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Paul Petersen Starts Federal Prison Sentence

EL PASO, TX – Paul Petersen, the former Maricopa.AZ County Assessor convicted of adoption fraud started his prison sentence this week, checking in to a federal penitentiary in El Paso.  After serving 74 months there, he will face up to 16.5 years in prison in Arizona and 15 years in Utah.

Utah Attorney General’s office investigators and prosecutors played a key role in securing a conviction for Petersen, who confessed to human trafficking in Utah. Petersen also confessed to fraud and adoption fraud in Arkansas and Arizona for running an illegal international adoption scheme that a judge described as a “baby-selling enterprise”.

News coverage:

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/01/20/paul-petersen-head-prison/

https://www.azfamily.com/news/continuing_coverage/adoption_fraud_investigation/former-county-assessor-paul-petersen-reports-to-prison-thursday-for-illegal-adoptions/article_65de3240-9462-5b14-445-b71930802b6c.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/12/01/paul-petersen-sentenced-6-plus-years-adoption-scheme/3786156001/


AG Reyes Joins Delegation on Bears Ears/Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument Order

January 20, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, Utah Attorney General joined the state’s Congressional delegation and state leaders in opposing President Biden’s Executive Order on returning monument status to millions of acres of land in the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante areas.

In a joint statement, the delegation wrote:

“For over 25 years Utah has been the center of controversial and divisive unilateral national monument decisions. Roughly two-thirds of our backyard belongs to the federal government, which has meant land management actions have often been done to us rather than with us. A review in name only with predetermined results, which ultimately leads to a unilateral executive order enlarging the monuments’ boundaries, will not solve the root of the problem and will only deepen divisions in this country. We share a sincere desire to find a collaborative, broadly supported solution to the political football of national monuments in Utah, specifically Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. It is imperative that President Biden bring the State of Utah to the table and work with state and local elected leaders toward a consensus product, including a permanent solution approved by Congress. President Biden championed a message of unity during his campaign, and we stand ready to work across party lines towards a permanent solution.”

In addition to AG Reyes, those co-authoring the statement are: Senator Mitt Romney, Senator Mike Lee, Congressmen John Curtis, Chris Stewart, Burgess Owens, Blake Moore, State Senate President Stuart Adams and Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson.

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2021 Utah Legislature In Session

January 19, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney Generals Office welcomes the 2021 Utah Legislature to the State Capitol, and looks forward to working with lawmakers and the Governor during this important time.

There is a lot of hard work to be done, much of it in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, related policy and budgetary decisions, as well as changes within our community. Our office is committed to working with everyone to make this a productive time.

Although many meetings will be held at the Capitol, many people will be participating virtually. This has never been the case in the past to this extent. The Attorney Generals office will be employing only essential personal in the office during the pandemic, and staff interns will rotate in in order to maintain proper social distancing and health protocols.

Thank you to all the staff who work so hard during the Legislature’s 45 day session!

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AG Reyes joins 50 State AG’s in Condemning Attack on the U.S. Capitol

January 13, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today joined a bipartisan coalition of 50 states, territories, and the District of Columbia, in sending a letter to Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen condemning the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and stating such actions cannot be allowed to go unchecked.

The letter reads:

“We, the undersigned state attorneys general, are committed to the protection of public safety, the rule of law, and the U.S. Constitution. We are appalled that on January 6, 2021, rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol, defaced the building, and engaged in a range of criminal conduct—including unlawful entry, theft, destruction of U.S. government property, and assault. Worst of all, the riot resulted in the deaths of individuals, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer, and others were physically injured. Beyond these harms, the rioters’ actions temporarily paused government business of the most sacred sort in our system—certifying the result of a presidential election.

We all just witnessed a very dark day in America. The events of January 6 represent a direct, physical challenge to the rule of law and our democratic republic itself. Together, we will continue to do our part to repair the damage done to institutions and build a more perfect union. As Americans, and those charged with enforcing the law, we must come together to condemn lawless violence, making clear that such actions will not be allowed to go unchecked.

Thank you for your consideration of and work on this crucial priority.”

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson led the letter.

Read /see the letter here.


AG Reyes Welcomes New Capitol Preservation Board Director

SALT LAKE CITY– Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes sent a welcome letter to the new Director of Utah’s Capitol Preservation Board, Dana M. Jones. Jones takes over after the passing of longtime and dedicated director Allyson Gamble. Jones will oversee the daily operations of the Capitol Building, and over see its long-term well-being as well.

