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Utah AG Urges Congress to Hold Internet Service Providers Accountable

May 23, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined 47 attorneys general across the country this week to urge Congress, once again, to amend the Communications Decency Act in order to make sure state and local authorities are able to protect our citizens online and take appropriate action against online criminals.

The Communication Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) was designed to encourage the growth of the internet by promoting free expression, particularly on online message boards. The Act was intended to allow companies who sponsor message boards to remain immune to repercussions from inappropriate posts. However, a misinterpretation of Section 230 of the Act has led some federal court opinions to interpret the Act so broadly that individuals and services, which knowingly aid and profit from illegal activity, have evaded prosecution.

“Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” and “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (known as FOSTA-SESTA) was signed into law in 2018, making clear that the CDA’s immunity does not apply to enforcement of federal or state sex trafficking laws. Unfortunately, the abuse on these platforms does not stop at sex trafficking, but includes all sorts of harmful illegal activity such as online black market opioid sales, identity theft, and election meddling.

This is not the first time the attorneys general have addressed this issue with Congress. In 2013 and 2017, nearly every state and territory AG wrote to inform Congress of the damaging misinterpretation and misapplication of Section 230 of the CDA.

Section 230 expressly exempts prosecution of federal crimes from the safe harbor, but “addressing criminal activity cannot be relegated to federal enforcement alone simply because the activity occurs online,” the letter states. “Attorneys General must be allowed to address these crimes themselves and fulfill our primary mandate to protect our citizens and enforce their rights.”

In addition to Utah, the following states and territories joined in this letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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Utah AG Partners with DOJ, Sister-States in National Takedown on Tech Support Scams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2019

 

UTAH AG PARTNERS WITH DOJ, SISTER-STATES IN NATIONAL TAKEDOWN ON TECH SUPPORT SCAMS

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced the Utah Attorney General’s Office is partnering with sister-states and the DOJ as part of a nationwide crackdown on fraudsters who try to trick consumers into buying costly tech support and repair services.
 
Utah, in coordination with attorneys general from across the country through the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), has joined the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other regulators to combat tech support scams. As part of this effort, NAAG and the Department of Justice announced a sweep of elder fraud cases and focused particular attention on tech support scams as a major threat to senior citizens. 
 
These scams work in similar ways. Scammers use phone calls and online ads resembling security alerts from major technology companies to trick consumers into contacting the operators of these schemes and providing access to the consumers’ computers. The scammers will claim consumers’ computers are infected with viruses or experiencing other problems. They then try to pressure consumers into buying unnecessary computer repair services, service plans, anti-virus protection or software, and other products and services.
 
“We are sending a clear message to scammers that Utah will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these types of frauds. Locally, we are fortunate to partner with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection on the front line of stopping scammers,” said Attorney General Reyes.

In Utah, the Utah Attorney General’s Office collaborated with partners in the tech world regarding computer fraud schemes targeting consumers in Utah. Tech company representatives informed investigators that fraudulent businesses, claiming to be affiliated with computer support companies, were contacting computer users via pop-ups and malware, informing them that multiple viruses were found on their computer when in fact, their computers were fine. These criminals would then take over the consumers computer and steal personal information, placing viruses and malware on the computers and then charging to fix the problems.
 
During the joint investigation, Attorney General Investigators identified multiple businesses using this fraud scheme. Covert investigative methods were utilized by this team revealing the location of these illegitimate businesses. In some cases, our partners had global resources available to contact and shut down these schemes.
 
Attorneys general through the National Association of Attorneys General, the Department of Justice, and the FTC worked for more than a year on the initiative. In addition to Utah, other state participants included Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington D.C.

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NOTES:

  1. NAAG press release: https://www.naag.org/naag/media/naag-news/state-attorneys-general-join-federal-agencies-in-tech-support-scam-sweep.php
  2. Department of Justice press release: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-coordinates-largest-ever-nationwide-elder-fraud-sweep-0

AG Reyes applauds passing of First Step Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2018

 

AG REYES APPLAUDS SENATE PASSING THE FIRST STEP ACT

SALT LAKE CITY – As the vote count was announced that the First Step Act had passed through the U.S. Senate and was headed to the U.S. House of Representatives, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes stated the following: 

This is a big win for the Trump Administration, for justice reform leaders like our own Senator Mike Lee, and most importantly, for the American people. 
 
Allowing more discretion in sentencing empowers judges and the system to personalize the punishment to the crime. Giving inmates who meet strict criteria a chance at redemption and an opportunity to become productive citizens benefits all of us. Not only does it reduce an overcrowded prison population, it provides a workforce eager to contribute to society. 
 
