SALT LAKE CITY — Agents with Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and officials with the Utah Attorney General's Office were involved in an operation at Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, that ICE identified as an "enforcement action."
The Utah Attorney General's Office said their role in the operation was to conduct interviews as part of an investigation into labor practices for a business.
Multiple Fox 13 viewers reported a heavy law enforcement presence in the construction zone at the airport. Attorney General Sean Reyes confirmed AG Office agents went to multiple locations, including the airport.
"We did have agents who interviewed potential witnesses and potential victims," he explained. He said those interviews centered around allegations of exploitation of workers as well as, "illegal competitive practices, illegal business practices, and even potentially labor trafficking."
He said some months ago, they received complaints from various sources including the business community, government officials and citizens about a particular business. The Attorney General's Office, he said, joined an already open investigation into this business.
While Reyes could not elaborate further on the investigation, he indicated that in general, complaints of that nature often involve allegations of businesses preying on undocumented workers.
"One company might exploit workers, underpay them," he said. He also said that a company might subject workers to unhealthy conditions and dangerous situations that violate OSHA standards. When it comes to labor trafficking, he said cases can involve the use of force, fraud or coercion to bring in workers from other countries and exploit them.
"Usually it's to make money, and to beat the system," Reyes said. "To get ahead of your competitors, increase your profit margins."
Reyes could not confirm the business at the center of the investigation. Fox 13 received a tip of agents raiding the Pete King Commercial office in Draper. Agents were observed filtering in and out of the office. A man who appeared to not be a part of the raid attempted to go inside, but agents denied him entry to the office.
According to a Salt Lake Airport Subcontractor Summary, Pete King Commercial was hired by the project general contractor, HDJV, to install drywall at the new airport for nearly $37.5 million.
HDJV released this statement on the operation Thursday:
“While this is an open investigation between the subcontractor and the authorities, HDJV and the Salt Lake Department of Airports are cooperating with the authorities as needed.”
"We did receive information from the witnesses that we talked to today, that was helpful," Reyes said, of their efforts Thursday.
A statement from ICE said Enforcement and Removal Operations agents are involved, but the agency declined Fox 13's request for more specific information on the incident.
"Since this is an ongoing operation, no further details can be released at this time. Depending on the results of this action, more information may be released at a later date," the representative stated.
Reyes could not state what happened to those taken in for questioning. He did say victim services were made available to potential victims, and that typically they release the people they interview.
Historically, Reyes said, they don't interview anybody to detain or deport them. He could not speak to the involvement of ICE and Homeland Security Investigations in the operation.
Fox 13 spoke with Pete King Construction, a company based in Arizona that runs Pete King Commercial in Utah. Richard Luby, the Operations Manager, was not able to provide a comment.