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AG Sean Reyes’ International Women’s Day Statement

 SALT LAKE CITY March 8, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement for International Women’s Day:  

“We each owe an incredible debt of gratitude to the women in our lives for their influence in shaping who we are. And yet, we have much to do to properly empower women and girls to achieve their ambitions, gain access to the halls of power, to build businesses and families, and to have an equal voice regarding issues that impact our nation, state, and communities.

“From the beginning of my term as Attorney General, our efforts to attract the best and brightest have resulted in hiring and promoting some of the most skilled attorneys and leaders I know, including Chief Civil Deputy Bridget Romano, Chief of Staff Missy Larsen, Director of Finance and Administration Kim Schmeling, and Executive Assistant Cecilia Lesmes, as well as numerous other leaders and professionals throughout the Office.  Utah is daily improved because of the many capable women in our office.  

“Personally, I have deep gratitude for my tutu wahine and abuela (grandmothers). Similarly, I was blessed with a mother, whose early mornings and late nights were spent teaching our family enduring values of hard work, honor and a commitment to the underserved, while she devoted her days to living those principles in her career as an educator. In many ways, it is because of her that I married a brilliant woman, a friend and equal, whose qualities of strength and conviction challenge me daily to keep up with her. I look forward to the day when my daughter, herself a brilliant, talented, and beautiful individual, has the same opportunities as my sons.”

 

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AG Sean Reyes’ National Consumer Protection Week Statement

SALT LAKE CITY  March 8, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement for National Consumer Protection Week:  

“We want all Utahns to be protected from frauds, scams, and schemes. In the AG’s Office, we are fortunate to work with Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection and the Department of Public Safety, with our federal partners at the SEC, FBI, and US Attorneys Office and our local law enforcement partners at county and city agencies across the state to thwart white collar criminals.  Consumers should regularly review the Utah Division of Consumer Protection website that provides tips and advisories regarding the many scams that regularly impact Utahns.

“As Attorney General, fighting fraud has always been a critical priority for my office. I encourage consumers to stay informed and protect themselves by checking before you invest or send money to a stranger. In my experience, the best deterrent to fraud and scams is an educated and alert consumer.  Before investing in any opportunity—whether it comes over the internet, from a trusted friend or family member, or by a door-to-door salesman—please take the time to check with either the White Collar Crime Offender Registry, a tool unique to Utah that allows consumers to verify before they invest, or the Division of Consumer Protection. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

For further information, please visit the White Collar Crime Offender Registry online or the Division of Consumer Protection website.

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AG Reyes’ Statement on the Verdict in the John Swallow Case

SALT LAKE CITY March 2, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement regarding the verdict in the trial of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow:

“I reaffirm my belief in the integrity of our legal system and the importance of constitutional safeguards such as due process and the right to a jury that protect us all as Americans. I have great respect for Judge Hruby-Mills and her careful and judicious management of this matter. I also greatly appreciate the service of the jury and respect its verdict.

“Regardless of the outcome of any given case, we in the Office of the Utah Attorney General support our criminal justice system and its role in protecting citizens and preserving liberties.  We thank all those who serve the public in the criminal justice process from investigators, prosecutors, public defenders, victim advocates, jurors, and corrections personnel to judicial and courtroom staff.

“Regardless of how you feel about the outcome of this case, we should be appreciative of a legal system in America that is not perfect but is among the best in the world. Our belief in and deference to the Rule of Law is the bedrock of that system.”

 

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AGO Executes Search Warrants in Major Statewide Gambling-Device Enterprise

SALT LAKE CITY March 2, 2017 – The Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO) announced today that AGO investigators, in a joint operation with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, executed warrants to seize evidence of an alleged statewide enterprise related to illegal gambling machines. The operation identified over an estimated 500 machines or more at over 130 locations across the state.  Tips about illegal gambling devices were reported by citizens to legislators, Utah Senator Curt Bramble, Utah Representative Justin Fawson, and Utah Representative Norm Thurston, as well as from other sources. The investigation is ongoing.

“The Attorney General’s Office has focused its operation today on a large number of gambling devices that we allege are illegal under Utah statute,” said Utah Attorney General’s Office Investigations Chief Leo Lucey. “Because these devices are out in the open and are available to anyone, they present an especially dangerous threat to youth.”

