Sean Reyes: Utah’s Attorney General Part 2
What Does An Attorney General Do?
I asked Sean to explain what an attorney general does.
Sean explained, “There’s a lot of the job description but generally speaking it’s like a firefighter. I go into emergency situations, I put out fires I try to pull people out of dangerous situations, protect the family, and then put out the fire. Those fires could be along the lines of public safety, the environment, a white-collar fraud, etc.”
” There are so many different types of fires out there but it, you know, when the firefighter comes do you care what church they go to, what their racial background is, what, you know what letters next to their name? No, you just want somebody who is dedicated to protecting your family and good at what they do.”
“I view it that way. A lot of my colleagues whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, view it that way.”
Protecting Pre-Teens from Social Media
“Recently, we released a letter that we sent to Facebook. The letter was a plea for them not to create an Instagram platform for preteens. They announced that they were going to create an under 13 platform, to encourage even younger kids to get involved in social media.”
“I think we can all agree that we don’t need to add any more gas to this raging inferno that is threatening our children, our teens, our young adults on a number of levels.”
“We’re talking about another time suck, another waste of time for young people who are having their innocence and childhood really robbed of them. They’re plugged into things all the time. They’re not enjoying and doing the things that we have the chance to do. We sound old-fashioned but as kids we went outside and played and rode our bikes. I have six kids on my own and three of them are under 16. I very much understand the challenges they face.”
” It is problematic inviting preteens into an environment where we already have a difficult time protecting youth from sexual predators, child pornographers, abusers who groom them, and then exploit them on the internet.” You’re going to bring these hyper-vulnerable kids and bring them into social media.”
” You also have cyberbullying, which is at an all-time high. This is intentional use of social media to terrorize other kids, I mean teens and young people. We know that they’ve always been mean to each other. We used to beat each other up, but when you got home you were safe in the confines of your house. In my case, it was a certain street that when you pass, you know which gang controls that street and you’re okay Not anymore, you’re never safe, our kids are never ever safe, especially if they have phones or other devices. And that intentional bullying gets exacerbated.”
Putting Additional Pressure on Kids
“What about the unintentional effects of just another platform that tells kids that the most important thing in life is what clothes they wear, what they look like, or how many followers they have?”
“Kids are willing to do just about anything these days for followers. This includes taking their own lives, hurting other people, or sharing private information about themselves, which can be very revealing. And now we’re going to ask, you know 9, 10, 11, 12-year-olds to join in this environment, which is shown to increase suicidality, body image, dissatisfaction and so much mental distress.”
Sending a Letter to Facebook
“I could go on for a long time. You know these are issues I’m passionate about. But I highlight it because I don’t know if people realize, that 39 state agencies signed on to that letter, because we work together, and we probably would have had more if we hadn’t sent it out so quickly. We were just trying to send the message before they launched. Will they listen to us? I don’t know. They don’t always.”
Facebook’s Relationship with Utah
“At the same time, these are complex issues and I want to give credit where credit’s due. Facebook has been a tremendous partner of the state of Utah, especially our economic development. They’ve got a facility in Utah County that does great work and employs people.”
“Facebook has helped me personally in my fight against human trafficking, in recovering exploited, missing, and abducted children. They’ve given us resources.”
“Facebook has been conscientious and has done a great job on all those fronts to work with me, as a state partner. My plea to them is, ‘Look, don’t waste all that goodwill by launching what I think is a very dangerous minefield here with this platform.'”
Complexity in the Job
Sean Reyes explained that his job can be difficult because there is a lot of complexity in every issue.
“Things that the media tries to paint as very black and white, never are there, there’s a lot of nuances and there are a lot of policy decisions and considerations. I think that’s just one example out of dozens, that I get to deal with on a daily basis. They’re challenging, they’re interesting, and they’re not easy to solve.”
“Sometimes they’re like a Gordian knot. You think you’ve pulled the right string and it unravels many others.
