• April 12, 2023
  • forgingfreed0m
  • HT News

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. 

Alabama: Human trafficking sting leads to 6 arrests in Henry County– Six men have been arrested on sex trafficking of a minor charges during “Operation Safehouse.”
California: MBI agents arrest Orange County strip club operators for hiring 15-year-old dancer – A strip-club owner, a manager, and an assistant manager/”house mom” of an Orange County strip club have been arrested on sex trafficking charges for allowing a 15-year-old victim to work there despite knowing she was underage. All three were legally obligated to ensure all employees were legal adults. The situation was discovered during a traffic stop when the victim was pulled over and lied about her age to the officer.Florida: Martin County suspect who allegedly lured girls into van charged with sexual battery, human trafficking – A 35-year-old Indiantown man accused of luring at least five girls from a nearby middle school into his van and then attempting to exploit them sexually has been charged with sex trafficking. He broke into one of his victim’s homes, offering her $1,000 for a sex act, then molested her when she refused.
Louisiana: Baton Rouge man allegedly sex-trafficked girls who ran away from DCFS custody; state releases statement – A man who sex-trafficked two 16-year-old victims after he lured them to leave DCFS custody has been arrested and charged with two counts of human trafficking and one count of carnal knowledge of a juvenile. He forced the victims to provide commercial sex in “shifts” and became violent when they refused. The girls seized an opportunity to escape when the trafficker stepped out of his car and drove off without him, throwing his cell phone out of the window to ensure he couldn’t use it to track them. Police discovered the victims after they were involved in a hit-and-run an hour later.
Massachusetts: Man indicted on human trafficking charges – A 45-year-old Everett man has been indicted on two counts of human trafficking, deriving support from prostitution, rape, domestic violence, and assault and battery causing serious bodily injury. The trafficker exploited at least two women struggling with drug addiction and used access to shelter, food, and drugs to control them, eventually becoming violent. Missouri: Potosi police officer accused of child sex trafficking – A 39-year-old former police officer was indicted for sex trafficking three minors and creating CSAM (child sexual abuse material) from their exploitation. He knew the victims through his work as a police officer and “committed the sex acts while on duty and in uniform.” At least one of the victims was under the age of 14. If convicted, he could face life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
New York: 6 people face charges in child sex trafficking and prostitution ring at Bronx hotel – Six people have been charged with sex trafficking in connection to the exploitation of 16 victims. Among the six, three motel employees have been charged. A hotel manager, front desk clerk, and security guard accepted bribes to not report sex trafficking on the premises, not check IDs, and offer discounted room rates to traffickers. They also failed to post the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s phone number as the law requires. They have been formally charged with sex trafficking along with the three men who directly and violently controlled victims.
Ohio: Columbus man who lured women with modeling arrested on federal sex trafficking charges – A 28-year-old Ohio man has been charged with sex trafficking women, luring them into “modeling” through his “agency” and then controlling them with drugs and violence. A woman he approached with the business card called the police, concerned he was trafficking women instead of giving them an opportunity. Police identified at least seven victims, who said he took all the profits via Cash App and was regularly violent, pushing two of the victims trying to be sober to return to drugs. Columbus Division Police received the tip thanks to coordination with the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and an investigation covering Franklin County, Delaware County, and Licking County.

