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AG Reyes Urges Congress to Adopt Measures to Expand Funding for Crime Victims

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 24, 2020

Attorney General Reyes to Congress: “Expand Funding for Crime Victims.”

Reyes Joins All 56 State and Territorial AGs Call for Increased Funding and More Flexibility

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is urging Congress to adopt key changes to the Victims of Crime Act that provide critical financial support to victims of violent crimes and their families.  Reyes joined a coalition of state and territorial attorneys general representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories in a letter to key Members on Capitol Hill.

The letter, delivered to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, the attorney generals call on Congress to adopt changes to the Crime Victims Fund, a national fund that supports state victims’ services programs. The recommendations will stabilize the Fund’s finances and provide more flexibility to grantees who are providing services to victims and their families. 

“The financial health of the Crime Victims fund is at risk,” said Attorney General Reyes.  “Congress increased the cap on distributions to the fund in 2015, allowing 2.5 million more victims to receive support.  As we said in the letter, while ‘deposits have sharply decreased in recent years due to a decline in the fines and penalties recouped from federal criminal cases, withdrawals have increased at a rapid pace.’”

The Fund, established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (“VOCA”), is the primary funding source for victim services in all 50 states and six U.S. territories. Deposits to the Fund originate from criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties and special assessments collected by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, federal courts, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Fund covers the expenses of essential direct services and support for victims and survivors in the aftermath of crime, including medical care, mental health counseling, lost wages, courtroom advocacy and temporary housing.

The coalition makes three recommendations to promote the sustainability of the Fund, and preserve access to programs and services:

  • Redirect fines and fees from corporate deferred and non-prosecution agreements to the Fund: The Department of Justice increasingly uses deferred and non-prosecution agreements to resolve corporate misconduct. The AGs ask Congress to redirect these deposits to the Fund. In 2018 and 2019, recoveries resulting from these agreements were about $8 billion each year.
  • Increase the rate of federal reimbursement to states for victim compensation programs: The Fund currently reimburses state programs that provide financial assistance to victims at a rate of 60 percent, the remainder usually being funded by fines and fees in state courts. The letter recommends Congress reimburse state programs at a rate of 75 percent.
  • Extend the amount of time VOCA funds can be spent: VOCA requires recipients to spend grants within a four-year period. The coalition asks Congress to extend the period of funding so that state and local organizations can better plan and predict funding for long-term services.

Read a copy of the letter here.

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Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act of 2020 Signed Into Law

August 14, 2020

We are pleased  to report that today, President Donald J. Trump signed S. 3607, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act, into law. This bill extends death and disability benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program to public safety officers who die or become injured as a result of COVID-19.

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined with 51 attorneys general and with law enforcement in Utah to express support for this bill in May 2020. Supporting Utah and America’s veterans and first responders is a top priority for the Utah Attorney General’s Office.


AG Reyes Continues to Advocate for Federal Pandemic Liability Protections, Leading Effort to Urge Congress to Consider Safe to Work Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2020


ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES CONTINUES TO ADVOCATE FOR FEDERAL PANDEMIC LIABILITY PROTECTIONS, LEADING EFFORT TO URGE CONGRESS TO CONSIDER SAFE TO WORK ACT

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is leading a coalition with Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr and 20 more state attorneys general who this week co-signed a letter to Congress urging the adoption of the protections contained in the Safe to Work Act. This is the latest action by Attorney General Reyes and his colleagues to help mitigate the threat of frivolous COVID-related litigation for much-needed goods and services while still ensuring victims have necessary legal redress for legitimate claims.
 
“In the midst of this devastating crisis, the extension of appropriate civil liability protections to small and large businesses, frontline healthcare facilities, schools, colleges, universities, philanthropic and religious non-profits, local government and other critical providers is crucial,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Utah has already put legal safeguards in place. But our economy needs these protections at both the state and federal level to provide stability for those trying to provide much-needed services while dealing with evolving science, differing standards and changing government guidelines or mandates. This bill deters expensive and frivolous lawsuits while still allowing meritorious and deserving claims to go forward. ”
 
An excerpt from the letter is below:
 
“The undersigned Attorneys General, representing 22 states, are encouraged to see the introduction of S. 4317, the Safe to Work Act, by U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, and we urge you to adopt the COVID-19 civil liability protections included in this important legislation. As we wrote in our previous letter dated May 11, 2020, we believe this framework for federal pandemic liability protections will benefit all of our states and citizens as we continue working to slow the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the detrimental impact it has had on our state economies.
 
