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Sean D. Reyes
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Lawsuit Against EPA Contractors Responsible for Gold King Spill to Proceed

March 21, 2019


Lawsuit Against EPA Contractors Responsible for Gold King Spill to Proceed
Federal judge rebuffs effort by EPA’s contractors to escape liability

SALT LAKE CITY – A federal judge rejected efforts by EPA’s contractors to avoid responsibility for their role in causing the Gold King Mine Blowout, a massive spill of three-million gallons of toxic mining waste in August 2015 that contaminated rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The companies—Environmental Restoration LLC and Weston Solutions—were EPA’s contractors at the Gold King Mine, who participated in planning and performing the work that triggered the Blowout. Chief Judge William P. Johnson of the U.S. District Court for New Mexico denied the companies’ motions to dismiss lawsuits filed by the states and private parties, rejecting the companies’ arguments that they should not have to pay for the cleanup and environmental damages. The Court granted an uncontested portion of the motion related to claims by New Mexico and Navajo Nation for joint and several liability.
The lawsuits allege that EPA and its contractors caused the Blowout and its release of hazardous waste into the Animas and San Juan Rivers and in Lake Powell, resulting in one of the largest inland pollution events in the nation’s history. The Court rejected the contractor’s arguments to evade responsibility, followed its similar decision on February 29 to deny the EPA’s motion to dismiss.
“The Court’s decision is an important step towards restoring our environment and protecting the communities impacted by the Gold King Mine disaster,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert. “It’s time for the EPA and its contractors to accept responsibility and do what is right. Instead of wasting time and money on litigation, let’s turn attention and resources to cleaning up the contamination from the blowout.”
“EPA and its contractors must obey the rule of law that the ‘polluter pays’. This lawsuit is about holding them accountable,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “The impact of their hazardous release may last for generations and cannot simply be abandoned in Utah. If they want to resolve this, they should immediately begin environmental remediation, instead of arguing in court to escape their responsibilities.”



1. Chief Judge William P. Johnson of the U.S. District Court for New Mexico Memorandum Opinion and Order: 

2. Two weeks ago, the Court made a similar ruling when Chief Judge William P. Johnson denied EPA’s request to escape liability for the Gold King Mine Blowout. Read the press release here:

Track the media coverage below:

Law 360: EPA Contractors Can’t Dodge Suit Over Gold King Mine Spill

Bloomberg News: EPA Contractors Face Cleanup Claims Over Gold King Mine Spill

Navajo Times: EPA’s motion to dismiss Gold King lawsuit denied

An Update from the Utah Opioid Task Force

March 20, 2019

Yesterday, the Utah Opioid Task Force held a meeting to discuss the opioid crisis in Utah and share resources to aid in the battle against addiction and overdose.

The Effect of Opioids on Consumers & Children

Mark Jansen from the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business presented to the Utah Opioid Task Force on the indirect effects opioid abuse has on consumer behavior and finances. Some of the principal unseen effects of the opioid crisis are higher default rates and a raised cost of credit for consumers.

Children are also highly impacted by opioids, addictions, and overdoses. Carrie Jensen from the CJC program and Allison Smith on behalf of Utah Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, presented on the high-risk children are at when their parents are suffering from an addiction to opioids. Every 15 minutes in the U.S., a child is born addicted to opioids. Additionally, not only do children do what they see, but drug-endangered children will struggle throughout their lives with emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems.

Naloxone Saves Lives

According to the latest statistics from the DEA, there were 4,714 opioid overdoses in 2018. Dr. Jennifer Plumb with Utah Naloxone stated that more people are surviving these overdoses due to Naloxone, prepared emergency rooms, and Utah Department of Health campaigns. Last month, the Task Force joined with the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office to launch an experimental program to supply Naloxone rescue kits to inmates upon release, and their close support network in an effort to increase needed supplies to those most at risk of an overdose.

New Programs

Midvale City Police Chief Randy Thomas and Utah CJC Director Tracey Tabet discussed a pilot program for screening processes that identifies children susceptible to addiction and helps them find help early on.

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes discussed emerging technology that might be used to fight the opioid crisis.

The Utah Opioid Task Force is dedicated to combatting the opioid epidemic in Utah and works in collaboration with groups nationally and across the state to address the effects of opioid addiction. You can help combat the opioid crisis by steering clear of opioids, getting rid of unused meds, reaching out if you or someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, learning to recognize an overdose, and learning how to use a Naloxone kit. Learn more here.

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.

