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Utah AG Supports DEA’s Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office is once again spreading the word about the National Take-Back Initiative, which occurs Saturday, October 23, 2021. This is an opportunity for people to safely dispose of unused, unwanted, or expired medications, and unwanted e-cigarettes or vaping apparatuses.  FIND A TAKE-BACK LOCATION HERE. 

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes continues his passionate work to combat addiction and to educate Utahns about legitimate painkiller use. 

“Prescription drug abuse, particularly for painkillers, has risen to epidemic levels nationwide, and Utah is no exception,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Prescription drugs, when administered and taken responsibly, can be a productive tool for pain management, but far too often, what begins innocently can lead to dependence and devastation.”

Some facts to consider:

  • In addition to over-prescription, unauthorized access to even properly prescribed painkillers is one of the biggest drivers toward addiction. 
  • Many users of street drugs like heroin start by abusing their own painkillers, then move to find other people’s prescription drugs. 
  • Addicts may be soccer moms or executives. They can be our kids, grandkids, kids from the block, good students or bad students included.

“No community is immune,” AG Reyes added. “Addiction touches rural and urban areas, uptown or downtown neighborhoods alike. And whether we realize it or not, our medicine cabinets may be where addicts are looking next or where they may have already been. By teaming up on Take Back Day with partners like the DEA, AARP, businesses, and citizens across our state, we will recover hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of prescription drugs.”

Improper disposal of unused and expired medication leads to damage to our environment. In the fight against opioid addiction, the AGO is grateful for eco-friendly reclamation bags donated at no cost to the state by private companies like doTERRA and Mallinckrodt. These bags are distributed to thousands of Utah Take Back locations around the state and can be filled with any pills, which will dissolve and neutralize. Measurable amounts of antibiotics, antidepressants, and medications have all been found in U.S. lakes and rivers. The eco-friendly, medication disposal system produced and donated for Utah Take Back is highly effective in absorbing and firmly binding pharmaceuticals, rendering chemical compounds safe for landfills and reducing watershed contamination.

Click here for more information on the National Take-Back Initiative and to find a drop-off location.

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AG Issues RFP For Monuments Litigation

SALT LAKE CITY — The Attorney General’s Office issued a Request for proposal on October 22, seeking qualified law firms to submit proposals to represent the State of Utah in litigation concerning the` legal challenge to President Biden’s Bears Ears National Monument Proclamation and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Proclamation.    

Read the RFP here.

At this point, all questions and communications must go through U3P, (see section 1.5 of the RFP)

This RFP application process will close on November 5, 2021.

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SLC IT Worker Arrested for Trading City Info for Sex/Money

SALT LAKE CITY – On September 20, 2021, Utah Attorney General’s office investigations officers arrested Salt Lake City IT worker Patrick Kevin Driscoll for illegally accessing confidential information and selling it to a sex worker (pimp) in exchange for money and sex.

Driscoll is facing charges that include aiding prostitution, exploiting prostitution, theft, obstruction of justice, and computer crimes. 

*Link to the Probable Cause Affidavit here.*.

While investigating a separate human trafficking case, two sex workers told investigators that Driscoll was providing the suspect with “law enforcement sensitive data that was not available to the public.”

The witnesses say Driscoll instilled fear in them and used the nickname “The Guardian”. 

During the investigation, AG investigators discovered electronic storage devices that contained confidential files, including sensitive law enforcement data such as names and phone numbers of undercover officers as well as other restricted documents accessible only through restricted databases or files.

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International Association of Prosecutors Honors AG Prosecutor Dan Strong

SALT LAKE CITY—Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes congratulated Prosecutor Dan Strong for receiving the IAP’s Special Achievement Award, a worldwide honor. Strong did exceptional work on the Human Trafficking case against Paul Peterson. Dan is currently the Director of the Utah Sentencing Commission.  The IAP released this information:

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA — Assistant Attorney General Daniel Strong from the United States is being awarded a Special Achievement Award for his work on the Largest human smuggling case in his state’s history.

Paul Petersen, a wealthy elected official, misused his authority and power to transport over 60 pregnant women from the Marshall Islands, for the purpose of giving their children up to be adopted by American families. This was a for-profit scheme, where the women were kept in poor living conditions and offered no pre-natal care. The women were promised care and money, neither of which were received. The parents adopting the children were not made aware of the circumstances, which lead to the children being with Mr. Petersen for adoption.

Petersen was charged with over 60 felony charges in three US states, following an investigation that included multi­jurisdictional cooperation. He was eventually convicted of human smuggling, harboring immigrants for financial gain, communications fraud, and public assistance fraud, among others. The case served to further the debate in respect of international adoptions and the potential for abuse.

