Human Trafficking Newsletter February 2018
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
In the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, a lawsuit was filed last month on behalf of Edelynne Bergado, a Filipino native, against a couple who, she claims, lured her to the United States under false pretenses. She also claims they confiscated her passport, required her to work many hours doing domestic work, never paid her, and used her as a “guinea pig” to test skin products for a business run from the couples’ apartment that burned her skin. Bergado v. Velonza, No. 1:17-cv-09070-JVS-JC.
U.S. District Judge John Walter dismissed the case against two American and two Thai seafood companies who had been accused of labor trafficking. In Ratha et al. v. Phatthana Seafood Co., Ltd. et al., No. CV 16-4271-JFW (C.D. Cal.), the court granted summary judgment to the defendants based on the court’s analysis that the defendants’ contact with the United States was too minimal for the court to exercise subject matter jurisdiction.
A lawsuit has been filed in the Harris County, Texas, District Court on behalf of a “Jane Doe 1,” who, at the age of 15, was a sex trafficking victim, advertised on Backpage.com, and victimized at area hotels and truck stops. Defendants in the lawsuit include Backpage.com, and local truck stops and hotels. Jane Doe #1 v. Backpage.com et al., No. ______ (Dist. Ct. Harris County, filed Jan. 23, 2018).
The President signed into law S. 1532, No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act.
The Anti-Trafficking Trade Act, S. 2308, has been introduced in the Senate. It would prevent countries failing to meet the minimum standards for combating human trafficking from receiving potential trade benefits.
The House passed HR 4708, which amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002. It requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue guidance and develop training programs as part of the Blue Campaign.
Alabama’s senate has unanimously passed SB 179, a bill that raise the penalty for those found guilty of obstructing an investigation into child trafficking from a Class C to a Class A felony.
Four bills have been introduced in the California legislature. AB 1735 would expand the current law regarding protective orders for trafficked minors to include all victims of trafficking, pimping, pandering, and domestic violence. AB 1736 would allow the introduction of a victim’s prior inconsistent statement to be introduced at trial if the victim is legally unavailable to testify. AB 1737 simplifies the definition of pandering, and AB 1738 would require tier 2 registration on the sex offender registry database for people convicted of actual or attempted commission of soliciting of a sexual act with a minor if the offender knew the youth was being trafficked.
If HB 159 and SB 596 become law in Florida, the Attorney General’s Office will be establishing a statewide toll-free human trafficking report line and developing awareness campaigns about human trafficking for the state.
Hawaii is considering two human trafficking-related bills. HB 1955 would require the development of a course for hotels and their employees on how to respond to suspected human trafficking activities. HB 2138 would, among other things, amend the offense of sex trafficking to impose criminal liability on a person who solicits a minor for prostitution and by imposing strict liability with respect to the age of the minor.
SB 281 has been introduced in the Kansas legislature. Endorsed by the Attorney General’s office, the bill would amend the Protection from Stalking and Sexual Assault Act to allow a local prosecutor, the attorney general or a child’s guardian to obtain a protection order for a minor who was trafficked to prevent them from being contacted by anyone who was involved in the child’s trafficking.
Two bills have been introduced in the Idaho legislature aimed at curbing sex trafficking. One, HO377, would increase the classification of the first time solicitation of a prostitute from a misdemeanor to a felony. The other, HO 376, would allow human trafficking charges to apply for the trafficking of just one person.
The Michigan legislature is considering HB 5438 which would add a provision to its human trafficking law that would add to the definition of coercion the facilitating or controlling an individual’s access to a controlled substance.
In Mississippi, SB 2630 has been introduced. It would enhance the penalty for labor and sex trafficking and specifies that both labor trafficking and sex trafficking of a minor would be punished by 20 years to life in prison. It also states that it is not a defense that the minor gave consent. Another bill, SB 2686, specifies that the communications between a human trafficking victim and an advocate are confidential.
A bill to provide a procedure to set aside convictions of victims of sex trafficking and expunge related records has been introduced as LB 1132 in the Nebraska legislature.
HB 1218 in New Hampshire would change the penalty for a person who pays to engage in sexual contact with someone under 18 who is a victim of human trafficking from a Class B to a Class A felony. Knowledge of the age of the victim is not a necessary element of the crime.
Ohio legislators have introduced HB 461 which would repeal the provision in current law that draws a distinction between 16 and 17-year old victims of sex trafficking and younger victims. Under the new provision, all minor victims would be protected from prosecution.
Pennsylvania is considering raising the penalty for human trafficking to a first degree felony in HB 2029.
The legislature in South Dakota is considering SB 64 which would punish the attempt to commit a violation of human trafficking of a minor and make it punishable in the same manner as if it was carried through. The bill is sponsored by Attorney General Marty Jackley.
A Tennessee legislator has proposed a bill, HB 1701, that would tax strip club customers an additional $2. The money would go toward a sex trafficking victims’ fund.
In Virginia, HB 1592 has been introduced. It would require any product that has the Internet to install filters that block prostitution hubs, such as Backpage.com. A consumer that wishes to get rid of the filter would pay a fee to the manufacturer. Some of that money would then go towards assisting human trafficking victims.
Jan. 12, 2018: Phoenix police completed a vice operation to address demand. Undercover detectives opened a massage parlor and arrested patrons who wanted them to perform sex acts. Eighty-six men were arrested in ten days. Those arrested ranged in age from 22 to 78 years.
