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Hurricane Man Sentenced to Jail After Attempting to Meet with Minor for Sex

July 25, 2019

A man from Hurricane, Utah was sentenced to jail on one third-degree felony count of enticing a minor by internet or text after he arranged to meet with what he believed to be a 13-year-old boy for sex.

Ross Robert Woolsey, a 50-year-old man, was first arrested along with six other men during a four-day sting operation conducted by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and Washington County Attorney’s Office.

Woolsey will serve 180 days at the Purgatory Correction Facility. Additionally, he will pay a $1,500 fine and will be placed on 36 months of probation with Adult Probation and Parole where he will be subject to all class A sex-offender requirements and restrictions. Woolsey will participate in substance abuse evaluation and treatment, sex offender treatment, DNA testing, random searches of computers, phones, or other internet-able devices, and will be prohibited from visiting any areas that children congregate – such as schools, parks, and community pools. Additionally, he is prohibited from having contact with any children under the age of 18 without prior approval from Adult Probation and Parole.


News coverage of the 2018 November ICAC Operation:

St. George News: Police arrest 7 men accused of attempting to meet boys, girls for sex
The Spectrum: 7 men accused of trying to meet with minors for sex in Washington County
KUTV: 6 men arrested for attempting to meet minors for sex in Washington County
ABC4: 7 men arrested accused of trying to meet minors for sex

Human Trafficking in Utah

July 3, 2019

Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, and it’s happening right here in Utah. In 2018, the Utah Attorney General’s Office conducted 49 human trafficking investigations, prosecuted 8 cases, and served 44 victims.

Rather than using ropes and chains to confine and control their victims, traffickers use “invisible ropes” involving complex manipulative tactics to control their victims, which can make it difficult to recognize human trafficking.

For information on how you can recognize and report human trafficking visit: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/human-trafficking-awareness-day-2019/

To report tips regarding human trafficking, please contact the Utah Attorney General’s Office:

  • Utah Human Trafficking Tipline: 801-200-3443
  • Internet Crimes Against Children Tipline: 801-281-1211

Behind the Badge: How Officers Process the Horrors of Child Exploitation Cases

June 5, 2019

Don Hudson with ABC4 News met with ICAC Commander Jessica Farnsworth to discuss the mental toll it takes to be an officer of the ICAC Task Force. In order for ICAC officers to find and arrest child predators, they have to view the evidence, which contains horrific footage of children being sexually abused and tortured.

Watching the footage of crimes that they can’t stop, officers go through feelings of helplessness and horror, which can start taking a toll on their health. That is why ICAC has a wellness program and mandatory sessions with a clinical therapist.

In the first three months of 2019, ICAC made 104 arrests. Last month, they announced the arrest of 13 child predators in Utah County. While the investigations can be frustrating and painful, ICAC is ready to take down anyone who hurts children.

Read the rest of Hudson’s interview here.


The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) is a multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes individuals who use the Internet to exploit children. The Utah Attorney General (UAG) ICAC Task Force was created in 2000 and is now one of 61 ICAC task forces in the country. They focus on crimes related to sexual exploitation of a minor – whether possessing, distributing, or manufacturing child pornography, enticing minors over the internet, or exchanging material deemed harmful to minors. The UAG ICAC Task Force has 32 local, state, and federal police agencies involved in the task force.

You can learn more about ICAC and how to keep your family safe, check out the ICAC Task Force here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/justice/internet-crimes-against-children-icac-task-force.

ICYMI: Combating Child Pornography in Utah

April 29, 2019

Last Thursday and Friday, April 25-26, ABC4‘s Brittany Johnson highlighted the reality of the growing child pornography problem in Utah in a two-part special segment. Thursday, ABC4 rode along with Utah Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) special agents to see the frontline action and experience the battle first hand. Friday, ABC4 spoke with Special Agent Sete Aulai and revealed who these perpetrators are and what you can do to help fight this epidemic.

TRIGGER WARNING: The following videos contain graphic and disturbing details regarding the sexual assault of children.

