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Utah AG Sean Reyes Condemns President Obama’s Designation of Bears Ears National Monument

Utah AGO working closely with the Governor’s office, legislators, and  
San Juan County to file a lawsuit challenging the national monument designation.

SALT LAKE CITY December 28, 2016 – In a statement today, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes condemned President Obama’s designation of a Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County, Utah.

“It is extremely disappointing that President Obama has declared another national monument here in Utah, ignoring the voices of so many in our state, particularly those closest to the designated space. By significantly restricting access to a large portion of public lands in Utah, the President weakens land management capabilities and fails to protect those the Antiquities Act intended to benefit.

“The sacred tribal areas in and around Bears Ears should absolutely be protected but in a way that is legally sound and that makes sense. A national monument in San Juan County does not preserve the land but divests it from the very people for whom it is sacred. The local Navajo will no longer be able to gather medicine or firewood, graze cattle, hunt, maintain their livelihoods or access the mountain heights for their religious ceremonies.

“The Antiquities Act was passed to protect archaeological sites from pillage by treasure hunters with narrow, focused designations of thousands of acres or only what was absolutely necessary. It has turned into a tool for the Executive Branch to bypass proper Congressional authority, to designate millions of acres at a time and far beyond what is necessary to preserve sacred sites.

“Rather than shut out local residents, the Administration should look for ways to strengthen schools, pave roads, and build the local economy. Instead, it rides roughshod over repeatedly expressed local concerns and exceeds the law’s scope as intended by Congress when it passed the Antiquities Act over a century ago.

“My office is working closely with the Governor’s office, federal and state legislators, and San Juan County to file a lawsuit challenging this egregious overreach by the Obama Administration. This case is different from other past challenges by states and counties and we are confident in our chances of success. But the courtroom is not our only option. Our federal delegation is working hard to defund the designation or rescind it altogether. Additionally, we look forward to working with the new Presidential Administration on ways to curtail or otherwise address the designation.

“Utah’s public lands deserve stewardship, but through the appropriate avenue of Congressional action with real participation of state, local and tribal leaders.”

 

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Utah Attorney General's Office

AG Reyes Thanks Werner Haidenthaller for Years of Service

Werner Haidenthaller is retiring after 30 years of public service

SALT LAKE CITY December 27, 2016 – After 10 years with the Utah Attorney General’s Office and over 30 years of public service for the state of Utah, Werner Haidenthaller will retire at the end of 2016. Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement on Heidenthaller’s retirement today:

“Werner’s understanding and ability with the Utah AGO budget have been an indispensable asset to our office and to the state of Utah,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Just weeks before the 2014 legislative session, as I took over what was then an embattled office, Werner stepped forward to pick up the slack, helped us increase compensation for the employees of the office, and ensured that the AGO would have the budget necessary to deliver not just the constitutional minimum of legal services to the state but the highest level of legal services possible while empowering top tier professionals in house and recruiting additional ones.”

Werner began his career in the Legislative Auditor’s Office, conducting operational and programmatic audits of state agencies.  Later he joined the Utah Geological Survey as a budget and accounting officer, eventually becoming the Associate Director. In 1997, Werner joined the Utah Department of Workforce Services where he served in positions of increasing responsibility, starting as Budget and Accounting Manager, Finance Director, and finally Budget/Accounting/Facilities/Risk Manager. In 2006, Werner was hired as the Administration/Budget Director for the Utah Office of the Attorney General, where he has managed the budget for the “largest law office in the state,” with a $65 million budget and over 430 employees in 15 offices throughout the state. At the Utah AGO, Werner is a valued member of the Executive team, advising Attorney General Reyes on all financial and administrative matters. He also worked closely with the Governor’s office and the Utah State Legislature, and their staff on all budgetary, financial and administrative matters related to the Attorney General’s office.

