Human Trafficking Newsletter February 2017
The following is a compendium of news reports over the last month that may be of interest to our AG offices that are dealing with state-focused human trafficking issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of news accounts, nor as to the position expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked articles.
In the Courts
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear certiorari in Jane Doe et al. v. Backpage.com, LLC, et al. Twenty-one states had signed onto a brief urging the Court to take the case, arguing that the Communications Decency Act does not protect websites that help create content.
The Third U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the exclusion of expert testimony with regard to the background on the culture of sex trafficking. The court concluded that, at this stage, the testimony would not assist in helping a jury determine the guilt of the defendants concerning the offenses charged. The appellate court noted that the district court might review its decision based on the fact testimony offered. United States v. D’Ambrosio et al.,No. 16-1844 (3d Cir. Jan. 26, 2017).
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an interesting opinion that deals with the scope of U.S. jurisdiction over U.S. citizens who engage in illicit sexual conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c). The statute prohibits a citizen or legal resident travelling in foreign commerce to engage in any illicit sexual conduct. The case involves Richard Schmidt who has, since 1984, been convicted a number of times for “extensive and grotesque sex offenses involving young boys.” In 2002, he left the U.S. for the Philippines to avoid arrest for violating parole for allegedly making unauthorized contact with a minor. Roughly 18 months after leaving the U.S., he left for Cambodia after he was arrested in the Philippines, but was in pre-trial release, for allegedly sexually molesting young boys. He was arrested again in Cambodia for similar conduct and was deported to the United States. Schmidt pled guilty to the violation under section 2423(c) and was sentenced to fifteen years and a lifetime of supervised release. Schmidt contended that, despite his guilty plea, he is technically innocent of the charge because his travel in foreign commerce ended once he reached the Philippines. The court concluded that Schmidt was still travelling in foreign commerce because he was in the Philippines on a series of two-month tourist visas, he maintained a substantial amount of money in the U.S., and never purchased property abroad. According to the court, “travel in foreign commerce” does not necessarily end when the first stop is reached. United States v. Richard Arthur Schmidt, No. 16-6567 (4th Cir. Jan. 4, 2017).
Six Mexican veterinarians, recruited to work on an Idaho dairy farm to oversee animal health and reproduction programs, have filed a labor trafficking lawsuit against Funk Dairy, Inc. The veterinarians were brought in under a TN visa, a visa designed for Canadian and Mexican NAFTA professional workers. In the lawsuit, brought in the U.S. District Court in Boise, the workers claim that they were illegally forced to work as general laborers, received substandard housing and lower wages than promised, and were threatened with deportation if they did not do their assigned work.
In connection with a hearing held on January 10, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a 53-page report, asserting that Backpage.com stripped terms from ads that indicated child sex trafficking and other criminal activity. The report also stated that Michael Lacey and James Larkin retain control of the website despite a purported sale to a Dutch company in 2014. During the hearing, the representatives from Backpage.com invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege. A copy of the report and the testimony is available here. Testimony at the hearing noted that, as of Jan. 11, Backpage has shut down its adult section, claiming that the U.S. Government is censoring its content.
A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, H.R. 459, which would allow victims of trafficking to petition courts to expunge records of non-violent crimes committed as a result of their victimization. In the Senate, a similar bill was introduced as S. 104.
The Shame Act, H.R. 440, was introduced. It would permit sentencing judges in child sex trafficking cases to order the Attorney General to publicize the names and photographs of the convicted defendants.
The Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act, H.R.466, has been reintroduced in Congress. The bill would require the State Department to determine if a country has made “serious and sustained efforts” to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts
In Nebraska, LB 289 was introduced. The bill would change provisions and increase penalties relating to pandering and human trafficking, prohibit solicitation of a trafficking victim, and eliminate as a defense to trafficking a minor where the defendant believed the child was an adult.
Four New Hampshire representatives are sponsoring HB 287 which would establish a committee of members from both the New Hampshire House and Senate to study the positive and negative results of decriminalizing sex work and would look at reports about sex work and human trafficking published both in the United States and abroad.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has requested two pieces of legislation on human trafficking. The first, HB 1079, would create a protection or no-contact order to protect victims of both labor and sex trafficking from the people exploiting them. The second, HB 1078, would extend the statute of limitation from three to ten years for human trafficking, commercial sex abuse of a minor, and promoting the commercial sex abuse of a minor. This bill also acknowledges that sexual exploitation occurs when “anything of value” is exchanged instead of the more limiting phrase “pays a fee.”
