We monitor and fact-check media coverage of human trafficking and share the top cases with you from each week. A broad view of what is happening across the country can be translated into action, allowing us to collectively change the system and the public narrative.
Honduras: U.S. man accused of human trafficking captured in Honduras – American fugitive Gary Johnson who has been accused of human trafficking was located in the Honduran beach resort island of Roatan along with a 12-year-old girl. Honduran police allege that video and phones tying him to the high-profile missing person case of Angie Peña were found in his home.
Illinois: Female Immigrant Rescued from Human Trafficking After Traffic Stop Near Mt. Vernon – A 21-year-old woman was identified as a victim of human trafficking after an officer with the Illinois State Troopers noticed red flags and requested assistance from Homeland Security. A 41-year-old was arrested at the scene.
Mississippi: Two men arrested in Miss. human trafficking sting – A 62-year-old man has been charged with human trafficking of a minor and child exploitation, while a 26-year-old man has been arrested and charged with six counts of promoting prostitution and aggravated assault of a police officer.
New Jersey: State Police arrest 8 people, rescue victims from N.J. human trafficking ring, officials say – New Jersey police have arrested 8 suspects in a sex trafficking ring that operated out of multiple houses, rigged with high-end surveillance systems and locks, with impersonal rooms where victims were kept and sex trafficked. The investigation was started when police learned a minor was being trafficked. Police located the 17-year-old minor as well as multiple adult victims. All victims were brought to the United States after being promised legitimate employment, only to be kept and sex trafficked.
New York: Two Defendants Indicted on Sex Trafficking and Other Charges for Forcing Woman Into Prostitution – Two defendants from Queens have been indicted on sex trafficking charges for the trafficking of a 25-year-old woman who was assaulted and drugged by her traffickers. She was recruited with the promise of a safe place to stay to help her get back on her feet. A sympathetic buyer asked the victim if she was okay and then ordered an Uber for her when she shared her situation, allowing her to report the crime.
New York: Movie producer ran prostitution ring and used production company as a front, feds say – A 24-year-old man has been charged with sex trafficking someone identified as his girlfriend, whom he brought as a 17-year-old from Mexico then sex trafficked across multiple states. During the multi-year ordeal, he had a child with her, threatened her family, and assaulted her. When the victim said she wanted to leave for a better life for her and her daughter, he beat and stabbed her. The victim and her child are receiving services.
Pennsylvania: Meadville woman arrested for child labor trafficking – A 44-year-old woman has been charged with labor trafficking both biological and foster children in her care, requiring them to work at her car detailing business without pay. All victims were forced to sleep on air mattresses in the business in the same room as the woman and her boyfriend who died in 2020. Food was kept in a locked refrigerator and only allowed at “meal times”. The investigation began in 2020 after a victim’s family learned of the exploitation and went to police.
Texas: San Antonio man arrested on charges of sex trafficking a minor – A 37-year-old man has been arrested for sex trafficking a 16-year-old in Dallas after meeting her in a hotel parking lot. The victim says she was also provided methamphetamines while images were taken to to advertise her.
California: Pastor Who Used Homeless as Forced Labor, Three Others Plead Guilty to Benefits Fraud – A former pastor, his wife and two workers at Imperial Valley Ministries have pled guilty to labor trafficking. They recruited people struggling with homelessness, took their identifying documents and were forcibly confined to “homes”. They demanded the victims have no contact with their families for the first 30 days and did not allow them to leave the premises, but instead panhandle to raise money for the church immediately outside the “homes”. They also took and redistributed SNAP benefits intended for the victims.
California: GirlsDoPorn operator admits videos were part of sex-trafficking conspiracy – The operator of the “Girls Do Porn” site pled guilty to charges relating to 15 adult victims that were sex trafficked and whose exploitation was filmed and posted online. At least seven other victims, including minors, were also harmed in the scheme. The victims have received a $12.7 million dollar settlement and three co-conspirators have now been convicted. The fourth, owner Michael James Pratt, is a fugitive and is on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.
Colorado: Lamar man pleads guilty after 2021 child prostitution sting in Pueblo – A 72-year-old man who believed he was paying $400 to access a hotel room where he would have sex with a waiting 12 and 14-year-old has pled guilty. He was one of seven men arrested during the operation.
DC: Man extradited from Mexico sentenced to 18 months for role in DC-area prostitution ring – A man extradited from Mexico for his role as a driver in a sex trafficking ring from 2009-2010 has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. He is the eighth trafficker convicted in connection with this trafficking ring.
Florida: He controlled women, girls with drugs and violence. Now he’s guilty of human trafficking. -A Palm Beach man has pled guilty to three counts of sex trafficking for sex trafficking at least five women and girls five years after he was arrested.
South Dakota – Pennsylvania Man Found Guilty of Attempting to Entice a Minor Using the Internet – A 31-year-old man was convicted of attempting to entice a minor, who he believed was 13-year-old girl he was meeting during the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Washington: Former Staff Sergeant at Joint Base Lewis-Michord Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking, Child Pornography Charges– A former Staff Sergeant at a Washington Army base has pled guilty to one count of sex trafficking of children, one count of production of child pornography, and one count of engaging in illicit sexual activity in a foreign place. He traveled to the Philippines and exploited at least 6 children. He faces at least 15 years in prison and is eligible to receive life in prison at his sentencing.
