Sandy case highlights challenges tracking sex offenders who move across state lines
Nov 28, 2023, 10:16 PM | Updated: Dec 1, 2023, 11:46 am
SANDY – “We didn’t want to have to worry about this,” Truc Harris told the KSL Investigators, recounting her family’s decision to move to a gated community in Sandy. She said she learned troubling news about one of her neighbors during a book club gathering.
“We’re like, ‘Oh, my goodness, it’s actually someone here in our neighborhood,’ ” she said, describing her reaction to learning a man living nearby showed up on Utah’s sex offender registry.
Harris said she was concerned when he appeared on the registry because he had already been living there for months, unregistered.
“And then when I delved further, I realized that the previous state that he was living in, he was in violation because he didn’t notify them that he had moved,” Harris said.
Sandy Police Department records show they were first made aware of Anthony Zaragoza’s presence in November of 2020, as police in California were looking into why he had failed to register there two years in a row, and a law enforcement search turned up his Utah address.
According to Utah’s Department of Corrections, Zaragoza’s name and Sandy address were finally added to Utah’s registry in October 2021. His entry on Utah’s registry listed convictions in California in 2007 and 2009 for possession of sexual materials depicting minors.
Despite his failure to register for nearly a year, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Zaragoza for a sex offender registry violation, citing his current compliance, and the type and age of the alleged crime.
It’s a decision Harris found frustrating.
“The DA had all the information,” she said. “Failed to press charges.”
In a written statement provided to the KSL Investigators Tuesday, District Attorney Sim Gill further explained, “Investigators were told by Mr. Zaragoza that he had not complied with the sex offender registry requirements in Utah because his attorney in California told him he didn’t think Mr. Zaragoza needed to register in the state.”
Through his statement, Gill also noted, “Our concern was compliance and by registering he demonstrated that compliance.”
Sandy police records show residents called police again in 2022, reporting they’d spotted Zaragoza at the community pool, where children were present. They believed this to be a violation too.
Gill’s statement confirmed that Sandy police have since submitted another case against Zaragoza for potential charges:
In May of 2023 we had another set of charges presented to our office alleging additional non-compliance against Mr. Zaragoza; those charges remain under review.
Zaragoza is no longer on Utah’s registry. Now, he’s back on California’s, but further digging by the KSL Investigators revealed questions about how authorities verify offenders’ information as they move from state to state.
“It’s a handoff from a state registering agency to another agency,” Dan Blanchard, former director of Utah’s Department of Corrections Adult Probation and Parole Division told the KSL Investigators last month.
In a case like Zaragoza’s, Blanchard said they rely on confirmation from the state an offender is moving to that they’re in compliance there.
A Utah Department of Corrections spokesperson told KSL that Zaragoza’s public profile on Utah’s registry was removed in August, once officials in California confirmed his residency there.
But a quick online search of the address Zaragoza gave the State of California pulls up a retirement community in Lancaster, where residents must be at least 55. Zaragoza is 49. Through a seven-minute phone call, the KSL Investigators confirmed with the business office manager that Zaragoza is not a resident there.
Local law enforcement authorities in California did not respond to an inquiry from the KSL Investigators about whether they had verified Zaragoza’s listed address.
“I don’t know whether or not he’s moved there, or moved out of the area or not,” Harris said. “He could very well be here and just said he moved out of state.”
Harris said she is concerned authorities from state to state aren’t doing enough to keep track of sex offenders.
“My concern is for other parents who don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “There’s just no follow through.”
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