Jan. 18, 2017: Patcharin Koibushi, 46, was sentenced in Tempe to one and one-half years in prison and three years of probation for organizing a sex trafficking ring that forced young Thai girls to work as escorts.
Jan. 16, 2017: An Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper’s traffic stop of a vehicle led to the rescue of a young girl from California who went missing last November. Noticing indicators of possible sex trafficking, the trooper questioned the occupants of the car, a man and a woman, who were transporting the 16-year old to Las Vegas. The adults have been charged with three felonies.
Jan. 27, 2017: Responding to a tip received from the national Human Trafficking Hotline, police went to an apartment in Los Angeles and rescued a Filipina national who claimed she was being held against her will to work for a Filipino Family. She alleged that she had been working 12 hours a day and paid less than $350 a month since her arrival in April 2014. Her visa lapsed in 2015 and her employers used that information to control her while also holding her passport and phone. The investigation is continuing.
Jan. 20, 2017: The Superior Court in Santa Ana sentenced Justus Isaiah Morris, 20, to ten years in prison after he pled guilty to single felony counts of human trafficking, pimping, pimping a minor, pandering by procuring, pandering with a minor over 16 years old by procuring, and carrying a loaded unregistered firearm in public. A co-defendant, Marcos Rocha, 19, was sentenced to six years after plead guilty to two felony counts of pimping.
Jan. 13, 2017: A neighbor reported to Ventura police that a silver Mercedes Benz had dropped a young woman off in the area. Moments later, a Hispanic man met up with her, entered a side yard, and they began having sex. The caller confronted them and both ran away. Police later located the girl who turned out to be a runaway from Riverside. Later, police connected the car which dropped off the girl with Percy Stanley, 27. Police learned that he and Asia Jones, 18, had been staying at a local hotel with the teenager. Stanley and Jones have been arrested and charged with human trafficking of a minor and pimping of a minor.
Jan. 10, 2017: Acie Cole, 25, of Victorville was arrested on suspicion of pandering, pimping, human trafficking, and human trafficking of minors. He is being held in lieu of $350,000 bail. Detectives have identified several women who were allegedly forced into prostitution and believe there are others they have not yet found.
Jan. 13, 2017: Johnstown police arrested Chauncey Scott Price, 25, on charges of human trafficking after an undercover officer, posing as a truck driver, arranged to meet a teenager and another young woman he found on an online advertisement.
Jan. 3, 2017: Two more arrests have occurred in an ongoing investigation and prosecution of a human trafficking network that operated from South to Central Florida. Ft. Myers residents Joaquin Perez-Urbano, 41, and Pula Rojas-Zarate, 33, face charges for conspiracy to commit human trafficking and human trafficking.
Jan. 3, 2017: A West Melbourne police car was passing by a Hampton Inn when they saw and heard a woman screaming for help. They located Miratel Geffy Capitaine, 40, from Orlando who was allegedly arranging for men to have sex with two women in the hotel room. Officers also found different drugs in plastic bag stuffed in a mattress that, police believe, were used to control the women. One woman said she was not allowed to eat and both women said they were forced to provide sex to men against their will.
Jan. 5, 2017: Two Salina men have been accused of human trafficking after allegedly having sex with a 15-year old runaway from Kansas City, Missouri. The teen was found at a Salina home where two toddler girls who were in a locked closet were also located.
Jan. 20, 2017: In Bowling Green, a Warren County Grand Jury indicted Anthony Johnson on a charge of human trafficking of a minor and on six counts of unlawful transaction with a minor. He is accused of driving a 16-year old girl to prostitute herself with a man at Southside Auto in Bowling Green.
Jan. 25, 2017: Darren Hughes, 30, who was arrested two years ago, has been found guilty of trafficking a person for sexual servitude and some drug charges. Woburn police were involved in an undercover drug investigation which led to the discovery of a woman who had been trafficked by the defendant.