“Attorneys General have a responsibility to protect the interests of the residents of our states. Notably, it is the role of the Attorney General to help maintain a stable legal and regulatory environment. We have seen the tragedies and widespread loss of life that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused in our states. We have also observed firsthand the livelihoods that have been lost due to joblessness, business closures, and the abandonment of traditional activities in daily lives and places of work.
 
“As the economies in our states have started reopening, and as we continue to work to protect public health, safety, and the economic security of our residents, the need for a stable, predictable legal environment has never been greater. In order to avoid even greater damage to our economy and people’s livelihoods, it is important that we are able to continue the operation of our free enterprise system, safely and appropriately, and to protect schools, colleges, and nonprofit organizations.
 
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to create a surge in frivolous civil litigation targeting well-intentioned businesses, educational institutions and non-profit organizations that have implemented and utilized applicable pandemic mitigation measures. In fact, lawsuits are already being filed. We know that in order for our economy to fully recover, customers and employees have to have the confidence to return to the marketplace, students need to be able to safely return to school, and at the same time, entities of all types that follow applicable guidelines need to be protected from devastating civil liability litigation concerning baseless COVID-related claims.  Therefore, we are encouraged by this common-sense framework to provide federal liability protections for much-needed goods and services while still ensuring victims are able to seek legal redress and compensation where appropriate.
 
“As you are probably aware, states across the country have taken steps to address the need for timely, targeted and temporary civil liability protections in light of the pandemic, but the need for a uniform national baseline of liability protection still exists. As such, we are very encouraged by the introduction and consideration of this important framework for federal pandemic liability protections while still preserving states’ autonomy to tailor protections based on each one’s unique circumstances.
 
“If adopted, these important protections will lead to meaningful results for our states, and we look forward to supporting the implementation of this type of legislation in any way we can.”
 
Joining Utah, the following state attorneys general also signed on to the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

A copy of the full letter is attached here.

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Attorney General Reyes Joins Effort to Protect Senior Victims of Fraud, Urges Congress to Pass Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 12, 2020

Attorney General Reyes Joins Effort to Protect Senior Victims of Fraud Urging Congress to Pass Legislation; Joins Bipartisan Group of 44 AGs

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is urging the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to include Edith’s Bill in COVID-19 relief legislation. This bipartisan legislation would amend the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) to include victims of senior fraud as eligible for reimbursement by the Crime Victims Fund for states that provide compensation to victims. Scam artists know that seniors are especially at risk from COVID-19 and they are targeting seniors who are isolated at home, separated from families and support networks.

Edith’s Bill, or the Edith Shorougian Senior Victims of Fraud Compensation Act (S. 3487/H.R. 7620) will also amend VOCA so that penalties and fines from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, which can include white collar criminal conduct against seniors, are deposited into the Crime Victims Fund. The bill is being led by Sen. Baldwin of Wisconsin and Sen. Cassidy of Louisiana in the Senate and Rep. Bonamici of Oregon and Rep. King of New York in the House, who both co-chair the Elder Justice Caucus.

Across all states, there has been a surge in COVID-19 scams targeting vulnerable seniors. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has warned that fraudsters “are offering COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information.” This is unfortunately just one of many COVID-19 scams targeting seniors.

Even after the pandemic, it is widely expected that seniors will continue to be targeted by fraudsters. By using this legislation to add senior fraud as an eligible reimbursement expense under VOCA, states will be able to help victims receive the financial relief they deserve. States would be incentivized but not mandated by this legislation to provide compensation to victims of senior fraud.

A copy of the letter can be found here.  

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SECURE Strike Force Charges Convicted Sex Offender with Human Trafficking of a Child

August 11, 2020

Last week, the Utah Attorney General’s Office SECURE Strike Force charged a man from Kearns, Utah with one count of human trafficking of a child, a first-degree felony, and six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.

