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Attorney General Reyes, Local Leaders Meet With National Security Advisory Robert O’Brien

October 6, 2020

Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, local leaders, and human trafficking experts joined with National Security Advisor, Ambassador Robert O’Brien to discuss the threat of human trafficking locally, nationally and globally.

Attorney General Reyes and partners in Utah were able to provide NSA Ambassador O’Brien with an update on Utah’s efforts in combatting human trafficking. From legislation, investigations, victim services, and support from local partners, Utah has become a leader in the fight against human trafficking.

In addition, NSA Ambassador O’Brien was able to discuss the initiatives put forth by President Trump to address and combat human trafficking in America. Working together and collaborating on such an extensive and important issue is key to effectively fighting and ending this egregious form of modern-day slavery and violation of human rights.

We are grateful for our federal, state and local partnerships, and we look forward to continuing to work together to eradicate trafficking in Utah and America.

“It was my pleasure to join Attorney General Reyes and share the work President Trump is doing to combat human trafficking. We will continue to bring the full force of the U.S. government to combat these heinous crimes,” said NSA Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien

Ambassador O’Brien and Attorney General Reyes were joined by Special Assistant to the President Deputy Director of Political Affairs for Policy and Personnel Gregory Smith, Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the NSA and National Security Council Alex Gray, Senator Wayne Harper, Doterra International Vice President of Philanthropy and Community Impact Missy Larsen, President and CEO of Malouf, Inc Sam Malouf, Founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad Tim Ballard, Refugee & Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah Trafficking in Persons Program Director Andrea Sherman, Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Jake Petersen, Attorney General’s Office Chief Civil Deputy Brian Tarbet,  NAACP President Jeanetta Williams, Attorney General’s Office Investigations Section Chief Brendan Call, Attorney General’s Office Assistant Attorney General Dan Strong, and staff.

Attorney General Reyes Awarded DAR Distinguished Citizen Medal for Work on Human Trafficking

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 6, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES AWARDED DAR DISTINGUISHED CITIZEN MEDAL FOR WORK ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes was pleased and honored to receive the Daughters of the American Revolution Distinguished Citizen Medal for his honor, service, courage, leadership, and patriotism to the community. The award is due to Attorney General Reyes’ work on human trafficking, and increasing awareness of the crimes associated with human trafficking around the world.
 
“When I think about the people you’ve chosen in the past to bestow the award upon, I’m in awe that I would be recognized in the same category as those heroes – front line first responders, firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, military servicemen and women, veterans, and citizens who have accomplished acts of great distinction,” Attorney General Reyes said. “It’s a singular privilege to accept this award and it’s even more meaningful to get it from an organization that I admire so much. Thank you to my wife, my staff, our partners and many others for their support and countless hours and dedication in rescuing those in need.”
 
The DAR Distinguished Citizen Medal is presented to citizens who demonstrate exceptional service to the community. The Wasatch Range Chapter of DAR nominated Attorney General Reyes for this award to recognize his leadership in the fight against human trafficking.
 
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 to promote historic preservation, education, and patriotism. Its members are descended from the patriots who won American independence during the Revolutionary War. With more than 185,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide, DAR is one of the world’s largest and most active service organizations. DAR members are committed to volunteer service having served more than 12.5 million hours in communities throughout the world during the past three years.

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Watch the ceremony below:

AG Reyes Joins Relaunch of Anti-trafficking Program -OnWatch

September 18, 2020

Yesterday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined the Malouf Foundation and the Safe House Project for the relaunch of OnWatch, an anti-trafficking program that will train people on how to recognize, report and prevent human trafficking in our communities.

The human trafficking industry is estimated to be a $150 billion industry each year with an estimated hundreds of thousands of victims. Unfortunately, there has been a 40% increase in human trafficking during the COVID-19 pandemic. OnWatch was relaunched in an effort to help people better understand trafficking in America and learn how to recognize and report human trafficking.

OnWatch was first launched in 2018 and has trained tens of thousands of people on human trafficking. In a press release, Malouf Foundation Executive Director Jake Neeley said, “We’ve created an engaged community with OnWatch, and we want to keep that momentum with this new training. More people are ready to fight against trafficking, and OnWatch is the perfect place to start.”