Below is a copy of the letter to Dana Jones:

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Letter to Dana Jones, Director CPB.

Attorney General Sean Reyes, Bipartisan AGs Push FDA to Examine Progress in Opioid Fight

Attorney General Sean Reyes, Bipartisan AGs Push FDA to Examine Progress in Opioid Fight

SALT LAKE CITY— Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a broad coalition of 48 attorneys general in pushing federal regulators to examine recent progress in their fight against opioid abuse.

The bipartisan coalition, led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, specifically seeks a progress report regarding recent steps taken by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to combat the opioid crisis, given the new authorities Congress granted the agency in 2018.

In their letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, the attorneys general contend the requested information will help reduce prescription opioid abuse and accidental deaths.

“We have witnessed first-hand the devastation that the opioid epidemic has wrought on Utah in terms of lives lost and costs imposed on our healthcare system and the broader economy,” Reyes said. “While Utah is one of only a very few states to see a decrease in opioid related deaths this past year, there are still far too many dying and COVID has made things worse.” 

Attorney General Reyes joined in writing. “I and my AG colleagues nationwide are committed to using all tools at our disposal to combat this epidemic and prevent future lives lost, while treating and healing addicts and empowering patients suffering from chronic pain. We are also united in holding accountable those responsible for this plague.”

The coalition’s letter seeks clarification of how the FDA is using and plans to use powers granted under the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act). Those provisions include safer opioid packaging and disposal features, research and issuance of new regulations on non-addictive alternatives to opioids and guidelines for opioid prescribing.

The attorneys general believe the FDA plays a critical role in ensuring both the safety and efficacy of opioids and encouraging non-addictive, non-opioid alternatives for treating pain.

Read a copy of the coalition’s letter here.

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CDC Reports Drug Abuse Deaths DOWN in Utah; but Up in U.S.

SALT LAKE CITY – A report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released last month shows that Utah’s number of drug overdose deaths declined in the 12-month period ending in May 2020.  The report shows that the number of deaths nationally 81,230 increased during the same period, the greatest number ever reported.  

Utah is 1 of only 4 states to show a decrease.  While the U.S. is up 16.9%, Utah is down nearly 0.9%.   For perspective, Utah’s overdose death rate was fourth highest in the nation in 2014.

While overdose deaths were already increasing in the months preceding the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the latest numbers suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.

Utah’s decline is encouraging, and more data will confirm whether this trend will be on-going.  However, the state has a team of partners who are all actively working to combat this growing problem.

“There has been a concerted effort to emphasize treatment as much as possible in this state,” said Dr. Jennifer Plumb, pediatrician, and cofounder of Utah Nalaxone.  “Our state also working hard on a campaign to educate people about and distribute the overdose treatment Naloxone. This has been crucial in saving lives.”

“There are dedicated, amazing and effective people focused on addiction to opioids and other deadly drugs,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes.  “We may never totally win this battle, but there are a lot of people who are definitely making a difference and I’m extremely pleased that it is reflected in the CDC data.”

Among the partners working with the Attorney General’s office: The Utah Health Department, Utah Naloxone and the law enforcement/EMS first responders, The University of Utah Bridge Program, Intermountain Healthcare, Mary Jo McMillan of USARA, and the members of the recovery community.

 There is more information and links in the CDC’s release.

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p1218-overdose-deaths-covid-19.html

Statement on Events in Washington D.C.

January 6, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY: Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes released this statement on the events in Washington D.C. today.

“I condemn, in the strongest terms, the acts of violence at our nation’s Capitol Building today. I pray for the safety of law enforcement working to keep order, for legislators of all parties as well as other civilians who are protesting peacefully. There is no place for violence in our political discourse, even over the most serious issues and disagreements. We are a nation of laws. This is not how Conservatives and Republicans behave. This is absolutely unacceptable. We are a party of law and order. We uphold the rule of law. “

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Sean D. Reyes Sworn in as Utah Attorney General

IVINS, UT — Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes took the oath of office for another term in office. He was joined by his wife Saysha. Utah Supreme Court Justice Paige Petersen administered the oath of office.

The Attorney General is honored to continue serving another term as Utah’s chief law enforcement officer.