The prosecution was difficult, as it did not fit neatly within child protection laws in Utah, and the mothers were returned to the Marshall Islands after giving birth. Even when they could be found, they typically did not speak English, nor did they wish to relive their experience. Similarly, the parents who had adopted the children were not interested in engaging with authorities, for fear of losing their children. The key to the matter, uncovered through prosecutor Strong’s diligence, was a treaty between the United States and the Marshall Islands prohibiting visa-free travel between the countries. This turned out to be the lynchpin on which a prosecution could be launched against Petersen.

Mr. Strong worked closely with officials in the Marshall Islands and neighboring US states where Petersen operated the same scheme. When Petersen was convicted, the Attorney General of the Marshall Islands released a statement thanking US prosecutors, most notably prosecutor Daniel Strong.

Mr. Strong’s work on this case demonstrated a commitment to international collaboration, but also to upholding human rights and the rule of Law.


AG Reyes: Biden Administration’s IRS Proposal Illegal/Burdensome

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, in a letter to President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Attorney General Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and 19 other state attorneys general, voiced opposition to the administration advocating a policy that would provide the federal government with access to nearly every American’s bank account and financial transaction information.

In the letter, the attorneys general argue that banks across the country will have to transform the way in which they conduct business to comply with the proposed reporting requirements, including investing significant amounts of money in data collection and other systems. The letter argues that consumers will be punished in many ways, as banks would likely pass on costs in the form of fees or higher interest rates, not to mention the centralized storage of sensitive information would provide cybercriminals with an additional target to exploit with information about nearly every American.

The group says that if stopping financial criminals or punishing those who evade taxes is the goal of the administration, they will gladly join to find the right solutions based on the rule of law but violating the rights of virtually every American with a bank account is not the answer.

In addition to Utah, the coalition also includes the attorneys general of the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

A copy of the letter is attached.


Responsible Parenting, Freedom of Speech, and the DOJ: Statement from the AG’s Office

A memorandum issued by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, in response to a letter sent by the National School Board Association requesting help from President Biden, has caused some concern locally. Questions have been raised in regard to citizen responsibility and participation in local self-governance, even when (and maybe especially when) there are vehement disagreements on policy. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is monitoring the situation carefully, and has issued the following statement: 

Threats and violence are never the answer, but the investigation of these kinds of allegations is the role of local law enforcement, not the FBI. Of all of the examples we’ve seen of federal overreach recently, weaponizing the Department of Justice to intimidate everyday Americans is one of the most offensive and could have a dangerous chilling effect on speech. Parents should not be threatened for exercising their free speech rights, nor should teachers and educators feel threatened for doing their jobs.

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes

Utah Senator Mike Lee issued this media release on the subject.   Here’s an excerpt:

Last month, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Biden asking for help from federal law enforcement, referencing the PATRIOT Act, a statute that helps the federal government fight international terrorism. NSBA highlighted situations involving angry parents often frustrated by COVID-19 mask mandates for children and the possibility of incorporating critical race theory into the academic curriculum. Angry parents are not necessarily threatening parents and these discussions are clearly protected under the First Amendment.


Arrest: SLC Man Used Snapchat to Lure Pics from Kids

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes released information on the arrest of a Salt Lake City man, charged with multiple counts for, in part, using Snapchat and other social media as a means to obtain illegal pictures of underage girls.

On October 13th, 2021, Agents with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the SECURE Task Force served multiple search warrants involving a Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation investigation.  The suspect, Jesse Neal Knight was arrested and booked on 9 counts of Human Trafficking of a Child (lF), 10 counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor (2F), 3 counts of Enticement of a Minor by Internet or Text (2F), and 1 count of Dealing in Materials Harmful to a Minor (3F).

Jesse Neal Knight admitted to contacting underaged girls via social media and soliciting them for naked photos and videos. Knight admitted to requesting and receiving naked photos of children as young as 3 years old. Knight admitted to paying in excess of $30,000 over the last three years for these photos and videos. Knight also admitted to paying for naked photos as recently as the day he was contacted by Agents with the Utah Attorney General’s Office (Oct 13th, 2021).

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has reason to believe there are numerous victims involved with this investigation that has not yet been identified. The UAGO asks anyone with information or anyone who has been victimized by Jesse Neal Knight to please call 801-281-1200 and ask for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Read the PC Statement here.


HT Bust Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution

Human Trafficking Bust: Salt Lake and Davis Counties

Last week, after a months-long human trafficking investigation, Utah agents with AG Reyes’ SECURE Strike Force served multiple warrants in Davis and Salt Lake Counties. Michael Joe Ricks was arrested and booked for Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution (2F), Exploiting Prostitution (3F), Aiding Prostitution (AM) and several drug offenses (2Fs). Multiple victims have been identified and our agents are hoping to hear from others who may have been used and victimized by Mr. Ricks. This is an ongoing investigation, and several other charges may be pending. 