In his private life, Werner enjoys spending time with his family and in the outdoors, whether it is hiking or skiing, and remodels homes in his spare time. He will be missed at the Utah Attorney General’s Office and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

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Utah Attorney General

Attorney General Reyes Statement on Passing of Dan Berman

SALT LAKE CITY December 23, 2016 – Attorney General Sean Reyes issued the following statement upon the death of Salt Lake City attorney Dan Berman.

“Utah’s legal community has lost one of its fiercest advocates with the passing of Dan Berman,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “There was never a doubt about Dan’s passion for the law and the clients he represented. He was respected by friends and opponents alike for his formidable legal talent.”

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AG Reyes Highlights Need to Lift Others During Holidays

In the spirit of the season, please consider the gift of lifting someone

in our community to a brighter place of hope.”

SALT LAKE CITY December 22, 2016 – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following message for the 2016 Holiday Season:

“At this time of year, I am humbly reminded that not everyone in our neighborhood approaches Christmas and the New Year with the same excitement I do.

“For most of us, the Holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but for some, they are anything but that. To those who are isolated and alone, the happiness of others during the Holidays can serve as a painful reminder of what may be lacking in their own lives. December can be a particularly difficult time for those dealing with family conflict, lost loved ones, break-ups, divorce, loneliness, job loss or mental health issues.

“One of the highlights of this past year was working with the Legislature, community partners and many in the AG’s Office to launch the Safe UT crisis text/talk line to support teens suffering from abuse, depression, eating disorders, addictions or other mental health issues. It has also been an honor to work with the Utah veteran community to help those dealing with PTSD and other serious mental health challenges. Trying to keep teens, vets, or anyone from feeling suicide is their best option is one of the most important things we can do together.

“In the coming year, I look forward to helping Utah become the model for a national, three-digit crisis line for all Americans who suffer from depression or any mental health challenge so they can get immediate help before it’s too late. So often, those who are suffering put on a brave face and on the surface may seem just fine. In many cases, it takes spending extra time listening, empathizing and not judging to understand the depths of their pain.

“In the spirit of the season, please consider the gift of lifting someone in our community to a brighter place of hope. Let’s be mindful of those who may be alone or in pain. And let’s take extra time to reach out to friends and family because we never know who may be struggling with mental health issues, depression and even thoughts of suicide.

“May God’s blessings be with you and your family for a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a healthy, prosperous New Year.”

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Attorney General Statement on Nomination of Janette White 1st District Juvenile Court

SALT LAKE CITY December 19, 2016 – Attorney General Sean Reyes today released the following statement regarding the nomination of Janette White for the First District Juvenile Court::

“Janette is highly recommended by her director and those who work with her on a daily basis. She represents our office well and stands out as an exceptional attorney who works to keep children safe from abuse and neglect while also seeking solutions leading to strengthened families. The nomination commission is wise to consider her for this important position in the First District Juvenile Court.”

Prior to becoming an attorney, Janette worked for the Davis County Attorney’s Office as a victim advocate and for DCFS as a social service worker holding multiple positions including intake worker, child protective services investigator, on-going worker, and foster care worker. She also specialized in serious physical and sexual abuse cases as a CPS investigator. Her unique work history has helped her perform well as an Assistant Attorney General as she understands the complexity and individual nature of cases.

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Utah Attorney General’s Office Announces the Sentencing of Benjamin Neilson

SALT LAKE CITY December 15, 2016 – The Utah Attorney General’s Office announces the sentencing of Benjamin Neilson, 40, by Judge Douglas Hogan to 1 to 15 years in the Utah State Prison. Neilson had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of the Sexual Exploitation of a Minor (i.e., possessing/viewing/distributing child pornography).

“When it comes to child pornography, there is no such thing as a victimless crime. My office will remain vigilant in its fight against those who abuse children, the most vulnerable and innocent in our society,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “I offer my personal thanks and congratulations to the investigators, paralegals, attorneys, and staff in our office who fight child pornography and other child sex crimes, as well as our many law enforcement partners who work tirelessly in that fight. We enjoy strong collaborative relationships with agencies across the state, allowing us to successfully investigate and prosecute perpetrators statewide.