I’ve been honored to work over the past year with the White House, Senator Lee and other leaders to get this bill passed. As a former co-chair of the Civil Rights Committee for the National Association of Attorneys General, and in various positions over a decade before that, I have advocated for reform to our criminal justice system; a system that disproportionately affects minority communities and inflexibly captures certain individuals who may not deserve to be there in the first place. 
 
Again, I applaud the U.S. Senate’s approval of the historic ’First Step Act.’ But this legislation is just that – a first step. I will continue my work with Utah leaders and attorneys general from other states to expand reform beyond just the federal system in order to reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars, provide treatment for mental health and substance abuse and providing some nonviolent offenders a second chance. We can find these humane and balanced solutions while still aggressively protecting Utahns from violent crime and keeping our communities safe. 
 
The bi-partisan political support for this bill along with diverse buy-in from groups such as law enforcement, civil rights leaders and academics speaks to the need for such reform. 
 
 

Photo by Hédi Benyounes

Utah AG Reyes Works to Combat Robocalls

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 11, 2018

  

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN D. REYES WORKS TO COMBAT ROBOCALLS
Utah AG joins 40 state attorneys general to review technology solutions

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced today that he has joined a bipartisan group of 40 state attorneys general to stop or reduce annoying and harmful robocalls. This coalition is reviewing the technology major telecom companies are pursuing to combat illegal robocalls.

“To be clear, we are not talking about first amendment protected robocalls like political messages or calls from bona fide charities. While some find these calls annoying, they are legal,” stated Attorney General Reyes. “However, if the recording is a sales pitch and you have not provided authorization, the call is illegal. To trick you into answering a call, many robocalls fake the caller ID information you see on your phone. This is called spoofing and is also illegal. It is these practices and types of robocalls we are focused on stopping. Over 187 million illegal robocalls were made to Utahns in 2017 alone. These calls often harm our most vulnerable populations with scams and improper business practices. It is my hope and belief that this bipartisan group will be able to find real solutions to help protect not just Utahns, but all Americans. I am grateful for Francine Giani, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce, and her team, for their dedicated efforts to address these abuses in our state.”

The Utah Department of Commerce consistently receives reports of robocalls to Utahns. The Department investigates complaints and has in some instances successfully taken legal action against callers pitching student loan debt consolidation, vacation packages, solar energy, and timeshare resales, among other areas. While the Department takes action when it can identify the caller, many robocalls originate overseas or use spoofed numbers to evade enforcement.  

“Consumers are bombarded by robocalls faking local numbers and originating overseas,” stated Utah Department of Commerce Executive Director Francine Giani. “When consumers are scammed through these calls, it is very difficult if not impossible for the Department of Commerce to find the perpetrator and get the consumers’ money back. We support the Attorneys General and other efforts to combat robocalls before they make it to consumers’ phones.”

Since its formation, the multistate group has had in-depth meetings with several major telecom companies. These productive meetings have led to greater information sharing about the technological capabilities currently in existence or in development to fight these calls.

Utah Attorney General Reyes and his colleagues are working to:

  • Develop a detailed understanding of what is technologically feasible to minimize unwanted robocalls and illegal telemarketing,
  • Engage the major telecom companies to encourage them to expedite the best possible solutions for consumers, and
  • Determine whether states should make further recommendations to the FCC.

Utah joins the coalition, led by Attorney General Josh Stein (NC), Attorney General Curtis Hill (IN), and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald (NH), and includes attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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 NOTES:

  1. AG Reyes recently joined 34 other state AGs and sent a letter urging the FCC to explore ways to combat fraudulent calls. Deputy Attorney General David Sonnenreich spoke with KSL-TV about that letter, robocalls, spoofing, and a new technology seeking to address this issue. You can find that letter and interview here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/battling-illegal-robocalls-spoofing/.
  2. The Utah Department of Commerce provides resources when dealing with illegal robocalls and telemarketing. Find more information on that here: https://dcp.utah.gov/registrations/telemarketing.html.
Road-To-Recovery

AG Reyes Calls on Congress to Pass “Road to Recovery” Act to Make Drug Treatment More Affordable and Accessible

39 Attorney Generals Call on Congress to Change Federal Law to Make
Drug Treatment More Affordable and Accessible

SALT LAKE CITY October 2, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes, with a bipartisan coalition of 39 Attorneys General and the National Association of Attorneys General, called on Congress to pass legislation that changes federal law to make treatment for drug addiction more affordable and accessible for Americans who most need it.