California: San Diego ex-detective who busted illicit massage parlors pleads guilty to running them in retirement – A 78-year-old man and former Detective for San Diego’s Vice Operations Unit who also was an attorney has pled guilty to protect and operate a ring of 5 IMBs. He “…used the experience and skills he acquired through his work as a vice detective – and in at least one instance, his badge – to help the businesses evade law enforcement, thwart regulatory inspections, investigations, and any official action against the businesses, conceal evidence, and maintain a façade of legitimacy. On another occasion, Griffin told an employee that he was a former police officer and instructed her not to “open [her] mouth” about her employment at the illicit massage business. Griffin also used resources he had access to by virtue of his private investigator license to obtain information on customers and employees on behalf of the illicit massage businesses. … When one employee initially refused to perform commercial sexual services, one of the defendants instructed her to “leave [her] morals in China” in order to “make the customers happy.”
Colorado: Springs woman sentenced for human trafficking – A woman who was charged with sex trafficking a 15-year-old victim, sexually assaulting her and sexually exploiting her, has been sentenced to 6 years in prison. Three men were also arrested for attempting to buy commercial sex with the minor, assault, and sexual assault.
North Carolina: Raleigh Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Sex Trafficking 14-Year Old – A Raleigh man has been sentenced on sex trafficking charges after a Raleigh police detective investigated a 2018 ad that appeared to feature a missing minor who had left a temporary home six days prior. The victim, who had run away in slippers with no coat in December, went to a nearby motel and met her exploiters, who asked she come with them. She was forced to be exploited by 10-15 buyers daily, while her traffickers kept all the money. Both traffickers were also charged with manufacturing child pornography.
Minnesota: Anton Lazzaro found guilty on all charges of sex trafficking underage girls – A 32-year-old man has been convicted of sex trafficking 5 underage girls, admitting to having sexual contact with the victims. His co-defendant said the wealthy trafficker asked for girls to be recruited that were “petite with no tattoos” and “broken.” His defense attorney, who argued that because the victims kept the money, they were not trafficked, plans to appeal and stated,  “The unusual application of this federal sex trafficking statute to his activities is frighteningly broad, conflating what is nothing more than arguably an act of prostitution with federal sex trafficking.” By federal law, any commercial sex with minors falls under the definition of sex trafficking, with no requirement for force, fraud, or coercion.
Virginia: Man guilty of sex trafficking teen, forcing her to have up to 30 ‘dates’ a night in Hampton Roads – A man has been convicted on 7 charges including sex trafficking stemming from the sex trafficking of a 16-year-old girl, forcing her to be exploited by up to 30 clients per day and drugging her with amphetamines to keep her awake during the 3-week-ordeal while he confiscated all payment she received. He was already a convicted felon, and upon arrest was in possession of multiple drugs and a handgun.
Texas: A sex trafficking case, a plea deal and a mother’s pain – We want to shout out fantastic investigative work done in San Antonio including the collection of cell-phone data, hotel room receipts, and surveillance video on a difficult case involving a 16-year-old victim. Investigations are only the first step, though, and it is urgent for elected prosecutors to prioritize trafficking cases to enable consistency and zealousness on behalf of victims. This Texas example is a systemic pain felt in cities and states across the US.

Washington: Investigators still searching for suspects in Wenatchee massage parlor prostitution ring – Law enforcement in Washington is seeking information on fugitives Linhui Yan (60) and Yan Yang (44) on charges of ” leading organized crime, money laundering and second-degree promoting prostitution.” The couple is wanted in connection to three IMBs police raided, and the victims are being provided support services.

Massachusetts: 3 family members charged with human smuggling, forced labor at Massachusetts restaurants – Two Boston men who owned and operated two local restaurants and their uncle, who recruited victims from Brazil, have been charged with forced labor and labor trafficking. The recruiter charged victims $18,000-$22,000 to be smuggled from Brazil and receive fake immigration documents and then placed them in housing his brother and nephew controlled. Afterward, victims were forced to work 14-hour days for $3 per hour without time off and were controlled through threats.
Washington: Vashon Island man arrested on ten federal charges related to human trafficking – A Vashon Island man has been arrested on two counts of forced labor for exploiting two adult undocumented migrant victims in his landscaping business. His home, fenced off in a gated community, had multiple outbuildings, and neighbors said they thought multiple families with children lived there. The trafficker has also been charged with aggravated sexual assault in connection with one of the victims.

Indiana: Suspected ‘johns’ jilted, jailed – Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, an agency partner of Collective Liberty, continues its fantastic work on human trafficking in IMBs. After identifying and shutting down an accused IMB and connecting potential victims with support services, they used the location to arrest 29 men for attempting to buy commercial sex. 
Oregon: Centennial High Vice Principal among those arrested in human sex trafficking sting – Lake Oswego Police arrested eight men, including a local vice principal at a high school, for attempting to buy commercial sex. Two of the men were from out of state.

