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Two Separate Men Arrested in Child Pornography Investigations

March 7, 2020

Two separate men were arrested this week and charged with multiple counts of child exploitation of a minor after being found in possession of child pornography by the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

45-year-old Antony Martin Holtry of Salt Lake City was arrested after search warrants in January and February by ICAC agents revealed evidence of child pornography. According to law enforcement, Holtry uploaded child pornography to his Facebook and Gmail accounts in November.

Additionally, Holtry has an extensive criminal history including threats of violence made to law enforcement. Along with the child pornography, a stolen driver’s license and firearms were found in his house.

Holtry was charged with 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and is being held on $250,000 bail.

35-year-old Jason McKay Beckstead of Orem was arrested after he allegedly uploaded child pornography on Instagram and Tumblr. The Orem Police Department arrested Beckstead after receiving a cyber-tip from the Utah Attorney General’s Office on a suspect allegedly possessing and distributing child pornography.

On December 4, 2019, Instagram filed a cyber-tip report with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after an image was uploaded to the social media platform that contained child pornogrpahy. On December 26, 2019, Tumblr filed a cyber-tip on reported images that contained child pornography. The email associated with both social media accounts were consistent, but the owner was unable to be identified by Attorney General’s Office agents until a judicial order was served to CenturyLink who reported the owner to be Beckstead.

Beckstead was arrested and charged with 20 second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor by the Orem Police Department. He is currently being held on $200,000 bail.

Report tips to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force at 801-281-1211 or at utahicac@agutah.gov.


Utah Opioid Task Force Presents on Resources Helping Combat the Opioid Crisis

March 6, 2020

This week, the Utah Opioid Task Force hosted a Lunch & Learn featuring four TED Talk-style presentations on the types of community-based information and education seminars that the Task Force intends to develop and deliver in 2020.

Listen to the presentations below:

Chief Tom Ross with the Bountiful Police Department presented on the pilot project Davis County Receiving Center which offers a chance at recovery rather than jail time. The Receiving Center opened in December 2019. Read more here.

Dr. Jennifer Plumb with Utah Naloxone presented on the importance of having a Naloxone kit if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction. Naloxone saves lives by reversing an opioid overdose and giving first responders time to arrive. Plumb demonstrated the easy-to-use kit and discussed how to recognize an overdose. For more information, go here.

Anna Fondario with the Utah Department of Health presented on resources provided by the Department, their current efforts to combat the opioid crisis, and the Department of Health Data Dashboard, which provides an interactive, visual presentation of health data in Utah with the intent to provide actionable health-related data. Check out the Dashboard here and check out Stop the Opidemic, a campaign that can help you find resources and information on the opioid epidemic in Utah.  

Evan Done with Utah Support Advocates for Recover Awareness (USARA) discussed their peer-based recovery support system for those struggling with an opioid addiction. Their services focus on the reality of long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs for individuals and their families in Utah. For more information go here.

Watch the presentations below:


AG Reyes Joins Bipartisan Fight Against Robocalls With U.S. Supreme Court Filing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2020

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES JOINS BIPARTISAN FIGHT AGAINST NUISANCE ROBOCALLS WITH U.S. SUPREME COURT FILING

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes on Monday joined a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing for the preservation of the anti-robocall provisions of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and North Carolina Attorney General Joshua Stein co-authored the bipartisan brief, which is joined by 31 other states.

The TCPA, enacted in 1991, is a critical piece of federal consumer-protection legislation allowing states to sue illegal robocallers on their residents’ behalf. A decision in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently invalidated a portion of the act, potentially jeopardizing the entire federal robocall ban.

“Everyone hates those constant robocalls, which are both annoying and harmful at times,” Attorney General Reyes said. “On behalf of Utah consumers, I am continuing our state’s fight to safeguard peace and privacy without the disturbance of unwanted calls interrupting people’s routines at all hours of the day and night.”