Man Sentenced to Consecutive Terms of Life in Prison for Sex Trafficking a Child

March 13, 2019



SALT LAKE CITY – Today, 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. Moore was convicted of Human Trafficking, Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution Involving a Child, and Exploitation of Prostitution, after a three-day jury trial in January 2019.

The key witness in the case was the child victim. She testified that she was befriended by Moore’s adult daughter, who then introduced her to Moore himself. Moore proposed that the two girls could make money through commercial sex work. He helped them set up advertising online, transported them along the Wasatch Front for commercial sex appointments, and collected up to half of the profit made from the commercial sex scheme. The child victim testified that Moore also propositioned her for sex in exchange for money on several occasions, although she refused.

Moore’s conduct amounted to human trafficking because he recruited, solicited, and transported a child for commercial sex. Under state and federal law, the commercial sexual exploitation of children is human trafficking, regardless of whether force was used. Prosecutors argued to the jury that, as an adult, Moore had a responsibility to protect children. Instead, he treated this child victim and his own adult daughter like commodities to be bought and sold.

The jury convicted Moore after a few hours of deliberation. At his sentencing, Judge Valencia with the Second District Court sentenced him to two terms of five years up to life in prison, and another term of zero to five years in prison, all to run consecutively. This is the maximum possible sentence for these charges. Judge Valencia emphasized that the victim impact statement written by the child victim for sentencing was among the most powerful she had ever read.

“To many, it’s shocking that human trafficking can occur here in Utah. But like everywhere in America, it’s a tragic reality in our communities,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “We continue to prioritize these cases and aggressively pursue traffickers who victimize men, women and children of all backgrounds. Survivors of trafficking may suffer their entire lives from the pain and torment they have endured in cases like these.”

“Human trafficking cases are enormously complicated. A victory like this is always the product of a dedicated team attacking the case from several angles,” said Assistant Attorney General Daniel Strong. Attorney General Reyes thanked the following partners, individuals, etc. for their effective work in this case:

  • The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s SECURE Strike Force, which is tasked with investigating human trafficking throughout the state. In particular, Agents Reed Mackley and Scott Eggerman, who served as lead investigators and uncovered important evidence to corroborate the victim’s testimony;
  • The Ogden City Police Department, who initially referred the case and assisted with preparation for trial;
  • Victim service providers with the Refugee and Immigrant Center, Asian Association of Utah (RIC-AAU). They provided comprehensive services to the child victim in this case, untethered to her cooperation in the prosecution.
  • The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s own victim services coordinator, Ruthie Pedregon, who ensured that the victims’ rights were represented at every stage of the proceeding;
  • Assistant Attorneys General Daniel Strong and Tye Christensen, who filed the case, argued important evidentiary motions, presented the trial, and argued at sentencing. Paralegal Michelle Rasmussen kept the case file for the prosecution and assisted in putting together the trial.

Unfortunately, the interfamilial dynamic of this trafficking case is very common. The Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC) estimates that almost half of all child trafficking cases begin with some family member involvement. If you encounter or suspect any form of human trafficking, you can report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 888-373-7888.



  1. More information on the SECURE Strike Force:
  2. More information on the UTIP Task Force:

Utah Attorney General’s Office Joins Law Enforcement for Missing in Utah Event

March 13, 2019

On Saturday, investigators from the Utah Attorney General’s Office joined detectives from several law enforcement agencies and personnel from the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office to discuss missing person investigations in Utah and assist in collecting information as part of the ‘Missing in Utah’ event hosted by the Salt Lake City Police Department.

The event was a first of its kind for Utah and was based on similar events in Michigan and Arizona. Missing in Utah extended an open invitation to the public to attend as an opportunity to open a new missing person case or add to an existing one.

Utah AG investigators were available to talk to people about their new or existing case, help search databases, and collect information that could assist people in finding their missing loved ones. In addition, the investigators directed people to NamUs, a national organization that helps resolve missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases throughout the United States. NamUs was able to collect DNA samples, dental, and/or medical records from family members which were entered into their nationwide database.

A Detective Sergeant from the South Jordan Police Department attended the event looking for his missing uncle. Due to his employment, he was unable to search the missing persons databases himself. Missing in Utah allowed the Detective Sergeant to enter his uncle’s information into the database and he was ultimately found alive in Arizona. Personnel were then able to reach out to the uncle and notify him that his family had been searching for him.

The Salt Lake City Police Department was joined by law enforcement from the West Valley City Police Department, West Jordan Police Department, and the Sandy City Police Department. Officers were available to take reports, gather information, and take identifiers from families of missing persons.

Missing in Utah will be held annually. We hope new information can help us locate loved ones we’ve lost.

