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Attorney General Reyes Speaks at Utah Organized Retail Crime Association Annual Conference, Introduces CASE Task Force

September 30, 2020

Listen to the presentations below:

Focusing on a serious rise in massive retail theft in neighborhood stores across the state, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Special Agent Chris Walden presented the new Attorney General’s Office Crimes Against Statewide Economy (CASE) Task Force at the Utah Organized Retail Crime Association (UORCA) Annual Conference yesterday.

These crimes are on the rise, costing retailers –and consumers — millions of dollars every month.  The massive shoplifting organizations are a new breed of crime: one that requires a unified and single-minded focus in our state.

Organized retail crime involves two or more persons cooperating to illegally obtain retail merchandise in substantial quantities through both theft and fraud as part of an unlawful commercial enterprise. These crimes have severely impacted Utah businesses who have experienced retail theft from their stores. In some cases, these goods were then sold to pawn shops in new, in the box condition.

The Attorney General’s Office believes the key to combatting these crimes is through public/private partnerships, with success dependent on the ability to work together. Therefore, the Attorney General’s has partnered with several companies, federal partners, and local agencies including the Utah Department of Public Safety, to create the CASE Task Force. CASE began in August 2020 and is made up of multiple agencies consisting of local and state investigators.

CASE has already onboarded 20 complex organized retail crime cases, varying from single individuals committing large scale offenses, to traveling groups of people committing large scales theft and fraud, causing a loss of millions of dollars.

Organized retail crime has often been described as a “victimless crime”, however, these crimes impact businesses in Utah and across the nation. Last year, the Attorney General’s Office filed charges against a manager of West Jordan Xtreme Pawn for a continual pattern of buying and selling merchandise with the knowledge that it was likely stolen from various businesses in Utah. Additionally, the owners of Big Dog Pawn & Jewelry entered plea agreements to felony charges after investigations into the pawn shop revealed unlawful activity, including money laundering and receiving stolen property.

Fraudulent schemes are rapidly changing with technology, such as credit skimming, gift cards and fake consumer accounts. In January of this year, the Utah Attorney General’s Office partnered with a local retailer to investigate a consumer fraud scheme where suspects were posing as governments agents, computer servicemen, bail bondsman or IRS Agents, and convinced consumers in Utah to load large sums of money onto gift cards. After the gift cards were loaded, the cards were used to purchase “Closed loop” gift cards like Apple I-tunes gift cards, Nintendo Gift Cards etc. Those “Closed Loop” gift cards were later monetized into cash through various online marketplaces. This fraud scheme created a loss for this retailer of approximately $600,000 over 4 months. These suspects were charged with money laundering, pattern of unlawful activity, and unlawful use of a credit card. The suspects plead guilty to these counts.

The CASE Task Force will monitor secondhand merchants such as pawn shops and online marketplaces; investigate consumer fraud schemes, counterfeit goods, and gambling; train and coordinate efforts with law enforcement; and provide support to law enforcement agencies.

Listen to the presentations below:


Attorney General Reyes Challenges Utahns to Take the Safety Pledge in New Initiative to Keep Children Safe Online

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 29, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES CHALLENGES UTAHNS TO TAKE THE SAFETY PLEDGE IN NEW INITIATIVE TO KEEP CHILDREN SAFE ONLINE

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is challenging Utahns to join him in a new safety campaign called “The Safety Pledge” to raise awareness of the risks that children face online, and in order to empower the children in their lives to respond to those risks safely. He has recorded a video taking the pledge and is challenging all Utahns from across the state, as well as state and local leaders, regardless of political affiliation, to join him in signing the Safety Pledge. Watch his video here.
 
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is launching the Safety Pledge, a new campaign in cooperation with the White House. This initiative aims to provide free resources from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to help parents, educators and other caregivers work together on protecting children online from exploitation and trafficking.
 
Today, Tuesday, September 29, NCMEC formally launched the Safety Pledge website. The website contains practical toolkits about internet safety. It also contains a Safety Pledge, which individuals can digitally sign and make their formal commitment to safeguarding children online. Attorney General Reyes is asking for individuals across the state to sign NCMEC’s Safety Pledge and join in our collective effort to prevent online child exploitation and trafficking.
 
The Attorney General’s Office invites everyone in the community to join this pledge. Strong participation is essential in order to spread the word about the information on this website that is designed to keep kids safe from the risks they face online. Check out the Attorney General’s Office social media for more about the Safety Pledge. 
 
This morning, NCMEC conducted a webinar that provided training for teachers, parents, and caregivers on ways to protect children online. The program included remarks from senior officials from the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. Watch the webinar, sign the pledge, and learn more at SafetyPledge.org.

