- Associated Press - Friday, February 24, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes held a news conference this week to tout his work investigating human trafficking and child sexual exploitation cases, but he refused to release details about the cases, including the names of those arrested and the charges they face.

Reyes and officials from 25 law enforcement agencies said at a Thursday news conference that 16 people had been arrested since Jan. 1. They showed a large display of 16 mug shots under the headline “Suspects.”

They said the people in the group faced charges ranging from rape of a child, enticing a minor, failing to register as a sex offender and possession of a control substance.

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Reyes, a Republican, has focused heavily on human trafficking cases since he took office in late 2013.

But he and the other officials at the news conference refused to identify the people they labeled as suspects or explain which charges they faced or the details of the allegations.

The law enforcement officials said three children were rescued as part of the investigations. The officials did not offer further details, including the circumstances from which they were rescued.

Leo Lucy, chief of investigations in Reyes‘ office, spoke about risk factors of human trafficking. At one point, Reyes accused the media of fueling the notion that sex trafficking in Utah is fabricated by law enforcement.

“People don’t believe it can happen here, fueled sometimes by media stories and reports that these kinds of things don’t exist and they’re fabricated by law enforcement,” Reyes said, according to the Deseret News (https://bit.ly/2lDTAqO ).

Reporters asked for details about the media reports he was referring to, and he declined to offer details, adding, “You can look and do your own homework. I have read articles and reports where people have speculated that this is not actually happening, and I think that it would be irresponsible to take that route, to take that view, because I, we, have put so much time, so much effort, so many resources, and we know these cases do exist.”

In February 2016, Reyes and investigators from his office dressed in civilian clothes to mingle at parties and events at the celebrity-studded Sundance Film Festival in Park City, saying they were looking for signs of human trafficking. They didn’t find anything at the official venues and activities they attended, but Reyes said he hoped investigators would return the next year to infiltrate private, high-roller parties that surround the festival but aren’t affiliated with it.

In late 2014, he secretly traveled to South America to play a role in a sex-trafficking sting operation. Reyes went to Colombia with a nonprofit organization and pretended to be a bodyguard and Spanish-speaking translator for businessmen seeking children for a sex party.

Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit, said the sting freed 54 children from trafficking.


Information from: Deseret News, https://www.deseretnews.com

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