SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) When he became the State Attorney General he was ready to deal with white collar criminals and legal issues to protect Utahns. However, Sean Reyes says he quickly learned that protecting people also involved hitting the streets and going after human traffickers, drug dealers and others. We catch up with Utah’s Attorney General – in this weeks our Behind the Badge report.
His job is to enforce the law and protect the people of Utah. And Attorney General Sean Reyes takes that duty seriously. “Whether it’s their computer systems, their identity, their bank accounts or their lives – these are the things that the men and women of the Utah Attorney General’s Office fight to protect every single day.” Reyes says there is so much crime and so much to do he often puts in 80 hours or more of work every week. “You could give me ten or twelve more investigators or agents – three or four more prosecutors and I could keep them all busy.”
Reyes was appointed to the position by Governor Gary Herbert at the end of 2013 and then was elected AG in 2014 and 2016. When he took over the office he was ready to get to work. “We have created within the AG’s office a whole white collar crime unit – so some of our investigators have been decades on those types of cases. We bring them on some very complex cases where you’re chasing money across jurisdictions and even countries to go after the perps.” “There’s far too much white-collar fraud and ponzi scams, and schemes.” “So, we’re hitting that white collar side really, really hard.”
The 46-year-old attorney expected those types of crimes. But about a month into the job he says he was hit with something he didn’t expect. He got a call about “Kids getting sold and pimped out and forced to mule drugs and being abused for sex.” He couldn’t believe that was happening right here in Utah. “That was shocking to me.” Reyes was so disgusted with those involved in human trafficking and felt so much compassion for the victims that those types of cases became priorities. And he soon found himself out with investigators during raids. Sometimes he was their just to support – sometimes he went undercover to help. “I really wanted to get to know what they are doing – to stay out of there way and let them do it well – but to empower them to have the resources they sorely needed.”
Reyes admits to having a fascination with superheroes. And if you visit his office at the state capitol building you will see the toys, books, and other memorabilia in his office to prove it. But, he says working with law enforcement officers has given him a whole new appreciation for real superheroes. “These men and women behind the badge – the ones you are highlighting – are the real superheroes. They really go out – not in some comic book – but every single day.”
Reyes says state investigators often work side by side with local and federal agencies because it takes that type of team effort to bring down the bad guys. “They’re working with us on our internet crimes against children task force – hunting down the worst predators you can imagine, who will exploit children for child pornography, child sex and human trafficking,” Reyes says no matter where you stand on immigration – everyone needs to know, even if you don’t see it, Utah has a very real problem with labor trafficking and exploitation of undocumented immigrants. “There is a closet industry of those who prey on the undocumented because they are such a hyper vulnerable population.”
He is so passionate about bringing traffickers to justice he has also helped train agencies in other countries like Mexico and Haiti. He says whether it’s in Utah or across the world – its all part of the same fight.”We have to address these issues domestically and locally. We’ll hit em hard. But if we don’t help our friends and create a firewall – globally – all of that stuff keeps threatening our jurisdictions and our borders.” And he adds, his office may have the tools and people to address crime in our state, but he everyone needs to help in the fight by reporting anything suspicious.
Reyes says a lot of people ask him about his heritage. He refers to himself as “Hispanic-Polynesian.” And says he mother is Hawaiian and Japanese and his father is Spanish and Filipino. He is husband and father of six.
Reyes did some boxing as kid, studied mixed martial arts and played college volleyball. He also says he is a concealed carry permit holder and most of the time he is armed.
To see our Behind the Badge stories or to nominate someone for a future story – go to: http://www.good4utah.com/badge