Jan. 9, 2017: Three Massachusetts residents — Dorianne Sylvestre, 21, Keith Grace, 25, and Chinier Bennett, 19 — have been charged with various child sex trafficking offenses. The charges are a result of a police investigation into a tip received that a 16-year old girl from Fitchburg was being held against her will in a Brockton apartment and being forced into prostitution. The teen knew Bennett from having lived together in a group home and she accepted an invitation to go to a party with him. Once there, she was not allowed to leave. She was forced into a sex act with a man and was hit when she refused sex with Grace. She was able to get a message to a friend who contacted police.
Jan. 24, 2017: A Ramsey County District Court judge found Darryl Taylor, 44, guilty on four counts of sex trafficking. Taylor, who waived his right to a jury trial, sold a 17-year-old for sex during two weeks in the summer of 2015 when she stayed with Taylor’s co-defendant, Laqueshia Danekia-Kay’D Moran. He also trafficked a 33-year old woman who was reported missing by her daughter. She was given alcohol and forced to use cocaine and prostitute herself. Both victims were advertised on Backpage.com.
Jan. 19, 2017: A Winona police officer followed up on a Craigslist “casual encounters” advertisement for two women seeking a man. The officer discovered the telephone number was registered to Ashley Tschumper, 25. He arranged a meeting and found Tschumper and Edward Mcfarland III, 26, with a 19-year old. The teenager told the officer that she lived with Tschumper and Mcfarland and that she had to perform acts of prostitution to pay the rent. Tschumper and Mcfarland were arrested and charged with sex trafficking.
Jan. 12, 2017: Two Hudson, Wisconsin, men are facing felony charges in connection with the sex trafficking of a homeless person. The victim is a missing person under civil commitment. Dustin Heichert and Adam Krimpelbein were arrested at Extended Stay America in Woodbury on a felony count of aiding and abetting sex trafficking of an individual. The victim was located by an undercover officer who answered an ad posted on Backpage.com.
Jan. 26, 2017: Two men have been sentenced after they pled guilty to human trafficking. Police discovered the victims when they were investigating a tip that there was a possible prostitution ring at the Quality Inn in Ridgeland. Officers found two women, 17 and 33, who told police that they had been forced into prostitution, threatened, and assaulted. Jason Ward was sentenced to 20 years with the last 5 years suspended. Devondra McFall was sentenced to 20 years but, because of his cooperation, the last fifteen years were suspended. Both men will be placed on five years of supervised probation following their release.
Jan. 30, 2017: In Alamance County, former UNC-Chapel Hill police lieutenant, John Wendell Moore, 60, has pled guilty to felony charges that he paid a 15-year old girl for sex after finding an ad for her on Backpage.com. He will serve 13 to 20 years in prison.
Jan. 8, 2017: A Fayetteville Police Department investigation has led to charges being filed against Erica Shante Reviere, 31, and Montrell Daquan Austin, 26, on child sex trafficking charges. A fourth suspect is being sought.
Jan. 26, 2017: In the first human trafficking case indicted in Licking County, Alex L. Sapp, 28, is facing charges of trafficking in persons, compelling prostitution, and domestic violence. Sapp was arrested after the victim reported he had physically abused her for two weeks while they were reportedly living together at the Budget Inn in Newark. Further investigation revealed that he had required her to prostitute herself.
Jan. 30, 2017: Ashley Embry, 27, pled guilty in Hamilton County for sex trafficking a developmentally disabled teenager. Embry forced the girl to take drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine, and threatened to kill the victim and her family if she didn’t engage in prostitution. She advertised the girl on Backpage.com.
Jan. 3, 2017: In an undercover operation targeting prostitution in Altus, officers uncovered evidence of sex trafficking. Three individuals have been arrested.
Jan. 31, 2017: An investigation into a robbery led Reading police to arrest Nathaniel E.R. Pagan, 18, and to charge him with trafficking in individuals and three counts of involuntary servitude and related charges. The robbery was reported by a man who admitted to calling a number in an advertisement to arrange for a prostitute to come to his home. The second time he arranged for her to come, he was beaten up and his wallet stolen. He told investigators that the woman had told him she was afraid of the man who drove her, that he was controlling, that he assaulted her, and that he took all of the money she made.
Jan. 23, 2017: In Pittsburgh, Michael Madison, 25, was sentenced to 26 years to life after his conviction of kidnapping a woman, forcing her into the sex trade, and sexually assaulting her at a Pittsburgh park. His co-defendant, Omar Lamont Williams, had received a similar sentence in 2015. As a part of a deal with the district attorney’s office, another individual involved, Audrey Sims, was sentenced on a lesser kidnapping charge to 11 years in state prison.
