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Attorney General Reyes Continues Work With FCC to Expose Illegal Robocallers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 4, 2020

EXPOSING ILLEGAL ROBOCALLERS: UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES CONTINUES WORK WITH FCC ON TRACED ACT ENFORCEMENT

SALT LAKE CITY– Attorney General Sean Reyes is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to continue the focus on ‘tracing back’ illegal robocalls at their source, using collaboration among state attorneys general and telecom companies and in partnership with the State Attorneys General Robocall Working Group on this issue.

Under the TRACED Act, which became law in December 2019, the FCC will select a single registered association to manage the work to trace back illegal robocalls. Because a call can pass through the networks of many telecom companies before reaching its destination, tracing that call—which is key to enforcing our laws against illegal robocallers—requires collaboration among telecom companies and state attorneys general. In their comments, the States note that traceback investigations are necessary for law enforcement to identify and investigate illegal robocallers and expose voice service providers that assist and facilitate illegal robocallers more efficiently.

For the last few years, state attorneys general have encouraged the telecom industry to increase the number and speed of traceback investigations each month. Many telecom companies have joined this effort and are working hard to stop illegal robocallers. Traceback investigations are more urgent than ever because of coronavirus-related robocall scams, including scams related to coronavirus relief checks, pitches for coronavirus test kits, health plans offering coronavirus testing, work-from-home offers preying on job-seekers, and scams offering relief on utility bills, student loans, taxes, or other debt.  

Since 2018, Utah has been a member of a coalition of states working with the telecom industry to attack the scourge of robocalls in a comprehensive way by implementing common-sense business practices to minimize illegal robocalls and trace these calls back to their source. Attorney General Reyes is joined in submitting today’s comments by the Attorneys General of 52 States and Territories.

A copy of the comments is available here.

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Attorney General Reyes Urges Investigation into Beef Packing Industry

June 2, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is notifying the Department of Justice that a growing number of states intend to pursue a federal investigation into suspected national price-fixing by meatpackers in the cattle industry, and urge the Department to coordinate with the states on that investigation.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, AG Reyes expressed concern over the likelihood of manipulation of the market for processed beef. The four largest meatpacking companies control more than 80% of the beef processing in the United States. The shelf price of beef is exceptionally high, while cattle prices are low and continue to dive. The concern over market manipulation has increased with beef prices reaching record levels as consumers stockpile meat in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but cattle prices remain low and are decreasing.

“Especially now, we need to encourage fair competition in the meat packing industry and protect consumers,” said Attorney General Reyes.  “We intend to ask the DOJ to conduct a vigorous investigation into the meatpacking industry with an eye on what kinds of competitive practices occur.”

Attorney General Reyes says the pricing margins are a sign that meat packers are using their ability to control the market for processed beef and take advantage of the situation in a manner that could violate the federal antitrust law. In addition to harming cattle producers, this potentially illegal practice hurts consumers nationwide, many of whom are themselves struggling because of loss of employment and reduced incomes.

Attorney General Reyes and a growing number of Attorneys General from Midwestern states believe the situation warrants a full federal investigation because the alleged anticompetitive conduct harms consumers and cattle ranchers across the United States.

Read the letter here.


Attorney General’s Office Statement on George Floyd Case

May 30, 2020

We add our voices to condemn the appalling abuse of power and violation of public trust in the George Floyd case. It disgraces the 99% of honorable law enforcement men and women we work with in Utah and across America.

Over the past several years, our office has trained over 3,000 Utah officers in a virtual simulator/classroom on de-escalating violence and proper use of force. One of the architects of the program’s curriculum has consulted and trained cities like Ferguson and Baltimore on violence de-escalation, use of force and other critical incident scenarios to lessen the likelihood of violence between cops and the communities they are sworn to protect.

The Utah system was highlighted at a 2019 conference for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. By repetitions in the simulator, officers learn different techniques to diffuse confrontational or even routine situations they may encounter on the job. This better protects them and those with whom they interact. Supported by feedback, video and classroom experiences, they are more prepared to react calmly, consistently and correctly.

Community leaders of Color including African American, Latino American, Asian Pacfic American, along with advocates from the disability community, school administrators, teachers, business and faith leaders, media, military, policy makers and others have also come through the simulator experience to provide feedback on training.

We will continue this training in Utah as a needed service to our community and hopefully find support for expansion. By doing so, we will hopefully avoid ever having an egregious case of abuse like George Floyd’s death.


