sex trafficking

49-year-old Michael Joe Ricks is suspected of human trafficking multiple women across Utah. He is currently being held in the Salt Lake County Jail and is facing multiple felony drug and prostitution charges.

Cindy Ybanez / US Air Force

Human trafficking might sound like something that can’t happen in peaceful Utah, but it does. Last year the Utah Attorney General’s Office investigated 49 different human trafficking cases, leading to eight prosecutions. Luckily, Utah has a specialized strike force that was created especially to combat human trafficking.

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Sex trafficking isn't just an issue in other parts of the world, it is going on in Idahoans' backyards. But there's growing interest in the Gem State to fight back.

Objectified: Uncovering The Sex Trafficking Industry In America

Nov 15, 2016
Robin Jones


The movie is called The Abolitionists, and Robin Jones was invited to watch it at the home of a friend. It was shocking, eye-opening, compelling. A 2016 production of Fletchet Entertainment, the film highlights the efforts of Operation Underground Railroad - abbreviated OUR - to rescue children from sex-trafficking, and it opened Robin’s eyes to a problem she immediately knew she had to help solve.

sex trafficking
Operation Underground Railroad

This story contains graphic material such as quotes and scenarios.

Imagine a father in St. George tucking his children into bed knowing that he was about to walk into a third-world country where little boys and girls are bought, kidnapped and sold for human sex trafficking, sometimes even by their parents.

Dallas Hyland, a photojournalist and resident of St. George, is such a man.

“I am married, I have four children," Hyland said. "I have a daughter who is in her middle twenties from my first marriage and I have three little boys.”

He spent Saturday in Armenia, Colombia with a privately funded organization, Operation Underground Railroad, to execute what they called Clear Hope; a mission that would prove to be the biggest child trafficking rescue operation in history.

One hundred and twenty-three children were saved Saturday in three simultaneous operations based in Colombia and resulted in the arrest of 15 perpetrators.