A hidden video camera captured everything — the moment a local church leader walked into the hotel room, the hugs he gave the two women waiting inside, his offer to help them become prostitutes and the sexual advances he used to ensure the women were not undercover investigators.
“What you’ve done doesn’t prove to me that you’re not cops,” the man said after he forced one of the women to inappropriately touch him. With his back to the camera, the man then tried to remove his pants in front of the women.
When the two undercover detectives broke character and locked themselves in the hotel bathroom, the man rushed from the room.
Even though the encounter only lasted five minutes, Judge Roger Griffin decided David Moss, 52, knew exactly what he was doing in the situation.
“It’s not somebody who just runs into a situation without a forethought,” Griffin said. “That is not something that law enforcement should have to subject themselves too.”
Although the Utah Department of Corrections Adult Probation and Parole recommended sending Moss to jail for 180 days, Griffin cut the time in half and ordered Moss to serve 90 days in jail.
The judge also granted credit for time served and good behavior, meaning Moss will serve about 70 days in the Utah County Jail.
Moss, of Pleasant Grove, was serving as a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February 2019 when he arranged to meet with two women he believed were prostitutes.
He offered to be their manager for a cut of the profits and promised to “provide protection, help ensure regular, higher-paying customers and teach (them) how to avoid getting caught or arrested,” charges state.
The women were actually investigators working on an undercover human trafficking operation in Lehi with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
What the surveillance video didn’t show were the careful preparations Moss took to ensure he wasn’t going to be caught by an undercover operation, said Utah County deputy attorney Carl Hollan.
Investigators said Moss had arrived at the building nearly an hour before the arranged meeting. He checked all the nearby parked cars for cameras or law enforcement insignia as well as quietly listening outside all the other hotel rooms around the rendezvous point.
He also brought a handgun to the meeting that investigators found on his person after his arrest.
“Mr. Moss was so careful in his confidential activities that it’s almost providential that he was caught,” Hollan said.
Moss previously served as a lieutenant for the St. George Police Department from 1997 to 2012 and supervised the department’s vice squad. He resigned from his position due to sexual misconduct allegations.
Due to his police experience, prosecutors said Moss knew how to avoid detection and could easily find vulnerable women in the community to exploit.
“This man has literally been trained by the DEA on how to run undercover operations,” Hollan said, adding all the codes and signs used by the trafficking operation were the same signals Moss learned and used with his police teams in St. George.
Before meeting with the undercover detectives, Moss stated several times he had “done this sort of thing in the past and he has a system that is ‘cutting edge’ and avoids people getting caught,” police reported.
“I book and you entertain. I offer protection, I train you on how to act so we get repeat/regulars and higher paying. I also teach you how to stay out of jail,” Moss told the detectives in text messages.
But Griffin said he was willing to give Moss the benefit of the doubt, stating he believes the statements were given as a “sophisticated sales pitch” rather than an admission of guilt.
“It’s not a business plan, it’s an appalling abuse of women,” he told Moss during the sentencing.
Moss was arrested trying to leave the hotel where he met the women and charged in 4th District Court in American Fork.
In a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to exploiting a prostitute, a third-degree felony, and sexual solicitation, a class A misdemeanor. The second-degree felony of forcible sexual abuse and class A misdemeanor of patronizing a prostitute were dismissed.
The third-degree felony carried a sentence of zero to five years in prison while the misdemeanor charge required at most a year in jail.
At the sentencing, Moss admitted he had been addicted to pornography for decades and had cheated on his wife multiple times with several women. He added he was receiving therapy and marriage counseling and his wife and some family members had forgiven him.
“You betrayed them,” the judge told Moss at the sentencing. “You never had to accept that leadership position in the community, and yet you did that. Held yourself up to be someone you are not.”
Since Moss has a medical operation scheduled for November, he will not report to the jail until Dec. 15. Until then, he will remain out of custody on GPS monitor that does not count toward the jail sentence.
He will also serve 36 months on probation, register as a sex offender and complete psychosexual evaluation. The judge also ordered him to write apology letters to the two undercover agents who claimed they experienced distress and trauma after the encounter.
He is also prohibited from serving in church positions, community coaching, advising, mentoring or leadership roles in non-profit or clubs involving youth.