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Texas Four Plead Guilty to Charges Relating to Theft of Dinosaur Bones

WAYNE COUNTY, Utah January 20, 2017 – The Office of the Utah Attorney General (OAG) and Wayne County Attorney’s Office (WCA) today announced the guilty pleas of four individuals to charges relating to tampering with and theft of dinosaur bones from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in Wayne County, Utah in May 2015.   

“Utah’s archaeological and natural treasures contribute greatly to its beauty and allure and are an important part of what makes our state unique. This case demonstrates that anyone who illegally takes, tampers with, or disturbs our hidden treasures and natural resources will face criminal charges,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes.

“My thanks and congratulations to the entire investigation and prosecution team,  including Special Prosecutions Director Janise Macanas, Assistant Utah Attorney General Matthew Lloyd, and Paralegal Rosie McDonough of the (OAG) Justice Division’s Special Prosecutions Section, as well as Wayne County Attorney LeEllen McCartney.  The investigative team was spearheaded by (OAG) Investigation Division Special Agent Ronald Barton and BLM Agent Daniel Barnes. We are also grateful to the McLennan Community College for its cooperation.”

The individuals, all Texas residents, were in Utah as part of a geology expedition from McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. Led by Philip Bukowski of Crawford, Texas, they entered Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands (SITLA) area, removed dinosaur bones and took them back to Texas. Additionally, the individuals were accused of damaging the area surrounding the dinosaur bones.  Bureau of Land Management agents made successful efforts to locate and seize the dinosaur bones.

Today, before the Honorable Judge Wallace A. Lee, in the Sixth Judicial District Court in Loa, Utah, Philip Bukowski entered a guilty plea to one count Third Degree Felony Theft, Paige Bukowski entered a guilty plea to one count Class A Misdemeanor Theft, and Travis York entered a guilty plea to one count Class A Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief.   The fourth defendant, Crystal Webster, entered an earlier plea to one count Class A Misdemeanor Theft.  All pleas are held in abeyance until the court’s conditions are met, including a restitution order in the amount of $6,417.84.

 

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AG Reyes Lauds District Court Injunction Halting Department of Labor’s Harmful Overtime Rule

SALT LAKE CITY November 23, 2016 – Late yesterday, a federal judge granted a nationwide preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Labor’s new Overtime Rule. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes joined the twenty-one state coalition that successfully challenged the rule. 

“This rule has been touted as worker friendly but is just the opposite.  Unfortunately, this kind of federal and bureaucratic overreach has been all too frequent under the current administration, which has allowed the Department of Labor to effectively rewrite the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Attorney General Reyes. “In particular, the administration assumes that through force of will alone, it could order a new economic reality into existence. The finalized overtime rule harms local businesses, slows the economy, and hurts American workers. It limits workplace flexibility without a corresponding increase in pay, forcing employers to cut their workers hours. All in all, it exchanges the advantages of negotiated benefits, personal to each worker, with a one-size-fits-all standard that looks good only in press statements. We can do better than this for American workers.”

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employees are entitled to overtime pay at one-and-a-half times their regular hourly rate for all hours worked above forty per week.  But certain kinds of employees — including “white collar” employees — have long been exempt by statute from that overtime requirement. Under Department of Labor regulations, whether employees qualified as “white collar” employees turned in part on their salary, so the new Overtime Rule more than doubled the salary threshold at which employees would qualify for that exemption.  But the district court found that the new rule was unlawful because Congress intended the “white collar” exemption “to depend on an employee’s duties rather than an employee’s salary.”

In granting the injunction, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant admonished: “the Final Rule . . . is contrary to the statutory text and Congress’s intent” and “Congress, and not the Department, should make that change.”

Because of the court’s injunction, the new rule will not take effect on December 1, 2016 anywhere in the nation.

The court’s preliminary injunction can be found here.