Iowa: Human-trafficking lawsuits against Iowa school expected to be tried in 2024 – An Iowa Community College was charged with human trafficking after recruiting Chilean and Brazilian students through the federal J-1 visa program for “culinary arts” and “robotics” programs. Students were then required to work as many as 35 hours per week in an “internship,” where they were needed to work on production lines at Tur-Pak Foods and Royal Canin USA. The corporations paid $15 per hour worked, and the college pocketed $7.75 per hour to “cover the expenses” of their program, leaving the students with a minimum wage rate and some required to work overnight shifts despite having morning classes. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District dismissed claims of racketeering and indentured servitude but have allowed human trafficking, breach of contract, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress to continue. No criminal charges have been made at this time.
Georgia: Guest Farmworkers’ Class Action Alleges Trafficking, Wage Theft – A class-action suit representing more than 100 H-2A temporary agricultural visa holders has been filed against MBR Farms Inc., accusing them of misrepresenting conditions, underpaying workers, and charging illegal recruitment and travel fees. The lawsuit says this was a $200 million forced labor scheme and was “funneled through a Florida Hard Rock casino.


Georgia: Employees at DeKalb massage parlor arrested for prostitution, 3rd time parlor has been investigated – DeKalb County has arrested potential victims at an IMB and charged them with prostitution for the third time in three years. This IMB continues to be renamed and re-staffed, a common occurrence when potential sex trafficking is not investigated and victims, considered disposable by traffickers, are criminalized.
Louisiana: Ga. businessman hired prostitutes, used drugs before his death, warrants say – Two women and a “known drug dealer” who arranged their meeting with a sex buyer who overdosed have been charged with prostitution and failure to seek assistance while the man has been charged with unlawful disposal of remains. It is unclear if the situation was investigated as a potential trafficking situation, and charging potential victims with prostitution reinforces barriers for reporting crimes or emergencies associated with commercial sex.
Maine: 14 charged following South Portland prostitution sting – A Maine sting that resulted in 178 attempted solicitations was able to arrest and charge 13 sex buyers.
Mississippi: 10 people arrested after undercover human trafficking operation – Multiple agencies were involved in “Operation 3-Point”, arresting ten people and identifying eight victims. While it is encouraging that eight victims were not criminalized, some of those arrested were charged with prostitution and their names and images were shared. This penalizes potential victims who may not have been willing to come forward and can reduce the willingness of current and future victims to cooperate.
New York: Two women arrested in Centereach massage parlor raid – Two workers at a massage parlor were arrested for “unlawful practice of a profession” and named. There is no indication this was investigated as a potential human trafficking situation and only potential victims are being criminalized.
New York: Two women have been charged with prostitution after a raid at a Long Island massage parlor. – Two women have been identified and charged with prostitution and practicing without a license after police raided an IMB in Long Island. Again, there is no indication this was investigated as a potential human trafficking situation and only potential victims are being criminalized.
New York: 2 Women Arrested In Raid Of Smithtown Massage Parlor: Police – Police in Suffolk County also conducted a raid on an IMB, again arresting two employees and potential victims inside and charging them with prostitution and practicing without a license. Again, there is no indication this was investigated as a possible human trafficking situation and only potential victims are being criminalized.
Ohio: Police arrest 2 women for prostitution at a Westwood Spa, court docs say – Two women at a Westwood IMB have been arrested and charged with “knowingly managing “the activities of a prostitute in engaging in sexual activity for hire” there is no indication that this was investigated as a potential human trafficking situation or evidence that these women were not potential victims.

USA: Sex Traffickers Used America’s Favorite Family Safety App To Control Victims – Life360, a family safety app worth $600 million, and similar apps like Glympse have been used by multiple sex traffickers to track victims’ locations and activities. “Tile trackers,” Apple Air Tags, and other tracking devices can be used to control victims. Despite multiple high-profile cases of traffickers using their software, executives at Life360 said the issue had never been raised at the executive level.
California: Two men beat S.F. drug-dealing charges after lawyers argue they were human trafficking victims – Two men accused of dealing drugs said they were forced to sell drugs after being unable to pay off their debts to “coyotes,” or human smugglers. The men said their families were threatened, while prosecutors said there was no concrete evidence that they were victims. Both cases ended in mistrials, and prosecutors declined to retry the cases.
Indiana: The organization of sex trafficking: Study reveals entrepreneurial cycle of human exploitation – A Notre Dame professor has published research on distinctive features of sex trafficking from a business perspective.
Montana: New Bill Aims to Help Survivors of Human Trafficking –  A Montana state senator is proposing a bill to use 1% of the state revenue from the Lodging Facility Use Tax to provide money for organizations that support victims of domestic and sexual violence, including sex trafficking, emergency shelter through hotel rooms. Housing is one of the most significant barriers for survivors of human trafficking, and having safe places away from abusers can assist in helping victims finally leave.

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