“No court has ever questioned the constitutionality of the TCPA’s robocall restriction, and we must ensure no such challenge is ever taken seriously,” Attorney General Hill said. “We have state laws prohibiting robocalls right here in Indiana, and we must defend our ability both at the federal and state levels to continue protecting Hoosiers from annoying and illegal robocalls.”

Attorney General Reyes continues working with other states’ attorneys general, federal agencies and telephone service providers to develop better technologies and stronger regulations aimed at blocking nuisance phone calls, some of which are perpetrated by scammers and identity thieves.

Read the brief filed Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court here.

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Attorney General Reyes on Human Trafficking Panel: Survivors First, Awareness Essential

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING PANEL: SURVIVORS FIRST, AWARENESS ESSENTIAL

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes helped outline the extent of the human trafficking problem on a panel that included Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Attorneys General Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas and Ashley Moody of Florida.
 
“There are more victims of human trafficking throughout the world than the public realizes,” said Attorney General Reyes. “In fact, there are more victims entrapped in slavery than ever before. We will keep working tirelessly to wake up America to the pervasiveness of the threat. Many people either don’t know or don’t want to know what’s happening to victims in their community because it is so shocking. We have to change that.
 
“In Utah, we have made great strides in six years. We went from an “F” grade in 2013 to an “A” grade in 2019 from Shared Hope International because of incredible public support, willing state leaders, aggressive law enforcement and a focus on empowering and healing victims and survivors. Yet, we still have a long way to go.”
 
DHS Acting Secretary Wolf pledged his support.
 
“We need to take a victim-first approach and assess the real threat to our communities,” Wolf said. “The Federal Government can’t do it alone. For example, we need to work with tech companies so they can identify victims and takedown harmful content. We need to go where the threats take us and ask the people in our nation for assistance. But we need to ensure our resources are allocated in the correct way.”
 
“If you see something, say something,” he added.
 
The panel emphasized that it is vitally important for the general public to keep an eye out for unusual behavior that could signal a person may be in a situation against their will.
 
A public-private partnership is necessary in order to accomplish the goal of freeing victims of human trafficking, the panel agreed.

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AG Reyes Leads Effort Urging FDA to Strengthen E-Cigarette Enforcement Guidance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES LEADS EFFORT URGING FDA TO STRENGTHEN E-CIGARETTE ENFORCEMENT GUIDANCE
 26 Attorneys General Encourage FDA to Expand Guidance to Include Menthol and Disposable, Refillable Products

SALT LAKE CITY– Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today announced he is leading a bipartisan coalition of 26 attorneys general along with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to strengthen guidance the agency issued to explain how it will enforce regulations of electronic nicotine delivery systems, or e-cigarettes.
 
In comments submitted today, the coalition is encouraging the FDA to expand and strengthen its enforcement guidance by including menthol flavors and products that are not cartridge-based. Raoul and the coalition state that the current guidance creates loopholes that manufacturers can exploit and will not help decrease e-cigarette usage among youth.
 
“E-cigarette use has grown exponentially in the last few years, especially among Utah youth,” said Attorney General Reyes. “We need to do what we can to protect young people from being lured into a vicious nicotine addiction. These flavored, disposable alternatives to cigarettes have not proved to be any safer than other tobacco products.”
 
The FDA released guidance in January describing how the agency will prioritize e-cigarette enforcement resources. According to the guidance, the FDA will prioritize enforcement against flavored, cartridge-based e-cigarettes, with the exception of tobacco or menthol-flavored products. The FDA will also prioritize enforcement against e-cigarette products marketed toward minors or manufacturers that have not taken adequate measures to prevent minors from using their products. However, the guidance does not prioritize disposable products or refillable cartridge systems that are popular among youth.
 