“I appreciate the Attorney General’s office and the work they’ve done to address concerns that local law enforcement agencies brought to the attention of Representative Thurston and myself,” said Rep. Justin Fawson, District 7. “This was a coordinated effort between local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s office that resulted in bringing down an enterprise that was attempting to skirt the Utah gambling laws.”

“A question was raised whether coin pushers in local convenience stores were legal,” said Rep. Norm Thurston, District 64. “After learning the about the problems these machines create, it was made clear that statewide approach would be necessary to address this issue. Rep. Fawson and I appreciate the cooperation, hard work and response of the Attorney General’s office, investigators and agencies across the state to help resolve this issue.”

Utah law requires prosecutors and law enforcement to prosecute illegal gambling in Utah where ever it may be found. The Utah AGO takes this legislative mandate seriously and appreciates all of the various law enforcement agencies who have collaborated in this case. 

The following link contains clips that the media may use for purposes of their stories, if helpful. Click here for video. Click here for photography.

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AG Reyes Joins with 39 Other State Attorneys General as Plaintiff in Federal Generic Drug Antitrust Lawsuit

States file amended complaint in lawsuit against six generic drug companies, now alleging new violations of state antitrust and consumer protection laws

SALT LAKE CITY March 2, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes announced today that Utah has joined a federal antitrust lawsuit alleging that six generic drug-makers entered into illegal conspiracies in order to unreasonably restrain trade, artificially inflate and manipulate prices and reduce competition in the United States for two generic drugs.

An amended complaint filed in with the federal court increases from 20 to 40 the number of plaintiff states in the lawsuit, which was initially filed in December 2016. The amended complaint also adds claims of alleged violations of state antitrust laws – in addition to the alleged violations of federal antitrust laws – in each of the 40 states, as well as state consumer protection laws in most of the states, against the defendant generic companies Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Aurobindo Pharma USA, Inc., Citron Pharma, LLC, Mayne Pharma (USA), Inc., Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

Connecticut is leading the multistate group of plaintiff states, which now also includes Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

“Along with 39 other states, we have laid out a strong and compelling case. In our amended complaint, we allege that these drug companies engaged in anti-competitive behavior, driving drug prices artificially high for certain generic drugs to the serious detriment of consumers,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “With the filing of this amended complaint, my office hopes to send a message of zero tolerance for trade practices we believe harm Americans and particularly those that hurt residents of Utah.      

“I appreciate the hard work of my Anti-Trust team, including Section Director Ronald Ockey, former Division Director David Sonnenreich, Assistant Attorney General Eddie Vasquez, and their stellar paralegal, Brian Blake, who have worked diligently with Connecticut and the other plaintiff states to bring this case forward.  The Utah AG’s office is dedicated to protecting consumers and companies from unlawful business practices such as those alleged in this case.”

In July 2014, the state of Connecticut initiated an investigation of the reasons behind suspicious price increases of certain generic pharmaceuticals. The investigation, which is still ongoing as to a number of additional generic drugs, generic drug companies, and key executives, uncovered evidence of a well-coordinated and long-running conspiracy to fix prices and allocate markets for doxycycline hyclate delayed release, an antibiotic, and glyburide, an oral diabetes medication.

The complaint further alleges that the defendants routinely coordinated their schemes through direct interaction with their competitors at industry trade shows, customer conferences, and other events, as well as through direct email, phone and text message communications. The alleged anticompetitive conduct – including efforts to fix and maintain prices, allocate markets and otherwise thwart competition – caused significant, harmful and continuing effects in the country’s healthcare system, the states allege.

The lawsuit was filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Portions of the complaint are redacted in order to avoid compromising the ongoing investigation.

See below to view a copy of the redacted amended complaint. 

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Attorney General’s Office Announces Human Trafficking Arrests by ICAC and SECURE Strike Force

SALT LAKE CITY February 23, 2017 – In cooperation with local and national law enforcement agencies today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO) announced in a press conference the arrests of a number of individuals on human trafficking and child sex exploitation charges. The following contains information on the arrests, as well as cases studies and follow-up information on questions asked during the conference. The arrests are related to cases where victims of human trafficking were trafficked inside Utah. Some cases involved minors and some crossed state lines. As a result of the multi-agency action, involving 25 agencies, there were 16 arrests including two prior sex offenders and one parolee, and three children were rescued.