All of us extend hearty congratulations to the other Constitutional Officers sworn in today: Governor Spencer Cox, Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson, Treasurer David Damschen, and Auditor John Dougall.

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Cases Surge for Utah Attorney General’s Office Investigations in 2020

SALT LAKE CITY – Our community is growing and changing, and unfortunately, the changes have led to an increase level of criminal activity.  That means law enforcement in the Utah Attorney General’s office–as well as law enforcement agencies across the state—are busier than ever. 

Here are some examples from November and December alone: Utah is confronting a growing number of “porch pirates’; people fencing stolen property on the internet; and neighborhoods plagued by nuisance businesses like illegal prostitution massage parlors.  The on-going issues of people trading online child pornography is also increasing.  Overall, the Attorney General’s office detectives and prosecutors have both been busy with a wide variety of crimes in our community this year and is actively working despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the second half of this year, there have been an increase in cases for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), in Statewide Enforcement of Crimes by Undocumented Residents (SECURE), and Crimes Against the Statewide Economy (CASE)

Compared to 2019 for example, the overall number of cases has gone up drastically (in ICAC for example, by 50%) and involve a wide variety of offenses. The following are examples of the kinds of cases within the last two months:

ICAC

  • The last two months of 2020 have been very busy for the ICAC Task Force.  We received over 350 referrals from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the month of November and will receive more than 200 NCMEC referrals for December.  In November Utah ICAC served 44 search warrants, conducted digital forensics on 80 cell phones and made 15 arrests.  
  • These cases have resulted in registered sex offenders being identified as the suspect and arrested for reoffending.  Other suspects have been identified as having live victims, some of which were abused in multiple states.  A significant percentage of the cases investigated involve infants and toddlers being sexually abused.
  • On a positive note, we have seen an increased response of parents proactively monitoring their children’s online activity and not only catching the dangerous behaviors prior to abuse occurring but reporting it to law enforcement.

Human Trafficking/Prostitution

  • The SECURE Strike Force executed three warrants on Monday 1214/20. One at a Massage parlor in Salt Lake, one on a Massage parlor in West Valley and one on a residence. The parlors were owned and managed by the same person. The residence that the warrant was served on was the residence of the owner of the Massage parlors. One possible victim of human trafficking was identified and connected to services through the AG victim advocate. The trafficking involved both potential sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Cash was found hidden in multiple locations. In all approximately $54,000.00 in cash was seized. Evidence of these businesses being used as part of a sex trade was found at both locations. The case was a joint investigation between West Valley PD and the SECURE Strike Force. Multiple agencies participated as part of the strike force. The case is being finalized and will be presented for screening with the Secure prosecutors in the near future. 

Selling Stolen Property

  • CASE had performed several controlled “sells” of “stolen” property.  Surveillance and research were conducted by agents showing the suspect was selling large amounts of product on various digital marketplaces such as Ebay and KSL.com.  He made over $150,000 dollars last year selling products.  A warrant was obtained and served on December 17th. Home Depot came along to provide expertise on stolen product information. Large quantities of products, believed to be stolen, such as power tools, sporting equipment, and electronic equipment were located and seized.  Heroin and paraphernalia were also located.  After serving the initial search warrant, based on information observed, additional search warrants were obtained for the firearms, a content search on a phone, and on bank records.  The suspect was booked on seven felony counts and three misdemeanors.

Package Theft (“Porch Pirates”)

  • The CASE Unit (joint task force between the UAGO, DPS, WVPD and WJPD) worked with Amazon on a “Porch Pirate” sting operation on December 15th and 16th.  In one case, a package was stolen within the first two hours of the operation.  Officers attempted to stop the suspects (a male driver and a female passenger) with lights and sirens but they fled.  They abandoned their vehicle and fled on foot in West Jordan.  By the time officers got to the area, the suspects could not be located.   The vehicle turned out to be stolen and had fled from SLCPD earlier in the day.  There was evidence in the vehicle that showed the suspects had been stealing packages for a significant amount of time.  DNA evidence was retrieved along with surveillance footage from neighbors and victims.  It is only a matter of time before the suspects will be identified and arrested.

These examples are only a snapshot of the total amount of activity law enforcement has been investigating this year.  Our thanks to the hardworking members of law enforcement who work hard to respond to these crimes.

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