ST. GEORGE — A 20-year-old Las Vegas woman was sentenced for her part in a human trafficking and exploitation of prostitution case on Wednesday in Washington County’s Fifth District Court.
Francis Mary Uhrhan was one of four people arrested in August 2013 as part of a vice sting operation by the St. George Police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations. Police set up the sting after becoming aware of an online ad by two woman offering sex acts for money.
Also arrested for human trafficking and aggravated exploitation of prostitution and other sundry drug charges was Leroy Haley, 30, of Las Vegas. A 17 year-old juvenile was also involved and police determined that she was a victim in the case.
Uhrhan appeared while in custody with her defense attorney Trevor Terry before District Court Judge James Shumate. “This is a horrific offense with a very young lady who is frankly in not too much of a different circumstance than the young lady she victimized,” Shumate said.
Terry agreed with Shumate, saying: “I have never had a case where the defendant is at the same time a victim of sorts.”
Deputy Washington County Attorney Eric Gentry said that in any other case involving these types of circumstances he would be asking for prison time. Due to the facts in this case, Gentry said he would not ask for more than one year in jail and he would recommend probation after that.
Both Terry and Gentry agreed that this could be a chance for a fresh start for Uhrhan. “I hope she gets her feet underneath her and finds a better way to live her life, make good choices and not hang around with these same people, it’s really too bad that she is caught in this predicament,” Gentry said.
Before pronouncing the sentence, Shumate asked Uhrhan if there was anything she wanted to tell him. “I just want to thank you for this opportunity to start over in my life,” she said.
Shumate told Uhrhan that there have been people trying to do things to her that Mr. Terry, Mr. Gentry and he would protect her from if they had the chance.
“Someone should have taken you,” Shumate said, “when you were a young person, sheltered you and let you grow into the kind of person you can be instead of push you to where you are now.”
Uhrhan was sentenced to five-years-to-life at the Utah State Prison for the first-degree felony charge of aggravated exploitation of prostitution, however Shumate stayed the execution of that sentence and instead imposed a one year jail sentence. The class-A misdemeanor prostitution charge was closed giving her credit for the 208 days she has served in jail towards that charge. She was ordered to complete 36 months of supervised probation after her jail term. The jail sentence is set for 90 day reviews and the court reserves at it’s own discretion the option to release Uhrhan at anytime prior to completing the full one year term.
“Once you get out of jail you are going to start taking command of your own life and we are going to give you the power to do that.” Shumate said to Uhrhan. “I’d like to see you get out of jail, I’d like to see you get into some kind of training program, I’d like to see you live in a safe place,” Shumate said.
After the hearing, Terry told St. George News Uhrhan was taken at a young age, groomed and put into the sex trade and that contributed hugely to her involvement with the juvenile.
“She had been brainwashed enough that she thought it was OK for another to do this.” Uhrhan has been willing to acknowledge her involvement, she doesn’t make excuses for herself or make herself out to be a victim, he said.
Terry praised Gentry in being fair and understanding of the circumstances and recognizing that Uhrhan is also a victim. If Gentry had not been willing to do that Uhrhan would be on the way to the Utah State Prison for a significant amount of time, he said.
Haley is scheduled for a resolution hearing on his case on March 26 in District Court.
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