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Resources for Utah Victims of the Harvest Music Festival Shooting in Las Vegas

SALT LAKE CITY October 11, 2017 – In the wake of the Harvest Music Festival Shooting, the Utah Attorney General’s Office announces that the City of Las Vegas is working towards finding all victims of the Harvest Music Festival shooting in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is offering everyone who was at the venue the opportunity to obtain counseling and victim compensation assistance in the wake of the tragedy.

If you attended the festival and are a Utah resident impacted by this tragedy, services such as counseling and victim compensation assistance are available to you. Please don’t hesistate to reach out to the resources listed below.

Please visit the victim assistance website—here—operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to navigate through the process of organizing counseling, receiving compensation, or retrieving your belongings.

https://www.fbi.gov/resources/victim-assistance/seeking-victim-information/assistance-for-victims-of-the-harvest-music-festival-shooting-in-las-vegas

Additionally, if you have lost any property you may have left behind, please complete the Victim Questionnaire.

https://forms.fbi.gov/seeking-victims-of-las-vegas-music-festival-shooting

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Financial Fraud Institute - St. George UT

Utah Attorney General’s Office Joins Federal, State and Local Government Officials to Educate Investors on How to Avoid Fraud

Public Seminar to be Held in St. George

SALT LAKE CITY October 10, 2017 – In a collaborative effort, the Utah Attorney General’s Office has joined with federal, state and local government officials to establish the Financial Fraud Institute and will hold a multi-agency seminar designed to educate Utah investors and consumers on how to recognize and avoid financial and consumer fraud. 
 
The free seminar is open to the public and will be held in St. George on November 2.  Follow us on Twitter at #StopFraudUtah.
 
Officials from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Utah Attorney General’s Office, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Utah Division of Securities, Utah Division of Consumer Protection, FBI, IRS and the Washington County Attorney’s office will participate in the seminar.
 
United States Attorney for the District of Utah John W. Huber will be the keynote speaker at the seminar. This is the third in a series of seminars to be held by representatives of the Financial Fraud Institute.
 

The seminar will provide information on: key questions to ask before making investment decisions; where to find free and unbiased information; how to spot financial scams; and how to report suspected fraud. 
 

WHO: National and local experts from federal and state law enforcement and financial regulatory age. 

WHAT: Financial Fraud Institute Seminars to educate investors and consumers on how to recognize and avoid fraud.

WHEN: November 2, 2017. 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. See full agenda

WHERE: The Dixie Center, 1835 Convention Center Drive, St. George, UT. 

Those interested in attending the seminar must register at: www.utfraud.com, or call 801-579-6191. For more information, visit www.utfraud.com.
 
The seminar is open to the press.  Press interested in attending the event should contact Melodie Rydalch of the Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office on 801-243-6475 or melodie.rydalch@usdoj.gov.

 
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Utah Attorney General Announces Multistate Opioid Investigation

State Seeks Documents from Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

SALT LAKE CITY  September 19, 2017 – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general are seeking documents and information from manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids. This information will enable the attorneys general to evaluate whether these businesses are engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sale, and distribution of opioids. 41 attorneys general from U.S. states and territories are participating in the investigation. This action is the latest in Utah’s multifaceted effort to end the current opioid addiction crisis.

The attorneys general served investigative subpoenas for documents and information, also known as Civil Investigative Demands, on Endo, Janssen, Teva/Cephalon, Allergan, and their related entities, as well as a supplemental Civil Investigative Demand on Purdue Pharma. Likewise, the attorneys general sent information demand letters to opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson requesting documents about their opioid distribution business.

The attorneys general seek to determine what role the opioid manufacturers and distributors may have played in creating or prolonging this epidemic and determine the appropriate course of action to help resolve this crisis.

As with any case, the entities involved in the investigation are not guilty unless proven otherwise and deserve a presumption of innocence. Some of the companies have indicated their intent to cooperate. A few have proactively implemented programs to combat opioid addiction and illicit sale and abuse of opioids.

Nationwide and in Utah, opioids—prescription and illicit—are the main driver of drug overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, including 646 in Utah. Nationwide, opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999.

Attorney General Reyes stated, “Far too many of our friends, family, and neighbors have fallen victims to the devastating plague of opioid addiction. These drugs have taken many lives and ruined countless more. We will win this fight but need everyone’s help to do it. We will do everything possible to protect the ones we love.”

Mark Steinagel, Director of the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) at the Department of Commerce stated, “The United States drug system was designed to test, manufacture, distribute, prescribe, and dispense drugs along multiple check points established to protect the public. As a state agency tasked with licensing professionals who prescribe and dispense opioid prescriptions, we are very concerned if any of those checkpoints have failed. DOPL appreciates the partnership with Utah Attorney General’s Office in investigating this serious matter.”