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Utah Supreme Court Upholds Esar Met Convictions and Part of Sentencing

SALT LAKE CITY November 22, 2016 –The Utah Supreme Court today affirmed the convictions and part of the sentence of Esar Met, who kidnapped, sexually abused, and brutally murdered 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008. 

“I congratulate Assistant Solicitor General John Nielsen on successfully representing Utah in this difficult case,” said Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General. “One of the most important duties of our office is providing the best advocacy possible to make sure that justice is fairly and fully served. My thanks to all those who assisted John in briefing and arguing the appeal, including Solicitor General Tyler Green, Criminal Appeals Division Director Thomas Brunker, Search and Seizure Section Director Jeff Gray, and Assistant Solicitor General William Haines.”

Met was previously convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.  He raised more than a dozen claims on appeal, challenging the constitutionality of Utah’s non-capital aggravated murder sentencing statute on eight different grounds.  Met also claimed that police coerced his statements during his police interview, that police illegally searched his apartment, that the prosecution unlawfully used two pictures of the victim at trial, that the prosecution destroyed important evidence, and that his conviction for child kidnapping should merge into his conviction for aggravated murder.  The Utah Supreme Court rejected each of these claims. 

Met was sentenced to two concurrent terms of life without the possibility of parole, but the Utah Supreme Court held that the trial judge misapplied the law to Met’s aggravated murder conviction by presuming that life without parole was the appropriate starting sentence.  The court sent the case down for the trial court to determine if this presumption affected its decision on the aggravated murder count, but affirmed the imposition of life without parole on the child kidnapping count.

Assistant Solicitor General John Nielsen represented the State on appeal, briefing and arguing the case.  Solicitor General Tyler Green, Criminal Appeals Division Director Thomas Brunker, Search and Seizure Section Director Jeff Gray, and Assistant Solicitor General William Haines helped develop and refine the State’s arguments.

A copy of the ruling can be found here.

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Thomas Edward Egley Convicted and Sentenced Today for the Murder of Loretta Jones in 1970

Price, Utah  November 22, 2016 – In cooperation with the Carbon County Attorney’s Office, the Utah Attorney General’s Office announces the conviction of Thomas Edward Egley for the murder of Loretta Jones on or about July 30, 1970. In 2009, Sergeant David Brewer with the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office reopened the case at the request of family members of the victim. Sergeant Brewer’s investigation led to Egley’s confession to stabbing Jones and slashing her throat for refusing his sexual advances, leaving her to be discovered by her 4-year-old daughter Heidi Jones-Asay, the next morning. Egley was sentenced to prison for a term of 10 years to life.

“We’re grateful that Sergeant Brewer was willing to reopen the case and for the excellent work by the Carbon County investigators to solve this 46-year-old murder,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “After a lifetime of uncertainty, I am hopeful that this conviction and sentence to prison brings some measure of closure to those who have suffered the most from her loss.”

Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate remarked, “The community of Carbon County has been seeking justice for Loretta’s brutal murder for a very long time, particularly the victim’s daughter who was four years old when she discovered her mother’s body. The defendant’s prison sentence brings solace in knowing Loretta Jones’s family will have the justice they so rightfully deserve. Sergeant Brewer and Detective Hendricks from the Carbon County Sheriff’s office should be commended for their efforts.”

“I always knew the name and face of the man who killed my mom, I always knew it was Tom,” said Heidi Jones-Asay. “I knew one day I would see Tom again.” 

“This was a heinous and brutal murder, and 46 years should not mitigate a recommendation of prison,” said Assistant Attorney General Gregory Ferbrache.

The conviction is the culmination of nearly seven years of dedicated investigation on the cold case by Carbon County investigators, nearly 46 years after the events occurred.  The prosecution team consisted of Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate, Deputy County Attorney Jeremy Humes, Assistant Attorney’s General Gregory Ferbrache, Shelley Coudreaut and Russell Smith.