Following a previous investigation in 2019 involving child pornography, Craig Thomas Defa, 27, pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17-year-old in November 2019. In January 2020, Defa was sentenced to 364 days in the Salt Lake County Jail, was placed on probation for 48 months, and was required to register as a sex offender.

In December 2019, the AG’s SECURE Strike Force received information that Defa may have been involved in the human trafficking of a minor. The victim told the investigators that she had met Defa when she was 14 and he was 22. After two weeks, the relationship became sexual, and after six months, the relationship became violent. Defa and the victim were in a relationship until he was arrested in June 2019 for child pornography charges.

During the relationship, Defa allegedly made pornographic videos involving the victim and sold them through social media networks. Defa allegedly told the victim she would not need to work as she could sell the pornographic videos, despite the victim never receiving any money.

The victim stated that Defa would encourage her to recruit customers through online ads and sell pornographic images and videos of herself. Investigators reviewed the images and videos taken by Defa on her phone and confirmed they were taken prior to June 2019 when the victim was a minor.

Report human trafficking tips to the Utah Human Trafficking Tip Line at 801-200-3443. Report exploitation of a minor to the Internet Crimes Against Children Tip Line at 801-281-1211.


Celebrating Utah Pacific Island Heritage Month

August 11, 2020

Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes released the following statement on Utah Pacific Island Heritage Month:

“As a proud American Pacific Islander and Utahn, I am excited to join with thousands of my fellow Pacific Islanders in Utah to celebrate Utah Pacific Island Heritage Month. This August, we honor the rich cultural heritage of the Pacific Islands and we recognize the many contributions of the Pacific Island Community to our state and nation.

“From business, education, athletics, government, literature, law, medicine, history, law enforcement, and many other important areas, Pacific Islanders have greatly enriched our communities and cultivated the growth of the state of Utah. Additionally, the Pacific Island Community has continually added its own unique flavors of music, art and cuisine to Utah, and contributed greatly in so many successes of our State. I am extremely honored to represent the values of my Pacific Island heritage while I serve as your Attorney General.

“Join with me this month in honoring the great pioneers of the Pacific Islands, preserving and promoting the cultural heritage and traditions of the Islands, and taking part in the many events throughout Utah that will provide a platform for Pacific Islanders to celebrate and share our heritage.”

Check below for some ways you can join in celebrating Utah Pacific Island Heritage Month:


AG Reyes Urges Federal Government Action to Increase Access and Affordability for Remdesivir

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 6, 2020

Attorney General Reyes Joins Bipartisan Coalition Urging Federal Government Action to Increase Access and Affordability for Remdesivir

Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug showing promising results for those hospitalized due to COVID-19

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a bipartisan multistate coalition in sending a letter request to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging them to use their legal authority under the Bayh-Dole Act to increase the availability of Remdesivir. Remdesivir, a drug manufactured by Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Gilead), has shown promising results in reducing mortality and hospitalization from COVID-19.

“Even though Remdesivir is not a miracle cure for COVID-19, it does show promise in reducing the severity of symptoms and shortening hospital stays,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes.  “Given that glimmer of hope, I feel the drug should be accessible to as many people as possible, under the care of their doctor.  Until a vaccine is available, this appears to be one of our best courses of action.”

Remdesivir is an FDA fast-tracked antiviral drug that was produced with the benefit of millions of dollars of federal funding and the time and expertise of CDC and military scientists. Despite the substantial federal funding provided to its manufacturer, Gilead has been unable to assure a supply of Remdesivir sufficient to alleviate the health and safety needs of the country amid the pandemic. 

As of August 3, 2020, more than 4.64 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 AND 154,000 have died. Yet, by the end of this year, Gilead is expected to produce only two million treatments, or enough Remdesivir to cover about half of the current confirmed COVID-19 patients in the U.S. Before this crisis is over and a vaccine made available, many more Americans may become sick, and their recovery may hinge on the availability and affordability of Remdesivir.

In the letter, the bipartisan coalition urges the federal government to exercise its rights under the Bayh-Dole Act, which allows the NIH and FDA to ensure Americans can afford and have reasonable access to a sufficient supply of Remdesivir during this pandemic. Despite a manufacturing cost of between $1 and $5, Gilead has set the price of the drug at an outrageous and unconscionable $3,200 per treatment course. Under the Bayh-Dole Act, the NIH and FDA has the authority to license Remdesivir to third party manufacturers to scale up production and distribution and ensure the drug is made available to all those in need at a reasonable price. If these agencies are unwilling to exercise this authority, the states request that the agencies assign this authority for the states to use. The bipartisan coalition stands ready to ensure that drug manufacturers are licensed to meet market demand during this public health crisis.