Under the new guidance, mint-flavored e-cigarette products are included in the FDA’s enforcement priorities, and the coalition is urging the FDA to amend the guidance to include menthol flavors. The attorneys general point out that as a flavor derived from mint, menthol shares many of the same characteristics making it a convenient substitute for youths who would search for a flavor to substitute for mint. The coalition cites the FDA’s own data, showing that the use of mint and menthol flavors by high school e-cigarette users dramatically increased from 16 percent in 2016 to more than 57 percent in 2019. The coalition also points to the FDA’s admission that evidence has shown that individuals who already use flavored tobacco products will likely switch to other flavored tobacco products if their preferred flavor is no longer available.
 
In addition to menthol serving as a likely mint substitute due to the flavor similarities, the coalition states that the FDA’s decision to permit menthol is problematic because the guidance does not explain how the FDA will distinguish between the two similar flavors. The coalition expresses concern that the FDA will be forced to rely on packaging descriptions of the flavors, which the attorneys general argue creates a loophole which manufacturers can exploit by simply renaming the flavors on product labels.
 
The FDA claims its reasoning for allowing menthol is to avoid removing an incentive for adult smokers who might transition from using combustible cigarettes to “potentially less harmful” e-cigarettes. The coalition points to a 2020 Surgeon General report, which said there is not enough evidence to show that e-cigarettes increase smoking cessation. In fact, the coalition argues, the purported benefits of menthol’s availability to adult smokers should be outweighed by the risk it poses of attracting youth smokers.
 
Also in the comments, the coalition states that the FDA’s focus on cartridge-based products creates a loophole for self-contained, disposable products that are popular with youth. The coalition points out that with two of the most popular e-cigarette devices among high school students being disposable, the guidance will have the result of pushing youth toward refillable systems.
 
The letter includes the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin in submitting the comments.
 
A copy of the comment letter can be found here
 

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Attorney General Reyes Applauds Decision in Sprint/T-Mobile Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN D. REYES APPLAUDS DECISION IN SPRINT/T-MOBILE CASE

Reyes took a leadership role in supporting wider consumer access to 5G Networks

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today applauded a Federal Judge’s decision to allow—not block—the proposed Sprint/T-Mobile merger. The ruling is in response to a lawsuit from a handful of states who claimed the merger violated antitrust laws. But this week’s ruling cites a Justice Department settlement that makes Dish “well poised to become a fourth Mobile Network Operator (MNO) in the market, and its extensive preparations and regulatory remedies indicate that it can sufficiently replace Sprint’s competitive impact.” In addition, the ruling points out that in the current marketplace, Sprint was unlikely to be a viable fourth competitor if the merger wasn’t allowed.

“While many other states looked to block this merger, Utah saw the benefits to consumers, businesses, the marketplace and US competitive advantage in 5G. Early on, I took the lead in this effort because I also recognized this merger was crucial for rural Utah,” Attorney General Reyes said. “There are many parts of our state which don’t have high-quality mobile and internet access, which 5G technology will provide. Judge Marrero’s ruling validates not only Utah’s position but also the arguments of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.”

Reyes continued: “This merger makes sense from all sides. Beyond critical rural development, this deal protects America by keeping certain foreign players from acquiring a weakened Sprint. In terms of market balance, the new, combined entity will still be third in market share behind the two most dominant players. But the merger gives the new entity a fighting chance to develop 5G and compete with AT&T and Verizon long-term and in a serious way. And with the addition of Dish, there is no net loss in the number of market players. Prices, products and services will be more competitive and states like Utah will be much better served as a result.”

This week, Judge Victor Marrero of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refused a request from a minority of state attorneys general to block T-Mobile’s proposed acquisition of Sprint. The ruling concludes the trial in New York v. Deutsche Telekom.

