26 suspects arrested in 3-day human trafficking sting in Utah County

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UTAH COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – 26 suspects were arrested last week during a large scale human trafficking sting in Utah County.

According to Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon, multiple agencies in Utah County partnered with Operation Underground Railroad to conduct a Human Trafficking Operation in Lehi from November 19-21. 

During the three day operation, officers arrested over two dozen suspects who were involved in human trafficking. Several of these arrests involved individuals who arrived at the location with the intent to have sexual relations with children under the age of 18, according to Cannon.

One person who was arrested, Shane Smith, 26, of Murray, was arrested for first-degree felony rape of a child and sodomy of a child along with second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

Documents state during undercover chats with Smith, he stated he wanted to have sex with who he believed to be a 13-year-old child. Smith said he wanted to have the child send nude photos to him over the internet and wanted the child to run away to California and he would pay her $200.

An arrangement was made to meet at a local business in Utah County and when Smith showed up, he was arrested. Smith told officers he was not actually going to do the things he said in the chatroom but that he was going to drop her off at the local police station when she got into the car.

At the time of this arrest, Smith was on pre-trial release for a previous arrest for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor out of Salt Lake County where documents state he met a 15-year-old girl online who he ended up having multiple “sexual encounters” with.

Three individuals were arrested for exploiting a prostitute, acting in the “role of a pimp”, said Cannon. 

Cannon said numerous victims of human trafficking were identified and services are being offered to them. 

Cannon said it is important for others to realize these arrests came from a three-day human trafficking sting operation, in one small area, in one county in Utah.

Several drug arrests were also made in addition to the charges regarding human trafficking.

Those involved in the sting include the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit, the Lehi City Police Department, and the Department of Homeland Security-Investigations, Unified Police Department, Salt Lake City Police Department, and the Provo Police Department. 

Police have not yet released the names of the other individuals arrested as they indicated they are still part of their active investigation. Once the investigation is complete, the names will be released.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888. You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.  The hotline is available 24 hours, 7 days a week.

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