BOUNTIFUL, Utah — A Bountiful man was taken into custody Wednesday and jailed on multiple felony charges of human sex trafficking.
Agents with the Utah Attorney General‘s SECURE Strike Force were able to apprehend Michael Joe Ricks, 49, during a traffic stop after previously serving warrants at his home and a storage shed.
Officials seized narcotics, paraphernalia and evidence that Ricks was allegedly getting young women addicted to drugs and then pimping them out for sex.
Agents said Ricks would meet the women online and claim he could help them, but then get them hooked on drugs before forcing them to perform sex acts with customers in dates he arranged online.
Ricks would keep all the money made by the women he trafficked.
"We believe, based on the investigation, that he is involved in sex trafficking of multiple victims within Davis and Salt Lake counties and probably all across the Wasatch Front,” said Nate Mutters, Asst. Chief Of Investigations with Utah Attorney General’s Office.
Agents say this case is a prime example of how human trafficking can occur with the suspects and victims hiding in plain sight.
“I know we have identified potentially, double digit figures of victims," added Mutters. "I don’t want to get into specifics of that but multiple, multiple victims with this one individual.”
Ricks was living in a home in a quiet East Bountiful neighborhood, but officers said he kept his victims housed in at least two different apartments in the Salt Lake area.
Ricks is being held on multiple charges including aggravated exploitation of prostitution and drug distribution, with agents anticipating additional charges being filed as they believe there are more victims that have yet to be identified.
Anyone with information can contact the Utah Attorney General's Office at 801-281-1200 and ask for the SECURE Strike Force.