3 problems hiding in plain sight in Dixie to be worked on

ST. GEORGE – Serious issues facing Southern Utah such as white collar crime, suicide and human trafficking were among topics addressed by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes at a town hall meeting Friday evening at the Delores Doré Eccles Fine Arts Center in St. George.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes talks with St. George News in connection with a town hall meeting at the Delores Doré Eccles Fine Arts Center on the campus of Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Aug. 19, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes talks with St. George News in connection with a town hall meeting at the Delores Doré Eccles Fine Arts Center on the campus of Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Aug. 19, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

“I believe that Southern Utah is a very safe place, a very desirable (place) to raise a family, to have a business,” Reyes said in a related interview with St. George News. “If we can work on some of these areas that I’ve mentioned – that white-collar fraud and Ponzi scams, investment fraud, if we can unmask and deal with some of the human trafficking – some of these things that hide in plain sight, I think Southern Utah will be an even better place to live.”

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White-collar crimes

White-collar fraud and crime is a big problem in Utah and affects Southern Utah even more, Reyes said, because of the high number of seniors.

Fraud, Ponzi schemes and bad investment deals rob Utahns of hundreds of millions of dollars every year and can be just as devastating as violent crimes.

“When you think about somebody who loses their entire life savings in one deal and then doesn’t have the resources to take care of him or herself or their spouse or enjoy a quality of life that they have saved up 20, 30, 50 years for,” Reyes said, “it’s devastating.”

Utah is proportionally the epicenter of white-collar crime …, Reyes said, because the people are inclined to trust each other. He recommends that residents “trust, but verify.”

Earlier this year Utah became the first state to create a white-collar crime offender registry where people can find out if someone has one or more white-collar convictions.

St. George has one of the highest rates of internet crimes in terms of people being duped, Reyes said. One example is a scam that allows personal information to be stolen.

“What will happen is the average person on their computer will see some pop-up saying your computer has been invaded, it’s been infected, it now has all of these viruses and malware,” Reyes said. “‘If you just press this link, we can help you for free ….'”

The scam continues as the potential victim chats online with a seemingly nice, friendly person and eventually gives them permission to take control of their computer in order to “fix” it.

“People, very trusting, turn over their computer and in a matter of minutes they’ve downloaded every private file and document from that person – passwords, social security numbers, everything that they can use to take your identity and use it,” Reyes said.

Teen suicide

The SafeUT app is free and anonymous, and can help teens in crisis | St. George News
The SafeUT app is free and anonymous, and can help teens in crisis | St. George News

“The rate of teen suicide is through the roof,” Reyes said.

In Utah, for ages 10-21, teen suicide is the highest cause of death, more than the next three causes of death combined, including car accidents and illnesses, Reyes said.

And southwestern Utah has one of the highest suicide rates in the state.


Read more: Southwestern Utah’s high suicide rates; prevention


“You might not think that the AG’s office could play a role in that,” Reyes said, “(but) we do. We represent all the state agencies, so the Legislature has put us in charge of trying to do something about this.”

The AG’s office helped launch a new suicide prevention tool for teens – the SafeUT Crisis & Safety Tipline app which gives access to help for teens in crisis by phone or by text. Reyes said young people are much more likely to text than to call.

“Nobody calls anymore, they text,” Reyes said.

The app provides confidential and anonymous two-way communication with SafeUT crisis counselors or school staff via one-touch options to “Call CrisisLine,” “Chat CrisisLine,” or “Submit a Tip.”

Teens can reach out for help if they are suicidal, depressed, cutting themselves, have an eating disorder, are experiencing cyberbullying or cybercrimes; help is also available for school safety issues.

“Instead of feeling like no one’s there to listen to them, there’s somebody on the other end. And those people are experts, worldwide experts, from the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute and their entire team,” Reyes said. The team is available 24/7 and will stay in contact as long as needed.

The app is anonymous and password protected, so teens can keep their communications completely confidential. SafeUT was launched six months ago, Reyes said, and already hundreds of young people have used it to reach out for help.

SafeUT can also be used to anonymously and confidentially report weapons or other school safety concerns; the information is passed to the school and then to local law enforcement officials. The app is free and available for Apple and Android devices.

SafeUT was unveiled in 2016 by the AG’s office along with the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute, Utah Office of Education and the School Safety and Crisis Line Commission.

Human trafficking

Modern slavery involves 20-40 million people worldwide, Reyes said, and not just in third-world countries. It also occurs in Utah and even in Southern Utah, Reyes said, because it’s something no one suspects could exist in such a wonderful community.

