UTAH — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes highlighted National Consumer Protection Week, March 1-7, by promoting a legislative solution he has championed to address white collar crimes and affinity fraud in particular.
Tuesday, in the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee, Rep. Mike McKell proposed H.B. 378, the White Collar Crime Registry, with Chief Deputy Brian Tarbet of the Attorney General’s Office testifying to the need of informing and protecting citizens from investing with those who have previously been convicted of second-degree felonies for financial crimes. The bill passed the judicial committee unanimously on Tuesday and will progress to the floor.
The proposed White Collar Crime Registry has been introduced to modify the Utah Code of Criminal Procedure to include a registry for persons who commit specified white collar crimes.
“Utah is a hot bed for financial fraud committed by repeat offenders,” McKell said. “Many people in our state have trusting relationships with those who take their money in multi-million dollar schemes and many times those particular people have already been convicted of financial crimes.”
McKell said the information is already public in legal databases, but is not organized or easily accessible for consumers. McKell thanked the attorney general for his foresight in bringing to the legislature such a simple but powerful educational tool and protection for Utah citizens.
Tarbet testified to the need for the consumer protection resource by saying, “(Outside of budget), this is the attorney general’s top priority for this legislative session because of the high level of affinity fraud we prosecute in our office and are aware of throughout the state. This registry is a tool to help empower and inform Utah citizens before investing with those who have illegal pasts and unsavory business practices that have led to second degree felony convictions.”
According to Reyes, despite so many positive economic indicators and a tremendous environment overall for business in the state, Utah is sadly known for its high level of financial vulnerability to affinity fraud — exploiting relationships of trust.
“Utah’s unique personal interweavings and close relationships offer a rich environment for predatory behavior and financial crimes in our state,” Reyes said. “We trust those in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our social circles and in our professions. While in many ways trust is a healthy community trait that fosters social strength and business success, it also leaves our citizens quite susceptible to those who would exploit that trust.”
I have long hoped we could bring a bill that will further equip citizens to protect themselves from financial fraud. This registry will make already public information much more accessible for the average citizen in this digital age. It will inform anyone performing a simple name search if they are investing with someone who has previously been convicted of financial crimes. People spend all sorts of time reading reviews and searching information before they buy a computer, T.V. or even blender.
Often they will invest their entire nest egg with no due diligence at all. A simple search on this registry may save them their life savings. And this tool will hopefully curtail some of the billions of dollars lost in Utah to investment fraud and other financial crimes. This will be a tremendous outcome for citizens if passed.
White Collar Registry H.B. 378 is currently in its first substitute. After passing in the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee, it will now move to the floor. The current state of the bill authorizes the Utah Attorney General’s Office to develop, operate and maintain the Utah White Collar Crime Offender Registry website.
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