The Utah Attorney General’s office does not handle every case where a child is alleged to have been involved in sex trafficking. Cases are investigated and referred to other prosecutor’s offices throughout the state in the jurisdictions where the case arose. For various reasons, the Utah AGO cannot give the number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions that would accurately convey the breadth of this crime throughout the state.

The Utah AGO office possesses the specific training, expertise, and resources needed for addressing human trafficking that allows the AGO to devote the time and attention needed to build these complicated cases. For this reason, many but not all of these cases are referred to the AGO for help. Some of the Sexual Exploitation of Minor cases involved the manufacturing of child pornography. Several of the suspects traveled across the state and state line to sexually abuse children.

Some of the Sexual Exploitation of Minor cases involved the manufacturing of child pornography. Several of the suspects traveled across the state and state line to sexually abuse children.

Charges filed include:

  • Rape of a Child (1st Degree Felony)
  • Sexual Exploitation of a Minor (2nd Degree Felony)
  • Enticing a Minor over the Internet (2nd Degree Felony)
  • Dealing in Harmful Material to a Child (3rd Degree Felony)
  • Failure to Register as a Sex Offender (3rd Degree Felony)
  • Criminal Charges (cont.)
  • Criminal Conspiracy (3rd Degree Felony)
  • Possession of Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute (2rd
  • Degree Felony)
  • Multiple other A and B Misdemeanors

Most cases had multiple counts of the same charge.

Partner agencies in the arrests include:

  • Adult Probation and Parole
  • Bountiful Police Department
  • Clearfield Police Department
  • Davis County Sheriff’s Office
  • Department of Public Safety
  • Enforcement and Removal Operations
  • Heber City Police Department
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • Ogden Police Department
  • Orem City Police Department
  • Park City Police Department
  • Pleasant Grove Police Department
  • Provo City Police Department
  • Sevier County Sheriff’s Office
  • South Salt Lake City Police Department
  • Summit County Sheriff’s Office
  • Syracuse Police Department
  • Tooele City Police Department
  • Unified Police Department
  • United States Marshal’s Office
  • Utah County Attorney’s Office
  • Utah County Sheriff’s Office
  • Vernal Police Department
  • Weber County Sheriff’s Office

The prosecuting agencies were the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah County Attorney’s Office.

Cases where trafficking of a child may not result in charges for human trafficking

There are a few reasons why cases where children were trafficked for sex may not result in charges for human trafficking of a child:

  • Human Trafficking of a Child is a new area of criminal justice. It was only added to the Utah criminal code in 2015. In the old model of viewing these cases, many times the child being sex trafficked was arrested for prostitution and adjudicated delinquent in the juvenile justice system. Only in the last year did Utah pass a “safe harbor” provision for children engaged in the sex trade that clarifies they should be treated as victims and referred to services.
  • While the safe harbor provision has helped protect child victims of sex trafficking from improper criminal charges, the criminal justice field at large still has a long way to go in shifting from viewing this crime into a human trafficking lens. In some jurisdictions, these cases are still investigated through the lens of prostitution and not human trafficking. Sometimes suspects are charged with exploiting prostitution even in cases where children were sex trafficked.
  • Another component of the safe harbor philosophy is that we should avoid re-victimizing those preyed on by sex traffickers by pressuring them to participate in the criminal justice process. In our office, we often prosecute defendants who we have reason to believe are traffickers with other related offenses, either because the victim does not want to participate in our criminal case or to protect them from having to do so if we can secure justice through other charges.

Case studies and updates on previous human trafficking arrests

Among the cases reported on today is the AGO’s prosecution of William Piol Makuei: Mauei was charged with three counts of 1st Degree Felony Rape of a Child after his DNA was found to match the newborn child of a girl who was impregnated before she turned 14. He later admitted to having sex with the child victim. This case arose from a human trafficking tip and ensuing investigation

The following two cases were not included in today’s briefing, but are provided here as updates to arrests previous reported.