Utahns who were unable to attend the event can call the Salt Lake City Police Department at 801-799-3000, or visit the NamUs website, at

Media coverage:

ABC 4: The Salt Lake Police Department hosted ‘Missing in Utah’ event

Fox 13: Six days after husband’s disappearance, Utah woman hopes to find answers at ‘Missing in Utah’ event

KSL: Utah police gather information from the public to help solve missing persons cases

Salt Lake Tribune: Event offers families of missing Utahns another chance at hope, discovery

Deseret News: Utah police gather information form the public to help solve missing persons cases

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

March 11, 2019



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.



  1. NAAG press release:
  2. Department of Justice press release:

Honoring the Life and Work of Harriet Tubman

March 10, 2019

Today the Utah Attorney General’s Office honors the life and work of anti-slavery activist, Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery herself, Tubman later became an armed scout and spy for the United States Army during the American Civil War before leading multiple missions on the Underground Railroad to rescue enslaved families and friends. As an abolitionist and humanitarian, Harriet Tubman is the personification of courage and determination to many of us who fight to eradicate current forms of modern-day slavery.

We invite you to rediscover Harriet Tubman’s dedicated pursuit of American ideals which continue to serve and inspire all who cherish freedom. We highly recommend the exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Philips Gallery.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

March 8, 2019

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined Sheroes United to promote the triumph of the human spirit over the tragedies of human trafficking, domestic violence, and abuse.

Attorney General Reyes paid tribute to the influential women in his life and emphasized the importance of education and engagement. He honored the survivors who have become trailblazers in the fight for safety, dignity, and justice. Their voices continue to fuel and inspire the Utah Attorney General’s Office and partners such as Sheroes United in their ongoing work on behalf of the people of the State of Utah.

Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day by honoring the women in your life and their fundamental role in shaping our communities, governments, and businesses.

Find out more about Sheroes United here:

Justice Delayed in Von Lester Taylor Case

March 8, 2019

Last week, a federal judge issued a ruling that severely delays the execution of admitted double-murderer Von Lester Taylor, who pled guilty. While we respect the United States District Court and this judge in particular, the decision causes us great concern. The State of Utah must now prepare for a new phase of prolonged litigation as the victims and their families wait even longer for justice.

First, a little history.

In 1990, Von Lester Taylor and Edward Deli committed a Christmastime home-invasion and robbery. You can Google this.  Both men were armed. During the incident, Kaye Tiede and her elderly mother, Beth Potts, died of multiple gunshot wounds. Later, Taylor admitted firing the first shot, and Mrs. Tiede’s daughter witnessed Taylor shoot her mother.  Both daughters (aged 17 and 20 at the time) saw Taylor shoot their father, Rolf Tiede. Rolf was then set on fire.  Rolf survived but has since passed away. After the shootings, Taylor and Deli kidnapped the daughters, but were captured by police before making it out of the county.      

Last Week’s Ruling

After several years of argument and evidence about whether Taylor fired any of the shots that inflicted the victims’ fatal wounds, a federal judge found that he did not, rejecting the state’s arguments (and Taylor’s own admissions) that he is guilty of capital murder. It’s clear that he fired shots and participated, at the very least, as an accomplice. However, the court declared Taylor “actually innocent.”

It is the view of the State of Utah that Taylor is not innocent at all.

This federal review of Taylor’s 1991 guilty plea and death sentence has spanned twelve years so far. We’re concerned that the court’s ruling now permits Taylor to raise dozens of new complaints and further delay justice for the victims and their families.

“This ruling does not send Mr. Taylor home or even give him a new trial,” said Utah Assistant Solicitor General Andrew Peterson. “However, it means that Taylor can now exploit a technicality to delay justice.  He will do this by bringing claims in federal court that he should have raised in the state courts decades ago.”

Peterson estimates that technicality will delay Taylor’s execution by as much as another decade.

“This decision disregards Utah accomplice liability law, Taylor’s multiple confessions and, most distressingly, the feelings of the victims’ family who have pleaded for speedy justice,” Peterson said.

Next Steps

The State of Utah is now preparing for prolonged litigation, at the same time exploring all available options in response to the federal court’s ruling.