Attorney General Reyes joined the attorneys general of California, Louisiana and 33 other states in sending the letter.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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Landmark Settlement Case Announced in Gold King Mine Legal Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2020

GOLD KING MINE LEGAL CASE LEADS TO REMEDIATION, CASH, SITE EVALUATIONS AND ON-GOING MONITORING
Ground-breaking Deal Protects Future Water Quality; Concludes Intense Negotiations
 
 

SALT LAKE CITY—Today, the Office of the Utah Attorney General announces a landmark settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will provide more than $220 million for remediation efforts in historic mining districts that pose an ongoing threat to Utah’s waterways and environment. The State of Utah will join forces with the EPA to monitor and clean-up these mining areas, even those located in other states.
 
Additionally, the State of Utah will receive $3 million in water quality grants from the federal government for projects located in Utah. Further, the EPA will initiate and bear the cost for evaluations at multiple Utah sites (costs per site may exceed $200,000) to determine if further remediation is necessary.
 
In exchange for all these benefits, the State will dismiss its tort and CERCLA claims against the EPA and EPA contractors. While the past five years of water monitoring shows no sign of impact to public health or the environment, the settlement with EPA allows this case to be re-instated if future evidence of harm due to the blowout emerges.
 
This deal ends a lawsuit filed after mine waste spilled from the Bonita Peak Mining District’s Gold King Mine in 2015. An EPA contractor accidentally caused the release of millions of gallons of toxic water which flowed into the Animas and San Juan rivers, also impacting Lake Powell in August of that year. 
 
Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes says the deal will ensure that future generations are protected from toxic mine waste in the affected area and other abandoned mines in and outside the state by gaining unique concessions that ensure action from the EPA, and which will allow the State of Utah to partner with the agency on projects that would otherwise be ignored in the foreseeable future. 
 
Important facts about the current status of the Gold King Mine Accident:

  1. The Surface Water is Clean:  DEQ has been monitoring the San Juan River and Lake Powell since the release in 2015. There is no evidence that the metals from the release are impacting public health or the environment.  DEQ continues to conduct studies on the sediments in Lake Powell to ensure no long-term impacts.  DEQ also continues to work with EPA and other jurisdictions to resolve abandoned mine discharges throughout the San Juan River watershed.
  2. Assurances for Future Water Quality: Also in the settlement, EPA has committed to providing $3 million in water quality grants to the Division of Water Quality. These water quality grants will be used to address challenging water quality problems in Utah such as harmful algal blooms in Utah Lake, protection of Utah’s drinking water aquifers, and incentivizing pollution reduction from unregulated agricultural sources. 

Response from Chief Criminal Deputy Spencer EAustin (who oversaw day-to-day operations of the case):

“Utah is fortunate Attorney General Reyes has such extensive environmental and complex-litigation experience. He was actively involved in this case and aggressively litigated and then aggressively negotiated a very favorable outcome on behalf of the people of Utah.

“Over my 45-year legal career trying cases, including my former partners and I handling some of the largest environmental cases in the nation, I have never seen a more favorable settlement for a plaintiff who, like the State of Utah in this case, ultimately lacked evidence of damages. In tort cases, you not only have to prove someone did something wrong, you must prove there is actual harm or damages resulting directly from that wrongdoing. Without evidence of harm to public health or the environment after years of monitoring, the State would have a difficult time at best proving its damages.

“Here, the State is trading away the uncertainty of an increasingly difficult case that would cost millions of dollars over many more years in exchange for the certainty of immediate benefits that will directly protect and positively impact Utah now and into the future.

“The State is getting a unique mix of assets: significant remediation commitments for very real threats, cash for Utah water quality projects, environmental monitoring and testing paid for by the EPA, assurances that Utah has a seat at the table for important decisions about mitigation in areas even outside our state borders and the safety net of being able to re-open the case should evidence of harm begin to arise.

