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Bountiful man accused of exploiting prostitution, dealing drugs

A Utah man was arrested Tuesday and accused of enticing women into prostitution and drug dealing, according to police.

A Utah man was arrested Tuesday and accused of enticing women into prostitution and drug dealing, according to police. (Shutterstock)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A Bountiful man was arrested Tuesday after police say he was enticing women in the commercial sex industry to work for him and sell drugs.

Michael Joe Ricks, 49, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of aggravated exploitation of prostitution, exploiting prostitution, aiding prostitution, drug distribution and two counts of knowingly supplying drugs.

The investigation began in March when a woman told investigators with the Utah Attorney General's Office that Ricks was involved in the distribution of heroin, methamphetamine and prescribed medications, according to a police booking affidavit.

"(The woman) reported to (authorities) that the same individual was involved in the exploitation of women within the commercial sex industry and that she was specifically a victim of this individual," the affidavit states.

Investigators believe Ricks would recruit women to work for him, and then manipulate and control them once they began working for him.

The woman told investigators she met Ricks through an adult commercial sex website. In addition to offering to help find clients for the woman, Ricks allegedly told her he would provide her with a car, food, shelter and provide locations for her to meet with clients.

"In return, Ricks would take 30% of all profits made by (the woman)," the affidavit says.

The woman said Ricks has threatened her and forced her to perform sex acts with clients even when she was sick or didn't want to, according to the affidavit. Ricks is accused of also selling heroin to the woman and some clients.

The woman told police that Ricks "allegedly has multiple women that he is managing and utilizes several locations for this," and the affidavit alleges that "Ricks had used the same method of recruitment to entice them into working for him by engaging in commercial sex."

Investigators noted that as of Tuesday, they had "discovered" 26 potential victims, but "identified" only 13.

The attorney general's office served four search warrants in Salt Lake and Davis counties in relation to the case on Tuesday and "found an abundance of evidence relating to narcotic distribution, exploitation of prostitution and human trafficking," according to the affidavit. Some of the evidence seized included distributable amounts of cocaine, marijuana and Suboxone in addition to several thousand dollars in cash, police say.

Nate Mutter, an agent with the attorney general's office, said the warrants were served at two apartments in Salt Lake County, a shed in Bountiful and Ricks' home in a quiet neighborhood on the east bench of Bountiful. He said it's a prime example of how human trafficking "occurs anywhere and everywhere."

"I don't know if anyone would have saw Mr. Ricks as a trafficker. But in our opinion, he did some pretty egregious things," Mutter said.

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