Utah’s Child Pornography Problem: Part 1 (Courtesy of ABC4 Utah)


Utah’s Child Pornography Problem: Part 2 (Courtesy of ABC4 Utah)

ABC4 Article: Utah’s Child Pornography Problem

Watch on ABC4: Utah’s Child Pornography Problem

April 25, 2019

Utah has one of the highest child pornography rates in the nation. Child pornography represents one of the cruelest and most horrific forms of sexual abuse against children. It preserves the very worst moments of a child’s life for the gratification of their abusers. The videos and images of child sexual abuse are traded, shared, and viewed as both currency and commodity. Some perpetrators use it as a tool to normalize their behavior and groom their victims. 

It is important to educate the public on what child pornography is, the way it is disseminated and traded, and how to protect your children from becoming victims of this kind of sexual exploitation.  

Taken from Child Pornography; The Harsh Reality & Legal Definition
presented & written by the ICAC Task Force earlier this year

Tune into ABC4 Thursday, April 25th and Friday, April 26th at 10 p.m. to learn more about this tragic epidemic and how you can protect your children.

Sexting, Sextortion & the Dark Side of Social Media

The following is an excerpt taken from Pat Reavy’s recent article in the Deseret News on April 1: Uncovering secret that led to son’s suicide. Michelle Upwall is an Education Specialist with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and a member of the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

There is little that shocks Michelle Upwall anymore after being with the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for so many years.

But when she was called by a woman concerned about her daughter’s online activities — and then found a 9-year-old girl crying in a closet because she had been talking to five adult men and sending pornographic pictures of herself — even Upwall was startled.

In 2017, the Deseret News talked to police and school officials about the dangers of sexting, something that has become so commonplace in Utah’s schools that some students will argue it’s just part of what their generation does. It’s harmless fun, many argue.

“I don’t think they think it’s a big deal. Or they think, ‘It’s just going to this person I’m sending it to.’ But it never does. And if parents don’t think it’s big deal, that’s the tough part. And unfortunately, a lot of the time parents don’t even know what’s going on until it becomes huge,” Upwall said.

“Parents will say, ‘Well, we did things when we were kids. This is what they’re doing now — sexting.’ I’m like, ‘What? No. So you’re OK with them sending explicit images and videos of themselves?’ They’re justifying it. Parents just don’t think it’s a big deal and that’s why it’s such a huge problem, not just the predator thing but sexting itself just between kids.”

Today, there is no shortage of cases currently being investigated by law enforcement officers in Utah involving teens and even pre-teens involved in sexual activity online, as well as predators preying on these children.

In the case of the 9-year-old girl, the initial contact started while she was in an online gaming chatroom.

“Online gaming chat rooms are a huge, huge, huge place for predators,” Upwall said.

From there, someone — presumably an adult man — groomed her to move their conversation to Kik — an app that Upwall believes can be particularly dangerous.

“Kik is very dangerous because first of all it’s an anonymous app and it’s really easy to connect with strangers,” she said, explaining that it doesn’t have as effective safeguards and age verifications as some other apps. “So it’s easy for kids to talk to strangers of all ages in public groups. … We get a lot of cybertips related to Kik because there are many, many predators using this app to target kids.”

There are few hard statistics kept on the frequency of sextortion. But based on the caseload of investigators with the Internet Crimes Against Children task force and even local law enforcers, Upwall believes the incidents are on the rise. And the age of children being lured into explicit behavior on social media apps is getting younger.

A sampling of other recent investigations collected in court documents by the Deseret News over the past four months include:

  • In Sandy, police began investigating a disturbing case in December involving the HOLLA app. Three girls — ages 12, 12 and 13, who all attend the same middle school — “were sending nude photos and videos to guys they believed to be in their 20s or 30s.” The girls admitted to sending nude videos of themselves to multiple men on several occasions.
  • In Logan, police say an adult man offered a 14-year-old girl money in exchange for nude photographs. “She sent the male several pornographic images and videos of herself via Instagram and text message,” police wrote. But when the girl later cut off communication with the man, he became mad and demanded that she pay him approximately $2,000 or he would upload the pornographic images that she sent him to the Internet and send them to her friends.
  • In a separate case in Logan in December, police were investigating reports of a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old exchanging photos on Snapchat and images livestreamed on Facebook.
  • In December, police in West Valley City were called to investigate a juvenile girl who was using the app Discord to send nude pictures and videos to an adult male.
  • In another Sandy case, police investigated an incident in which several members of a high school girls sports team posed topless in a hot tub for a picture that was distributed to their group via Snapchat. Several months later, one of the girls was informed that a boy at another school had received a copy of it. Police were attempting to discover how the photo was “leaked,” and were looking at whether an ex-boyfriend of one of the girls accessed her phone and sent the photo to himself.
  • In December, an 18-year-old Utah State University student reported to police that she was contacted by an unknown person who acquired racy pictures of her when she was 16 and 17. “I have many more pics and vids like these from hacking your phone,” the unknown person told the student. “If you want me to delete them, you’re gonna have to do something for me. … If you try to ignore these or delete your account, block me, or tell anyone about this, I’ll send them around to your family, friends and around campus. When the woman tried blocking the person on Instagram, she received another message stating, “If you try (to) block me again … I have all your family and friends’ social media. I’m not … playing with you. If I don’t get a reply, I’m sending these.”

Upwall said when young girls send explicit photos, “they’re looking for attention from older males. They think that’s cool.”

Some girls seeking attention have image issues and are self-conscious about themselves, she said. Other girls are pressured by their boyfriends, or older men who gain their trust, into sending explicit photos and videos.

The ages of the girls sending these photos keeps getting younger, she said. Part of that is because many elementary school-aged children now have smartphones.

“The problem is parents aren’t talking to their kids. And parents, a lot of times, don’t know how these apps or these phones work,” Upwall said. “Snapchat is a big one that we still continue to see as a problem because kids think it (a message or a photo) goes away. We know it doesn’t.

“They just hand them these phones and they go off into the world. And they’re learning from their peers or they’re learning from predators. Because predators are more than willing to answer these questions and pay attention to them.”

Another problem is youths who don’t make their accounts “private,” making their posts available for anyone to see.

“Most kids, and this is the scary thing, most kids keep their accounts open, public, because they value their popularity status on how many likes, how many followers, how many friends. And that’s the scary thing,” Upwall said.

In fact, Upwall will randomly check the Instagram accounts of juveniles at the beginning of each school quarter to see how many publicly post their schedules. And about 95 percent do, she said.

“That gives predators so much information.”

There are apps nowadays that are created by predators for predators, she added. Sometimes there can be as many as 10 new apps a day that pop up.

The most dangerous apps are the ones that have real-time and livestreaming capability, she said. Those videos are nearly impossible for investigators to recover.

“Those are ones we don’t ever want to see kids go to, because they will be told to do different things, explicit things, and you don’t know who’s on the other end,” she said. “You can have anybody on the other end telling these kids what to do.”

One tool for parents is Common Sense Media, which can help them become educated about different apps and how dangerous they are. But because there are so many, Upwall said the best thing parents can do is communicate and educate.

Sexting is huge in Utah, Upwall said, and is often underreported. To many teenagers, they don’t see a problem with it.

“They just think in the moment right now. They don’t think about the future,” she said.

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL

Sen. Hatch’s child porn victim act signed into law

December 18, 2018

The Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and a bipartisan team of legislators, was signed into law by the President of the United States. A critical step on behalf of victims of child pornography, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes led a group of 54 attorneys general urging Congress to pass this Act earlier this year. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is proud to support and work alongside leaders who work to provide assistance for victims in their recovery process. 

From the press release  . . . .

The legislation establishes more relevant standards for child pornography victims who seek restitution from defendants and gives victims the alternative of a one-time fixed compensation payment from the existing Crime Victims Fund. The bill also allows victims access to the images depicting them, which can be important for victim identification, expert testimony, forensic review, and treatment. 

The Utah Attorney General’s Office actively combats the sexual abuse of children statewide through our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Children’s Justice Centers Program, investigations, prosecutions, and victim advocacy. Online child pornography and exploitation experienced an uptick in 2018 as demand continues to increase.

The fight to protect our children – our future – continues for all of us. This law is an important step in the right direction.  Good work, Senator Hatch. 

 

 

Photo by Jomar

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