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Attorney General Sean Reyes Honored by Boy Scouts of America with National Award

SALT LAKE CITY November 21, 2016—The Utah Attorney General’s Office today announced Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes received anational award last week from the Greater Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts of America for outstanding service to the community, with an emphasis on his volunteer service in the Hispanic community.

Attorney General Reyes expressed his appreciation to the Council at the Silver Anniversary Holiday Gala.

“It is such an honor to receive this recognition from Boy Scouts of America, an organization that has enriched my life and my family far more than I could ever repay,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Scouting teaches lifelong principles of service, community, and adventure. The Boy Scout slogan to ‘do a good turn daily’ guides me as I serve each day, and I am grateful that BSA has taught my own sons to follow the same path.”

“Attorney General Reyes is the epitome of what Scouting is all about,” said Scout Executive Mark Griffin. “Sean’s service to youth in the Latino/Hispanic community through Scouting and many other venues is noteworthy. We are proud to recognize him with this national award.”

boy_scouts_of_america_corporate_trademark-svgAttorney General Reyes is an Eagle Scout who has been active in leadership roles in Scouting throughout his life. He achieved the rank of Eagle at age 15, has been a Scout leader at various levels of Scouting, chaired a Scout unit and organized and presented at various Scouting events. His two older sons are EagleScouts and he has three younger sons who are working toward that goal. AG Reyes’s father was active in Scouting as a boy in his home country of the Philippines, remained an active Scouter in his adopted country of America and instilled in his sons, both Eagle Scouts, a love of Scouting and its principles of service.

Even prior to his current position as AG, Reyes was recognized locally and nationally with numerous awards and distinctions for his years of commitment to service and lifting communities throughout Utah and the United States.

Reyes co-Founded the Somos Foundation providing millions of dollars in student aid and scholarships to Utah Latino high school and college students. He provided internships to many Latino students and led an English language learning program that lifted tens of thousands of immigrants by giving them tools for better jobs and opportunities. In working to fight against teen drinking and driving, human trafficking, child sexual abuse and teen suicide, Reyes has protected all teens and also done special media promotions and interviews for the Hispanic community. Reyes served on the Presidential and Congressional Commission to create a National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall.

Reyes also volunteered at colleges, high schools, elementary schools and juvenile detention facilities as well as homeless shelters, elder care facilities, churches, and veterans homes. He raised money for scholarships for students from underserved and refugee communities, offered free legal services to veterans, seniors, and others in need, raised money for families of fallen law enforcement officers and provided resources to fight child Pornography. He was a pioneer in creating opportunities for Hispanic and Asian small businesses. He founded and helped lead numerous non-profits creating a host of service initiatives.

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Alan Dean McKee Pleads Guilty In Connection With Scam Impersonating LDS Church Officials

SALT LAKE CITY October 18, 2016 – The Utah Attorney General’s Mortgage and Fraud Unit announced today that Alan McKee of Benjamin has pleaded guilty to one count of a Pattern of Unlawful Activity and one count of Theft, all Second Degree Felonies. A separate case against Gary Anderson of Springville is ongoing.

According to charging documents, Anderson and McKee were previously accused of defrauding Ames Construction and two individuals out of approximately $1.2 million between July 2013 and October 2015. McKee is alleged to have sent letters to Ames Construction purporting to come from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“LDS Church”) in connection with the construction of a building site in Elberta, Utah. Anderson is alleged to have assisted by making at least one phone call posing as an LDS Church official to an Ames Construction employee. McKee and Anderson were also alleged to have induced two victims to invest in a scheme to purchase excess farm equipment.

“Stopping white collar crime has always been one of my highest priorities for the Utah Attorney General’s Office,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Our investigators, paralegals, attorneys and staff work tirelessly to stop scams and shut down fraudsters.

“I appreciate 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 team for their hard work to build this case.”

