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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.

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.

Drug and Prostitution Ring Busted by Utah Attorney General’s SECURE Strike Force and SLC Police

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 22, 2020

DRUG AND PROSTITUTION RING BUSTED BY UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL’S SECURE STRIKE FORCE AND SLC POLICE
Salt Lake City Motel Was Known for Illegal Activity

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Attorney General’s Office, working jointly with the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Narcotics and Organized Crime Units, has charged the owner and manager of the City Inn Motel (935 North 1000 West in Salt Lake City) with multiple felonies in a case involving drug activity, money laundering and prostitution.   
 
Motel owner Rezvan Saisani has been charged with Money Laundering, Exploiting Prostitution, and Pattern of Unlawful Activity. Sameer Syed, who helped manage the City Inn Motel, was also charged in the same case. Charges were filed Tuesday afternoon following an extensive investigation that took place after receiving complaints from neighbors in the area. View the charging documents here
 
Investigators organized various surveillance and undercover operations at the motel over the past month. Investigators found evidence that Saisani and Syed were not only aware of the prostitution and drug trafficking at their business but actively encouraged such activity in order to benefit financially.
 
Investigators learned Saisani and Syed would collect “visitor fees” from those who visited the motel, including for commercial sex or drug purchases. Undercover agents posed as commercial sex purchasers to see how Saisani and Syed would respond. Each time, Saisani and Syed collected visitor fees from the undercover agents, even when agents made it very obvious that they were only visiting the motel for illegal purposes. During one exchange, Saisani directed an undercover agent to the north side of the motel because the “better girls” were located there.
 
“The owners and operators of illicit ‘no-tell motels’ enable crimes like human trafficking and fuel the market for commercial sex,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “These businesses are tough to investigate and prosecute because it takes an enormous effort to link the criminal activity on the ground to the person at the top collecting money. We know there are a lot of these businesses out there and hope this case will serve as a model for law enforcement agencies to stop similar operations throughout the state.”
 
Reports of human trafficking and related crimes can be made to the Utah Trafficking in Persons Tip Line at 801-200-3443.  

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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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Get Involved for Human Trafficking Prevention Month

January 11, 2020

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and today, January 11, is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. As of this moment, there are dozens of people in Utah and thousands across the nation who are suffering the physical and mental anguish of being imprisoned in plain sight.

The human trafficking industry generates approximately $150 billion each year and has an estimated 40.3 million victims world-wide, even in the State of Utah.

Human trafficking is a pervasive and horrific violation of human rights that strips victims of innocence, hope, and dignity. Men, women, and children of any sexual orientation, race, gender, nationality, and from all backgrounds and communities – urban or rural – are trafficked each year.

Traffickers use a number of ways to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sex, including force, fraud, or coercion. They may use violence, manipulation, or false promises of a romantic relationship or a well-paying job. Traffickers use “invisible ropes” that involve complex manipulative tactics to control their victims, despite the popular portrayal in books and movies that traffickers use handcuffs, chains, cages, and locked rooms. A victim’s trauma may be so great that they may not identify as a victim and will not ask for help. Language barriers, fear of traffickers, and fear of law enforcement may prevent a victim from speaking out.

Human trafficking is a fast-growing, transnational epidemic. The Utah Attorney General’s Office through its Utah Trafficking in Persons (UTIP) Task Force and SECURE Strike Force, along with many partner agencies, aggressively fight against trafficking in all its forms. In 2018, the Utah Attorney General’s Office conducted 49 human trafficking investigations, prosecuted 8 cases, and served 44 victims. Utah has made great strides to combat trafficking and was recently ranked among the top in the nation for its dedication to the fight against minor sex trafficking. Despite this, there is still much work to be done.

