ST. GEORGE – St. George Police Department, in a statement released today, provided an update to the ongoing investigation relating to a vice sting operation in St. George last Friday.
The operation and investigation was a concerted effort of the Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations and Washington County Sheriff’s Office, resulting the arrest of several people charged with prostitution and human trafficking related charges.
Juvenile victim in the operation
A 17-year-old female victim was identified by law enforcement officers during the initial investigation. They reported she had been transported into Utah from out of state; and, that through intimidation and/or fear, the girl was compelled and persuaded by Leroy Haley, 30, and Francis Uhrhan, 20, to perform acts of prostitution.
In the original police statement Friday, the girl was reported as having been arrested and charged. In the statement released today, the Police Department corrected that information, stating, “The juvenile female victim was not arrested nor was she charged with any crime related to her involvement in this case. … she was approached as, and interviewed as, a victim in the investigation.”
The girl was taken to a local youth crisis center and sheltered there for a few hours, the police statement said, while her legal guardians traveled from out of state to pick her up. She was cared for at the crisis center and released to her legal guardians later that same night.
Evidence also suggests the group had recently traveled throughout Utah engaging in similar activities. The group is suspected of working out of the Las Vegas, Nevada area, St. George Police said.
As part of the investigation, detectives served a search warrant on a motel room in St. George that the suspects were staying in. There they located and collected multiple items of alleged drug evidence including marijuana, hydrocodone pills, suspected extacy pills, and other drug paraphernalia. The pills were of a large enough quantity to suggest drug distribution activities. The police statement said that other evidence indicated the suspects were dealing drugs.
Leroy Haley and Francis Uhrhan were arrested and charged with drug distribution charges in relation to their involvement. Additionally, while under arrest, the police statement said that Haley assaulted multiple police officers by kicking and punching at the officers while he was being transported.
Uhrhan, 20 was arrested and booked into the Washington County Jail. On arrest, she was charged with: human trafficking, aggravated exploitation of a prostitute, sexual solicitation, DOPL violation, and prostitution. Today, additional charges were added, including: possession of a controlled substance with the intent to.
Uhrhan’s bail remains set at $100,000.00 cash only.
Haley, 30 was arrested and booked into the Washington County Jail. On arrest, he was charged with: human trafficking, aggravated exploitation of a prostitute, two counts of assault by a prisoner, interfering with arrest, and disorderly conduct. Today, additional charges were added, including: possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute.
Haley’s bail remains set at $100,000.00 cash only.
Among others arrested during the sting operation were two St. George residents: Bart Higbee, 32, booked for patronizing a prostitute; and Symon Capel, 24, booked for sexual solicitation; .
Readers commenting on the Aug. 24 report by St. George News raised the question of Bart Higbee being a St. George Police officer. St. George News contacted the St. George Police Department and was told by Sgt. Sam Despain, SGPD public information officer, that Higbee is not a St. George police officer “and never will be.”
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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