“I love the service part. I love waking up in the morning and being able to say, ‘We’re going to go save these kids.'”
Increases in Theft
“People would not realize that the rate of thefts of catalytic converters has gone up by like 1,000% just over the last year. The cost of these rare earth minerals and other elements has increased dramatically. So they get more and more innovative, that, in addition to retail theft.”
“Retail theft represents hundreds of billions of dollars of loss. The average listener would not believe this. Many retail theft rings just drive trucks up to a Home Depot or a Target and go inside, and load up whatever they want in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes they are as brazen as just cutting the chains off of the pre-fabricated or assembled playground in the front that you see at Home Depot or Walmart, throw that in the truck, and no one will stop them.”
“In fact, employees are actually helping them load up all of this stuff because they can’t do anything to stop them. The corporations have thrown up their hands and said, just don’t even try. We’ll get civil liability if somebody gets injured or hurt.”
The police aren’t going to investigate these and it’s not the police problem. They would, but almost every district attorney has told them, we’re not going to prosecute those crimes because we don’t have the interest or the resource. White-collar crime, that’s not really big on our list. So if you’re not going to get prosecuted, police aren’t gonna investigate them. If no one’s going to investigate, why even try to stop it, and so they just build into the margins and pass it along to consumers.”
“We lose 10’s of millions of dollars here in the state of Utah, every year, if not hundreds of millions. So I finally got tired of listening to CEOs of these major corporations complain asking, ‘Why will law enforcement do nothing?’ I said well, in Utah we’re willing to do something. I didn’t know that for sure but I was right.”
Stopping Retail Theft Rings in Utah
“I knew I was willing to do it. So with the help of the legislature and others, we found a solution. I said look, I’m not going to put this on the taxpayers, though. I need you all to lean in, because that’s when government works best, when we’re not trying to solve all the problems ourselves, and then spend taxpayer money and raise taxes.”
” You need to lean in heavily on this, you invest millions of dollars, but I will stand up the unit, first of its kind in the country, and we will focus on retail theft. We’ll focus on catalytic converters. We’ll focus on all of the stuff that people keep complaining about but no one’s doing anything about.”
“Two years ago we started, and it’s kind of the envy of all the states around the country we get dozens of calls a day, asking, ‘How are you doing this? Can we be part of this? Can you help us stand our own program up?” It’s sending a message. Instead of 50 members of a retail theft gang just rolling into a store and wantonly pilfering anything that they see, loading them up in trucks and going like they normally do, we’re prosecuting those now.
“We’re running stings. We recovered 10’s of millions of dollars of stolen goods that were being fenced through illegal pawn shops about a year and a half ago. And the message is getting out. ‘Hey, don’t do that stuff in Utah anymore.’ We want to keep chasing these guys. These are all part of major organized crime, internationally. These are global cartels that have figured out that there’s a vulnerability in the US. They don’t prosecute white-collar crime. Boom.
“Just like human trafficking. They think no one’s paying attention. No one’s gonna investigate or prosecute. That’s why it’s risen for a generation. Until Utah, once again took the lead and we started to say no. We’re gonna chase you down. We’re going to run under covers stings. Not just here domestically, but we’re going to support organizations that do that across the world. We’re going to make you actually think twice.”
“Right now, criminals are going to sell drugs, a lot of risk in that. There’s the DEA, the war on drugs. I could sell a little girl, you know 100 times. I can sell drugs once. But no one’s going to look for the little girl on that side.”
“Whether it’s white-collar fraud or violent crimes or cyber crimes and hackers, that’s just the law enforcement side of my office. I get to work with some of the coolest and most dedicated individuals, people who go after child sex predators. Can you imagine some of my agents who have to go after the most vile people who violate our little kids, and sell them for sex? In order to catch them, they’ve got to live in that environment, in that world.”
“That’s why we instituted mental health checks and things for law enforcement to help empower them to do that. So in an average day, this is the kind of stuff that I get to do.”