Attorney General Reyes’ Statement on the Passing of the Ogden Police Officer Who Was Killed in the Line of Duty

May 28, 2020

Today, Utah Attorney General Reyes released the following statement upon hearing of the passing of the Ogden Police officer who was killed in the line of duty:

“This is the worst news possible. I am heartbroken to learn of the Ogden Police officer who was killed in the line of duty while answering a domestic violence call today. His wife and family received the phone call today no law enforcement family member ever wants to get. 

“My agency and I send all of our prayers and love to the officer’s family and to Chief Randy Watt and the entire Ogden City Police Department.  We also pray for the rapid recovery of the Adult Probation and Parole agent who was also shot in the same incident. This is a humbling reminder of the risks and sacrifice our officers face every single day on the job. I am filled with gratitude to all those men and women in law enforcement who are answering calls even under the added duress of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“I know our Utah 1033 Foundation is activated and we will be ready to support and help the family financially immediately. Other great organizations like FOP are mobilized to assist the family as well.”


Utah Man Charged For Possessing Child Pornography, Grooming 6-Year-Old Girl For Over a Year

May 28, 2020

Last week, the Utah Attorney General’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force charged a Utah man after he allegedly groomed a 6-year-old girl by chatting through video and text for over a year and received sexually explicit images of her and her 6-year-old cousin.

Danny Steven Hardman, 43, was charged in the 3rd District Court with four counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, a second-degree felony.

On April 13, 2020, Facebook reported that four images of child pornography had been sent to Hardman through Facebook Messenger. The Facebook account that sent the images belonged to a 6-year-old girl in Indiana. The account was setup “as a permitted child account associated with a parent Facebook account”. In an interview with Indiana law enforcement, the mother of the victim admitted to approving the Facebook contact with Hardman and that they had met Hardman through a mutual friend and played online video games together. She denied knowledge that Hardman had been chatting with her daughter. She was able to identify the other 6-year-old girl in the photos as a cousin who often visited their home.

On May 21, 2020, agents served a search warrant on Hardman’s home. During an interview, Hardman admitted to chatting with the victim for over a year, almost every day through both video chat and Facebook Messenger. He stated that these chats would often last for over an hour but were never sexual.

The charges state that Hardman had “built a close personal relationship with the victims in this case through more than a year-long pattern of grooming behavior”.

The Court ordered bail be set at $500,000.


Attorney General’s Office, Children’s Justice Centers Launch New SHINE Child Abuse Support Initiative


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2020
 
 

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE, CHILDREN’S JUSTICE CENTERS LAUNCH NEW SHINE CHILD ABUSE SUPPORT INITIATIVE
SHINE Campaign Lead By Survivors Rabbi Avremi Zippel, Former Senator Aaron Osmond and Musician Deondra Brown
 

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General’s Office and Children’s Justice Center Program (CJC) have launched a public awareness campaign dedicated to changing the conversation around child abuse and empowering survivors.

Listen to the press conference below:

Utah is the first state to roll out a SHINE campaign of this size with a digital marketing presence and an original PSA. Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes was joined by Utah natives and SHINE ambassadors Rabbi Avremi Zippel (Chabad Lubavitch of Utah), Aaron Osmond (former state senator) and Deondra Brown (pianist of The 5 Browns). Additionally, billboards have been placed throughout the state promoting SHINE and the important work of local CJCs.
 
The National Children’s Alliance, national membership organization for CJCs, created SHINE as an initiative to end the stigma associated with child abuse and encourage community members to support survivors.
 
Zippel said that being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse is a lonely and isolating experience. “The SHINE Campaign provides survivors of child abuse with reminders that are so necessary — that they are in no way alone and can and will go on to lead the fullest and most meaningful lives imaginable. We are fortunate to have organizations like Utah’s CJCs that are a pillar of support to young people in our community. I am proud to be part of this endeavor to stand with, inspire, and support fellow survivors.”
 
The campaign’s ambassadors acknowledge that each survivor’s path is different and equally valid. For some, their healing is private and personal. For others, action is a powerful tool.
 
Osmond said as a legislator, he felt compelled to strengthen state laws to protect the rights of victims. “As a victim of abuse, I also realized my own story needed to be told in that public setting to help remove the stigma of talking about abuse. It was hard to open up about such a personal impact. But in sharing my story, I have helped to engage my legislative colleagues, neighbors, and friends in discussing the problem and creating awareness in how we can all prevent child abuse”. 
 