In addition to this investigation, the State of Utah is actively addressing the opioid epidemic on multiple fronts, including the following:

  • A 9/18/17 letter to insurers, co-authored by Attorney General Reyes, that requests health insurance companies examine policies and financial incentives that may contribute to the opioid epidemic. The letter and AG Reyes’ statement on that action is available here.
  • Utah Department of Health efforts, which include Controlled Substance Database analysis, prescriber education and guidelines, and public awareness on the risks of overdose and addictions.
  • The statewide Utah Coalition for Opioid Overdose Prevention.
  • The DEA-AG Joint Opioid Task Force, co-chaired by DEA Agent Brian Besser and AG Sean Reyes, which focuses on intelligence gathering, dedicated criminal prosecution, and criminal enforcement.
  • Support for the Road to Recovery Act, proposed federal legislation that would eliminate a restriction on using Medicaid funding for in-patient drug treatment.
  • Partnerships with multiple community organizations on addiction, recovery, and prevention.

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 EDITORS NOTES:

1. Find drug overdose death data on the CDC site: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html
 
2. Find more information on the AG’s 9/18/17 letter to insurers at https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/featured-content/attorney-general-reyes-helps-lead-37-states-territories-in-fight-against-opioid-incentives
 
3. More information on the Utah Coalition for Opioid Overdose Prevention is available at http://ucoop.utah.gov 


Attorney General Reyes Helps Lead 37 States, Territories in Fight Against Opioid Incentives

Letter asks insurance companies to join opioid effort by scrutinizing policies and incentives

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah  September 18, 2017 – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes co-authored a letter representing a coalition of 37 states and territories urging health insurance companies to examine financial incentives that contribute to the opioid epidemic in Utah.

The bipartisan coalition announced Monday a two-step strategy intended to identify problematic policies and encourage reforms to spur increased use of non-opioid alternatives for treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain.

Describing the opioid epidemic as “the preeminent public health crisis of our time,” the 37 attorneys general will send a letter to industry trade groups and major insurance providers nationwide. It urges insurers to review their coverage and payment policies as the starting point in a coalition-initiated dialogue focused on incentive structures across the insurance industry.

“We have witnessed firsthand the devastation that the opioid epidemic has wrought on our States in terms of lives lost and the costs it has imposed on our healthcare system and the broader economy,” Attorney General Sean D. Reyes wrote along with several co-authors. “As the chief legal officers of our States, we are committed to using all tools at our disposal to combat this epidemic and to protect patients suffering from chronic pain or addiction.”

In addition to the letter, Attorney General Reyes issued the following personal statement:

“Utah citizens, like those across the country, deserve to have their pain management needs addressed in a responsible way that does not promote an even greater risk to their health and well-being. Solving the current opioid crisis is incredibly challenging because there are so many layers of contributing factors involved. This letter is significant but only a part of one area of concern. To be clear, this letter is not an accusation of wrongdoing aimed at the recipients but rather an attempt to ask partners in the private sector to be part of the multi-faceted solution to the crisis.

“From opioid manufacturers, distributors, prescribers, pharmacists, and insurance companies to addicts and their families, emergency responders, recovery professionals, and law enforcement agencies, among others, we must have difficult conversations to fix a problem that is not going away on its own.

“This letter is part of our ongoing efforts as bi-partisan state attorneys general to encourage discussion and re-evaluation of current business and other practices that may be lawful but unhelpful to remedying the Opioid Epidemic.”

The attorneys general, in acknowledging the important role insurance companies play in reducing opioid prescriptions, hope to assess the positive and negative impacts incentive structures have on the opioid epidemic. They contend incentives that promote use of non-opioid techniques will increase the practicality of medical providers considering such treatments, including physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, and non-opioid medications.

Increased reliance on these alternatives will combat a significant factor contributing to the epidemic – the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. The letter notes the number of opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999, despite Americans reporting a steady amount of pain.

Attorneys general from West Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Virginia, and Utah are co-sponsors of this effort. Other attorneys general signing the letter are those from Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

A PDF copy of the letter is available here.

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Utah Attorney General's Office

AG Reyes Announces Utah Supreme Court decision in Garfield County v. United States of America

Opinion rejects federal efforts to paint State’s claims as untimely; 
case headed to federal district court for resolution of claims.

