The Utah Attorney General’s Office (UAGO) addresses several recent media inquiries and questions, including those regarding a civil lawsuit filed this week against Tim Ballard, Operation Underground Railroad, and other defendants (the “Complaint”) as follows:
The Utah Attorney General was not named as a defendant in the Complaint. He was mentioned in paragraphs 46-48 as a supporter of Mr. Ballard whose support was purportedly used to take certain actions as alleged in the Complaint. The AG has no knowledge of how or if his name or title may have been used to add credibility to the misconduct alleged in the Complaint. If the allegations are true, and had he known of such alleged behavior, he would not have allowed use of his name and would have strongly condemned such actions.
As he articulated in a prior personal statement, he only observed conduct that was positive, productive and legal in his interactions with OUR and Mr. Ballard. He does not have any personal knowledge of what happened between Mr. Ballard and the plaintiffs as articulated in the Complaint. The UAGO will not speculate on matters and recommends letting the facts, claims and defenses be addressed through the judicial process and cases filed.
Until the Vice article in September of 2023, the AG had never heard of any alleged sexual conduct as addressed in the Complaint, including what has been described in detail as the “Couple’s Ruse.” To be clear, he was aware that on operations there were sometimes operators posing as couples and that arrangement, itself, was a deception or ruse, but he never had any direct or indirect knowledge of the sexual actions alleged in the Complaint.
The UAGO strongly disputes the characterization in the Complaint that “consumer complaints and criminal investigations were pouring into his (the AG’s) office regarding the improprieties of OUR and Ballard.” None of the senior leadership in the UAGO could recall a single request for investigation, consumer complaint, or any substantive complaint at all until the Vice story broke in September. The UAGO is reviewing documents internally to see if there was ever any complaint made to any part of the office.
In 2020, the Davis County Attorney contacted the UAGO regarding the source of and use of ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) funds in Davis County. The UAGO provided documentation and other information and believed the matter was closed.
In an abundance of caution, AG Reyes and the UAGO agreed to create a screen whereby AG Reyes would make no decisions on behalf of the UAGO pertaining to Davis County, Tim Ballard or OUR should any further matters arise. That screen went into effect in December 2020 and remains in place to this day. Spencer Austin, Chief Criminal Deputy for the UAGO, has had final authority for the office since that time on any decisions pertaining to Davis County’s inquiry into OUR and Mr. Ballard.
At some point, before he dismissed the case in 2023 against Mr. Ballard, the Davis County Attorney indicated to the UAGO that he and/or the FBI had an investigation into other OUR matters not covered in the Complaint. That is the only criminal investigation the UAGO has ever been aware of pertaining to Mr. Ballard.
We have spoken with the Department of Commerce’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP), which has the primary responsibility to regulate non-profits in Utah, and have proactively instituted a normal and proper recusal screen. Recognizing that there are or may be individuals who maintain that they were harmed by OUR and/or Mr. Ballard in some way, those individuals may choose to file a complaint with the DCP through its website: https://db.dcp.utah.gov/complaints.html or by contacting the DCP at (801) 530-6601. The DCP is represented by a group of assistant attorneys general (AAGs) who have been screened off from the AG and key members of his staff who may have some connection with the defendants. Accordingly, the AG will not be involved in the investigation or resolution of those cases, just as he has not been involved in the UAGO’s interaction with the Davis County inquiries, since 2020, to avoid even the appearance of improper influence or favoritism.
Contrary to certain reporting, there was never a criminal investigation into AG Reyes or the UAGO. Further, any insinuation or allegation that the Utah AG or UAGO “killed,” “quashed,” or “shut down” the Davis County Attorney’s investigation is equally without basis in fact. The AG does not direct independently elected county attorneys’ prosecutions. The UAGO would not interfere with a sister agency’s investigation, and the AG himself was screened off from office interaction with Davis County.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office is fully committed to fight crime, protect the public, act with integrity, and see that justice is done. It is important that recent allegations not detract from the urgency to fight the very real crime of human trafficking in our state and in the world.