“We anticipate difficult economic times ahead due to the COVID-19 crisis, and our settlement solidifies these commitments ahead of any kinds of cuts or reorganizations in the federal government.

“The Utah Attorney General’s Office would like to thank the Governor, the Utah Legislature, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Division of Water Quality for their support in this case. We would particularly like to acknowledge the hard work from leadership and many others at Utah DEQ, DWQ the Attorney General’s Office, outside counsel Peter Hsiao, and those at the EPA, who assisted in and will work on mitigation efforts moving forward. ”

Response from Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes:

“After years of intense litigation and negotiations, we are very pleased that millions of dollars can now be spent towards mitigation, remediation and assuring water quality in Utah rather than years of more litigation, trial and appeals. This is what cooperative federalism looks like—a true federal and state partnership.

“Protecting the people, public health and environment of the State has always been the top priority in this case. Our two goals were simple.  First, get the federal government to clean-up massive amounts of waste still lurking in many historic mining districts including the one that caused the Gold King Mine blowout.

“We have achieved that goal through litigation and now settlement. We are highly encouraged the EPA has stepped up and committed hundreds of millions of dollars toward cleaning-up several dangerous mining districts containing billions of gallons of potentially harmful substances that threaten Utah if they are released. Further, our agreement with the EPA allows Utah to work as a partner in the remediation and monitoring of these areas to help ensure the State’s best interests are protected.

“Our second goal in filing our case was to ensure our federal partners paid for any harm caused by the blowout. We had to file our case when we did and litigate as aggressively as we did with the facts we had at the time. We had to assume the worst–that long-term monitoring would eventually show harmful effects to health and the environment–and that such effects would coincide with illnesses and other impacts directly traceable to the Gold King Mine blowout.

“Over time, though, as consistent monitoring and Utah’s own top water quality experts determined no harmful impacts occurred, and no detriment to human, animal or plant life manifested, our ability to prevail at trial diminished significantly.

“We would have expended several millions of dollars on both sides continuing litigation to trial and inevitable appeals. But we thought putting money towards remediation instead of litigation made more sense; particularly in light of our own COVID-19 budget constraints and the likelihood that we may not prevail at trial.

“Again, this is the best possible outcome for Utah given the reality of the facts and the evolution of this case. We thank the EPA for seeing the merits of settlement and for its cooperation in crafting this resolution that truly benefits both sides.”

Response from Utah Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director, Scott Baird:

“This settlement will enable DEQ to improve and protect water quality and human health across the state. The staff, scientists and engineers at Utah DEQ work tirelessly to safeguard and improve Utah’s air land and water. We are pleased that EPA has taken responsibility and is committed to working with Utah.”

Key Elements of Settlement:

  • Prior to the settlement agreement, Utah’s Office of the Attorney General recovered the majority of the state agencies actual response costs following the Gold King Mine release. This totaled more than $500,000. This amount is in addition to the recovery under the settlement.
  • A commitment from the EPA to pay for costs of ongoing Superfund (CERCLA) response actions in the Bonita Peak Mining District and other mining sites upstream from Utah in an amount expected to be more than $220 million. While funds will not be paid directly to the State, they will be used specifically to mitigate direct threats to Utah, eliminating or reducing discharges from the mines and improve downstream surface water quality in Utah. Utah will be gaining the benefit of more than $220 million in remediation expenditures.
  • A “seat at the table” for Utah in ongoing and planned remedial actions in the Bonita Peak Mining district and other contaminated areas. The EPA will provide Utah meaningful and substantial involvement in the Superfund response actions at the Bonita Peak Mining District to improve downstream water quality. This type of official collaboration for a site located in another state is rather unprecedented.
  • Also in the settlement, EPA has committed to providing $3 million in water quality grants to the Division of Water Quality. These water quality grants will be used to address challenging water quality problems in Utah such as harmful algal blooms in Utah Lake, protection of Utah’s drinking water aquifers, and incentivizing pollution reduction from unregulated agricultural sources. If these grants for any reason are not provided to Utah, the State may reinstate the Lawsuit.
  • In addition to upstream response actions, EPA will initiate and pay for removal site evaluations in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons in Salt Lake County, in the Lisbon Valley area of San Juan County, and at the Ophir Mining District in Tooele County (each evaluation can cost $200,000 or more).  If it weren’t for this settlement, these site evaluations would likely not occur. Depending on the findings, the site evaluations may lead to other remedial actions which may further improve water quality in the San Juan River and Lake Powell.
  • Finally, the settlement provides a “re-opener” allowing for Utah’s Superfund (CERCLA) claims tied to the Gold King Mine release to be reinstated if new data demonstrates a risk to human health.

