Legislation & Lobbying

Utah to list white-collar criminals in first Internet registry for those convicted of fraud

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Utah is poised to become the first state in the nation with a public registry listing convicted white-collar criminals, in an effort to help prevent affinity fraud among the state’s close-knit residents. A bill to require an Internet listing of those found guilty of certain financial crimes sailed through the state legislature this week, and the governor has said he will sign it.

“White-collar crime is an epidemic in Utah,” state attorney general Sean Reyes told the DealBook blog of the New York Times (reg. req.). A former criminal defense lawyer, he got the idea for the registry, which will be overseen by his office, while he was in private practice.

Those convicted of second-degree felony offenses, including money laundering; theft by deception; communications, insurance, mortgage or securities fraud; and unlawful dealing of property by a fiduciary, will be given the Internet equivalent of a scarlet letter by being listed on the website for at least 10 years, along with a recent photograph. Affinity fraud occurs when an individual exploits a trusted relationship for financial gain.

Criminal defense lawyers expressed concern both that the website could make it difficult for clients to move on after relatively minor convictions and that the idea having an online registry for white-collar offenders might spread to other states.

“The schemes change, but the players stay the same,” said Mike McKell, a Republican lawmaker who served as a state House sponsor of the bill. “I’m not ashamed with the fact that we’re going to brand some of these people.”

The Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune also have stories.

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