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Alan White Retirement

ICAC Commander Alan White Retires After 12 Years of Service Protecting Kids

May 27, 2023

After 12 years as an investigator for the Utah Attorney General’s Office, and 23 years in law enforcement, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Commander Alan White has retired.

This office congratulates Commander White and expresses a debt of thanks for his dedication and service

to the citizens of Utah in an effort to protect children from those who seek to exploit children.

Commander White has been a dedicated leader in the statewide effort to protect Utah youth from online predators at a time when the number of threats has increased significantly.   Last year, the ICAC Task Force more than 200 people with crimes related to trading online Child Sex Abuse material (CSAM), or attempting to meet minors for sex.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with the professionals in the Utah Attorney General’s Office and with law enforcement around the state,” Commander White said.  “We are facing an overwhelming and disturbing problem growing rapidly.  I’m confident in the leadership facing those challenges and taking ICAC into the future.”

In Memory Brent Burnett

Honoring Long Time Assistant Attorney General Brent Burnett

May 27, 2023

The Utah Attorney General’s office offers condolences to the family of Brent Burnett, a longtime employee who served 39 years in our office. (37 as an attorney and two as a clerk).

Brent worked most of his time in the Litigation Division, where he was Section Chief and is one of the first attorneys to work in the Civil Appeals Division in the office.   His wisdom and historical knowledge were invaluable and were missed after his retirement in 2021.

He was a proud father of six sons who were eagle scouts and was a leader in the Boy Scouts of America for 25 years.  Brent leaves behind his wife Terri Lee, seven children, and 20 grandchildren.

SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Woman in Takings Clause Case-AG Reyes Led Amicus on Behalf of Victim

May 25, 2023

Today, in a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a decision for 94-year-old Geraldine Tyler in Tyler et al, v. Hennepin County et al, reversing an earlier ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. 

The case arose in Hennepin County, Minnesota, after Tyler had been forced to vacate her condominium in 2010, moving into a senior community for safety concerns. Due to the relocation, she neglected to pay the property taxes on the property, which led to the County seizing her asset, foreclosing and selling the property for $40,000, and unjustly retaining all the proceeds from the sale – though the value of the property far exceeded her tax debt and associated interest and fees (which were approximately $15,000). 

Ms. Tyler argued that Hennepin County’s refusal to return the excess sale proceeds to her was a taking without just compensation as stipulated by the Fifth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with her position. 

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes led an Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Ms. Tyler for the States of Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia. The States argued that private property rights are essential to a free society, and when governments violate those rights, they destabilize the public’s trust in and respect for the system under which they live; and that the practice in a minority of states of confiscating surplus proceeds from a foreclosure sale, after the relevant delinquent taxes and fees are recouped, is just such a violation of these rights. 

As Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court, “The Takings Clause ‘was designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.’ Armstrong, 364 U. S., at 49. A taxpayer who loses her $40,000 house to the State to fulfill a $15,000 tax debt has made a far greater contribution to the public fisc than she owed. The taxpayer must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but no more.” 

Read the opinion here.

Read Utah-led Amicus here.

Associated Press News story link here.

Illegal Immigration

AG Reyes Joins 23 state Coalition Against Biden Administration’s Unlawful Immigration Policy

May 25, 2023

Today Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a coalition of states who filed an amicus brief in the case of Florida v. Mayorkas, supporting the State of Florida’s lawsuit against the Biden Administration’s unlawful immigration policy, creating a dangerous crisis at our southern border. Rather than detaining illegal immigrants as the law requires, the Biden Administration has released those cited at the border into the United States. This policy flagrantly violates federal immigration law and encourages immigrants to try and cross the border illegally, hoping to be released into the interior.

G Reyes Joins 23 State Coalition Against Biden Administration’s Unlawful Immigration Policy

Since taking office, President Biden has seen an illegal immigration explosion of more than 5.5 million, larger than the population of 28 states. The Administration has released more than a million immigrants it encountered at the border into the interior. The Administration’s policy of “catch and release” rather than detaining them has encouraged not only more illegal immigration but also dangerous criminal activity like fentanyl smuggling and human trafficking, both of which have exacted a terrible toll on this country. 

Attorney General Reyes filed the brief along with the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the brief here.