During the current pandemic, Attorney General Reyes stated that Utah’s child abuse reports have dropped by about 40%, but not because child abuse has declined. Stay-at-home restrictions have made it difficult for the most common mandatory reporters — teachers, coaches and other trusted adults — to observe concerning behaviors, or for children to safely disclose to them. As statewide restrictions inch closer to a new norm, professionals who work with child abuse victims hope children will begin to feel comfortable enough to disclose. But public awareness is also an important factor moving forward.
 
The SHINE campaign celebrates the resiliency of survivors and the critical role of CJCs in helping children find hope, support and healing. Every year Utah’s 25 CJCs handle more than 7,200 cases, providing advocacy, medical and mental health services, and other support to children throughout the justice process.
 
Brown is optimistic about the road ahead for this next generation of children. “If I had known as a child that CJCs were out there, I would have come forward much sooner and disclosed about the abuse I experienced. I was afraid I wouldn’t be believed and would be all alone. But the tides are shifting. People are discussing this topic and the message of SHINE is an opportunity to take that a step further — to celebrate the strength and determination of survivors and challenge us all to stand by them. If children who are experiencing abuse now see there are others out there who understand and will believe them, they will feel more empowered to come forward.”
 
To download press materials on the Utah SHINE Campaign, please click here.


Visit http://utahcjc.org/shine for more information.
 

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About SHINE
SHINE is a national campaign to transform the conversation about child abuse. For too many, childhood is where the trauma starts. It’s time for us to be a light that survivors can turn to. 

About Utah Children’s Justice Centers
When abuse is suspected, the child is brought to a Children’s Justice Center–a safe, child-focused facility– to talk to a trained interviewer. A team of professionals make decisions together about how to handle the case and help the child. Children and families are connected with services and supported throughout the process. 

Watch the press conference on the launch of the SHINE campaign below:


Attorney General Reyes and Utah Law Enforcement Unite to Support First Responder Benefits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 27, 2020

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES AND UTAH LAW ENFORCEMENT UNITED TO SUPPORT FIRST RESPONDER BENEFITS
Congress Considers Bill to Extend Death Benefits Due to COVID-19

SALT LAKE CITY  –  Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is leading a coalition of law enforcement officers from around the State of Utah in urging Congress to quickly pass S.3607 – Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020.

S. 3607 has already passed the U.S. Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives. The bill extends death benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) to survivors of public safety officers (e.g., law enforcement officers) who die because of COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019). The PSOB program provides death, disability, and education benefits to public safety officers and survivors of public safety officers who are killed or injured in the line of duty.

Specifically, this bill creates a general presumption that a public safety officer who dies from COVID-19 or related complications sustained an injury in the line of duty.

“Our men and women of law enforcement are answering calls on the front lines every day, facing numerous threats including the coronavirus. I see it every day in my own state. I’m proud we can join our voices together as a Utah blue community to care for the families of our fallen officers,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “It is urgent Congress pass this bill and allow President Trump to sign it quickly. The pandemic has already claimed the lives of several law enforcement officers and there will sadly be more. The families of these front-line responders deserve these benefits in the fastest and most efficient way possible.”

Among the Utah law enforcement agencies joining in support of this legislation include the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, the Utah Sheriff’s Association, the Utah Chiefs of Police and the Utah Peace Officers Association.
 
A copy of the letter can be read here.
 

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Memorial Day: Remembering Our Fallen

May 25, 2020

On this Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those brave men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation and our families. We remember our fallen comrades who never returned home, and we offer our greatest condolences those who have lost their loved ones.

Today as we celebrate with our families, let us make sure we recognize those that have served through hardships and who courageously fought to protect our rights and freedoms. We express our gratitude to those who have served in uniform, whether overseas or on American soil. May we never forget those that allow us to live in liberty and prosperity, today and every day.


Attorney General Reyes’ Statement on the Passing of Coach Jerry Sloan

May 22, 2020

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes released the following statement on the passing of Coach Jerry Sloan:

“Today, I join the many Utah Jazz and NBA fans around the world in mourning the loss of Coach Jerry Sloan. He was a tough, no-nonsense All-Star player and Hall of Fame coach who demanded the highest level of excellence and hard work from himself, his staff and players.  On a personal level, I enjoyed our interactions very much. Coach was a man of no pretense. He was always himself and those around him were better for it.  He took time to talk to me about life, tractors (he had dozens of them) and sports in spite of the fact I grew up as a kid in the rival Lakers organization.   

