Man, 49, faces 5 felony charges related to exploitation, drug distribution in Salt Lake County

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SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, Oct. 5, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — A Salt Lake County man was arrested Tuesday on multiple felony charges related to prostitution and drug distribution.

Michael Joe Ricks, 49, faces charges of:

  • Aggravated exploitation of prostitution, a second-degree felony
  • Distribution/offer/arrange/distribution of controlled substances, a second-degree felony
  • Two counts of knowingly produce/dispense/manufacture or a controlled substance, a second-degree felony
  • Exploiting prostitution, a third-degree felony
  • Aiding prostitution, a class A misdemeanor

A probable cause statement filed by the Utah Attorney General’s Office says that in March of this year, a victim (victim 1) met with law enforcement agencies “regarding an individual distributing narcotics, specifically heroin, methamphetamine, and other prescribed
controlled substances,” Ricks’ probable cause statement says.

“V1 also reported to your affiant that the same individual was involved in the exploitation of women within the commercial sex industry and that she was specifically a victim of this individual.”

The woman was known to the Attorney General’s Office because she had been victimized in an earlier case, the statement says.

“Your affiant has known V1 to work in the commercial sex industry for several years and is a self-admitted commercial sex worker. Your affiant has found V1 to be truthful, cooperative, and forthcoming.”

Victim 1 described the suspect as a Caucasian man believed to be in his 50s known as Mike Ricks, the statement says. She provided officials with an email address used by the suspect, she said, to book appointments for sex workers. The woman said she met Ricks through an adult website, and he suggested she work for him.

“In addition to placing the ads, Ricks also offered to provide V1 with a location to meet with clients, a vehicle for travel, food, and shelter,” the statement says. “In return, Ricks would take 30% of all profits made by V1, who would perform the sex acts.┬áIn addition to this, V1 reported that Ricks would sell narcotics, specifically heroin, to V1 and certain clients.

“V1 also told your affiant that Ricks allegedly has multiple women that he is managing and utilizes several locations for this. V1 has met with a few of these women, who reported that Ricks had used the same method of recruitment to entice them into working for him by engaging in commercial sex.”

Victim 1 told agents she was afraid of Ricks, who had threatened her in the past, his probable cause statement says.

Victim 1 allowed officers to do a forensic download of her phone, which led to evidence to support issuing a warrant for Ricks.

“Upon receiving the results of these search warrants, your affiant found an abundance of evidence relating to narcotic distribution, exploitation of prostitution, and human trafficking,” Ricks’ probable cause statement says.

The search also turned up “distributable amounts of suboxone, a schedule three controlled substance. Agents also located distributable amounts of a white powder, which was field tested and positive for cocaine. Distributable amounts of a green leafy substance, which field tested positive for marijuana, was also discovered.”

Ricks is being held without bail, and has contacted Victim 1 and her family members multiple times despite being told not to, the statement says.

“To date, your affiant has discovered 26 potential victims, but only been able to identify 13 of them thus far,” Ricks’ probable cause statement says. “Should Ricks be released, your affiant has reason to believe that he may contact or attempt to interfere with the integrity of the investigation.”

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