California: Fresno’s ‘Made For Them’ used human trafficking survivors’ services without pay or support: Audit– An external audit of the Fresno-based NGO Made for Them says the self-proclaimed anti-human trafficking nonprofit sensationalized sex trafficking while not paying human trafficking survivors for their work and re-traumatizing them to raise funds. An employee whistleblower came forward, sharing information on mismanagement of funds potential tax evasion and mistreatment of survivors.
New York: Department of Labor makes ‘historic’ recovery of $270K in unpaid wages – A domestic worker who was exploited by a family in Brooklyn has been awarded a landmark sum of $270K for three years where she cared for their mother, often unpaid and going hungry along with the elder she was tasked with caring for.
Oregon: JCSO SWAT team busts drug trafficking organization; potential forced labor trafficking – A SWAT raid of a marijuana growing operation in Oregon revealed a dilapidated house full of workers who are likely victims of labor trafficking. The workers were isolated in inhumane housing without running water or a working toiler, sleeping on the ground, and being paid inconsistently and below minimum wage. The raid also yielded three firearms, 32,546 marijuana plants, 148,900 pounds of processed marijuana, 6.6 lbs. Butane Honey Oil, and $20,040 in cash. Services have been provided for the victims through the UNETE center for farmworker advocacy.
Ohio: ‘It was not even a secret’: New video from human trafficking raids on massage parlors – The Cuyahoga Human Trafficking Taskforce raided IMBs in Middleburg Heights, Lake County, and Strongsville. They are interviewing potential victims, reviewing buyer records, and investigating for evidence of human trafficking.
Illinois: Inside a brothel raid with the Cook County Sheriff’s police, and their efforts to help sex trafficking victims – Cook County Sherriff’s Office raided an IMB, offering potential victims support and conducting a thorough investigation. We continue to be proud of Cook County’s work investigating illicit massage businesses in a victim-centered way and employing in-house survivor experts like Ms. Dukes. Unfortunately, prosecution continues to be the weakest link nationally regarding aggressive pursuit of human traffickers.
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Colorado: Sting op leads to prostitution suspect – A rural Colorado department has identified and charged a woman for prostitution in connection with an IMB. There is no indication this was investigated as a potential human trafficking case.
California: Ventura woman named in federal indictment for alleged sex trafficking of minor – A 31-year-old man and 23-year-old woman have been named in a sex trafficking of a minor case. The man was violent with the underage victim and is identified as the head of the sex trafficking operation. The woman is identified as his “second in command” and was also expected to provide commercial sex, sometimes with the minor. This is a pattern that often indicates the adult woman involved was being trafficked as well.
Georgia: Peachtree City police cracking down on massage parlor prostitution – A police department has raided a massage parlor for the second time in two years, charging workers with prostitution and are asking for tougher regulations on massage businesses due to the recurring offenses. Arresting workers at IMBs who are often trafficking victims and are seen as disposable by their traffickers is an ineffective strategy at deterring IMBs. Thorough investigations that identify and uproot the full trafficking ring, focusing on those who profit off of exploitation is necessary. There is no indication that police attempted a human trafficking investigation.
Louisiana: LPD arrests New York woman for alleged prostitution operation – A potential victim who is registered as a “resident of New York” was arrested and charged with prostitution at an IMB in Louisiana. There is no indication that a human trafficking investigation was attempted.
Virginia: Undercover investigation reveals network of Hampton Roads massage parlors operating as prostitution ring – Police in Virginia Beach have identified a multi-location IMB ring that preyed on vulnerable Chinese women and moved them from New York, rotating them through locations as is typical in this model of sex trafficking. The police raided the owners’ homes, seizing almost $90,000, cell-phones and multiple vehicles associated with sex trafficking. While this is exceptional, the article notes that nine potential victims have also been detained and it is unclear if they are being treated as victims and given appropriate support services.
Texas: Constables Shut Down Spring Massage Parlor – A Texas Police Department arrested and charged a woman with prostitution while working at an IMB. Her name and picture have been shared along with the charges, making her even more vulnerable. There is no indication that this was investigated as being a potential human trafficking case.
US: Zip ties and shopping carts: Myths about sex trafficking make it harder to address real issue – A recurring urban myth about zip ties being used to “mark” victims for human trafficking has once again gone viral on TikTok and other platforms despite a lack of evidence.
US: GAO on U.S. Agencies’ Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking– The Government Accountability Office has released a full report on the effectiveness of federal agencies’ efforts to fight human trafficking, identifying gaps and issues that it argues must be addressed.
Missouri: Missouri’s new child sex trafficking law takes effect after years of criticism – Missouri has finally passed a safe harbor law, preventing child sex trafficking victims from being charged with prostitution offenses and a host of other requirements focused around protecting child sex trafficking victims and studying the problem.
New York: NYC Man Arrested In Murder Of Young Mom Was Accused Of Sex Trafficking In 2018: Report – A 44-year-old Brooklyn man with over 20 prior arrests was arrested for murdering the 25-year-old mother of his child. He was accused of sex trafficking a woman, then stabbing her and leaving her to die in 2018 though the charges were later dropped.
South Dakota: South Dakota DCI Forensic Examiner honored for work fighting human trafficking– South Dakota DCI Forensic Examiner Hollie Strand has earned the Freedom Fighter Award from NGO Freedom’s Journey. Strand has been working in law enforcement for over 24 years and is part of the Division of Criminal Investigations Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
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