternoon, the court held that the 2015 WOTUS Rule “extend[ed] the Agencies’ delegated authority beyond the limits of the [Clean Water Act]” in a number of ways and also violated multiple procedural requirements for issuing the Rule set out in the federal Administrative Procedure Act. The court explained, “Congress has delegated the important role of protecting the nation’s waters to the Agencies, but in fulfilling that role, the Agencies must comply with the law. Here, they have failed to do just that.” As a result, the court left in place its preliminary injunction that blocks the rule from going into effect in any of the coalition states while the agencies “continue their efforts to change the WOTUS Rule in light of the serious defects identified in this Order.” 

Background: Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army proposed rules that would rescind and replace the 2015 WOTUS Rule. In April of this year, Utah joined 16 other states in submitting comments supporting that proposal. Read more here.

Led by the Georgia Solicitor General’s Unit, the 10-state coalition in this case also included the following states: Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

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NOTES:

  1. Read a copy of the ruling here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Georgia-v.-Wheeler-order-granting-summary-judgment.pdf.

Utah AG Reyes’ Call for Forgiveness of Disabled Veterans Student Loans is Granted

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2019

UTAH AG REYES’ CALL FOR AUTOMATIC DISCHARGE OF STUDENT LOANS FOR PERMANENTLY DISABLED VETERANS IS GRANTED
President Signs Executive Action at Kentucky AMVETS National Convention

SALT LAKE CITY—In direct response to Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes’ call to automatically forgive the student loans of veterans who became totally and permanently disabled because of their military service, President Donald J. Trump today signed an order to do so.  
 
AG Reyes led a bipartisan coalition of 51 Attorneys General (50 states and Guam) alongside New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and sent a letter to the Department of Education Secretary just prior to Memorial Day this year. 
 
Last year DOE identified more than 42,000 veterans nationwide as eligible for student loan relief due to a service-related total and permanent disability, the Attorneys General note in their letter to Secretary DeVos. Fewer than 9,000 of those veterans had applied to have their loans discharged by April 2018, however, and more than 25,000 had student loans in default.
 
The following is a statement from Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes:
 
“I am extremely pleased at today’s [executive] action to automatically forgive student loans for permanently disabled U.S. Veterans. I can’t think of a more deserving group of individuals than American heroes who have served, risked their lives and sacrificed their health to protect our nation.
 
“It is our obligation to do all we can to allow these veterans to have every opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families now that they are home and have completed their military service. In many cases, these veterans were injured so severely that they’ve greatly compromised their quality of life and ability to earn enough in order to pay off their debt quickly.
 
“I would like to thank New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the bipartisan coalition of 51 Attorneys General for their unanimous support as we presented this request to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
 
“It’s gratifying that the leaders of our nation agree with us that forgiving student loans for disabled veterans is the least we can do to honor their service and sacrifice.”
 

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NOTES:

  1. Read a copy of the attorneys general letter to Secretary DeVos here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NAAG-Letter-to-Sec.-DeVos.pdf.
  2. Read a copy of the memorandum here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-memorandum-discharging-federal-student-loan-debt-totally-permanently-disabled-veterans/

Scammer Uses Facebook Messenger, Impersonates Utah AG

August 16, 2019

Recently, scammers impersonating Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes have contacted victims through Facebook Messenger offering a grant worth thousands of dollars — for a small fee. The scammer directed the victim to a bogus personal page where they went through a series of grant application questions. Once the application was “approved”, the victims sent payment and received a grant check in return. The check bounced, of course, but by then the scammer had disappeared, along with the victim’s money.

Another victim reported that the scammer supplied a phone number that the victim could use to contact “Sean Reyes” further. The victim contacted us worried that the grant offer was fraudulent, and we were able to confirm that neither our office nor the Attorney General, were involved in this and that it was indeed a scam.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have heard of a scam of this nature. In September 2018, we released a similar warning regarding a scammer who was impersonating the Utah Attorney General through Facebook Messenger. Our team of Investigators is working diligently to put an end to these scams.

At this time, we would like to emphasis our tips to protect yourself from fraud, and especially of the following if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the Utah Attorney General’s Office:

  1. Don’t wire money.

True lotteries, sweepstakes, or grants awarded do not ask for money – not for shipping and handling, taxes, or customs. State officials and agencies do not typically ask people to send money for prizes, grants, unpaid loans, or to avoid being thrown in jail. When they do, they follow a formalized process.