And from time to time, I get to go on podcasts of superstars like you and Utah and chat.
I asked Sean three questions.
What does your wife and kids think of all this?
“They, they love it and hate it, they love the service side of it, they hate the danger. I think it’s a neutral in terms of the amount of time that I’m away from the family because I spent a lot of time in the private sector building businesses.”
Kids Involved in Helping Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
“They love it because I found ways to bring my kids along to do the job. Not in any way to endanger them. Not in some unauthorized way. They’ve literally been recruited. Our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Commander in 2014 asked me if she could use my 16 and my 14-year-old at the time, to help them track down sex predators. Part of the reason was that my kids were really good at gaming. One of them now is the captain and is helping to lead one of the University of Utah, e-gaming teams.”
“They realized that a lot of our success is when predators try to approach our agents believing them to be adolescence. Then they solicit them for sex and we’re able to investigate and prosecute them. The only problem is our detectives, our agents, their average age is about 50. They don’t know how to play video games. They keep dying in the same spot. It’s really easy for the predators to post them. They think, ‘Oh we’re staying away from that person.'”
“We need your boys to come in after their homework and chores are done and level up everyone’s games. It went and evolved from that to them teaching my agents about the newest apps that were in high school and in junior high school. Then they taught them the lingo. Then they took them to Comic Con at the time, now it’s called Fan X.
“They were telling them and showing them, what a furry is and what a brony looks like. It wasn’t all bad. There’s so much good at the Comic Con but there are occasional violators, who are there and my kids would take agents.”
“My kids were always helping the secret agents. My kids would sometimes have to leave class to respond to my special agents. One time one agent frantically texted my son who was maybe a ninth grader at the time. He teted my son, ‘Do you know what this this acronym means? IDK?’ So my son dutifully took time out of his test and texted back, ‘I don’t know.’ And the agent went crazy’This is what your job is supposed to know.’ And my son texted, ‘No, literally it means I don’t know.’ So the agent said, ‘Oh okay.'”
“So they have this rapport. Those are some unique opportunities for kids growing up that they wouldn’t otherwise have. I’m sure. I’m sure other parents don’t do family home evenings, those who maybe belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My wife and I and our family do fake abductions. We set it up, and they try to throw them in the trunk, duct tape them, because of the stuff that I have dealt with.”
“So, love, hate, they love so much of it. They realize that we’ve had to sacrifice a few things as a family in terms of some of the extras. But it is well worth it for what we’re able to accomplish. They view us as a team. We’re doing my job, and also when we run in an election. They’re great.”
“I never share with them things that I’m not allowed to but other things I do. I bounce it off of them. They’re like, ‘That’s a really bad idea.” Or Sasha may say, ‘Yeah I don’t think you should try that.’ You know that my staff will say, ‘See, that’s what we said. Next time let’s get Sasha involved in the process earlier. Hopefully, they’re not too many of those. I do have some good ideas too.
Second Question: Celebrities You Know
You know more celebrities than any other person I know. Who is the biggest celebrity who you know, like, you might even have them in your contacts list?
“Here’s the thing. This is why I know so many celebrities because I don’t talk about them.I really am so careful about it because these are really good friends.”
“I never asked them for anything. They call me for help and advice and they are my friends.”
“I will tell you because this is public record, that we’ve had Jackie Chan come to stay in our house. And so we’ve stayed with Jackie in Shanghai in his place there and worked with him on a number of things like green initiatives, things with the environment, better air quality, recycling, etc. These are things that people wouldn’t automatically associate with Republicans and conservatives but we do care about our environment a great deal.”
“I worked with him on human trafficking. It’s taking other nations a little bit longer to fully comprehend the scope of that. People like Jackie Chan give so much of their time to nonprofits.”
“I’ll tell you that going to China wasn’t difficult and seeing him there. But coming back was more complicated. I brought our Chief of Staff Rick Cantrell and thank goodness he knows Chinese culture and served a mission and he speaks Cantonese. Having Jackie come here, getting him to meet Robert Redford, getting him to do some of the things that he wanted to do, logistically was difficult because his security was the Chinese government. And they were very interested also in what was going on.”