  • Charles Daryl Kelley:  Kelley was convicted in July 2016 of Attempted Human Trafficking of a Child, after he attempted to recruit a 15-year-old girl into a commercial sex operation he was running out of a motel in Midvale. 
  • Quinlen Nathaniel Atkinson: Last April, Mr. Atkinson was charged with 1st Degree Felony Human Trafficking of a Child, 1st Degree Felony Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution Involving a Child, and several other felony charges based on allegations that he was running a commercial sex operation from Ogden to Idaho and Southern Utah. Both girls he is accused of manipulating into joining his operation were high school students. At the time of the known offenses, one of the girls had recently turned 18 and the other was 17 years old. This case is awaiting trial in Weber County.

Tip Line Numbers

Individuals with tips are encouraged to contact the Utah Attorney General’s tip lines:

The PowerPoint Presentation utilized at the press conference is embedded below.

 


Attorney General Reyes’ Washington and Lincoln Day Statement

SALT LAKE CITY February 20, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following Washington and Lincoln Day statement:  

As we celebrate the birthdays of two of our greatest presidents—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln—we can be grateful for the system of government they toiled to leave for us and future generations. Though the current political climate may at times feel heated and contentious, the recent transition of power in the White House was peaceful and has been so since the time of our nation’s founding. My occasional travels abroad have reinforced to me the miracle that is our Constitution, as well as the importance of our commitment as Americans to support it, however diverse we may be. We are blessed to witness power change from one American president to the next, without guns, tanks or armies to enforce such succession. This is in sharp contrast to the unrest and bloodshed over regime changes in many parts of the world. Again, we have much to be thankful for in celebrating these leaders of our past. Presidents Washington and Lincoln faced some of our nation’s greatest tests and we are the beneficiaries of their sweat and blood.”

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Utah Attorney General’s Office Announces Guilty Plea in Bountiful Human Trafficking Case

Davis County, Utah  February 18, 2017 – The Office of the Utah Attorney General announced today the guilty plea on Thursday of Todd Jeremy Rettenberger to charges relating to human trafficking and related crimes.  Rettenberger was sentenced to one to fifteen years in prison for second-degree felony human trafficking and zero to five years for third-degree felony exploitation of prostitution. The sentences will run concurrently.

“The victims of this trafficker were girls, barely older than teens, forced into prostitution against their will and compelled to stay in “the life” by threats against their well-being and against their families. I am thrilled they will not have to endure a trial and be forced to relive the atrocities perpetrated upon them.  It is imperative that we now keep these survivors safe, avoid revictimizing them, empower them with resources and do everything we can to help them heal and reclaim their lives,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Importantly, this case demonstrates that human trafficking is real. It exists in Utah as it does across the nation and around the world. It takes many forms and can happen anywhere.

“I offer my sincerest thanks and congratulations to Assistant Attorney General Dan Strong who brought the charges and to our elite investigative unit, the Utah SECURE Strikeforce, for their work on this case. I also want to thank and acknowledge Detective Aric Barker of the Bountiful City Police Department, his agency, and his chief, for their efforts to bring this human trafficker to justice and protect these victims.  Lastly, I reiterate my deep appreciation to each federal, state, county and city law enforcement agency that works side-by-side with the Utah AGO every day to disrupt human trafficking and related crimes in all their insidious forms.”

Rettenberger was charged in April of 2016 after police received reports that he was running a commercial sex operation out of Bountiful, along the Wasatch Front, and into other states. The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s SECURE Strike Force in conjunction with the Bountiful City Police Department investigated the allegations and found two women who were victimized by Rettenberger as part of this operation.  The women alleged that Rettenberger used forceful and coercive tactics, including threats of violence, physical violence, exploitation of their drug dependencies, and financial coercion.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office administers and coordinates the SECURE Strike Force partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety and county, federal and city law enforcement agencies to combat violent and other major felony crimes associated with illegal immigration and human trafficking.