  1. Stop and think.

With any online or phone transaction that you conduct, always look up the business or entity online to make sure they are reputable. This goes for anyone asking for money or personal information. Technology makes it easy for scammers to alter their identity and assume someone else’s. If the offer references a state agency or official, contact the respective office through a confirmed phone number or email to verify its validity before moving forward. You can also check with the Utah Consumer Protection Division and the Utah Better Business Bureau to see if the person/organization is credible.

  1. Do not share your financial or personal information.

If you receive a call about a debt that you believe may be legitimate, contact that business or entity directly. Whether it’s over the phone, email, social media, or in person, don’t give out your personal information. This includes banking and financial information, your birthdate, and social security number.

  1. Contact us. 

If you receive a message, call, or email from someone claiming to be someone from our office or any other official, please contact our office to report and verify whether or not it is real at 801-281-1200 or uag@agutah.gov. 


FCC Recommends Three-Digit Crisis Hotline

August 16, 2019

Following five and a half years of hard work and perseverance by the Utah Attorney General’s Office and Utah state and federal legislators, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to move forward with changing the ten-digit national suicide hotline to a three-digit number – 988. The hotline will also be available to those who are struggling with mental health crises of any kind.

Yesterday afternoon, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economics and Analytics announced that they sent a report to Congress which recommends that the Commission consider designating 988 as a replacement to the current number, 1-800-273-8255.

This follows the 2018 report on the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 which recommended that a three-digit number should be used for the crisis hotline. Suicide and mental health numbers have increased over the years, causing an influx of callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. According to the FCC, 2.2 million people called the hotline in 2018.

“Our team found that a 3-digit number would make it easier for Americans in crisis to reach someone who could help,” Ajit Pai, the FCC’s chairman, said in an email statement on Thursday night. “If we can stand up ‘988’ nationwide as a way to access suicide prevention services, we believe it could save lives. I’ll do everything I can to move this forward.”

Utah Senator Dan Thatcher first conceived the idea for a three-digit suicide prevention line in 2012, but it didn’t gain traction in the Legislature at that time. Senator Thatcher partnered with the Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, Wade Farraway, Missy Larsen, and others at the Utah Attorney General’s Office in 2014. The group started the SafeUT app as a way to reach Utahns in crisis while still campaigning for the three-digit number. In 2017, the group enlisted the help of Rep. Chris Stewart and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who presented the idea on the federal level. This has led to the recommendation of the three-digit number 988.

The change has not yet been implemented and will have a months-long process. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or contemplating suicide, please use the SafeUT app to speak with a crisis counselor for free or call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).


Sex Trafficking a Major Concern in Southern Utah

August 15, 2019

Sex trafficking is a major concern in southern Utah. Due to its proximity to major cities and its moderate climate, the area is ideal for traffickers’ primary targets, such as the homeless and runaways. Traffickers watch malls, parks, and schools to find their victims, then enslave them by getting the victims addicted to drugs.

Law enforcement say that rotations happen every 7 to 8 months. Young women are trafficked from Las Vegas to St. George, Salt Lake City, Washington state, California, and then back.

“They [traffickers] think they can make money in St. George at any given time. They’ll send those young women up here, and they use narcotics to keep a rope around the women to control them,” said Leo Lucy, Chief of Investigations at the Utah Attorney General’s Office, during an interview with ABC 4 News.

Law enforcement is actively investigating human trafficking, and conduct sting operations several times a year.

To report tips regarding human trafficking, please contact the Utah Attorney General’s Office:

  • Utah Human Trafficking Tipline: 801-200-3443
  • Internet Crimes Against Children Tipline: 801-281-1211

Utah Attorney General Reyes: The T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Will Benefit Rural Utah

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 9, 2019



UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES: THE T-MOBILE/SPRINT MERGER WILL BENEFIT RURAL UTAH
AG Reyes underscores the merger’s benefits for competition, rural broadband, and American 5G leadership

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today released the following statement regarding the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint:


“I continue to strongly support the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. Since the companies first announced this combination, they have made a compelling case that it will substantially increase competition in the wireless marketplace, accelerate rural broadband deployment, and boost American 5G leadership—resulting in better quality at lower prices, expanded access to the digital economy for underserved Americans, and greater technological competitiveness with China, among other benefits.
 