“While Jackie was here, we had a very quiet sweet moment in our family with our kids. Without getting into all the details because I don’t want to share too many private moments but let’s just say iit was kind of a typical family home evening with what we would typically do and he loved it. He was so enthralled and he spent time with the kids, way more than me. He’s a big kid.”
Other Celebrity Friends
“So people like that and we’ve hosted Mark Zuckerberg here in the state of Utah. We’ve hosted friends like Tony Robbins here in the state of Utah. I mean those aren’t a secret. We helped Kanye West put on a Sunday service, although we did it on a Saturday and we did it in between LDS General Conference. Kanye’s team wanted it to be clear that they weren’t trying to undermine or upstage the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They were trying to worship with them. So I helped them coordinate all of the logistics of that and it turned out great. Kanye performed, his pastor gave a stirring sermon, and we all worshiped together on that day.”
“You know, there’s a lot of NFL, NBA UFC, folks. There’s several UFC champs, that we’re working on doing an event here in Utah to recognize them and people like Manny Pacquiao, the great boxer. Why are these important relationships? Not because they’re celebrities and a lot of these people, you wouldn’t even know they were celebrities, if you didn’t know about that. You know them through movies, TV, or sporting events.
“They’re so humble and giving. When I talk about human trafficking, I might get 1,000 views on a YouTube. When Ashton Kutcher does it, Ashton could just sneeze and he’d get, you know 50,000 views and likes. It really elevates what we’re able to do, and, there’s so many celebrities and people that are making a difference that have Utah ties. Amazing people like Alfie Boe, the great tenor. I can list 20 or 30 more people with Utah ties.”
“One experience that I just love was when I was traveling to several countries with former Speaker Newt Gingrich. He said,’ Sean, if we could take these kids around the world, we would find peace in the Middle East, we would have no more wars, we would have peace in our time.’ It was the One Voice Children’s Choir. And at the time, my daughter was performing there. So I got to go just as a choir dad and to see them interact with people and the tears that were brought in singing in other languages. I love that.
Vision for Utah
“I have a vision for Utah, I want Utah to be a crossroads of global culture and commerce. I want us to exchange and export the greatness that we have here, but also with great humility. We can learn from the beauty and truth that are in so many other lands and cultures and languages and people and foods and have their businesses invest here and our businesses invest there. I think that is the long-term future for Utah so I’m very appreciative of organizations like Silicon Slopes that attract people from around the world. “
Priviledge of Working for Utah
“And I put in 70 or 80, hours a week on average for the great people of Utah, doing the day-to-day job, so reviewing reports, signing off on cases, editing briefs. All that stuff that an AG, does and then a good lawyer does, but in my free time, I often get a chance to go speak or host.”
“People come to Utah to learn about fighting human trafficking, or white-collar fraud and public corruption, or money laundering, or technology. They want to find the confluence of regulation and innovation. Where’s that sweet spot? Do you over-regulate and try to protect consumers from every possible abuse or do you let a more laissez-faire approach? Do you go and develop in a more open marketplace?”
“Because of my background on both sides, tech and regulation, I have a nice blend of perspectives. I get to visit places around the world and to me, it’s an opportunity because I get to bring back deals for Utah. I get to take deals from Utah, there vice versa. They invite us to perform at the World Expo. We share common interests and deepen and strengthen relationships. It’s a privilege to be able to represent Utah in the United States and it’s not always 1,000% in terms of law enforcement, but it might be other areas that the AG’s office tackles, and it’s a privilege. Like I said it’s one of the things I didn’t realize I’d have the chance to do, but that I love doing.”
3rd Question: What is the Future for Sean Reyes?
For my final question, I asked Sean to tell me what is in store for him in the future.