The department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit on July 26, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia along with a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the department’s competitive concerns. The attorneys general for the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas have each joined in this proposed settlement. That proposed settlement, along with the United States’ motion to enter final judgment, is pending before Judge Kelly in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The FCC also approved the transaction after a thorough examination, with certain commitments as a condition of approval.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, T-Mobile and Sprint must divest Sprint’s prepaid business, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint prepaid, to Dish Network Corp., a Colorado-based satellite television provider. The proposed settlement also provides for a divestiture of substantial spectrum assets to Dish. Additionally, T-Mobile and Sprint must make available for divestiture to Dish at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations. T-Mobile must also provide Dish with robust access to the T-Mobile network for a period of seven years while Dish transitions the business and builds out its 5G network.

T-Mobile US Inc. is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. In 2018, T-Mobile posted revenues of more than $43 billion. Deutsche Telekom AG, a German corporation headquartered in Bonn, Germany, is the controlling shareholder of T-Mobile US Inc.

Sprint Corporation is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas. In 2018, its posted revenue was over $32 billion. Sprint is controlled by SoftBank Group Corp., a Japanese corporation headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

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*This release includes excerpts from the Department of Justice for background information.


Utah AGO Joins Sen. Karen Mayne to Announce Legislation Combating Fringe Gambling

February 27, 2020

This morning, the Utah Attorney General’s Office joined with Senator Karen Mayne to announce legislation aimed at closing loopholes that allow illegal gambling operation to skirt the law in communities across Utah.

Listen to the audio below:

“What we are talking about has been a cancer in our community. They have been here before and we have fought them before. This is a national problem as well as a state problem,” said Senator Mayne.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has dealt with these problem machines for years. The individuals and companies operating these machines are doing so with no oversight and no regard to the impact they have on the communities around them. As such, they operate as disguised gambling machines, where gambling is illegal in Utah. Additionally, these machines often target lower-income individuals as they are placed in minimarts, laundromats, beauty salons, and even near schools.

These machines have been problematic for state and local governments. When these machines are installed, they are done so without working to comply with local business ordinances. Despite these machines bringing in thousands of dollars every month, they do not pay sales tax since they aren’t registered as a business.

This legislation will:

  • Close the loopholes and protect our community;
  • Clarify which types of machines are legal;
  • Strengthen and build upon existing laws regarding fringe gambling machines;
  • Prohibit the operation, or placing into operation, a fringe gambling machine;
  • Increase criminal penalties to owners, not users, of the machines for those guilty of gambling offense;
  • Allow double damages for money lost against the operator or location owner of the machine for money lost; and
  • Focuses on machines that take and distribute money. The bill does not modify existing laws that apply to bingo, valid promotional activities, or other activities not involving a machine.

“This is something we need to fight together because these are a detriment to our communities,” said Senator Mayne.


Utah ICAC Task Force Arrests Vernal Man Who Possessed Over 23,000 Files of Child Porn and Child Anime Porn

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2020

UTAH ICAC TASK FORCE ARRESTS VERNAL MAN WHO POSSESSED OVER 23,000 FILES OF CHILD PORN AND CHILD ANIME PORN

SALT LAKE CITY, UT– The Utah Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force arrested a man in Vernal, Utah after an investigation revealed more than 23,000 files containing child porn and child anime porn.
 
31-year-old Andrew Derek Walden is being charged with 10 felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Walden is suspected of downloading and distributing child pornography and sharing files containing child pornography via the Freenet peer-to-peer network. In addition to thousands of child porn files, Walden’s apartment contained numerous posters on the walls and magazines depicting sexually explicit anime images featuring young children.
 
While technically legal, the anime material concerns the ICAC investigators.
 
“The content that’s specifically concerning to us is the child pornography anime,” said Alan White, ICAC Commander. “If a person is into child pornographic anime, it’s not a huge step to get into child pornography itself, or for that matter to abuse a child.”
 
Walden is being held without bail in Uintah County as he is considered to be a substantial danger to the community and is likely to flee if released.