Questions and Answers

Q–Originally, the State asked for $1.9 billion dollars in damages.  What happened to that claim?
A–The $1.9 billion figure was based on a worst possible scenario; namely, the anticipated costs to dredge the San Juan river as well as Lake Powell and was based on past cleanup efforts at similar sites with sediment contamination in other states.
However:

  1. It is not possible to definitively pinpoint damages in this case.  Because of the number of mines in the Bonita Peak Mining District that have been slowly leaching wastewater into the rivers over time, it is impossible to pinpoint which sediment is from the Gold King Mine Accident and which was already present.  Proving damages—a key element of this case—would have been difficult if not impossible to prove.
  2. Dredging the rivers and Lake Powell would be a very invasive, long and expensive process.  The runoff has settled into the bottom of the rivers and Lake Powell, where undisturbed, it is not posing harm.  Water quality monitoring of all the waterways have determined the water is safe for humans and is sustaining wildlife.  Dredging activity, however, would produce unpredictable results and would be potentially unwise as well as extremely expensive.

 
In summary, Utah filed a $1.9 billion claim for damages caused by heavy metals release into the San Juan River and Lake Powell. The claim was based on sediment remediation costs incurred at other sites and a “worst-case scenario” for the cleanup. It was necessary for Utah to file this complaint when it did due to the statute of limitations.  If the complaint had not been filed, the state would have lost its claims.
 
Q–What about the Native American Tribes and other states that have also been affected by the Gold King Mine accident?
A– Native American litigants are seeking their own legal action, which is pending. Colorado has decided not to pursue legal action. New Mexico’s case is currently pending.
 
Q–Is the water in the Animus, San Juan rivers and in Lake Powell safe?
A–Yes. And it has been since shortly after the blowout. All our monitoring has indicated no harm to humans, wildlife, plants or other biota. 
 
Q–Why did Utah file a claim if it’s been safe?
A—Utah officials did not know at the time what long term effects the blowout might have or how the results of initial monitoring might change. The relevant statute of limitations would not let us monitor for years before deciding to file a case. We had to file when we did to preserve our rights. 
 
 

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Attorney General Reyes Partners with NBWA, Launches Campaign to Combat Human Trafficking

July 30, 2020

National Association of Attorneys General Human Trafficking Committee Co-Chair Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, committee member Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) announced a new initiative to help end human trafficking in the United States. Working alongside the attorneys general, NBWA will offer awareness training to more than 140,000 beer distribution employees in the U.S. to help them recognize and report signs of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is an urgent human rights issue,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Through this new partnership, beer distributors can be an extra set of eyes and ears on the ground by being knowledgeable and aware of the signs of human trafficking. I am grateful for the role beer distributors play in communities across the country and for being a part of this critical fight. Together, I know that we can end human trafficking and save lives.”  

Through NBWA’s human trafficking initiative, beer distributors will provide awareness training sessions to employees to recognize possible signs of exploitation, including common red flags and behaviors associated with human trafficking. Distributors will also be equipped with contact information to alert authorities if they spot suspicious behaviors.  

“America’s beer distributors are in every community across the country,” said Craig Purser, NBWA president and CEO. “These men and women not only live and serve in the communities where they work, but they visit 640,000 licensed retail locations from coast to coast. Distributors are uniquely positioned to help fight this heinous crime given their level of access in locations often unseen by the public. NBWA and our members are proud to work alongside Attorneys General Healey and Reyes to identify criminal traffickers and, ultimately, we hope to help save lives.”  

Human trafficking continues to be a major issue in the United States. In fact, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually exploited before the age of 18, and human trafficking is one of the most horrific ways children are sexually exploited. Annually, The International Labour Organization found that human trafficking is a $150 billion illegal industry, and $99 billion comes specifically from sex trafficking.  