Utah AG’s Office CASE Task Force Continues Crackdown on Organized Retail Theft

May 24, 2023

Seven people face charges connected to an elaborate scheme to steal clothing and other merchandise from Utah retailers and sell it on the black market.  The value of the merchandise is in the tens of thousands of dollars and was stolen from 10 retailers total, including various locations for Kohls, TJ Maxx, Burlington, Marshall’s, and Sierra Clothing. 

“These kinds of brazen theft and money-making schemes are extremely damaging to our statewide economy,” said Utah Attorney General’s Office Communications Director Rich Piatt. “This isn’t typical shoplifting, and it’s not harmless. We want to get the word out that the retailers are on to their game, and so are we.  Law enforcement takes these crimes very seriously.”   

Gilli Ann Mejia, Raymundo Vivalca, Yenni Jimenez Magana, Marcus Anthony Jackson, Bobbi Jo Carter, Emanuel Ramirez, and Maria Guadalupe all face second-degree felony charges of Retail Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and Pattern of Unlawful Activity.

Over the last year, undercover officers observed individuals enter the stores multiple times a week, gather large quantities of high-value merchandise, and then leave the stores without paying for it. The individuals would sell it for profit.  The total retail value is estimated to be at least $20,000.

The Attorney General’s Office CASE Task Force would like to thank the State Bureau of Investigation, West Jordan Police Department, Taylorsville Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Adult Probation & Parole for assistance during this investigation.

Probable Cause Statements are available on Court Exchange.

Multi-State Task Force Sues Avid Telecom Over Illegal Robocalls

May 24, 2023

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, representing the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, sued Avid Telecom, its owner Michael D. Lansky, and Vice President Stacey S. Reeves today for allegedly initiating and facilitating billions of illegal robocalls to millions of people and violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and other federal and state telemarketing and consumer laws. Avid Telecom sent or transmitted more than 7.5 billion calls to telephone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry between December 2018 and January 2023 – more than 72 million of which went to numbers in Utah.

Attorney General Reyes said: “Robocalls are far more than a mere nuisance. Many of them are financial threats to citizens in Utah and nationwide. Our office has worked closely with the Division of Consumer Protection and other state attorneys general for years to fight these scammers and protect Americans.  

AG Reyes continued: “Avid Telecom blatantly and wantonly broke the law to facilitate scams about Social Security, Medicare, Amazon, car warranties, credit card interest reduction, and more. Avid and its corporate officers generated more than 20 billion calls in just over four years, with 7.5 billion made to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. 

“Avid was warned repeatedly to halt its illegal actions but greedily continued to profit off of innocent victims while acting like it was above the law. Avid needs to be held accountable by Utah, and so many of our sister states across America,” AG Reyes said.

Avid Telecom is a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider that sells data, phone numbers, dialing software, and/or expertise to help customers make mass robocalls. It also serves as an intermediate provider and allegedly facilitated or helped route illegal robocalls nationwide. Between December 2018 and January 2023, Avid sent or attempted to transmit more than 24.5 billion calls. More than 90 percent of those calls lasted less than 15 seconds, indicating they were likely robocalls. Further, Avid helped make hundreds of millions of calls using spoofed or invalid caller ID numbers, including more than 8.4 million calls that appeared to be coming from government agencies, law enforcement agencies, and private companies.  

Avid Telecom allegedly sent or transmitted scam calls about Social Security Administration scams, Medicare scams, auto warranty scams, Amazon scams, DirecTV scams, credit card interest rate reduction scams, and employment scams. Examples of some of these scam calls are available to listen to here and here.

The USTelecom-led Industry Traceback Group, which notifies providers about known and suspected illegal robocalls sent across their networks, sent at least 329 notifications to Avid Telecom that it was transmitting these calls, but Avid Telecom continued to do so. 

Today’s legal action comes from the nationwide Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force of 51 bipartisan attorneys general. The task force is investigating and taking legal action against those responsible for routing significant volumes of illegal robocall traffic into and across the United States. The Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General provided investigative assistance.

Attorney General Reyes is joined in filing today’s complaint by the Attorneys General of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Read the lawsuit here.

Insurance Companies Leave Net-Zero Insurance Alliance After AG Reyes Investigates ESG Agenda

May 23, 2023

After Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes led an effort to request information from members of the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA) because of their commitments to advance an activist climate agenda, another company announced its intent to leave the Alliance. 