Utah AG Offers 5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Fraud

March 7, 2019



SALT LAKE CITY – In observance of National Consumer Protection Week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes reminded Utah citizens to defend themselves from fraud by observing the following five tips:

     1. Guard Your Personal Information
Scammers often pretend to be someone reputable such as a business, government entity, or a charity. They may claim they need to verify your personal information, or you owe them money. Whether it’s over the phone, email, social media, or in person, don’t give out your personal information. This includes banking and financial information, your birthdate, and social security number.
     2. Don’t Believe Everything You See
Technology makes it easy for scammers to alter what is displayed on your caller ID, so the information isn’t always correct. If someone contacts you asking for money or your personal information, you can always hang up and call the business or entity back at a number that you can confirm.
     3. Consider Payment Methods
Credit cards are the safest way to pay online because you can dispute the charges and they often have built-in fraud protection. However, not all money transfers have the same protections. Wiring money, for instance, is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. This is also true for gift cards. Most government offices and honest companies won’t ask you to use these payment methods. Should you be asked to provide financial or other sensitive information online, make sure that the address in the URL changes to “https” or “shttp” instead of just “http”.
     4. Do Your Homework
With any online or phone transaction that you conduct, always look up the business or entity online to make sure they are reputable. This goes for anyone asking for money or personal information. You can also check with the Utah Consumer Protection Division and the Utah Better Business Bureau to see if the person/organization is credible.
     5. Be Careful Where You Click
Never click on any links from unsolicited emails or text messages. These links can download malware onto your computer and potentially steal your identity. Even if it looks familiar, it can be fake. The best approach to receiving these emails or text messages is to simply delete them.

“Utah is a very trusting state which is good in many ways unless you trust the wrong person,” said Attorney General Reyes. “President Ronald Reagan often said, “Trust but verify.” One of the most effective ways to immunize yourself from fraud is to verify information before doing business with anyone, even those you know well.”
“The bad news is these cases are so prevalent. The good news is we are perhaps more effective today than ever at fighting scams in Utah. The famous fraudster turned federal agent, Frank Abagnale, has said publicly he has never worked with a better team than the Utah AG Office at fighting fraud, cyber-crimes and identify theft.”

How the Utah Attorney General’s Office Combats Fraud

The Utah Attorney General’s Office and partner agencies are committed to combating fraud and protecting citizens’ rights.

In an age where technology is abundant and quickly evolving, scammers and hackers prey upon unsuspecting people – this costs them time, money, and stress. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is devoted to educating people on how they can protect themselves in an effort to prevent anyone from falling victim to fraudulent situations, and to providing resources and time to directly battling the growing threat of fraud.

In 2016, the Utah Attorney General’s Office launched the White Collar Crime Offender Registry (WCCOR), the nation’s first website that provides consumers with a central database of white-collar offenders. It allows investors to look up white-collar offenders and protect themselves from financial fraud. Since its launch, the WCCOR has been accessed in 119 countries and hosts over 200 offenders convicted in Utah. In the current 2019 Utah Legislative Session, the AG’s Office is working with Senator Curt Bramble on SB234 White Collar Crime Registry which enacts penalties for failure to register. 

This last year, the Utah Attorney General’s Office worked alongside the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and 49 other attorneys general to reach a settlement with Wells Fargo after they opened 3.5 million fraudulent bank accounts in consumers’ names without their knowledge or consent. Utah received $10 million in the settlement, which went into the Division of Consumer Protection’s Education Fund.

Attorney General Reyes is fighting big corporate data breaches that can lead to citizen identity theft. He is working with Senator Lyle W. Hillyard and Representative V. Lowry Snow on SB193, which strengthens Utah’s data breach laws. The Utah Attorney General’s Office works closely with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and other states’ attorneys general to enforce data breach laws and to sanction large corporations that fail to properly secure their customers’ personal information. For example, last year Utah received nearly a million dollars from a settlement with Uber over delayed reporting of a data hack that stole Uber drivers’ license numbers.

Attorney General Reyes announced last year that he joined a bipartisan group of 40 state attorneys general to stop or reduce annoying and harmful robocalls. The coalition is reviewing the technology major telecom companies. The Utah Department of Commerce consistently receives reports from Utah consumers of illegal robocalls. These robocalls often fake caller ID information on phones and pitches student loan debt consolidation, vacation packages, timeshare resales, among other areas. Illegal robocalls and spoofing have cost Americans billions of dollars in fraudulent claims. Attorney General Reyes and the coalition are working to minimize these unwanted robocalls and illegal telemarketing.

The AG’s Office is also home to the Mortgage and Financial Fraud Unit and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit that investigate and prosecute fraud committed within the State of Utah. Both divisions pursue justice on behalf of the state and victims of fraud and vigorously applies resources toward investigation, prosecution, and financial remedies and recovery.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office encourages all Utahns to participate in National Consumer Protection Week by taking advantage of the resources available, reviewing the ways to safeguard information and finances, and teaching the Five Tips to family and friends.

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