“Specifically, in this case, I want to acknowledge Special Agent Alan White, Assistant Attorney General Kent A. Burggraaff, Section Director Shelley Coudreaut, and Division Director Greg  Ferbrache. These are some of my everyday heroes. Their hard work and dedication make our entire community safer.”

The investigation into the Neilson’s criminal activities began in 2014.  Then Special Agent, Alan White, an investigator for the Utah Attorney General’s Officer, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, began investigating Neilson’s Internet activities, specifically focusing on photos and videos Neilson was suspected of sharing and distributing over the Internet.  A search warrant was executed by the ICAC Task Force in April 2014, at which time several of the Neilson’s  electronic devices were seized for further forensic examination, upon which several images of child pornography were found.  Computer forensic examination found 104 videos and 6,141 photos of suspected child pornography and child erotica.  Many of the videos and photos depicted child victims being raped or subjected to other criminal sex acts.

Upon completion of the investigation and computer forensic examination, Assistant Attorney General, Kent A. Burggraaf, filed ten (10) counts of the Sexual Exploitation of a Minor against the Neilson.  On June 14, 2016, while this case was still pending, the Neilson was re-arrested in Utah County by ICAC Task Force affiliates for Enticing of a Minor and multiple counts of Dealing in Materials Harmful to a Minor, an individual Neilson believed to be 13-years-old.  

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Utah Attorney General’s Office Announces Conviction of Emilio Daniel Chavez for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

SALT LAKE CITY December 9, 2016 – The Utah Attorney General’s Office announces the guilty conviction of Emilio Daniel Chavez, age 26, on four counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, all second-degree felonies, in Third District Court.  During an investigation by the Utah AGO’s Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, investigators found over 1,385 images of interest on Chavez’s computer.

“Few things are as tragic as the sexual exploitation of children and my Office will always fight to bring to justice those who take advantage of the young and vulnerable,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “I congratulate Assistant Attorneys General Cynthia Poulson and Ken Burgraaff, as well as Section Director Shelley Coudreaut and Division Director Greg Ferbrache, for their work on this case. I also congratulate and thank the ICAC Task Force investigators who, because they often work undercover, fail to get the recognition they deserve.”

Chavez admitted to investigators that he owned the password-protected computer and admitted to downloading the images for his sexual gratification. Of the 1,385 images found on Chavez’s computer, the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children identified four of the images as known identified child victims.  Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Poulson charged the defendant with four counts of second-degree felony Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.

At a three-day trial, AAGs  Poulson and Burggraaf presented the State’s case to the jury.  In his defense, Chavez took the stand and testified he had no knowledge of the images and implied that investigators had lied about his confession.  

Ultimately, the jury did not believe Chavez’s version of events and found the testimony of the investigators to be credible and persuasive stating “the forensic evidence in the case and defendants internet history were very helpful considerations” in coming to their decision.  Chavez is scheduled for sentencing on January 17, 2017.

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Alan Dean McKee Sentenced to Up to 15 Years in LDS Church Impersonation Case

SALT LAKE CITY December 9, 2016  – The Utah Attorney General’s Office Mortgage and Financial Fraud Unit announces the sentencing of Alan Dean McKee, 57, of Benjamin, Utah, to 1 to 15 years in the Utah State Prison. McKee had previously entered a guilty plea to two Second Degree Felonies for his role in hatching various fraudulent schemes netting him approximately $1.2 million. McKee’s case was investigated and prosecuted by the Utah Attorney General’s Office Investigations Division in cooperation with the Utah County Attorney’s Office. A companion case against McKee’s alleged co-defendant Gary Anderson is still pending.