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

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Attorney General Warns Utahns of Telephone Scam Spoofing Utah State Treasurer’s Office Phone Number

Fraudulent Callers Claim to be IRS Agents Collecting Back Taxes

SALT LAKE CITY October 17, 2016 – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced today that the Office of the Attorney General has received reports of Utahns receiving fraudulent, unsolicited phone calls from aggressive individuals claiming to be IRS officials collecting back taxes. The fraudulent callers are spoofing the Utah Office of the Treasurer’s phone number (801-538-1042) to gain credibility. The Office of Utah State Treasurer does not collect taxes (federal, state or otherwise).

The fraudulent callers demand the victim immediately pay a bogus tax bill via credit card, pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim does not cooperate, they are intimidated with threats of arrest, deportation or other harmful measures.

The IRS website advises if you receive a call and do not suspect you owe federal income tax:  

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you receive a call and know you owe federal income tax or think you may owe federal income tax:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.  
  • Stay alert to scams using the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not only at tax time. For more information visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

Please also feel free to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-244-4636 or at https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/contact-us.

 

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AG Reyes and AGO Investigators in Partnership with Truckers Against Trafficking Trains Utah Trucking Industry on Fighting Human Trafficking

SALT LAKE CITY October 12, 2016 – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and the Utah Attorney General’s Office co-hosted a training with the Utah Trucking Association on Tuesday on  best practices in successfully detecting and investigating human trafficking crimes.

“As human trafficking continues to be a problem across the country, I am grateful for the efforts of Truckers Against Trafficking to educate, inform, and train their industry,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “By taking a victim-centered approach, Truckers Against Trafficking members are able to work cooperatively with law enforcement to bring greater awareness to this important issue and to make sure that victims receive the help they need.”

“Our thanks to the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah Trucking Association for a highly productive coalition build meeting,” said Esther Goetsch, Truckers Against Trafficking Coalition Build Specialist. “Not only were those in the room today much more effectively equipped to recognize, report and respond to human trafficking situations, but the follow-up strategies participants committed themselves to will have an exponential effect as law enforcement officers and trucking industry stakeholders take this message back to their departments and companies.”

The briefing, conducted by a coalition of groups including the Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO), the Utah Trucking Association, the Utah Trafficking in Person’s Task Force (UTIP), Truckers Against Trafficking, and managers from a number of truck stops in the Salt Lake City area, heard panels on human trafficking, combatting human trafficking through the trucking industry, and from a survivor of sex trafficking. Participants in the panels included Leo Lucey, Chief of Investigations for the Utah AGO, Nate Mutter, Section Chief of Special Prosecutions and Public Corruption at the Utah AGO, Major Brian Redd from the Utah Department of Public Safety, Sgt. Jason Ackerman from Unified Police Department, Utah AGO Justice Division Director Greg Ferbrache, and Beth Jacobs, a Truckers Against Trafficking Field Trainer.

Find linked below a fact sheet on Truckers Against Trafficking. For further information on Truckers Against Trafficking, please contact Esther Goetsch at 612-888-4828 or egoetsch.tat@hotmail.com.

Truckers Against Trafficking Fact Sheet

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US Supreme Court Consolidates Money Transfer Cases Against Delaware

SALT LAKE CITY October 6, 2016 — In a consolidation of two cases, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case involving a dispute between 23 states and Delaware over the disposition of abandoned monetary instruments (i.e. third-party bank checks, money orders, etc). The 23 states bringing the dispute before the Supreme Court, which includes Utah, claim that Delaware contravened the federal Disposition of Abandoned Money Orders and Traveler’s Checks Act by instructing MoneyGram to send at least $200M in abandoned instruments to Delaware instead of the states in which they were purchased.


Case Background

The dispute between the 21 plaintiff states and Delaware is about which state is entitled to abandoned and unclaimed “official checks” sold by MoneyGram, a money transfer services company that operates in all 50 states and internationally. With Delaware’s acquiescence, guidance and direction, millions of dollars in unclaimed “official checks” have been wrongfully escheated, or turned over, to the State of Delaware. This error was based on the mistaken belief that such abandoned and unclaimed property is supposed to be turned over to the issuing company’s state of incorporation, in this case, Delaware. Federal law and the law in each of the plaintiff states is clear that such abandoned and unclaimed property should be turned over to the state where the property was purchased.