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Attorney General Reyes Supports Bill Limiting “Venue Shopping” in Corporate Bankruptcy Filing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 25, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN D. REYES SUPPORTS  BILL LIMITING “VENUE SHOPPING” IN CORPORATE BANKRUPTCY FILING
Reyes Joins Coalition of 42 Attorneys General on Bipartisan Legislation

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has joined a bipartisan coalition of 42 state and territory attorneys general in supporting H.R. 4421, the Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation that will prevent a corporation from filing for bankruptcy in a District that it believes would be more favorable on issues to the debtor’s advantage—a practice known as “forum shopping”—when the corporation’s principal place of business or assets are located in a different district, which imposes a burden on states and other creditors who may have to travel and incur significant expenses to pursue their claims.
 
Under current U.S. law, individuals must file only in the district in which they have resided for a majority of the 180 days prior to filing. However, corporations are permitted to pursue bankruptcy in any district in which the corporation has a minor affiliated interest, no matter how small or recently created. In addition to conferring a distinct advantage to the corporation’s interest, it encourages placing cases in some of the most expensive legal markets in the country, contributing to the ever-growing costs of these cases. Generally, businesses and consumers who interact with the debtor are located in areas where the debtor primarily operates and having to travel to distant places makes it harder to protect their interests. The same applies to states that may be owed taxes or other payments, and may need to incur expenses to collect, that could wipe out any amounts collected through the bankruptcy.
 
Furthermore, because each individual court currently sets its own requirements for allowing non-local attorneys to appear, including deciding whether to charge an admission fee in each case, and/or to require that local counsel must be associated to the case, financial burdens and unnecessary delays in pursuing justice are virtually unavoidable. The attorneys general letter, therefore, encourages Congress to ensure that when government attorneys appear on behalf of their governments, they can participate in the bankruptcy without having to pay excessive fees or hire local counsel.
 
“Corporations should be required to play by the same rules that the individuals do when it comes to bankruptcy cases,” said Attorney General Reyes. “It’s not right that big companies can shop around for a ‘better deal’. This bill will strengthen the integrity of, and ensure fairness in the bankruptcy system and level the playing field for the financial interests of the public.”
 
If passed, the Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2019 will:

  • Limit where businesses may file bankruptcy by ensuring that they will do so in a jurisdiction in which their “principal assets” or their “principal place of business” are located; and
  • Require rules to be prescribed to allow all governmental attorneys (not just U.S. attorneys) to appear without charge and without being required to associate with local counsel.

In the letter, the attorneys general tender support to the Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2019, and contend that passage of the legislation will:

  • Reduce forum shopping in the bankruptcy system
  • Strengthen the integrity of, and build public confidence and ensure fairness in, the bankruptcy system
  • Help consumers and other parties to be represented in court without undue burden
  • Level the playing field for state attorneys general to guard their states’ financial interests and enforce consumer protection laws

In signing the letter co-sponsored by the attorneys general of Maryland, Ohio, Texas, and Washington, Attorney General Reyes joins the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  

A copy of the letter is available here.

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Attorney General Reyes & Polynesian Days Host Polynesian Cultural Kava Ceremony

February 24, 2020

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined with Polynesian Days to host a Polynesian Cultural Kava Ceremony on Friday. Members of the Hawaiian, Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, Maori (New Zealand), and Tahitian communities and law enforcement joined together to strengthen the bonds between them and celebrate each other’s cultures.

“The goal with this ceremony is to establish relationships and trust between law enforcement and Pacific Islanders,” said Attorney General Reyes. “We all need to rely on each other when we encounter things like human trafficking, violent crimes, and other misfortune in our community. We can start creating these bonds and get to know one another at events like this.”

Attorney General Reyes was also joined by Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi in the Kava Ceremonies. Dances and cultural demonstrations were performed in the Capitol Rotunda by the different Pacific Islander communities. Fijian, Samoan, and Tongan Kava Ceremonies were explained and performed while Elders spoke on unity and being proud to be a Pacific Islander.

Listen to the event below.


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