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Celebrating National Recovery Month

September 25, 2020

Each September, we observe National Recovery Month to bring awareness to substance abuse resources and mental health services and celebrate the strides in recovery for those struggling with addiction. Below are some resources available:

Utah Naloxone

Naloxone (Narcan) reverses an opioid overdose if given in time, causing the effects of the opioid to reverse, which gives time for first responders to arrive. Naloxone is available in easy-to-use rescue kits that are legal to have and administer if you suspect someone is overdosing on opioids. Naloxone kits can be picked up from Salt Lake County libraries, no questions asked; from select pharmacies and physicians; and from Utah Naloxone. Contact Utah Naloxone at www.utahnaloxone.org.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a treatment locator for substance abuse/addiction and mental health problems. Find a treatment location near you here. Additionally, SAMHSA provided information, webinars, and events for Recover Month here.

Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health

The Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health provides local resources and services for Utahns including resources for addiction recovery, mental health, and prevention. For more information go here.

211 Utah

211 is a three-digit number that connects people to services they need such as mental health, addiction, housing, resources, etc. 211 is free, confidential, and can help you find assistance from organizations across Utah. For more information, go here or call 211.

Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness (USARA)

Utah Support for Recovery Awareness (USARA) provides a peer-based recovery support system for those struggling with an addiction. Their services focus on the reality of long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs from individuals and their families in Utah. For more information, go here.

Stop the Opidemic

Stop the Opidemic was created by the Utah Department of Health to provide information and resources for substance abuse. For more information and to view their list of resources including treatment centers and support, go here.

If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out to the numbers and resources below:

  • SafeUT – Download the free SafeUT app to message a crisis counselor. Available 24/7.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Available 24/7.
  • Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741. Available 24/7.
  • University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) warm line – 801-587-1055. Available 8am to 11pm, 7 days a week.
  • University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) crisis line – 801-587-3000. Available 24/7.

Remember, recovery is possible, and you are not alone. While this month we observe National Recovery Month, let us continue to share resources and celebrate recovery each month of the year.


Charges Filed Against Heber City Man for Exploiting a Teen Girl from Arizona

September 25, 2020

The Utah Attorney General’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force filed charges this week against a 28-year-old man from Heber City, Utah for soliciting explicit photos from a 15-year-old girl from Arizona.

Dale Robert Lawrence has been charged with 15 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony; one count of dealing in material harmful to a minor, a third-degree felony; and four counts of enticement of a minor, a class A misdemeanor.

On May 27, 2019, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received a cybertip from a 16-year-old girl from Arizona who reported she had been communicating with Lawrence through Snapchat from March 2018 to June 2018.

Lawrence allegedly solicited the girl to send explicit pictures and videos of herself during these communications despite his knowledge that she was 15 years old. During an interview with ICAC agents, Lawrence admitted to knowing the girl was underage, engaging in sexual conversations, and receiving at least 15 explicit images and videos from her.

Lawrence works at a high school and routinely interacts with underage children who are the same age as the victim. A summons has been issued for Lawrence to appear at a future court date.


Attorney General Reyes’ Statement on Passing of Kay L. McIff

September 21, 2020

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes issued the following statement on the passing of former state judge and legislator, Kay L. McIff:

“The legal system suffered two great losses this past week. America is now without the brilliant mind of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court and Utah mourns the loss of a remarkable public servant in former state judge and legislator, Kay L. McIff. 

“Judge McIff served his country and community in many significant ways. As a young man, he wore the uniform of the United States Army before attending Snow College, graduating from Utah State University and obtaining his juris doctorate degree from the University of Utah.

“After a successful legal career in private practice, he was elected the top prosecutor and lawyer for multiple counties in the role of county attorney. He then enjoyed a long and distinguished career on the Utah state court bench. He capped his public legal career as a member of the Utah House of Representatives—highly respected on both sides of the aisle.

“Along the way, he demonstrated great commitment to building and strengthening higher education in Utah. Judge McIff was appointed to the State Board of Regents and the boards of Snow College and Southern Utah University, where he chaired the Board of Trustees.   His community service extends far beyond these achievements.

“Even more impressive than all his accomplishments in private practice and public service was the life he lived as a husband, father, friend and spiritual leader to so many.

“On a personal level, he was an inspiration for me to pursue a career in law. He was bright, wise, prudent, principled and always a gentleman—whether in court, during a floor debate or simply at lunch asking about my family.

“Judge Kay L. McIff lived a life of significant consequence and will be deeply missed.”


