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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.
California: LAPD, other agencies announce crackdown on sex trafficking, rescues of children – Operation Reclaim and Rebuild took place with the cooperation of 83 California departments, plus federal law enforcement agencies to arrest 38 sex traffickers and 197 buyers in Los Angeles. The operation arranged services for 125 potential adult victims and 6 minor victims aged 13-52.
California: Long Beach man charged with human trafficking, pimping 2 women – A 42-year-old man has been accused of sex trafficking two women. One of his victims claimed she was acting independently when first contacted by police, but police persisted and obtained evidence the women were being assaulted and controlled.
Florida: Pasco sheriff: 12 arrested on human trafficking charges after 16-year-old girl suffers abuse for two weeks – Eleven men and one woman have been arrested for exploiting a 16-year-old over two weeks after she ran away from her guardian, where the guardian’s pool cleaner, a 43-year-old man, was already sexually exploiting the teen. A 57-year-old man picked the victim up along a highway to “go home with him and have a shower.” Four adult buyers at a local hotel and a woman who helped her get jobs at strip clubs and sex trafficking her were arrested, among others.
Kentucky: Massage parlor busts: Bardstown police describe ‘deplorable’ conditions for trafficked victims – After a year-long investigation and a raid of two IMBs in Kentucky, local police have arrested three IMB owners on suspicion of human trafficking and identified two potential victims. The victims were required to live on-site in “deplorable conditions” and have now been connected to services through Catholic Charities. Police have discussed a thorough investigation, looking at the potential of larger human trafficking networks, and are asking for cooperation through the state-wide HOPE Initiative.
Louisiana: Monroe man arrested for offering money to minor to meet in church parking lot for sexual activities – A 24-year-old Louisiana man has been arrested for buying commercial sex from a 15-year-old. The victim claimed she told him she was 16; he claimed she said she was 18. He was charged with computer-aided solicitation of a minor and felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
Montana: Ava woman arrested on child sex trafficking charges – A 49-year-old Montana woman has been arrested for sex trafficking a victim beginning at three years old. She forced a second victim to live with a sexual predator in exchange for sexual acts. The two male suspects, one of whom is the victims’ father, were eventually arrested on February 3rd and February 7th.
Montana: Baker man accused of trafficking minor and producing child sex abuse material – A 39-year-old Montana man has been charged with sex trafficking of a minor, conspiracy to produce child pornography, and destruction of records in a federal investigation. He coerced an underage girl, sexually assaulted her, and then distributed a recording of that exploitation. He also coerced the girl into providing commercial sex. When he realized he was being investigated, he destroyed some of that material. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison. In connection to the case, a former Colstrip police officer admitted to receiving child sex abuse material and having a sexual relationship with an underage girl, and another man pled guilty to the receipt of child pornography.
Nebraska: Schuyler man arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, sexual assault – A 44-year-old man was arrested for sexually assaulting and sex trafficking four minors. He has also been charged with child pornography, solicitation, and pandering charges.
Nevada: Accused cult leader, movie actor held without bail on sex trafficking charges – An actor who appeared in Dances with Wolves has been arrested on two counts of sex trafficking adults, one count of sexual assault against a child, and sexual assault child abuse. The actor lived with victims he referred to as “wives,” some of whom he is accused of sex trafficking and sexually exploiting as minors, and tattooing with a matching spider symbol. He portrayed himself as a medicine man and spiritual healer. The FBI investigated him for the sexual assault of two minors in 2003 at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, but those charges were eventually dropped. He was “later banished from the reservation after he was accused of human trafficking, spiritual abuse and intimidation of tribal members, according to the report.” He has been accused of a pattern of exploiting Indigenous women and girls in the USA and Canada.
Nevada: Las Vegas police bust suspected illegal brothel posing as massage parlor – An owner of a Las Vegas IMB has been arrested and charged with advancing prostitution and living off the earnings of a prostitute. Las Vegas Police Department investigated an IMB, initially detaining three employees inside before declining to charge them, treating them as potential victims, and arranging support services instead.
Utah: Missing and endangered Massachusetts teen found in Utah, man facing several charges including trafficking for labor – A missing minor from Massachusetts was located in the car with a 35-year-old man who met her online and groomed her, buying a bus ticket for her to meet him in Denver. They were discovered by a Utah Highway Patrol officer who pulled them over for speeding and recognized the teen, who gave a fake name and birthdate. The teen said she was being sex-trafficked and would be sex-trafficked once they reached Las Vegas.
California: San Diego Man Pleads Guilty to Pimping Women in Multiple States – A 30-year-old man has pled guilty to sex trafficking three women across California, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Nevada. He physically abused two of the women and kept the money they earned.
California: Police: Three arrested for suspected human trafficking in Salinas – Three men have been arrested on sex trafficking charges after police raided a property with multiple structures where at least two victims were being held in trailers.