The AG’s Office invites Utahns this January to get involved. Learn the signs of human trafficking and how to report it here. Register for the free Annual UTIP Human Trafficking Symposium by the AG’s Office at the University of Utah on January 24, to learn about human trafficking from the perspective of attorneys, case managers, law enforcement, and medical providers. Utahns can also report tips regarding human trafficking to the Utah Attorney General’s Office:

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

The AG’s Office would like to thank our partners in the fight against human trafficking:

  • Adult Probation and Parole/Department of Corrections
  • Backyard Broadcast
  • Bountiful Police Department
  • Children’s Justice Center
  • Davis County Sheriff’s Office
  • Division of Child and Family Services
  • The Department of Justice
  • Department of Public Safety/Utah Statewide Information and Analysis Center
  • doTerra
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations-Salt Lake City
  • Fight the New Drug
  • Homeland Security Investigations- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Juvenile Justice Services
  • Malouf Foundation
  • Ogden Police Department
  • Operation Underground Railroad
  • Orem Police Department
  • Park City Police Department
  • Refugee & Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah
  • Restoring Ancestral Winds
  • Safe Harbor
  • Salt Lake City Police Department
  • SHEROES United
  • South Valley Services
  • The Road Home
  • Unified Police Department
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service
  • Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic
  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition
  • Utah Legal Services
  • Utah Office for Victims of Crime
  • Various professionals from the medical community
  • West Jordan Police Department
  • West Valley Police Department
  • West Wendover Police Department
  • YCC Family Crisis Center
  • 3 Strands Global Foundation
  • 4th Street Clinic

Utah Man Convicted to Consecutive Terms of Up to Life in Prison for Sex Trafficking

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2019

AGGRAVATED SEX TRAFFICKING CASE: CONSECUTIVE TERMS OF UP TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR UTAH MAN
 

SALT LAKE CITY – This week, James Savage Brown was sentenced to the maximum sentence on each of eight counts of human trafficking-related charges in the Utah Third District Court. Brown was convicted in August 2019 on each of the charges, which included Aggravated Human Trafficking, Aggravated Kidnapping, Rape, Forcible Sodomy, Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution and Tampering with a witness.
 
“This is a case where the penalty has matched the severity of the atrocious crimes committed by James Savage Brown,” Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said. “Human Trafficking is a brutal violation of human rights and dignity and I pledge every resource in my office to continue to fight it.”
 
Attorney General Reyes continued, “I’m extremely proud of our team—particularly Assistant Utah Attorney General Tye Christensen, former Assistant Utah Attorney General Russell Smith, along with our victim advocate group—for their hard work and dedication in this case and those other cases still under investigation.” 
 
Background
Utah Attorney General SECURE Strike Force agents learned of Brown’s activity last year from one of the victims, S.S., after she was released from the Salt Lake County Detention Center. While there, S.S. encountered another woman, J.M., who had suffered similarly at the hands of Brown. Investigators later learned that J.M. had previously reported her encounter with Brown to the Salt Lake City Police Department. Both victims told stories of manipulation and coercion, including exploiting drug dependency, threatened or actual physical abuse, fear for their lives, and repeated attempts and/or success in forced commercial sex by Brown. Shortly after Brown was arrested, investigators overheard Brown, via telephone, direct an associate to tamper with a victim that Brown believed to be working with law enforcement.
 
Trial
At trial, the jury heard each victim-witness testify about how Brown victimized them and preyed upon their vulnerabilities. The victim-witnesses showed immense strength and authenticity in sharing such traumatic and personal experiences with the jury. During closing statements at trial, the jury was encouraged to consider the credibility of the victim-witnesses. After a few hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Brown on all counts.
 
Sentencing
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Parker with the Third District Court sentenced Brown to four terms of five years up to life in prison, one term of fifteen years up to life in prison, two terms of one year to fifteen years in prison, and a term of zero to five years in prison. The sentence of count one, five years to life in prison, will run consecutive to the remaining counts, the most serious being fifteen years to life in prison. This is the maximum possible sentence for these charges. Judge Parker explained that this sentence balanced the defendant’s interest in an appropriate length of imprisonment for rehabilitation with each victims’ interest in justice for what they experienced.

Acknowledgments
Human trafficking cases are very complex and require the strength and talents of many professionals in order to properly serve victims, as well as investigate and prosecute the criminal conduct. Attorney General Reyes wishes to thank the following organizations and individuals for their dedicated work in this case:

  • The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s SECURE Strike Force, which is tasked with investigating human trafficking throughout the state. The case agent and lead investigator uncovered important evidence to corroborate the victims’ testimony, assisted the victims throughout their recovery and trial preparation, and testified at trial;
  • The Salt Lake City Police Department, whose collaboration was instrumental in identifying victims, ensuring they received necessary medical care, and corroborating victims’ reports.
  • Victim service providers with the Refugee and Immigrant Center, Asian Association of Utah (RIC-AAU). They coordinated and provided comprehensive services to the victims in this case, untethered to the victims’ cooperation in the prosecution;
  • Victim service providers with Journey of Hope who initially referred the case and assisted victims throughout the case and in preparation for trial;
  • The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s victim services coordinator, who worked tirelessly to ensure that the victims’ needs were met, and their rights were represented at every stage of the proceeding;
  • Utah Attorney General’s Office Paralegal Michelle Rasmussen, who kept the case file for the prosecution, assisted in witness trial preparation, and organized and managed the evidence, exhibits, and witnesses for trial; and
  • Assistant Utah Attorney General Tye Christensen and former Assistant Utah Attorney General Russell Smith, who filed the case, argued important evidentiary motions, presented the trial, and argued at sentencing.

 
If you encounter or suspect any form of human trafficking, you can report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 888-373-7888, or text “HELP” to BeFree, 233-733.
 

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Utah Gets an ‘A’ for Fighting Child Sex Trafficking

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 5, 2019
 

UTAH GETS AN ‘A’ FOR FIGHTING CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING
Shared Hope International Scores Enforcement Standards of Protection for Minors
 

SALT LAKE CITY – The State of Utah is now ranked among the top in the nation for its dedication to the fight against minor sex trafficking, according to Shared Hope International. See Utah’s report card here.  

In its yearly rankings, Utah received an ‘A’ for its dedication and strength of the state’s laws related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. In 2011, Utah received an ‘F’. The amount of progress is due to many factors and dedicated partners, including the tireless efforts of Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, the Attorney General SECURE Strike Force, the ICAC Task Force, the UTIP Task Force, legislation passed by the Utah Legislature and the dedication and commitment of the Governor’s office.

“Combatting human trafficking is an absolute priority for our office,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “There are incredible, dedicated people who work hard every day as part of this effort, and that work is far from over. We will continue to do everything we can to fight this heinous activity.” 

Every year, Shared Hope International, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating minor sex trafficking, releases report cards for each state in the nation with a grade based on the strength of their laws related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Grades are based on an annual review of state laws as analyzed under the Protected Innocence Challenge Legislative Framework.

States are graded on the analysis and review of six areas:

  • Criminalization of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking 
  • Criminal Provisions for Demand (those who buy)
  • Criminal Provisions for Traffickers (those who sell)
  • Criminal Provisions for Facilitators (those who help)
  • Protective Provisions for Child Victims 
  • Criminal Justice Tools for Investigation & Prosecution

Shared Hope International is a non-profit organization that works to prevent sex trafficking and to bring justice to women and children who have been victimized through sex trafficking. 
 

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Sex Trafficking a Major Concern in Southern Utah

August 15, 2019

Sex trafficking is a major concern in southern Utah. Due to its proximity to major cities and its moderate climate, the area is ideal for traffickers’ primary targets, such as the homeless and runaways. Traffickers watch malls, parks, and schools to find their victims, then enslave them by getting the victims addicted to drugs.

Law enforcement say that rotations happen every 7 to 8 months. Young women are trafficked from Las Vegas to St. George, Salt Lake City, Washington state, California, and then back.

“They [traffickers] think they can make money in St. George at any given time. They’ll send those young women up here, and they use narcotics to keep a rope around the women to control them,” said Leo Lucy, Chief of Investigations at the Utah Attorney General’s Office, during an interview with ABC 4 News.

Law enforcement is actively investigating human trafficking, and conduct sting operations several times a year.

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

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

In the News: Sex Trafficking Victim Speaks Out

March 18, 2019

Last Wednesday, Joseph Moore was sentenced to two terms of five years up to life in prison for sex trafficking a 16-year-old child and exploiting his own adult daughter for prostitution. You can read the full press release here: Man Sentenced to Consecutive Terms of Life in Prison for Sex Trafficking a Child.

Assistant Attorney General Dan Strong had the opportunity to visit with Brittany Johnson of ABC 4 News Friday to discuss sex trafficking and the responsibility adults have to protect and help children.

“Adults throughout society, we have a responsibility to children. If we find a child in a desperate situation that’s having a hard time, it’s our responsibility to help that child. The worst thing you can do is see a child in that position and think, “here’s a way I can make a buck.” And that’s what the defendant did in this case,” said Strong.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking, report it to Utah law enforcement at 801-200-3443 or to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

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