“With the commitments the companies have made to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, the case for the merger has become even more compelling. Notably, the companies have committed to accelerate New T-Mobile’s 5G build-out plans in rural areas to cover 85% of rural Americans within three years and 90% within six years. Without the merger, rural residents in Utah and across the country could need to wait far longer to get the broadband access they so desperately deserve.
 
“In addition, the merger and accompanying divestiture to DISH would further expand output by ensuring that large amounts of currently unused or underused spectrum are made available to American consumers in the form of high-quality 5G networks.
 
“Finally, this fortifies the domestic telecom market against unnecessary intrusion by other global players looking to acquire weakened US entities. This merger makes America stronger.”

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AG Reyes and 43 Attorneys General Urge Streaming Industry to Limit Tobacco Use

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2019

A.G. Reyes: “Protect Young Video Viewers from Tobacco”
43 Attorneys General Urge Streaming Industry to Limit Tobacco Use

AGs provide policy guidelines to combat increasing use of tobacco products by young people

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today joined a bipartisan coalition of 43 attorneys general, in urging the streaming video industry to limit tobacco use in their content. Due to the growing use of tobacco and e-cigarette products among teens, the attorneys general urge the streaming industry to take proactive steps to protect the lives of young viewers.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes rose from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018.  Smoking remains the number one preventable killer in the United States and causes over 480,000 deaths per year.

Attorney General Reyes is committed to protecting public health by reducing the number of smokers and ensuring tobacco companies meet their obligations under the tobacco settlement.

“Given the recent significant rise in tobacco use by young people, particularly the use of e-cigarettes, preventing initiation and use of tobacco products is of critical importance to us and the public health community, and we sincerely hope it will be addressed by the streaming industry,” read the letters signed by 43 state and territory attorneys general.

In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that watching movies with tobacco imagery increases the likelihood that adolescents will become smokers. In their letter, the Attorneys General urge the video streaming industry to adopt the following policies to protect young viewers from the ill effects of tobacco content:

  • Eliminate or exclude tobacco imagery in all future original streamed content for young viewers, including any content rated TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G, TV-PG, TV-14, G, PG, and PG-13, and ensure that any promotional material such as previews, trailers, image galleries, and clips be tobacco-free. Content with tobacco imagery should be rated TV-MA or R and only recommended to adult viewers. 
  • Only “recommend” or designate tobacco-free content for children, adolescents, families, and general audiences.
  • Improve or offer parental controls that are effective, prominent, and easy-to-use, that allow parents and guardians specifically to restrict access to all content with tobacco content, regardless of rating.
  • Mitigate the negative influence of tobacco content, from whatever source and with any rating, by streaming strong anti-smoking and/or anti-vaping public service announcements, as appropriate, before all videos with tobacco content.

In 1998, Attorneys General across the nation fought to enter into the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which imposed major restrictions on tobacco company marketing practices and prohibits advertising aimed at youth. This included banning the advertisement of tobacco products on TV shows, movies and video content. Despite the ban, studies by the public health organization Truth Initiative found a high rate of tobacco content in streamed videos that are popular with young viewers. In particular, the study discovered high rates of tobacco usage in TV-Y and TV-PG shows. Further, a 2018 study found the streamed videos that are most popular with young viewers feature higher rates of tobacco content than programs shown on traditional television. A 2019 report by the Truth Initiative showed that the danger has only grown in the past year.  

In sending today’s letter, Attorney General Reyes was joined by the Attorneys General of California, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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Notes:

  1. In 2018, Attorney General Reyes announced a $300 million settlement agreement with major tobacco companies: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/ago-secures-settlement-with-tobacco-companies/
  2. In 2014, Attorney General Reyes joined with 45 other attorneys general to urge the U.S. Trade Representative to exclude tobacco and tobacco products when negotiating all international trade and investment agreements: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/attorney-general-sean-d-reyes-is-one-of-45-attorneys-general-to-push-for-state-and-local-tobacco-regulation/

Eight Felony Charges Filed Against West Jordan Xtreme Pawn Manager

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2019



FELONY CHARGES/STOLEN MERCHANDISE SEIZED: PART OF INVESTIGATION OF ON-GOING RETAIL THEFT/PAWN RESALE CASE
$1.2 Million of Stolen Merchandise Seized


Background: Utah retailers are experiencing a trend of continuous and severe retail theft from their stores, where persons (who often admit to opioid/heroin addiction) steal merchandise with the intent of selling it to buy more drugs. The following case focuses on a pawn shop whose manager and employees bought thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise and then resold it at a profit, knowing it was stolen from the retailers and that the money exchanged would be likely used to purchase more drugs. This case is one arrest in a growing and serious problem which is costing the retailers and consumers millions of dollars this year.