Here’s the news coverage so far. 

Fox13: Bountiful man arrested on sex trafficking charges

KSL: Bountiful man faces 15 charges in human trafficking, drug distribution bust

Utah Public Radio: Suspected Utah human trafficker had multiple victims from across the state, police say

Note: All persons accused of a crime should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise according to law. If you have information for the SECURE Strike Force, please call 801-281-1200.  


Utah Defends Indian Child Welfare Act Protections

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes Joins Bipartisan Coalition in Defense of Indian Child Welfare Act Protections Before the U.S. Supreme Court


SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (October 8, 2021) — Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today joined a bipartisan coalition of 26 attorneys general, led by California, in an amicus brief in support of the United States and four federally recognized tribes in their efforts to uphold critical protections guaranteed under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Filed before the U.S. Supreme Court in Haaland v. Brackeen and Cherokee Nation v. Brackeen, the amicus brief highlights the states’ compelling interest in standing up for the well-being of all children, including Native American children, in state child-custody proceedings.

“Today, the State of Utah joins with 25 other states in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act. ICWA is a valid exercise of Congressional power and serves an important role in fostering a good relationship between the State and Indian Tribes. Most importantly, ICWA helps ensure that Indian children maintain connections to their families and their Tribe when placed in foster care or when adopted. The State will continue to work with its tribal partners to promote the interests of Utah’s Indian children.” said Solicitor General Melissa A. Holyoak. 

Congress enacted ICWA in 1978 in response to a serious and pervasive problem: State and private parties were initiating state child-custody proceedings that removed Native American children from the custody of their parents — often without good cause — and placed them in the custody of non-tribal adoptive and foster homes. That practice harmed children and posed an existential threat to the continuity and vitality of tribal communities. To address this, Congress established minimum federal standards governing the removal of Native American children from their families. ICWA’s provisions safeguard the rights of Native American children, parents, and tribes in state child-custody proceedings, and seek to promote the placement of Native American children with members of their extended families or with other tribal homes. In the four decades since Congress enacted ICWA, the statute has become the foundation of state-tribal relations in the realm of child custody and family services. Collectively, the coalition states are home to approximately 86% of federally recognized tribes in the United States.

In the amicus brief, the coalition asserts that: 

  • ICWA is a critical tool for protecting Native American families and tribes, and fostering state-tribal collaboration;
  • The court of appeals incorrectly concluded that several of ICWA’s provisions violate the anti-commandeering doctrine; and
  • ICWA’s preferences for the placement of Native American children with other Native American families and foster homes do not violate equal protection.

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joins the attorneys general of California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.


Biden’s Administration Announces Expansion of Utah Monuments, Utah Expresses Disappointment

SALT LAKE CITY (Oct. 7, 2021) – Gov. Spencer J. Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre M. Henderson, Attorney General Sean Reyes, President J. Stuart Adams and Speaker Brad Wilson express their frustration and disappointment in the Biden Administration’s decision to expand Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments:

“We learned this afternoon from Secretary Haaland that President Biden will soon be announcing the restoration of both Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

“President Biden’s decision to expand the monuments is disappointing, though not surprising. For the past 10 months, we have consistently offered to work with the Biden Administration on a permanent, legislative solution, one that would end the perpetual enlarging and shrinking of these monuments and bring certainty to their management. Our goal has been to make lasting progress on managing our public lands for the benefit of all those who use them, particularly those who live on and near those lands.

“We expected and hoped for closer collaboration between our state and national leaders, especially on matters that directly impact Utah and our citizens. The president’s decision to enlarge the monuments again is a tragic missed opportunity — it fails to provide certainty as well as the funding for law enforcement, research, and other protections which the monuments need and which only Congressional action can offer.

“As Chief Justice Roberts noted earlier this year, the purpose of the Antiquities Act is to protect the “smallest area compatible with the care and management” of significant archeological or historical objects to be protected. We agree and will consider all available legal options to that end.

“We are equally disappointed that the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters will be moving from Colorado to Washington, D.C. – thousands of miles away from over 90 percent of the country’s federally-owned and managed lands. Locating the BLM away from the nation’s capital and near the lands managed brought a valuable new perspective to the BLM and should have served as a model for other federal departments.

“These decisions clearly demonstrate the administration’s unwillingness to collaborate with and listen to those most impacted by their decisions. We remain hopeful that a long-term solution will be reached in the future and that the exhausting policy instability over Utah’s public land can come to an end.”

Read the Joint Statement Here


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