Reyes has been involved in Operation Underground Railroad and at one point traveled undercover to Columbia, on his own private time, to help bust child sex traffickers in a sting operation.


Read more: Exposing the dark hidden world of child-sex trafficking; how everyone can help


“So I’ve made it a priority to work with law enforcement agencies, physicians, doctors, private organizations, truckers, airline attendants, hotel owners all around the world to try and stamp this out,” Reyes said.

“So we ask people to be vigilant, to call authorities if they suspect that something’s wrong, within reason,” he said. “If they see something that just doesn’t look or feel right, call it in.”

Reyes was appointed as Utah’s Attorney General in December 2013 following the resignation of Attorney General John Swallow. He was then elected to the position in 2014.

A Republican, Reyes is being challenged for the position by Democratic candidate Jon Harper, Independent American candidate Michael Isbell, and Libertarian candidate W. Andrew McCullough. The general election is Nov. 11.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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14 Comments

  • .... August 20, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Mr Reyes is a good man and a great asset to the state of Utah and the citizens that live within its borders. he understands what the people of Utah desire and he steps up and performs magnificently.

    The State of Utah and the people of Utah are blessed to have Mr Reyes as the Attorney General. ..Praise the Lord

    • ladybugavenger August 20, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      I thought for sure you would be in the top 3 hmmmmmm interesting hahahahaha

      • Real Life August 20, 2016 at 5:39 pm

        No mention of pill popping, crazy, idiotic, stalking, local internet news commenter?

      • .... August 22, 2016 at 4:53 pm

        Who loves ya Ladybug ♡♡♡♡♡

  • godisdead August 20, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Utah, including attorney General Reyes, continue to ignore the one underlying cause of the three problems mentioned in the article. The L.D.S. church’s influence in Utah.
    White collar crime and ponzi schemes? Mormons trusting mormons.
    Trafficking? How can Reyes even bring this up when Utah has ignored polygamous trafficking and abuse for generations?
    Suicide? Just another example of the L.D.S. church ostracizing groups of people in our community.
    Reyes is a typical mormon blowhard going along with the mormon/republican party line.

    • Slade August 20, 2016 at 11:57 am

      Sounds like YOU are in need of the Crisis Help app. May your life start looking up.

      • godisdead August 20, 2016 at 12:52 pm

        Thanks for your concern, but it’s about Reyes and the three problems he talks about and chooses to ignore.

    • aviatormh August 23, 2016 at 3:30 am

      god is dead. Suicide? Just another example of the L.D.S. church ostracizing groups of people in our community. So you think young people kill themselves because they don’t feel welcome at church? Are you really that out of touch? Anyone who spends ANY of their time seriously committed to helping just one young person who is thinking about killing themselves deserves the full support of the community. So some guy has more than one wife, so the majority of the state is LDS and the representatives of the state reflect that, White collar crime and ponzi schemes? Mormons trusting mormons. So yes its a problem but are you really saying that these problems should be addressed BEFORE we try and stop kids from killing themselves? You obviously can’t relate at all with these kids and should just keep your mouth shut. NOTHING is more important than just one human life. The reason’s for kids thinking death is the only choice is different and personal to each one of them. It’s people that think like you that cause kids to believe their is no one that will listen. Weather or not their problems seem like a big deal to you, they are real and a big deal to them. God bless anyone who takes the time to listen or help our kids.

  • mmsandie August 20, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Comments by goodis dead was right .. So many kids take drugs, DRS hand out. We’d expression drugs or anxiety ones to 50 % of school kids and we wonder why??.. With the family structured broken down, kids have no where to get help but their peers…and Mormons having kids younger and not being educated… Is a problem.. But Itah is trying to help everyone and we can,t… Schools offer little help to special neds kids and mental health services are so limited.. One of the reasons is, we spend so little on education , being the lowest state expenditure in usa.. I come from New England and education is number one in many areas..
    When are politician going to learn.. The kids are our future.. And need the best education…
    Seniors should know better about scams, I get those phone calls and Don,t answer but see easily how Mormons support Mormons and the level of trust is questionable..

    • mesaman August 20, 2016 at 8:52 pm

      If only it was a “world according to mmsandie” then everyone would be happy and contented.

      • godisdead August 21, 2016 at 7:53 am

        Do you have anything to say, other than attacking another commentator?

  • digger August 20, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Wut! SLC is a … Hole!!!!
    Ed. ellipsis.

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