“The Utah Attorney General’s Office will continue to fight white collar crime as one of its top priorities,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “As the year comes to a close and we look forward to 2017, I want to commend the investigators, paralegals, attorneys and staff in our office and among our many law enforcement partners who work tirelessly to stop scams and shut down fraudsters.

“From within our office, I would like to highlight, the hard work by Che Arguello, Assistant Attorney General and Division Director of White Collar and Commercial Enforcement, and Brian Williams, Mortgage and Financial Fraud Unit Section Director, and their entire team for their success in building this case, as well as Tyson Downey, Investigator for the Utah Attorney General’s Office. These are very time intensive, difficult cases that require specialized expertise to investigate and prosecute. We are fortunate to have such excellent public servants working for the people of Utah.”

One of the McKee schemes involved telling representatives from Ames Construction that he was facilitating a project involving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, netting McKee over $300,000. McKee also defrauded two other individuals out of almost $900,000 in separate schemes involving the purchase of farm equipment. After charges were initially filed against McKee in February 2016, the Utah Attorney General’s Office discovered McKee was also involved in another fraudulent scheme. McKee had claimed to own a stretch of railroad track in Utah County and then sold the rights to remove the track for $130,000. It was later discovered the track belonged to Union Pacific Railroad, causing them approximately $175,000 in losses.

McKee was sentenced by Judge Vernice Trease of the Utah Third District Court for Salt Lake County. Judge Trease noted the complexity of the crime, the size of the loss, and the number of victims as factors she considered before ordering imprisonment. In addition to the term of incarceration, McKee was ordered to pay full restitution to all victims.

The investigation was assisted by Tyson Downey from the Investigations Division and Richard Hales from the Utah County Attorney’s Office Investigation’s Division.

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Utah Attorney General's Office

AG Reyes Thanks Investigator Tina Minchey for Years of Service

SALT LAKE CITY December 7, 2016 – Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement today:

“Tina Minchey has been a tremendously dedicated and effective investigator throughout her tenure at the Utah Attorney General’s Office,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “We will miss her expertise and professionalism on behalf of Utahns during her more than a decade of service in our Office. We wish her success in her future endeavors.”

“Tina has been a long-time, dedicated professional investigator for the state of Utah,” said Leo Lucey, Chief Criminal Investigator, Utah Attorney General’s Office. “She has carried out her duties with the utmost professionalism and integrity. She has been a great example and ambassador for the Utah Attorney General’s Office and has been a great example of what can be achieved and accomplished on behalf of the citizens of the State of Utah for the cause of justice. She will be greatly missed, but the state is much better off for her over twenty years of service.”

Tina began her law enforcement career with the Utah Department of Corrections as an Agent with Adult Probation and Parole working in the Price, Cedar City, and St. George offices.

On January 3, 2005, The Utah Attorney General’s Office was fortunate enough to hire Tina.

Over the next 12 years as a Special Agent Tina has worked a variety of cases. She started in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and investigated allegations of abuse and exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults. In late 2007, Tina was assigned to the Special Investigations Unit and was involved in many high-profile investigations.   She also had the opportunity to travel the state to help train law enforcement with the Attorney General’s Identity Theft Program.

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Attorney General Sean Reyes’ Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Message

SALT LAKE CITY December 7, 2016 – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes released the following Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day message:

“Seventy-five years ago, a great American generation was faced with an unprovoked attack on our nation. As bombers decimated the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor—killing over 2,400, America’s brave–both men and women, military and civilian—came together to fight back and defend our nation. They paid the ultimate price. Their cause was just and their efforts sanctified with their lives.

“I’ve stood many times at the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii. I’ve been moved to tears by the sacrifice of those on that day, throughout WW II and our history to protect liberty. As we honor their heroism, I hope we are grateful they did not shrink in the face of tremendous adversity.

“While there are increasingly fewer left of that greatest of generations, let us honor them today and recall their willingness to stand against tyranny. And let us live to emulate their courageous acts in our own times.”

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