The mission of the Utah Attorney General SECURE Strike Force is to carefully target major fraud, organized gun, drug and human trafficking, detect creation of fraudulent government identification and other documents, and prosecute these crimes with specialized investigators and resources and a dedicated Assistant Attorney General prosecutor. The SECURE Strike Force works closely with the Utah Trafficking in Person’s Task Force. Learn more about the SECURE Strike Force here

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AG Reyes Congratulates Judge Holmberg on His Appointment and Confirmation to Utah’s Third District Court

Kent Holmberg

SALT LAKE CITY February 16, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement on Utah Senate’s confirmation of Judge Kent Holmberg, a former Utah Assistant Attorney General, to Utah’s Third District Court.

“We congratulate Judge Holmberg on his appointment and confirmation to the Third District Court and express our confidence in his character, ability, and judgment in that capacity,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Given the caliber of attorneys within our ranks, we are honored but not surprised to see one of our own take the bench.” 

Judge Holmberg worked in the Utah Attorney General’s Office as an assistant attorney general starting in 2012. Prior to his service for the state, he was a trial attorney in Salt Lake City for several years after nearly two decades of legal practice in Minnesota. Holmberg has also taught at various Minnesota state colleges and universities on subjects ranging from evidence law to Indian law and trial practice. Holmberg was formerly a certified public accountant.

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Attorney General Reyes Testifies in Support of HB199

Proposed law would fight the trafficking of adopted children

SALT LAKE CITY February 16, 2017 – A bill before the Utah legislature would implement safeguards to protect adopted children from “rehoming,” the illegal practice of adoptive parents giving away their adopted children away to strangers without the usual home study or background checks performed to protect children. At the invitation of the US Department of State, the Utah Attorney General’s Office joined national a committee two years ago tasked with addressing the illegal phenomenon and exploring model legislation for other states around the country. The bill, HB 199, was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with a favorable recommendation.

“Getting the bill out of committee is a positive step in the right direction,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “This bill isn’t designed to be overly punitive towards adoptive parents.  We know the vast majority of adoptive parents have only the most noble of intentions when bringing adopted children into their families. But the reality is that many adopted kids coming from overseas environments have been victims of terrible abuse in war-torn countries or experienced severe trauma from the horrors of torture, famine, abuse or other atrocities.  Some adoptive parents who become overwhelmed by the cultural, emotional and psychological challenges of highly traumatized children, panic and end up desperate.  In too many situations, parents have literally given away their children to strangers like they might with old furniture, beginning with an online communication or transaction.

“This bill provides these adoptive parents more resources to face such challenges or find another adoptive family through legal processes rather than simply giving away, selling or abandoning their adopted child.  Without a law at the federal and state level prohibiting this kind of transfer of custody, thousands of kids will continue to be placed into the hands of human traffickers, pimps, rapists and other predators. In short, this bill is absolutely necessary to protect children and assist adoptive families. It allows the state to better educate and inform adoptive parents going into an adoption, empowering them to be more informed and prepared. And it more effectively keeps children out of the hands of potential abusers and predators.”

The practice of rehoming, facilitated by websites that connect overwhelmed adoptive parents with strangers, was discovered by journalists. The Utah Attorney General’s Office has supported the effort to combat this form of human trafficking along with other members of the State Department committee, including the U.S. Department of Justice; the U.S. Department of Human Services, Children’s Bureau; and the administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. By passing this HB199, the Utah Legislature will close the legal loopholes that have allowed the practice of rehoming to flourish.

Representative Merrill Nelson’s bill, with the support of the Utah Attorney General’s Office, takes a largely non-punitive approach to the problem of rehoming. The bill assures that, before committing to the adoption, prospective adoptive parents get accurate information about the specific child’s history and training about the challenging kinds of behavior adopted children can exhibit. The new law would make clear that sending an adoptive child to live permanently with a stranger outside the legal system is prohibited. Further, Utah Child Protective Services would have the authority to investigate the living situation of a child who has been sent to live with strangers without a legal transfer of custody.

The bill language was developed in cooperation with the Utah Adoption Council, which also voted unanimously to support the bill.

“The Utah Adoption Council supports the efforts of the Attorney General to address the phenomenon of rehoming,” said Larry Jenkins, Standards and Practice Chair at the Utah Adoption Council. “Families with high needs children need to know what options are available to them, and this bill is a model for other states and a giant step forward towards helping these families.”

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