OnWatch was created by sex trafficking survivors and features training completely online. For more information about OnWatch and to access the training, go to https://www.iamonwatch.org/.

AG Reyes Urges President Trump to Support National Child ID Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 31, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES URGES PRESIDENT TRUMP TO SUPPORT THE NATIONAL CHILD ID PROGRAM
Personal Appeal and Letter Urges Funding for ID Act to Protect Children
 
 

SALT LAKE CITY — In a personal appeal to President Donald J. Trump, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is leading a coalition of state Attorneys General in asking for the administration to make funding available to support H.R. 4172, The National Child ID Act, (The National Child ID Program) in order to help both parents and law enforcement better protect children from exploitation, abduction and human trafficking.
 
This legislation would enable each state, through their Attorney General, to have the opportunity to request grant funding to purchase kits for their Kindergarten through 6th grade children. Each kit costs $1.76 per child, an incredibly small amount for the life of a child who has been abducted or runaway. The cost for protecting approximately 30 million K-6 students across America is just below $52 million.

“Statistics show that more than 800,000 children go missing each year including runaways and those abducted,” said Attorney General Reyes. “That is one child gone every 40 seconds. And we are seeing those statistics rise along with child sexual abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.”
 
Attorney General Reyes continued: “[Mr. President,] You recently met with our friend and NFL Hall of Fame Player Mike Singletary to discuss a program he and many other Collegiate and NFL Coaches champion called the National Child ID Program. We also support this effort as we fight daily to protect children in our role as state Attorneys General.”

The Child ID Kit allows parents to collect specific information by easily recording the physical characteristics, fingerprints and DNA of their child on identification cards that are then kept at home by the parent or guardian. No outside group collects, monitors or has access to the data unless parents choose to share it during an emergency. If ever needed, the Child ID Kit will give authorities vital information to assist their efforts to locate a missing child.    
 
The National Child ID Program has asked Congress for monies to be set aside in the next stimulus package as a grant for the purchase of such kits. And while legislation is ultimately needed, it may well take months or longer until funds are available. In the meantime, COVID-19 has made children more vulnerable to be groomed and exploited by predators. The threat of our kids becoming victims is more immediate and grave than ever. Every time we receive an amber alert for a missing one-year-old, it illustrates the critical need for this program.
 
Utah Attorney General Reyes is joined in this appeal to the President by Attorneys General in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia.
 
A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

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

August 11, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 30, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information visit www.nbwa.org.  

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

July 30, 2020

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

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

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

Human Trafficking in Utah

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

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

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

About Human Trafficking

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

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

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

How You Can Help

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

Reporting Human Trafficking

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

Utah Human Trafficking Tipline: 

801-200-3443

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 

1-888-3737-888

Text “Help” or “Info” to 233733

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


Additional Hotline

National Runaway Safeline:

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

Text: 66008

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


For more information on human trafficking, visit:

Polaris Project here.

Human Trafficking Hotline here.

Blue Campaign here.

SECURE Strike Force Files Sex Trafficking Charges Against Three Utahns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2020

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL’S SECURE STRIKE FORCE FILES SEX TRAFFICKING CHARGES AGAINST THREE UTAHNS
Two Child Victims Exploited for Commercial Sex


SALT LAKE CITY – Three Utah residents, Andre Gomez, David Mackey, and Chandra Jones have been arrested and charged by the Utah Attorney General’s SECURE (Statewide Enforcement of Crimes by Undocumented Residents) Strike Force for sex trafficking two 17-year-old girls in Ogden. All defendants face charges of Sex Trafficking of a Child and Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution Involving a Child, based on evidence that they recruited, solicited and profited from sexually exploiting the two child victims for commercial sex. Gomez and Mackey were also charged with multiple counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor for directing the children to take sexually explicit photos of themselves for use in commercial sex advertisements. Mackey also faces a charge of Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a 16 or 17-year-old, based on evidence that he had sexual intercourse with one of the child victims. 
 