Georgia: Carr: Clayton County Man Convicted of Purchasing Underage Victim for Sex – A third buyer has been convicted for the sex trafficking of a 15-year-old girl. The trafficker was sentenced to 25 years, and another buyer was sentenced to 15 years for their roles in the case. The recently established Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit has 46 defendants under indictment for both sex and labor trafficking charges.
North Carolina: Wilmington woman sentenced to prison for making bribes to protect illicit massage parlor – Two women have been sentenced for attempting to bribe a law enforcement officer into protecting their IMBs. Homeland Security Investigations identified, investigated, and took down a sex trafficking network across four federal districts, searched 8 IMBs and multiple residences, and arrested six individuals.
Ohio: Sex for sale: Sex ring bust leads to multiple arrests – Eleven people have been indicted on 38 charges accused of running a sex trafficking ring through 4 IMB locations in Ohio. The effort took 17 law enforcement agencies working together through the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, supported by the U.S. Secret Service Money Laundering Task Force, and the Ohio Medical Board. The charges focus on corruption, money laundering, promoting prostitution, possessing criminal tools, and conspiracy.
Pennsylvania: One Leader of a Violent Sex Trafficking Gang Sentenced to Life and a Consecutive Ten Years Imprisonment, and a Gang Associate Sentenced to 37 years Imprisonment – A 33-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in a sex trafficking network he helped lead as a member of the “Sevens” gang. The operation was primarily run out of a boarding house and used extreme violence and drug deprivation to control victims.
Texas: Woman pleads guilty to sex trafficking crimes that took place at Houston bar – A 56-year-old woman has been convicted of sex trafficking women and at least one minor out of a local bar, requiring women who were hired to be waitstaff to provide sex acts in back rooms. When the victims refused, they were threatened with violence, and after one victim refused to come to work, the convicted trafficker sent an enforcer to “beat her to death.“
Washington: Sentence said to be Clallam County’s first for sex trafficking – Rural Clallam County successfully prosecuted its first sex trafficking case when a young adult victim contacted police about a sexual assault, saying the assaults had been happening since she came to live with the trafficker’s family at age nine. She had been threatened with being sent back to her family. “The woman said she was not allowed to go anywhere without Callahan or his daughter present; she was not allowed to date when she became a teen and was required to do more chores and housework than the other children.”
California: Daly City family sentenced after running decade-long human trafficking ring out of daycare – Four family members who ran a labor trafficking operation out of the Rainbow Bright Daycare and adult care center have been sentenced to nearly 9 years and 8 months, five years and eight months, and five years. They targeted recently immigrated members of the Filipino community for ten years, making false promises to help their victims then confiscating their passports. A raid of the daycare revealed a range of large, loaded guns kept around the premises and within reach of children. They cheated workers out of their wages, forcing them to live on the premises and work up to 24 hours per day. The family owes over $8.5 million dollars to victims and the government for back taxes. One trafficker received a higher sentence due to three counts of rape against one of the victims.
Virginia: Suspect in labor trafficking case at Williamsburg laundry facility pleads guilty – The 68-year-old owner of Magnolia Cleaning Services pled guilty to labor trafficking at a laundry business and agreed to pay $3.9 million in restitution. He agreed he exploited over a hundred migrant workers, including minors as young as 13, from Central America. The workers were forced to work long hours without heat or air conditioning and threatened with deportation and beaten. One victim was forced to work while her unsupervised infant was left in a stroller with a bottle tied to its frame. A man who used multiple aliases and provided false documentation for the 121 employees with alleged invalid or mismatched social security numbers has been charged as part of the labor trafficking network.
Texas: Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office completes Large Human Trafficking Operation – Thirty men were arrested as part of an anti-demand operation for attempting to purchase sex, a felony in Texas.
Global: Human Trafficking: Detection and Investigations – Anti-money laundering professionals describe techniques to help investigate human traffickers.
USA: Stronger Labor Laws Could Combat Human Trafficking – Melissa Hope Ditmore, a researcher and expert on human trafficking, discusses her book Unbroken Chains: The Hidden Role of Human Trafficking in the American Economy and why she believes stronger protections for workers are the only real solution to stopping human trafficking.
New York: Exclusive: Hyundai in talks with U.S. Labor Department over Alabama child labor – Hyundai is in talks with the U.S. Department of Labor after an investigation revealed severe child labor violations in Alabama manufacturing plants that supply the company. Hyundai is expected to implement significant training and policy changes to prevent future violations.
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Florida: Two Floridians arrested for alleged sex trafficking of teenage girl – A man and a woman have been arrested after a 16-year-old was sex trafficked in two counties. The man is accused of multiple sexual assaults of minors. At the same time, the woman has been charged with child neglect, deriving support from proceeds, and the unlawful use of a two-way communication device. It is not clear if she was treated as a potential victim.