“The leadership and consistency he provided to the Jazz organization over decades as its coach are unparalleled and he will always be remembered for the Jazz’s most successful years to date. Because he was not self-promoting, many Jazz fans don’t realize the elite company he keeps among the Mount Rushmore of NBA coaches. 

“Some of his most impressive accomplishments include: A career regular-season win-loss record of 1,223-803, placing him third all-time in NBA wins at the time he retired. Coach Sloan was only the fifth coach in NBA History to reach 1,000 victories and is one of two coaches in NBA History to record 1,000 wins with one club. He also coached for one team longer than anyone in NBA history. He coached the Jazz to 15 consecutive playoff appearances from 1989-2003-one of only four coaches in NBA history with 15-plus consecutive seasons with a winning record (Greg Popovich, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson are the others). He, of course, led the Utah Jazz to NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998 and was deserving of multiple Coach of the Year awards (in my book).  

“In his later years, Coach fought Parkinson’s disease and dementia the way he fought through a screen or for a rebound–with determination and unapologetically.  Saysha and I offer our condolences to his family and close friends, to the Utah Jazz organization and to Jazz fans everywhere.”


Attorney General Reyes Joins Coalition of 34 States Urging Congress to Allow Marijuana-related Business to Access the Banking System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN REYES JOINS COALITION OF 34 STATES URGING CONGRESS TO PASS LEGISLATION ALLOWING MARIJUANA-RELATED BUSINESS TO ACCESS THE BANKING SYSTEM
Utah Treasurer David Damschen and Utah Bankers Association in Support of This Effort

SALT LAKE CITY  –  The badly needed gap between federal regulations and the lack of access to financial institutions for medical and legal use marijuana businesses is being addressed with proposed federal legislation that has the support of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Utah Treasurer David Damschen and the President of the Utah Banking Association, Howard Headlee.

Attorney General Reyes today joined a bipartisan coalition of 34 state and territorial attorneys general urging Congress to pass, as part of upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595) or similar measures that would give legal marijuana-related businesses access to the federal banking system.

“This bill would allow Utah to make critically needed changes regarding legal medical cannabis transactions in our state,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes.  “Utah worked hard to find a sensible, humane and balanced approach to medical marijuana policy. But current federal law prevents access to insured financial institutions for businesses in this industry. That creates significant practical and public safety issues for both the general public and for Utah businesses legally operating in the medical cannabis space.” 
 
Utah Treasurer David Damschen said, “There is no silver bullet to address the cannabis banking problem on the state level. We need the federal government to respect the move among states toward varying degrees of legalization and to better harmonize its laws regarding cannabis-related activities, particularly with respect to banking regulation.”
 
Damschen continued, “The inability of insured financial institutions to handle cannabis-related transactions has forced businesses and governments throughout the U.S. to resort to cash to settle transactions. This represents an enormous public safety issue, increasing risk of violent crime, fraud, and theft. Providing regulated and insured financial services to cannabis businesses allows law enforcement, and specifically the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) within the U.S. Department of Treasury, the transparency needed to distinguish legal cannabis businesses from illegal activity.”
 
Utah Banking Association President Howard Headlee said, “Utah Banks offer critical services for small businesses to deposit their daily receipts, manage cash flow, secure loans and protect assets.  The changes outlined in the SAFE Banking Act will allow the new medical marijuana businesses to operate just as every other law-abiding business does in our state.  We will be able to safely accommodate a sector that otherwise would be relegated to untenable methods just to operate normally.”
 
Under existing law, federal regulators prohibit financial institutions from providing services to marijuana businesses in states where medical or retail marijuana sales are legal. Forcing legal businesses to operate as cash-only operations poses serious safety threats, creating targets for violent and white-collar crime. The SAFE Banking Act permits marijuana-related businesses in states and territories with existing regulatory structures to access the federal banking system.

The SAFE Banking Act has widespread, bipartisan support with 206 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The House passed the bill in September 2019. The HEROES Act relief legislation, which the House approved last week, also included the language of the SAFE Banking Act.
 
In their letter, the attorneys general note that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on problems that the SAFE Banking Act is intended to remediate, including health and safety concerns stemming from frequent and large cash exchanges.
 
The full text of the letter can be read here.
 

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