Swiss Re, a founding member of the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance, became the latest company to pull out of the Alliance, joining earlier departures from Hannover Re, Munich Re, and Zurich. On its website, Swiss Re describes itself as “a leading wholesale provider of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer.” According to reports, Swiss Re gave no justification for this action. 

The major announcement follows a May 16th letter that was spearheaded by General Reyes and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, in addition to 21 states, which requested documents and information relating to legal concerns brought about by commitments from NZIA to collaborate with other insurers in order to advance an activist climate agenda. 

NZIA, a UN-convened group working to implement the Paris Agreement’s climate change goals through the financial system. By joining this organization, all insurers have committed to using their global influence to “transition [their] insurance and reinsurance underwriting portfolios to net-zero greenhouse gas (GHS) emissions by 2050.” 

General Reyes released the following statement: “We are encouraged to see another company leave an Alliance that was focused on a radical environmental agenda over the interests of its clients. We will continue to be vigilant and take legal action where necessary to protect Americans from the dangers of ESG.” 

In the May 16th letter, the attorneys general pointed to two earlier cases of insurance companies leaving the NZIA, writing, “Other insurance companies appear to be realizing just how problematic membership in these groups can be. According to recent media reports, both Zurich Insurance Group and Munich Re have withdrawn from NZIA despite being two of the eight founding members of the organization. Notably, Munich Re’s official statement announced its determination that any opportunities to collaborate without ‘exposing’ the company to ‘material antitrust risks’ were so limited that it was more advisable to work individually.”  

Read the May 16th letter that General Reyes and 22 attorneys general sent to NZIA. 

Utah Supreme Court Rules Stream Access Subject to Private Property Rights

May 23, 2023

Thanks to the relentless efforts of Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and the Constitutional Defense and Special Litigation Division, the Utah Supreme Court decided in favor of private property rights in the case of Utah Stream Access Coalition v VR Acquisitions, affirming the lower district court’s finding in this matter. 

In an opinion by Chief Justice Durrant, the Utah Supreme Court ruled for the State’s position on behalf of VR Acquisitions. The dispute arose after the Utah Legislature passed the Public Waters Access Act in 2010, which stated, in part, that individuals are generally unable to access or use public waters on restricted private properties for recreational purposes. After years of litigations through Utah state courts, the singular question the Court considered for this case, involving a trespassing charge in the Provo River on VR Acquisitions’ domain, was as follows: was there a 19th-century (or pre-Utah statehood and constitutional) basis for an easement providing the public with the right to touch privately owned streambeds underlying state waters? 

The Utah Supreme Court concluded that no easement was established for the waters in question when Utah achieved statehood and enacted its constitution. Thus there was no continuous, historical, constitutional claim to the waters to be used for recreational purposes. The Court also noted that the issues raised by Utah Stream Access Coalition should be brought before the Legislative Branch. 

While this case may seem very technical and nuanced, it has massive implications for private property rights across Utah. Over 2,700 miles of these rivers and streams are largely restricted for recreational use and access – though Utahns have thousands of miles of waters to choose from instead should they desire to take advantage of the state’s natural resources for their pleasure.  

Read a copy of the ruling here.

AG Reyes Joins 23 State Coalition Urging Financial Institutions to Uphold Their Fiduciary Duties in Their Proxy Votes

May 22, 2023

Last week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and 21 other states in sending a letter to executives of six financial institutions, informing these firms about investigative interest into the relationships with proxy advisory services and the fiduciary duties to clients, pertaining to the Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) movement. 

The attorneys general highlight Glass Lewis and International Shareholder Services (ISS) as two top proxy advisory services that have both committed to base their recommendations on whether a company is implementing net zero emissions goals and related climate commitments. The letter warns the financial companies against allowing these proxy advisory services to control or have undue influence on decisions that affect clients’ financial interests – even when these institutions and/or their shareholders have repeatedly rejected radical environmental proposals from defining their operations or core values. It also expresses concern with the prospects of executives attempting to influence other companies to adopt the radical environmental policies that their own respective organizations rejected. 