“The sad truth is human trafficking is a fast-growing criminal industry, and it happens in every community across the country,” said Attorney General Healey. “Businesses can play a critical role in helping the U.S. fight and end this crime. As a member of the NAAG Human Trafficking Committee, we are always looking for new partnerships and collaborations that help us to eliminate exploitation while protecting victims and survivors. I am thrilled to see NBWA stepping up to the challenge, and I look forward to combatting human trafficking together.”

To help distributors understand human trafficking, identify the signs and respond if they suspect exploitation is taking place, NBWA partnered with Healey, Reyes and Camila Zolfaghari, executive director of Street Grace and a former human trafficking prosecutor, to produce an awareness training video

For more information visit www.nbwa.org.  


Modern-Day Slavery: Recognizing World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

July 30, 2020

Today we recognize World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, an international effort to bring awareness and resources to human trafficking and the victims and their rights.

Fighting human trafficking is a priority for the Utah Attorney General’s Office and Attorney General Reyes. The Utah AG’s Office and the affiliated Utah Trafficking in Persons (UTIP) Task Force and Utah SECURE Strike Force aggressively fight against human trafficking and in support of the victims through education campaigns, support of anti-human trafficking legislation, victim recovery, and advocacy. Additionally, AG investigators diligently investigate and arrest human traffickers, while AG prosecutors work to bring justice for the victims.

Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office reaffirms its commitment to proactively fight against human trafficking, prosecute traffickers, and bring justice and healing for victims.

Human Trafficking in Utah

“Are these things happening in the state of Utah? Absolutely,” Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said in an interview with KSL earlier this month. “How do we know? We have prosecuted many cases and we’re investigating even more cases as we speak — labor cases, sex cases, sexual exploitation and child pornography cases.”

Human trafficking is a worldwide problem, even in Utah. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide. The human trafficking industry is estimated to be a $150 billion per year industry.

Human trafficking can include sex trafficking, forced labor, illegal adoptions, and creating and selling child pornography. It is prevalent in Utah and each year the Utah Attorney General’s Office investigates and prosecutes human trafficking cases across Utah and works to bring help and healing to the victims in each case.

About Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery and an egregious violation of human rights involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain.

By its nature, human trafficking is secretive, with traffickers using complex manipulative tactics such as force, fraud, or coercion to control their victims using “invisible ropes”, rather than the ropes, cages, and shipping containers generally portrayed in books and movies. This makes it difficult for victims to come forward as they might not even be aware they are being victimized, they fear retribution from their traffickers including danger to themselves and their families, and/or they may not have access to or control of their identification/personal documents.

Unfortunately, it is because of its secretive nature that human trafficking is difficult to detect. Therefore, it is imperative that you pay attention to those in your life and look for red flags. Read more about recognizing human trafficking here.

How You Can Help

  • Get Informed. Being informed is the most important thing that you can do. Educate youself and those around you on the common indicators of human trafficking and how to report it. If you can safely observe a suspicious situation, recognize the red flags, and report them to the proper authorities, you can make a difference.
  • Pay Attention. Pay attention to those around you and in your communities. Look out for one another and keep an eye out for evidence of human trafficking. Should you see behaviors that have indicators of human trafficking, report it immediately. Traffickers rely on the general public not asking questions, not recognizing the red flags, and simply looking the other way.
  • Support Anti-trafficking efforts. Whether it’s through volunteering at anti-trafficking organizations, hosting an awareness-raising event, or discussing your concerns with your state representatives, your support and efforts will make a difference.
  • Report Human Trafficking. If you see something, say something.

Reporting Human Trafficking

If you encounter a situation that has indicators of human trafficking, contact your local law enforcement, let our investigators know, or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to any suspicions. It is up to law enforcement to investigate suspected cases of human trafficking.

Utah Human Trafficking Tipline: 

801-200-3443

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 

1-888-3737-888

Text “Help” or “Info” to 233733

Additionally, you can reach the hotline by email: Report@PolarisProject.org


Additional Hotline

National Runaway Safeline:

1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929)

Text: 66008

Visit their website here: https://www.1800runaway.org/


For more information on human trafficking, visit:

Polaris Project here.

Human Trafficking Hotline here.

Blue Campaign here.


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