HR 2938, the “Road to Recovery” Act, will help increase access to treatment for opioid addiction by removing a more than 50-year-old provision in the Medicaid program that currently acts as a barrier to residential addiction treatment.

The “Road to Recovery” Act will help increase access to treatment for opioid addiction by removing a more than 50-year-old provision in the Medicaid program that currently acts as a barrier to residential addiction treatment.

The bill addresses the “Institutions for Mental Diseases” (IMD) exclusion which was created in the original 1965 Medicaid legislation to prevent the funding of large, residential mental health facilities. While the exclusion led to the closure of what were in many cases, inhumane institutions, it now has the unintended effect of limiting Medicaid funding for residential treatment facilities, which can be one of the most effective ways to treat drug addiction.

The “Road to Recovery” Act will remove the exclusion for addiction treatment facilities only. This will help open new avenues for addiction treatment while maintaining appropriate restrictions on mental health facilities.

The change in the law is supported by health care providers, insurers, treatment centers, governors of both political parties and the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

To view a copy of today’s letter, please click here. click here.

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Utah AGO Wins National Recognition for Attorneys, Supreme Court Briefs

Laura Dupaix Honored as Staff of the Year; Strieff Brief Receives “Best Brief Award”

SALT LAKE CITY June 24, 2016 – The Utah Attorney General’s Office has been recognized for its appellate advocacy by the National Association of Attorneys General.  The awards were announced and disseminated on Thursday, June 23 during the NAAG Summer Meeting in Burlington, Vt. Recently retired Attorney General Laura Dupaix was honored with one of two Attorney General Career Staff of the Year Awards for extensive work on several multi-state cases. Additionally, Solicitor General Tyler R. Green, Deputy Solicitor General Laura B. Dupaix, Criminal Appeals Director Thomas B. Brunker, and Search & Seizure Section Director Jeffrey S. Gray were recognized for excellence in brief writing for the U.S. Supreme Court with the 2016 NAAG Supreme Court Best Brief Award. The award recognized the brief submitted for Utah v. Strieff.

“Congratulations to Solicitor General Tyler Green, our former Deputy Solicitor General Laura Dupaix, Criminal Appeals Director Thomas Brunker, and Search & Seizure Section Director Jeffrey Gray and their staff who contributed to writing this brief,” said Attorney General Reyes. “To be recognized by NAAG for their Supreme Court brief is quite an accomplishment. This only reinforces my belief that the Utah Attorney General’s Office has some of the top appellate advocates in the world. Supreme Court advocacy is a rare opportunity in the practice of law, and I congratulate our appellate section for not only rising to the occasion but for also distinguishing our office in the process.

“Additionally, we wish to extend our congratulations to Laura for the honor of Career Staff of the Year and the recognition it represents from her peers at the National Association of Attorneys General,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Laura is a rare talent. She is a brilliant writer, meticulous editor, an articulate advocate and a beloved leader who has served the citizens of Utah with distinction and honor.”

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Deputy Solicitor General Laura Dupaix Awarded Prestigious NAAG AG Career Staff of the Year for 2016

Laura Dupaix

               Laura Dupaix

SALT LAKE CITY May 13, 2016 – The Office of the Utah Attorney General (OAG) announced today that retiring Deputy Solicitor General Laura Dupaix had been awarded the prestigious National Association of Attorneys General Career Staff of the Year award for 2016. Dupaix is retiring from the OAG after twenty-five years of service.

“We wish to extend our gratitude to Director Laura Dupaix for her decades of service in the Utah Attorney General’s Office,  as well as our congratulations for this award and the recognition it represents from her peers at the National Association of Attorneys General,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Laura is a rare talent. She is a brilliant writer, meticulous editor, an articulate advocate and a beloved leader who has served the citizens of Utah with distinction and honor. We will miss her and wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”

Laura Dupaix began working in the OAG in 1991, working first in the Child Protection Division. Laura transferred to the Criminal Appeals Division in July 1996, and was promoted to Appellate Section Director only one year later. Laura served as Section Director for twelve years, and in December 2009 was promoted to Division Director with the unanimous support of the Appeals Division attorneys. She stepped down from that post in October 2015 to allow for a transition period for her replacement  before she retires in May 2016. She currently serves as Deputy Solicitor General. Laura has handled over 200 appeals in the Utah Supreme Court and Utah Court of Appeals.

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