Georgia: 3 women arrested following massage business sting operations, Hall County deputies say – Police arrested three potential victims at IMBs and charged them with prostitution, releasing their names and mugshots. There is no indication they were treated as potential victims or that their cases were investigated as possible human trafficking situations.
New York: 2 Women Arrested For Prostitution At Huntington Massage Parlor – Two women were publicly named and charged with prostitution and felonies for practicing massage without a license. There is no indication she was treated as a potential victim or that the business was investigated as a possible human trafficking operation.
Oklahoma: Ten arrested in alleged human trafficking scheme in Johnston Co. – Oklahoma police arrested multiple people after a traffic stop led to the identification of a human trafficking situation. The official account for Johnston County Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office tweeted: “Nothing to see here in Oklahoma, just another group of illegal aliens. Ten illegals in this group believed to be trafficked and working off their debts to the cartel on marijuana farms here in Oklahoma.” There is no indication that the identified victims received any services but were required to be released because they had not broken an Oklahoma state law.
Maryland: New York senior accused of running illegal spa with sexual services in Maryland – A 63-year-old woman registered as a resident of New York has been charged with prostitution and running a sex trafficking ring through IMB. It’s unclear if the woman was treated as a potential victim and if police looked into the possibility of a more extensive network that had “promoted” her as a manager while victimizing her.
Texas: Spring massage parlor accused of prostitution, 3 arrested after investigation – Harris County investigators charged two potential victims with prostitution, sharing their names and mugshots. There is no indication they investigated the IMB for potential human trafficking. They also arrested and charged one sex buyer present during the raid.
Global: Pope: Human trafficking ‘disfigures dignity’ – The Pope released a statement condemning human trafficking and called on young Catholics to work to stop human trafficking around the world.
USA: DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking Releases FY 2022 Annual Report – DHS has released its Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT) Annual Report. The report reveals that DHS made 3,655 trafficking-related arrests, supported over 1,000 trafficking-related indictments, and over 600 prosecutions. They also assisted 765 victims of human trafficking and approved immigration protections for 22,500 victims and their families.
USA: Chat Site Omegle Must Face Claim for Sex Trafficking Minors – The US District Court for the District of Oregon has ruled that video chat site Omegle.com must face a suit that it knowingly facilitated the sex trafficking a minor and materially benefitted from the human trafficking due to advertising revenue.
USA: Uber Freight, other carriers train drivers to spot signs of human trafficking – Truckers Against Trafficking have now trained 1.5 million drivers, helping identify victims from coast to coast.
Arizona: The efforts to crack down on sex trafficking in Arizona ahead of Super Bowl – An interview with Arizona’s efforts to address sex trafficking associated with Super Bowls.
California: Olympic snowboarders accuse USOPC, national federation of sex trafficking in lawsuit – Multiple Olympic snowboarders are suing the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee and other major figures for turning a blind eye to sexual abuse accusations against former coach Peter Foley, who they say exploited snowboarders for over twenty years despite a history of complaints. He was fired in 2022 after a probe that confirmed allegations that he “coerce(d) sexual acts through force, manipulation, intimidation, and retaliation.”
California: SF supervisor considers sanctioned red-light district amid ongoing sex trafficking problem – Commercial sex is so visible in Oakland and San Francisco that a supervisor is suggesting a legalized red-light district and pushing for legalization across the state. Communities in Oakland have been asking for help as the problem grows worse, while local police say a recent law banning “loitering for prostitution” arrest has tied their hands.
Illinois: Woman critically injured in stabbing at massage parlor in Brighton Park – A woman is in critical condition after being stabbed on her first day at an Illinois massage parlor by a man her coworkers identify as a customer. Those at the spa refused to go on camera and said they did not know much about the victim.
Nevada: Sex predators expected for 2024 Super Bowl in Las Vegas – As Las Vegas gears up to hose the Super Bowl in 2024, a large conference set up to strengthen anti-human trafficking efforts and laws in the state was held. Particularly noted is that Nevada allows sex buyers to seal their convictions after a year and discussed changing to more inclusive definitions of human trafficking like those seen in Texas.
Pennsylvania: Owner of Northeast Philly Hotel Must Pay $24M to Underaged Sex Trafficking Victims – The owner of a hotel where staff turned a blind eye to a known sex trafficking operation that victimized at least 8 minors must pay the victims $24 million dollars.
Texas: The Refuge rehab facility, cleared of child sex exploitation allegations, soon to reopen – The Refuge has been cleared of wrongdoing and has received its license to care for young survivors of human trafficking after serious accusations. One caretaker was accused of sexually exploiting two minor residents, including a count of sex trafficking, but a grand jury declined to indict her.
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