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Attorney General, advocates worry there could be more victims in Utah trafficking case

A man who works in IT for Salt Lake City and its police department has been arrested and accused of providing sensitive police information to a man recently charged with human trafficking to help him avoid being caught. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News )



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — The fallout continues in the case of a Salt Lake City employee accused of giving inside police information to an alleged sex trafficker.

The Utah Attorney General's office said there could be more victims, and survivor advocates agree.

"Utah needs to wake up," said January Riggin, executive director for Soap 2 Hope, a nonprofit that's dedicated to helping survivors of human trafficking.

Riggin, an advocate for survivors, isn't surprised about the recent arrest of Bountiful resident Michael Joe Ricks.

The 49-year-old — who's accused of leading a sex-trafficking ring — was booked on investigation of aggravated exploitation of prostitution, exploiting prostitution, aiding prostitution and drug distribution.

"People would've never guessed this guy. He has a family, credentials," said Riggin. "Obviously, he's friends with some powerful people."

In referring to the "powerful people," Riggin is talking about 50-year-old Patrick Kevin Driscoll.

Driscoll is a Salt Lake City IT employee, who court documents allege gave Ricks insider police information in exchange for money and sex.

The arresting documents indicate the extent of Driscoll's abuse of power is still unknown.

"I don't even think they've sifted through all of it right now. It's the beginning stages of that and I think more will come out," said Riggin.

Petey McKnight, another advocate for survivors, agrees. "Unfortunately, Utah is not immune to human trafficking," he said.

McKnight is the chairman of the board for Aspen House, a nonprofit organization working to raise funds for Utah's first Magdalene House for survivors of sex trafficking.

According to McKnight, right now, survivors that come through their nonprofit have to go out-of-state for treatment.

Furthermore, McKnight said Utah has a disproportionate number of women calling the national human-trafficking hotline for help.

"We're in the top 10 of states in the United States," he said.

Victims are key in helping authorities build a case. Court documents say it was the victims who led detectives to Ricks and Driscoll.

Riggin, a survivor herself, hopes this case will spark change, not just for Ricks' and Driscoll's alleged victims, but for the community.

"This might be the case to break some of that ice here in Utah of having these conversations. Like 'Hey! No one is immune,'" Riggin said.

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Garna Mejia

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