The coalition asked the Supreme Court to declare that the plaintiff states, and not Delaware, are entitled to the hundreds of millions of dollars improperly turned over to Delaware and to all future similar abandoned and unclaimed property. The coalition is also asking the Court to order the appropriate repayment to plaintiff states by Delaware.

“This case is not about MoneyGram. I believe MoneyGram made payments in good faith based on what Delaware instructed it to do. This is a disagreement between states about the proper distribution of abandoned property,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Tens of millions of dollars have been inappropriately turned over to the State of Delaware instead of to states where the property was purchased. We believe, and a recent audit substantiates, that these dollars should be repaid by Delaware to Utah and other states joining this action.”

On Feb. 10, 2015, an independent auditor completed an examination of abandoned “official checks” from MoneyGram in a select group of states and concluded that nearly $200 million was owed to those states.

In agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court consolidated it with a similar dispute brought by Pennsylvania and Wisconsin against Delaware. In addition to Utah, the lawsuit is joined by Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.


Utah Attorney General's Office

Maker of Opioid Addiction Treatment Drug Suboxone Accused of Conspiring to Keep Monopoly Profits

SALT LAKE CITY September 23, 2016 – Attorney General Sean Reyes and 36 other attorneys general today filed an antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction, over allegations that the companies engaged in a scheme to block generic competitors and cause purchasers to pay artificially high prices.

Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, is accused of conspiring with MonoSol Rx to switch Suboxone from a tablet version to a film (that dissolves in the mouth) in order to prevent or delay generic alternatives and maintain monopoly profits.

The companies are accused of violating state and federal antitrust laws.

“This is a crucial drug to combatting opioid addiction and abuse, which has grown to epidemic proportions in our state and nation,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “This lawsuit seeks to restore competition, which is always good for the consumer, especially when it comes to pricing. We feel it is yet another way our office can stand up for the average citizen.”

Suboxone is a brand-name prescription drug used to treat heroin addiction and other opioid addictions by easing addiction cravings. No generic alternative of the tape version is currently available.

According to the lawsuit, when Reckitt introduced Suboxone in 2002 (in tablet form), it had exclusivity protection that lasted for seven years, meaning no generic version could enter the market during that time. Before that period ended, however, Reckitt worked with MonoSol to create a new version of Suboxone – a dissolvable film, similar in size to a breath strip. Over time, Reckitt allegedly converted the market away from the tablet to the film through marketing, price adjustments, and other methods. Ultimately, after the majority of Suboxone prescriptions were written for the film, Reckitt removed the tablet from the U.S. market.

The attorneys general allege that this conduct was illegal “product hopping,” where a company makes modest changes to its product to extend patent protections so other companies can’t enter the market and offer cheaper generic alternatives. According to the suit, the Suboxone film provided no real benefit over the tablet and Reckitt continued to sell the tablets in other countries even after removing them from the U.S. market. Reckitt also allegedly expressed unfounded safety concerns about the tablet version and intentionally delayed FDA approval of generic versions of Suboxone.

As a result, the attorneys general allege that consumers and purchasers have paid artificially high monopoly prices since late 2009 when generic alternatives of Suboxone might otherwise have become available. During that time, annual sales of Suboxone topped $1 billion.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania, accuses the companies of violating the federal Sherman Act and state laws. Counts include conspiracy to monopolize and illegal restraint of trade. In the suit, the attorneys general ask the court to stop the companies from engaging in anticompetitive conduct, to restore competition, and to order appropriate relief for consumers and the states, plus costs and fees.

The attorneys general of the following jurisdictions joined in the lawsuit: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

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Suboxone Redacted Complaint


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