There’s no big trick to finding a website where you can check to identify released sex offenders living in your state (every state has an online registry). Many states will also let you search for lists of convicted felons, though the scope of the coverage will differ from state to state (many states limit the number of years, or types of crimes, they include, and juvenile crime records are usually confidential).
But the state of Utah is about to add a unique new online registry of criminal convictions. After the Utah legislature passed a bill in March this year, and Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed it, the state now has the nation’s first online registry for convicted white-collar criminals. The measure easily cleared each chamber of the state legislature; the Utah House gave its approval on a 65-7 vote, and the state Senate unanimously cleared it on the next-to-last day of the legislature’s 2015 general session.
As enacted, the Utah Attorney General’s office will set up and maintain a white-collar criminal registry website, with detailed information on criminals convicted in the state since 2005 of non-violent financially-motivated second-degree and above felonies. That includes such offenses as securities fraud, insurance fraud, mortgage fraud, theft by deception, unlawful dealing of property by a fiduciary, money laundering, or communications fraud.
In addition to a listing of the crimes resulting in convictions, every entry will include the convict’s name, any aliases, date of birth, photo, and detailed physical description (height, weight, and color of hair and eyes). The listing will remain on the registry for at least ten years (for a first conviction); the listing will be permanent for anyone with three or more convictions. Convicts who have made full restitution for their crimes, complied with all court orders, and have not been found guilty of further offenses can have their listings removed from the registry.
You’re probably wondering why Utah felt the need to create such a registry, instead of, say, New York, California or another of the larger states more likely to spring to your mind if you’re asked to name a state known as a hotbed of fraud, confidence games, white-collar crime or financial chicanery.
But Attorney General Sean Reyes, a leading proponent, says the state is “sadly known for its high level of financial vulnerability” to fraud exploiting relations of trust in the close-knit state, especially among members of the Mormon church. In a post-enactment statement, the Attorney General noted the state’s uniquely tight, interconnected relationships create a “rich environment for predatory behavior and financial crimes.” A spokeswoman for the office says around 100 individuals are convicted of such crimes in the state each year.
While Utah is the first state to create an online registry of white-collar criminals, it may not be the last. The lead Senate sponsor for the new law, state Sen. Curt Bramble of Provo, says he’ll recommend other states consider adopting white-collar criminal registries; as president-elect of the National Conference of State Legislatures, he’ll be in a good position to do so.