WEST JORDAN –The Utah Attorney General’s office has filed eight felony charges against John ‘Johnny’ Jones, manager of West Jordan Xtreme Pawn, for a continuing pattern of buying and selling property with the knowledge that the merchandise was stolen from various retail businesses in Utah. Detectives seized an estimated $1.2 million in brand new in-the-box merchandise when warrants were served during the investigation.

  • As the result of a criminal investigation, undercover officers stated that they witnessed transactions where property was sold to Xtreme Pawn “…with little or no questions about the origin of items, why they were selling rather than returning, or if a receipt was available.”
  • According to the charging document, retailers “expressed concern about the volume of brand new in-the-box items being sold online by a number of pawnshops along the Wasatch Front.” Several items were documented for sale with the retailer’s ‘spider wire’ anti-theft device still on the package. The affected retail and outlet stores included Home Depot, Lowes, Target, Shopko, Kroger Foods, Bed Bath and Beyond, CVS Pharmacy and others.
  • In the charging document, a witness said John ‘Johnny’ Jones admitted that “probably 80% of everything they buy is stolen.” One of the shoplifters said Extreme Pawn would “never ask questions and would buy anything.” Another witness said that “…everything she pawned was stolen the same day and immediately pawned. She further stated that all the money she received from the pawn shops was used to buy drugs.”
  • Jones was charged with: Pattern of Unlawful Activity (1st degree felony); Theft of Lost, mislaid or mistakenly delivered property, (Second Degree Felony); Receiving Stolen Property, (Second Degree Felony); 4 counts: Receiving Stolen Property (1 First Degree/3 Third Degree Felony); Communications Fraud (First Degree Felony). 

The suspect John Jones has been ordered to self-surrender to Salt Lake County Jail prior to his next court date on September 6th, 2019. Xtreme Pawn in West Jordan remains open for business. This investigation is ongoing.

Read the charging document here.

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AG Reyes Joins 39 State Coalition Letter Urging Congress to Remove Federal Barriers to Treat Opioid Use Disorder

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2019

AG Reyes Joins 39 State Coalition Letter to Congressional Leadership Urging Congress to Remove Federal Barriers to Treat Opioid Use Disorder

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes sent a letter to Congressional leadership in both the House and Senate, asking for the removal of federal barriers that are currently preventing health care providers from offering treatment for opioid use disorder. 

Opioid use disorder is the physical and psychological reliance on opioids. Symptoms of opioid addiction include uncontrollable cravings for the drugs and the inability to control opioid use despite its negative impacts.

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said it’s estimated that 2 million Americans struggle with opioid use disorder.

“States are on the front lines and are combining all of the resources at our disposal to stop the current crisis,” Attorney General Reyes said. “Although we have been successful in many ways, there is more that can be done by the federal government. By eliminating the barriers outlined in our letter, Congress can take meaningful, productive steps that will benefit those currently struggling with addiction before it’s too late.

“I appreciate my attorneys general colleagues who acknowledge that addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing, and the more help we can provide for those struggling the better,” Attorney General Reyes added.

The letter outlines three areas that need to be addressed:

  • Replace the cumbersome, out-of-date, privacy rules contained in 42 CFR Part 2 with the effective and more familiar privacy rules contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA);
  • Pass HR 2482, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, which would eliminate unnecessary burdens on buprenorphine prescribing imposed by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000. Buprenorphine is one of three drugs used as part of Medication Assisted Treatment, the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder. Outdated and unnecessary federal requirements are discouraging doctors from prescribing this life-saving drug to patients who need it; and 
  • Fully repeal the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion. The IMD exclusion generally prohibits state Medicaid programs from receiving federal reimbursement for adults between 21 and 65 receiving mental health or substance use disorder treatment in a residential treatment facility with more than 16 beds.

“The opioid epidemic is tearing families apart all over our state and nation,” Attorney General Reyes said. “Opioid addiction, like all chronic illnesses, requires treatment for people to get healthy. We must remove all unnecessary barriers between people with opioid use disorder and the treatment they need. I urge Congress to take these needed steps.”

Utah is joined on the letter by attorneys general from Oklahoma, North Carolina, (the leaders of the letter); California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakoda, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Read the letter here.

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