SALT LAKE CITY  July 27, 2017 – In an opinion filed on July 26, the Utah Supreme Court agreed with the State of Utah and some of its Counties in their dispute against the federal government about the State’s ownership of historic roads across federal land. As federal law allows, the State and its Counties sued the United States to obtain title to more than 10,000 such roads—roads still used today for recreation, ranching, sightseeing, hunting, and fishing, among other things. But the United States, joined by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, argued that the State’s and Counties’ title claims were untimely based on a provision of Utah law that never had been applied to such claims.

The Utah Supreme Court’s opinion rejects the federal government’s efforts to paint the State’s claims as untimely under Utah law. According to the Court, the United States’ and SUWA’s arguments “would effectively deprive the State of its” claims to thousands of roads—even roads that have existed and been used for more than 100 years. The Court called that result “completely nonsensical” and “so overwhelmingly absurd that no rational legislator could ever be deemed to have supported” it.

“I applaud the Utah Supreme Court’s common-sense decision in this important case,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “The Court correctly recognized the absurdity of the federal government’s arguments, which have now added two years of delay and taxpayer expense to the State’s efforts to obtain the title to roads that federal law has long promised. I hope the Court’s decision convinces the United States now to work collaboratively and quickly with Utah and its Counties to resolve these title claims.”

The Utah Supreme Court’s opinion is styled Garfield County v. United States of America, 2017 UT 41. The case will now go to Utah’s federal district court for resolution of the State’s and Counties’ title claims.

Read the opinion here.
 

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Jury Finds Son Guilty of Exploiting Elderly Father

SALT LAKE CITY July 7, 2017 – After a two-day trial, a jury returned guilty verdicts on June 28, 2017, against David Bryce Jones for financially exploiting his elderly father who resides in a local assisted living facility, the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) announced today.  During the trial, Assistant Attorney’s General Robert Morton and Robert Steed presented evidence that Jones used his father’s retirement funds to pursue a risky restaurant business venture and to pay his personal expenses while his father’s bills at the assisted living facility went unpaid. 

“Our office is committed to protecting Utah’s most vulnerable citizens, this often includes our children and our elderly citizens who are targeted for their resources during a time of vulnerability,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. I am proud of our prosecutors and staff for achieving this result.”

“This was a case about trust,” said Assistant Attorney General Robert Morton.  “The son signed a power of attorney with his father in 2010.  He knew his duty was to take care of his father’s most basic needs and instead he took care of himself.”

“When we learned what was happening, we worked with our partners at Adult Protective Services and the Office of Public Guardian to manage the father’s resources and keep him in a safe and appropriate environment,” said MFCU Director Robert Steed.  “The victim worked hard to be prepared for retirement and provide for a comfortable life in his old age. Sadly we see far too many instances where family members feel entitled to use their parent’s resources for personal use while placing their parents at risk of losing essential resources and services.”

During the trial, agents with the MFCU, Adult Protective Services, and the Office of Public Guardian gave evidence it had obtained a court order 2014 to act as the victim’s guardian and to assure his needs were being met.  

The jury found Jones guilty of Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult, a second-degree felony and the Unlawful Dealing of Property by a Fiduciary, also a second-degree felony.   

Jones will appear before Third District Judge James Blanch on September 14, 2017, for sentencing.  Each conviction carries a maximum possible prison term of 1- 15 years. 

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Chief Federal Deputy/General Counsel Parker Douglas named Supreme Court Fellow

Parker Douglas

SALT LAKE CITY  July 5, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes announces that Chief Federal Deputy and General Counsel Parker Douglas has been named the 2017-2018 Fellow assigned to the Supreme Court of the United States, where he will serve in the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice.

We congratulate Parker Douglas on this amazing opportunity to serve as a Fellow at the United States Supreme Court. It is a highly competitive process to be even considered for such a position and only the truly brightest and best of the legal community are accepted. Due to his past Ph.D. work in academia, his Supreme Court experience as a lawyer and the many successful cases he has litigated around the country, Parker has been chosen for this prestigious role. It is quite an honor for Utah to be represented at the High Court with someone in that role. 

“From the very beginning of my administration, Parker has been an invaluable member of our executive team. He has demonstrated tremendous skill, creativity, and success in litigating seminal cases for our office. All the while, he has exhibited compassion for citizens, a love for the law and a deep commitment to public service. Before he came to our office, Parker was a Federal Public Defender who handled high-profile matters like the Elizabeth Smart case, wherein he defended her abductor Brian David Mitchell. 

“In him, the Supreme Court Fellow Program gains a rigorous intellectual who is above all a wonderful human being. Though our office will feel the loss, I wish Parker and his family the best as he takes on this new challenge.  Following his fellowship, he will join former Michigan Solicitor General, John Bursch, in forming a new law firm focused on constitutional litigation and appeals work.