AG Reyes’ Statement on the Passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

September 18, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes issued the following statement tonight on the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 

“Today, America lost a legal giant and proud champion of women’s rights. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s service on the Supreme Court was an inspiration to millions of Americans.  Regardless of party or politics, no one can deny her historic impact on the High Court. We pray her lifelong example of service may unite us as a nation in mourning her passing. Our sympathies go out to her family, fellow Justices, staff and friends.”


AG Reyes Joins Relaunch of Anti-trafficking Program -OnWatch

September 18, 2020

Yesterday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined the Malouf Foundation and the Safe House Project for the relaunch of OnWatch, an anti-trafficking program that will train people on how to recognize, report and prevent human trafficking in our communities.

The human trafficking industry is estimated to be a $150 billion industry each year with an estimated hundreds of thousands of victims. Unfortunately, there has been a 40% increase in human trafficking during the COVID-19 pandemic. OnWatch was relaunched in an effort to help people better understand trafficking in America and learn how to recognize and report human trafficking.

OnWatch was first launched in 2018 and has trained tens of thousands of people on human trafficking. In a press release, Malouf Foundation Executive Director Jake Neeley said, “We’ve created an engaged community with OnWatch, and we want to keep that momentum with this new training. More people are ready to fight against trafficking, and OnWatch is the perfect place to start.”

OnWatch was created by sex trafficking survivors and features training completely online. For more information about OnWatch and to access the training, go to https://www.iamonwatch.org/.


U.S. Department of Interior Transfers Two Water Projects from Federal to Local Ownership

September 18, 2020

Today, U.S. Department of the Interior transferred two federal water projects to local ownership in the State of Utah during a signing ceremony at the Utah State Capitol.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt joined Utah Congressmen and local government leaders to officially transfer the Emery County Project and the Uinta Basin Replacement Project, two former federal water projects, to the ownership of the Emery County Conservancy District and the Moon Lake Water Users Association. These are the first water projects to be transferred from federal to local ownership under the new authority granted to the Department of Interior last year as part of the Dingell Act. This is a great step towards reducing federal liability and giving ownership back to the states.

Kirk Christensen, President of Board of the Moon Lake Water Users Association and Lee McElprang, Chairman of the Emery County Conservancy District finalized this transfer with their signatures on this historic document.

Also in attendance were Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, Governor Gary R. Herbert, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, Senator Mike Lee, Senator Mitt Romney, Representative Rob Bishop, and Representative John Curtis.


Recognizing Constitution Day

September 17, 2020

Today we recognize the anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution, perhaps the most influential document in American history. Since its signing, the Constitution has been a steadfast beacon of freedom and protection for the individual rights of American citizens. Forged from an exciting and influential history, the Constitution helped solidify our government’s role and build our nation into a thriving country that manifests the freedoms and liberties that we hold to be self-evident.

This Constitution Day, we encourage you to read the Constitution and its precedents that has so drastically altered the course of world history and reflect on how we can continue to inspire Utah’s future generations to respect, uphold and fight for the liberties it protects. Let us recommit to protect, preserve and defend the principles enshrined within the Constitution.


Melissa A. Holyoak Joins Utah Attorney General’s Office as Solicitor General

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 8, 2020

MELISSA A. HOLYOAK JOINS UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE AS 
SOLICITOR GENERAL
 

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is pleased to announce Melissa A. Holyoak as the state’s new Solicitor General. Holyoak replaces Tyler Green, who departed his job with the state to work in the private sector. 
 
Melissa Holyoak brings extensive experience to the office as a litigator, prosecutor, and most recently, president and general counsel of a Washington D.C.-based public interest law firm. Holyoak has argued in appeals courts across the country. A graduate of the University of Utah Law School, Holyoak graduated in the top 10% of her class in 2003.

“We as a state are extremely fortunate – and I am thrilled – to have Melissa join our team at the Utah Attorney General’s Office,” Attorney General Reyes said. “Melissa brings a track record of success in the courtroom and extraordinary litigation, trial and appellate experience. I’m confident she will serve the citizens of Utah with dedication and distinction.  Her diverse career experience is just what the state needs as our population continues to grow and more is at stake in every legal case we handle in our office. Out of many incredible candidates who applied for the position, she is my top pick for this crucially important job.”
 
“Our family is delighted to be back in Utah and I am honored to serve as Utah’s Solicitor General,” Melissa Holyoak said. “I look forward to working with Sean Reyes and his team in advancing the rule of law and defending Constitutional principles and the values of the great state of Utah.”
 
Holyoak will assume the duties of Utah’s Solicitor General effective immediately.  The solicitor general is the law officer directly below the attorney general, whose duties include arguing appellate cases in front of the United States Supreme Court.
 

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