Damage done by Salt Lake IT employee to police safety 'beyond measure,' charges say

Seven felony charges were filed Monday against a Salt Lake City information technology employee accused of providing restricted police information to a man allegedly involved in sex trafficking to help him avoid being caught.

Patrick Kevin Driscoll, 50, of Salt Lake City, is charged in 3rd District Court with three counts of obstructing justice plus engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, second-degree felonies; two counts of computer crimes interfering with critical infrastructure, one a second-degree felony and the other, a third-degree felony; aggravated exploitation of prostitution, a third-degree felony; and aiding prostitution, a class A misdemeanor.

And prosecutors noted that additional criminal charges may be filed against him.

"Driscoll knowingly endangered the lives of countless law enforcement officers by conspiring with an active human trafficking operation," the charging documents state. "The damage Driscoll has done to both the safety and integrity of the Salt Lake City Police Department is beyond measure."

But Driscoll's attorney says his client is being wrongly portrayed.

"Patrick Driscoll is not the dangerous, criminal mastermind that law enforcement would like you to believe he is," Gregory Ferbrache said in a prepared statement. "Patrick Driscoll is being wrongly portrayed as a dangerous criminal mastermind to distract from the fact that low level technology employees in the Salt Lake City Corporation, and in all likelihood every agency in this state, have authorized access to much of the same governmental information that Patrick Driscoll is alleged to have accessed and disclosed. Patrick Driscoll denies that he provided the information as alleged by the government."

The investigation began in March when the Utah Attorney General's Office began looking at Michael Joe Ricks, 49, of Bountiful, for allegedly being involved in prostitution and drug dealing. He was charged earlier this month in 3rd District Court with 15 felonies and misdemeanors, including two counts of aggravated human trafficking for forced sexual exploitation and two counts of aggravated exploitation of prostitution.

Ricks had women working for him as prostitutes and provided apartments for them in Salt Lake County in order to meet clients, according to charging documents. He would also allegedly supply the women with drugs. In return, the women were expected to give Ricks a percentage of their money, according to investigators.

"Throughout the course of the investigation, agents were able to identify 13 individuals believed to be victims of Ricks and a total of 26 commercial sex workers connected to Ricks," according to the charges.

After Ricks was arrested, one of the victims told police about an associate of his "who was involved in the exploitation of women in conjunction with Michael Ricks and would provide Ricks with law enforcement sensitive data that was not available to the public," the charges allege.

Several woman told investigators that Driscoll was known as "the Guardian" because he used "his position as an employee at Salt Lake City to access law enforcement databases and other nonpublic sources and provide this sensitive information to individuals involved in illicit activities," the charges state.

One woman said she was forced to trade sex for "money or information" from Driscoll, the charges state.

The woman thought Driscoll was a police officer "because he was able to access the police station in addition to being able to provide Ricks and others with law enforcement sensitive data," according to the charges. Some of that information included "phone numbers and names of police officers working undercover, specifically those who investigate prostitution and human trafficking crimes. Driscoll would also provide information on police operations occurring in areas that Ricks operated apartments and hotels. (The woman) stated Driscoll would send information directly to Ricks and Ricks was able to use that information to conceal his illegal activity from law enforcement."

Driscoll was an Information Management Services employee with Salt Lake City at the time of his arrest "and did have full access to the police department as well as all city and law enforcement databases," according to a police booking affidavit. He is not a certified police officer.

He had worked for the city for about four years and was assigned to the police department less than year ago, the charges state.

Investigators served a search warrant on Driscoll's residence and "discovered an electronic storage device which contained law enforcement sensitive data, including undercover police identities, undercover police vehicle information, gang member intelligence files, documented commercial sex worker information and other intelligence that is not available to the public or those outside of law enforcement," the charges state.

"Salt Lake City Corporation informed investigators that Driscoll had significant access to sensitive data and a thorough audit of the data and technology Driscoll accessed will require a great deal of time and resources," the court documents say.

Prosecutors have requested that Driscoll be held at the Salt Lake County Jail without bail pending trial, noting that he "took advantage of the position he held within Salt Lake City governmental offices to conceal his crimes, the crimes of others and expose law enforcement officers to significant danger."

Investigators believe Driscoll's conduct "will impact multiple law enforcement agencies, costing thousands of dollars, and requiring hundreds of man hours to audit and repair. It is expected further charges will be forthcoming.

"The danger Driscoll's skill set poses as well as potential hidden caches of sensitive digital make his risk unmanageable should he be released," the charging documents conclude.

Driscoll contends, however, that he gave Ricks false information and he had cooperated with the police investigation.

"Patrick Driscoll anticipates the evidence will demonstrate a very different story than the government is asserting, and Patrick Driscoll will present his side of the case in the proper forum, which is at trial," Ferbrache stated.