Jan. 11, 2017: Anthony Lamont Boone, 33, has been charged with one felony count of human trafficking. An undercover officer, using the website Skipthegames.com, arranged to meet a woman named “Adriana” who, when the officer met her, said that Boone had driven her to the hotel in Dauphin County from Scranton and that she was prostituting for him.
Jan. 29, 2017: Delanny Malveaux and Dorran Gilliespie have been charged in Houston with human trafficking and related charges. They allegedly lured a woman from Arizona by promising her a job at a Houston carnival. According to police, she was then forced into prostitution in northwest Houston.
Jan. 27, 2017: Roderick Tasby, 30, has been charged with human trafficking for facilitating and benefiting from a teenager’s involvement with prostitution. A New Braunfels officer stopped a car on I-35 for speeding and noticed the smell of marijuana, so he took Tasby and the girl into custody. He discovered that she was a runaway from Dallas and had been advertised on numerous online posts in Austin, San Antonio, and Louisiana.
Jan. 18, 2017: In San Antonio, Rebecca Alvarez was arrested on abuse and sex trafficking charges. She is the third person arrested in the case involving a 16-year old girl.
Jan. 18, 2017: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that Issac Lynn Williams, 28, who was wanted on charges for trafficking a teenage girl in Texas, has been apprehended in the Dominican Republic. He will be extradited to Texas to stand trial for Compelling Prostitution of a Person under 18 and Continuous Trafficking of Persons.
Jan. 4, 2017: Following a tip and several months of surveillance, investigators from the Utah Attorney General’s Office raided a massage parlor in Midvale, uncovering evidence of sexual activity and possible human trafficking.
Jan. 19, 2017: In the first commercial sex trafficking trial in Albemarle County, Douglas Meredith, 24, was found guilty on one count of assisting in a commercial sex trafficking operation. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in April.
Other Articles of Interest
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a partnership with the Tampa International Airport to bring awareness to human trafficking. A new website, YouCanStopHT.com has been developed and signage at the airport will provide the link to the website.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt launched a new campaign, marking Human Trafficking Awareness Day. First, his office is partnering with Ashby Street Outdoor and Lamar Advertising in a billboard campaign to encourage citizens to report suspicious activity on the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Second, public service announcements will be run on media markets throughout the state and, third, the office is partnering with state agencies to distribute awareness posters to Department of Motor Vehicle offices, state-owned rests stops, and healthcare facilities throughout Kansas.
The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission, chaired by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, met at the end of January and previewed a comprehensive human trafficking training video for medical professionals.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced that the number of human trafficking cases in the state went up 100 percent from 2015 and that 22 adult victims and five child victims of the crime were located and rescued.
Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt joined with the Nevada Broadcasters Association to unveil a series of television and radio announcements aimed at promoting awareness about human trafficking and the funds available for victims of the crime in Nevada. The announcements ran during Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
This month, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas hosted a human trafficking conference to train New Mexico law enforcement and service providers.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is spearheading an effort to identify potential human trafficking victims by mining missing children reports and other criminal databases. Information gleaned from these searches will be given to local law enforcement and children’s services officials.
At his press conference recognizing January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that his office will be releasing a new video to train state employees on how human trafficking operates, how to recognize the warning signs, and how to report suspicious activity.
For the second year, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has embarked on an electronic billboard campaign to educate the public about human trafficking. The billboards have been funded by a grant from the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs.
The Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force compiled a special magazine, Voices from the Field: Surviving and Thriving After Human Trafficking, which contains works of “art, poetry, and reflection by survivors of sex and labor trafficking and by advocates in the field.” Cook County Prosecutor Lou Longhitano is one of NAGTRI’s human trafficking faculty members.
The San Fernando Human Trafficking task force teamed with researchers from Cal State Northridge to understand environmental factors that contribute to the concentration of human trafficking and prostitution in certain areas of the county. One of the interesting outcomes of the report was the finding that the switch to LED bulbs led to larger areas of darkness between street lights.
Judy McKee is the Editor of Human Trafficking Newsletter and may be reached at 202-326-6044. The Human Trafficking Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General. Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.