Sean said, “I don’t know and I don’t say that in a coy way. It depends. I really don’t know Stan.”
“One of my really really close friends who’s a global personal development guru, that’s a household name said, ‘Sean, you’re like this cosmic surfer. You are really adept at taking whatever wave that comes in and scoring as many points often right, just whatever. Maybe that’s your street upbringing or something, tough condition circumstances just make the best of it. You know, jump on that wave and then jump on the next one.’ He said, ‘Well, what you need is maybe a little bit more looking out into the horizon for that mega wave that’s a mile out and save your energy and save your time and calculate it. You’ll ride the biggest ride and win the competition there.'”
“I’m still trying to figure that out, that equilibrium. I typically just keep focused on what is the next day, I’ve got 1000 texts and emails every single day to answer if you can imagine. I don’t get back to everybody, every day and I have to try to deflect a lot to my staff. I’ve got the office side. I’ve got my political and campaign side. I’ve got Sasha at home on the personal side to help answer questions. You know every single day I feel like I’ve got an urgent spreadsheet of things that have to get done. And that’s about 438 just right now that need to be done in 72 hours.”
“Even when you called me to do this, I felt so bad because the next time I really have time Stan is 2023. I’ve had about, you know, I’ve had four dozen requests for podcasts in the last six weeks. But man, you’re my big brother and I could not say no and I wanted to jump on.”
“I don’t know what the future holds if I stay in politics. People ask me every day to consider running for the US Senate. We’ve got Mike Lee, who’s the next up. He is a great US Senator so I don’t have any desire, right now and I want to finish what I start. I’ve got three and a half years left.”
” When I’m done, if there’s another Senate seat, that’s up, then I might look at that. That’s always something that appeals to me. When you’ve worked at the state level for such a long time, you think maybe I can bring some of that to the federal level, that I would entertain.”
“If the Republicans were to recapture the White House in 2024, I might want to work in that administration. I had offers to go work in the last administration, and I think I would possibly consider an offer to work in another administration. I don’t know that though. People have said, ‘Oh, you’d be so great as an ambassador.’ Well, you know, it’s not like you get to appoint yourself or you just choose.”
“So, those types of things would be of interest if I stay on the political side, there are a lot of opportunities. I have a lot of businesses that I left. I hope they are still there. I can’t interact with them or interface with them because I don’t want to create conflicts of interest. So I have former partners who are hopefully minding the shop, tending to businesses that I left. I had to divest almost all of my business interests when I took this position. So, you know, you’re allowed to have blind trust but who knows what’s back there, who knows if there’s anything back there.”
“So if I’m going back to business, I’ll probably have to start from scratch, and maybe build back up on the family side. Then I’ll spend 5 or 10 years back in the private sector. That might be what I do. Then if I decided to come back into politics, after a run in the private sector and building enough equity backup so I can sustain my family long term, then, then that might be what I do.
“I haven’t figured that out. I don’t have that one wave that I’m shooting for one mile out. I realized that might be a flaw. But in the meantime, every day, every minute, the next challenge that comes, I hope you know I’m ready to meet it. I do it with the best of intentions, I do it in a way I think is right and principled, with as much energy as I can bring.”I
“I haven’t slept much in the last eight years, I typically get to bed around 2, 3, 4 am in the morning and now I’m back up relatively early. Anyway, Stan, I, I don’t know, but I do know that whatever I do, you’ll still be there to hopefully give me advice and counsel and be a friend. Your support through everything has meant the world to me and Sasha our family.”
“I hope for all of your listeners learned a little bit. Public service is something I think we should all try, in whatever way, even if it’s just volunteering at your local school, or somehow in civics and public service. And if you are a listener and you’re not sure whether you should do it call, Stan. He’ll convince you to do it. If he could convince me as busy as I was to fold, you know, pamphlets and stuff bags full of goodies, then you know he can convince anybody. Thank you for that Stan, I really appreciate it. I love you brother. You take care. Thanks to your team for this. “