Agents with the Attorney General’s SECURE Strike Force were contacted by Juvenile Justice Services in September 2019 in regards to a report that a 17-year-old female had disclosed she and another 17-year-old female (Child Victim 1, Child Victim 2) were the victims of human trafficking for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Child Victim 1 disclosed that she met and began talking with a man by the name of Anthony (later identified as David Anthony Mackey). Mackey asked Child Victim 1 if she wanted to make some money and Mackey instructed Child Victim 1 to reach out to his friend “Andre” through Facebook. Mackey provided Child Victim 1 the Facebook account of “Andre” (later identified as Andre Gomez). Gomez instructed both child victims to take nude and partially nude photos of themselves and send them to Gomez for posting on adult websites as online ads for commercial sex. Both child victims took photos as instructed by Gomez. Mackey also took a topless photo of Child Victim 1 for use in online ads for commercial sex.
 
Both child victims traveled to a hotel in Ogden, Utah at the instruction of Mackey and Gomez. They were met by Mackey and his girlfriend Chandra Jones. Jones explained to both child victims what they were expected to do and how to act; including how to post ads, how to accept money from clients, how to talk to clients, and how to dispose of condoms. The child victims were provided alcohol by Mackey and Jones. Both child victims engaged in commercial sexual intercourse with multiple clients at the hotel in Ogden at the instruction of Mackey and Jones. Mackey kept the money received from commercial sex. Mackey and Jones took Child Victim 1 to Salt Lake City, Utah and rented another hotel for the purposes of engaging in commercial sex. They were unable to do so after Jones and Mackey got into a fight on the premises of that hotel. Mackey and Jones were both aware of the ages of the child victims. Both hotel stays were corroborated by receipts obtained pursuant to a subpoena.
 
Mackey and Gomez are both convicted felons who have spent time in prison for violent offenses. Gomez was previously convicted of murder.
 
Both child victims have been referred to the Refugee Immigrant Center-Asian Association of Utah, which provides comprehensive services to aid human trafficking victims. The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s own victim coordinator is also in regular contact with both victims to ensure their rights are represented as the case moves forward.

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Attorney General Reyes on Human Trafficking Panel: Survivors First, Awareness Essential

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING PANEL: SURVIVORS FIRST, AWARENESS ESSENTIAL

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes helped outline the extent of the human trafficking problem on a panel that included Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Attorneys General Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas and Ashley Moody of Florida.
 
“There are more victims of human trafficking throughout the world than the public realizes,” said Attorney General Reyes. “In fact, there are more victims entrapped in slavery than ever before. We will keep working tirelessly to wake up America to the pervasiveness of the threat. Many people either don’t know or don’t want to know what’s happening to victims in their community because it is so shocking. We have to change that.
 
“In Utah, we have made great strides in six years. We went from an “F” grade in 2013 to an “A” grade in 2019 from Shared Hope International because of incredible public support, willing state leaders, aggressive law enforcement and a focus on empowering and healing victims and survivors. Yet, we still have a long way to go.”
 
DHS Acting Secretary Wolf pledged his support.
 
“We need to take a victim-first approach and assess the real threat to our communities,” Wolf said. “The Federal Government can’t do it alone. For example, we need to work with tech companies so they can identify victims and takedown harmful content. We need to go where the threats take us and ask the people in our nation for assistance. But we need to ensure our resources are allocated in the correct way.”
 
“If you see something, say something,” he added.
 
The panel emphasized that it is vitally important for the general public to keep an eye out for unusual behavior that could signal a person may be in a situation against their will.
 
A public-private partnership is necessary in order to accomplish the goal of freeing victims of human trafficking, the panel agreed.

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Featured Speaker AG Reyes Discusses Human Trafficking at U.S. Department of Transportation Summit

January 28, 2020

Yesterday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao and the U.S. Department of Transporation at a summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss human trafficking and to pledge to provide awareness and leadership to combat this worldwide epidemic.

“The biggest problem when it comes to human trafficking remains this: Most people still have no clue that it even exists. But with events like these, we united, need to set the record straight,” said Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “While the history books in our schools teach that slavery has ended, it most certainly has not. And we need now, more than ever, professionals from the transportation industry, in government, in the private sector, to stand up with us and fight this fight.”

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