As the attorney’s general state in the letter, when financial institutions act as an asset manager on behalf of state pensions, and many other clients, the money is not their own; but these companies owe their clients various fiduciary duties, including loyalty and care, requiring actions made exclusively in the financial interest of their clients, to the exclusion of other motivations and interests. The coalition of attorneys general write that they cannot conceive of a rationale that would justify opposing onerous environmental requirements for their own companies but insisting that the same requirements enhance shareholder value at other firms. 

Earlier this month, General Reyes testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, speaking on the critically important issue of how ESG factors are distorting the American financial system and harming consumers. His written testimony urged the Committee to investigate the actions of proxy advisory firms due to federal laws that prohibit their recommendations from including false or misleading information. 

General Reyes also led a 21-state coalition back on January 17, 2023, challenging the ESG practices of the two proxy advisory companies that are referenced in the May 19th letter sent by Tennessee’s coalition. 

Joining Utah and Tennessee on the May 19th letter were the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. 

Read the letter here. 

FTC and Utah Division of Consumer Protection Suit Leads to Largest Consumer Settlement in Utah History

May 19, 2023

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Attorneys from the Utah Attorney General’s Office (representing The Division of Consumer Protection (DCP), a division within the Utah Department of Commerce), have reached a court-ordered settlement with Response Marketing Group, LLC and its principals, who have agreed to pay $15 million and are banned from selling money-making opportunities. The suit brought by DCP and the FTC alleged that Response Marketing used false promises to sell expensive real estate investment training programs. Additionally, two real estate celebrities, Scott Yancey and Dean R. Graziosi, endorsed the training and agreed to pay $1.7 million.

Response Marketing drew consumers to free events nationwide through infomercials and social media advertisements in which real estate celebrities promised to share their investing techniques. At these events, Response Marketing enticed consumers to purchase three-day workshops for around $1,000 by falsely representing that it would provide consumers with access to special tools that would enable them to become successful real estate investors. Response Marketing deceptively pitched additional training programs that cost tens of thousands of dollars at the three-day workshops, according to the complaint filed by DCP and the FTC.

The company then upsold consumers by pitching a purported coaching program called “Inner Circle” through telemarketing that could cost as much as an additional $30,000. Most consumers who purchased Response Marketing’s products and services did not become successful real estate investors and did not recoup the money they spent on the training programs, according to the complaint.

“This is the largest consumer protection division settlement in Utah’s history and holds Response Marketing and its affiliates accountable for the serious financial harm to consumers across the country,” said Utah Department of Commerce Executive Director Margaret Busse. “Utah businesses that seek to take advantage of consumers should be put on notice.”

Busse also thanks the FTC and the Utah Attorney General’s Office for the robust partnership that brought about this successful consumer protection settlement. “This partnership gave us the reach to go after these bad actors who thought they could skirt Utah’s laws.”

In June 2022, the district court judge presiding over the case partially granted the FTC and DCP's motion for summary judgment. The court found that Response Marketing made false or misleading claims, such as telling consumers they would get offering customers special access to a funding network for real estate deals without using their own money, providing students with letters that would supposedly allow them to make discounted cash offers, and having buyers for houses they wanted to flip for flipped homes. Response Marketing sold training programs under various names, including Affluence Edu, Cash Flow Edu, Flip for Life, OnWealth, Renovate to Rent, and Visionary Events. In December 2019, Response Marketing agreed to stop selling these packages after the FTC and Utah DCP filed their complaint.

The settlement also involves Response Marketing’s affiliates, Nudge LLC and BuyPD LLC, and four individuals who allegedly owned the company. As part of the settlement, the companies, owners, and Response Marketing’s President are prohibited from selling “wealth creation” products and services nationwide and must pay consumers $15 million in redress. Failure to make these payments will result in an additional $15 million in civil penalties payable to the Utah DCP. According to the complaint, the actual owners of Response Marketing are Brandon B. Lewis, Ryan C. Poelman, Phillip W. Smith, and Shawn L. Finnegan, and Response Marketing’s President is Clint R. Sanderson.

The settlements with Graziosi and Yancey are the FTC’s first monetary settlements with celebrity endorsers. Under their settlements, Graziosi will pay $1.25 million, and Yancey will pay $450,000.

The settlements being announced today resolve all the claims against all the defendants in the FTC and the Utah DCP complaint, which alleges violations of the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and several Utah statutes.

Read the order here.