The Supreme Court Fellows Program offers mid-career professionals, recent law school graduates, and doctoral degree holders from the law and political science fields an opportunity to broaden their understanding of the judicial system through exposure to federal court administration.

Douglas’ last day with the Utah Attorney General’s Office was June 30, 2017.
 
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Attorney General Reyes Applauds Repeal of Job-Killing Waters Rule

SALT LAKE CITY June 27, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes joined West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and 19 other state attorneys general to issue the following statement regarding the repeal of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States Rule.
 
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday signed a notice to withdraw the Obama-era rule.
 
“The Attorneys General of the States of West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky applaud the action of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) today in beginning to withdraw the unlawful waters of the United States rule (“WOTUS Rule”).
 
“We fully support the proposed rule signed by EPA Administrator Pruitt today as a significant step in the direction of withdrawing the unlawful WOTUS Rule.
 
“The WOTUS Rule asserts sweeping federal authority over usually dry channels, roadside ditches, and isolated streams. The Rule also asserts federal authority over land covered by water only once every one hundred years.
 
“The rule’s broad assertion of authority unlawfully impinges on the States’ traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources. The WOTUS Rule is unlawful under the Clean Water Act, U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and the U.S. Constitution.
 
“Our States won a nationwide stay blocking enforcement of the rule and allowing the new administration time to work on withdrawing the rule.
 
“We look forward to EPA’s final action withdrawing the WOTUS Rule and providing relief for our States and their citizens.”
 

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Utah AG Reyes Welcomes US Supreme Court Ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri v. Comer

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes: “The Supreme Court’s ruling makes it clear that States cannot force churches to choose between their ecclesiastical missions and obtaining generally available public benefits. […] I applaud the Court’s ruling on this important Free Exercise Clause issue.”

SALT LAKE CITY June 27, 2017 – On June 26 the U.S. Supreme Court held that States violate the First Amendment by withholding generally available public benefits from churches merely because they are churches. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes joined other states’ attorneys general in a friend-of-the-court brief supporting plaintiff Trinity Lutheran Church and urging the Court to reach that result.
 
The public benefit, in this case, was grant money from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to subsidize pour-in-place rubber surfaces for playgrounds. Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri applied for a grant to resurface its preschool playground from pea gravel to the softer rubber surface. Trinity Lutheran’s application ranked fifth out of more than a dozen submitted that year, but the Department denied the application solely because a church operated the preschool. By a 7-2 vote, the Court concluded that the Department’s actions violated the church’s rights under the Free Exercise Clause.
 
“The Supreme Court’s ruling makes it clear that States cannot force churches to choose between their ecclesiastical missions and obtaining generally available public benefits,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Churches need not forswear their religious identities to receive generally available public benefits, such as fire or police protection, access to public utilities — or funds for safe playground surfaces. I applaud the Court’s ruling on this important Free Exercise Clause issue.” 

The decision, with the majority opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Samuel Anthony Alito Jr., and Elena Kagan, can be found here (PDF). Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, in an opinion joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch joined the opinion in full, except for a footnote. Justice Stephen G. Breyer concurred in the judgment and wrote a separate opinion.

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Attorney General Sean Reyes Joins 20-State Coalition Urging EPA to Respect the States in WOTUS Review

SALT LAKE CITY June 20, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes joined a 20-state coalition in requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency preserve the role of the states in protecting the nation’s water sources.

The coalition filed its letter Monday as part of the EPA’s ongoing review of its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The attorneys general outlined regulatory overreach present in the existing rule and offered suggestions to better respect the authority of states going forward.

“The WOTUS Rule is unlawful…and significantly impinges upon the States’ traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources within their borders,” Attorney General Reyes joined in writing. “We write to suggest how the [EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] can write a rule that respects Congress’s instruction.”

The letter requests a concrete definition of the term “waters of the United States.” In doing so, it suggests the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers should preserve the states’ role in protecting water resources, especially those within the border of individual states.

The attorneys general also suggest any final definition should adopt a framework consistent with Supreme Court precedent. That includes that federal agencies can only assert authority over permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water forming geographic features.

The letter expresses that rather than claiming jurisdiction over vast amounts of water and land, EPA and Army Corps of Engineers should consider the active role each state already plays in safeguarding its waterways.

The Obama-era regulation, if implemented, would have taken jurisdiction over natural resources from states and put it in the hands of federal agencies. This included almost any body of water, such as isolated streams, hundred-year floodplains, and roadside ditches.

Many of these states won a nationwide stay that blocked enforcement of the rule and proved crucial in providing time for a new administration to reconsider the rule.

Utah Attorney General Reyes signed the letter with West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas.

Read a copy of the letter at http://bit.ly/2tGljKk.

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