Jan. 31, 2018: A statewide law enforcement operation, called Operation Reclaim and Rebuild, was a three-day effort by more than 80 California agencies to rescue victims and arrest traffickers. Statewide, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported 45 adult victims and 11 minor victims recovered, 178 men arrested for solicitation, and 30 men arrested for pimping.
Jan. 23, 2018: After police officers in Hemet found two girls, one only 15, performing a sex act on a man in a parked car, they located the suspected pimp. He is identified as Marvonte Dolberry, 22. When Dolberry was located at a local hotel, he was found with a 15-year old girl who is suspected to be another victim of sex trafficking. Police also arrested Luis Chavez-Avila, 30, the driver of the car.
Jan. 23, 2018: A Bay Point man, Deandre Lewis, has been convicted of torture, aggravated mayhem, conspiracy, human trafficking, rape and numerous pimping and pandering charges. He was acquitted of kidnapping and the jury hung on a charge of murder that was brought because of testimony that he forced a woman to commit suicide. The torture and mayhem charge came from evidence collected from a recorded jail call during which he ordered his co-defendant, Rachel Smith (who had pled guilty), to “make that (expletive) bald-headed,” referring to one of his victims. He also told Smith to make her think that she was going to die. The woman was partially scalped and cut from head to toe.
Jan. 16, 2018: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that Quinton Brown and Gerald Turner pled guilty to multiple felony charges of sex trafficking a minor in Tulare County Superior Court. Under the plea agreement, Brown is expected to serve 28 years and Tulare is expected to serve 11 years. The victims in this case included eight minors.
Jan. 12, 2018: In Martinez, after an emotional statement by one of his victims, James Vernon Joseph, Jr., 52, was sentenced to 174 years to life on his conviction of conspiring with others in a nationwide sex-trafficking ring as well as for numerous rapes and sexual assaults. His conviction marks the end of his involvement in criminal cases in California, Missouri, and New York. His co-defendant, Avisa Lavassani, received a suspended sentence of 20 years in prison after she testified that, although she had been involved in helping to victimize and traffic other women, she, too, had been sexually assault and beaten by Joseph and that she had stayed with him out of fear.
Jan. 11, 2018: In Dover, Jason Haith pled guilty to third-degree promoting prostitution and second-degree conspiracy. He was involved in a human trafficking enterprise that solicited two teen girls online. He will be sentenced in March. His plea resulted from arrests that Delaware State Police made in Mary 2017. Co-defendant Aliesha Haith also pled guilty to second degree promoting prostitution and second degree conspiracy. Two other co-defendants are awaiting sentencing.
Jan. 22, 2018: Two Delray Beach men are facing human trafficking charges. City police allege the forced at least three women into prostitution. At least one of the women was in the area for drug treatment and all three suffer from opioid addictions. An investigation revealed that Joseph Troutman, 47, and Ronald Carter, 37, had the women working out of an apartment and one of the victims alleged that Carter would beat her if she didn’t turn over her earnings to him.
Jan. 18, 2018: Springfield detectives arrested Marcus Rouse, 43, a City Water, Light, and Power employee with promoting prostitution, involuntary servitude, trafficking persons, and official misconduct. The latter charge involves using a city-owned vehicle to transport a woman who was involved in prostitution.
Jan. 8, 2018: A complaint in Lafayette concerning possible prostitution occurring at a hotel led to the arrest of Darius Jamal Brown, 27, on human trafficking and related charges.
Jan. 1, 2018: Frederick police responded to a report of a possible abduction but found, instead, a 16-year old girl being prostituted at a hotel. Albert Vance, 39, has been charged with three counts of human trafficking.
Jan. 8, 2018: Iliana Carranza-Borja, 37, and Benito Deras, 42, have been arraigned in Salem Superior Court on charges of human trafficking, aggravated rape of a child, and indecent assault and battery on a person over age 14. Both were recently indicted by the Essex County grand jury. Deras allegedly engaged in sex acts with a 14 year old girl in an arrangement that Carranz-Borja profited from, including payment of her rent.
Jan. 6, 2018: An Ingham County Circuit Court jury found Amber Speed, 41, guilty of conducting a criminal enterprise in connection with a sex trafficking ring that involved underage girls. She will be sentenced in late February.
Jan. 25, 2018: Ricky Arlen Turner, 29, pled guilty in Hennepin County to one count of sex trafficking and one count of promoting prostitution. He was previously convicted in Washington County to racketeering and other crimes related to a 14-state underage trafficking ring. His eight-year sentence will run consecutively with his sentence from Washington County.
Jan. 29, 2018: St. Charles County prosecutors charged a woman with sex trafficking a minor. In an undercover operation, detectives made an arrangement to travel to the Red Roof Inn for a “date” with the minor. Laurin Force is accused of renting out the hotel room in her name in order for the 17-year old to engage in prostitution.
Jan. 1, 2018: Four men in Scottsbluff were arrested following a task force sting targeting men purchasing sex. Under a newly enacted law, those who solicit minors for sex can be prosecuted as traffickers. The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office was one of nine different agencies collaborating in the investigation.
Jan. 26, 2018: Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that a criminal complaint has been filed against Richard James Mapp, 36, of Las Vegas on felonies involving kidnapping and sex trafficking a minor and associated crimes. Mapp played football as a receiver for the University of Nevada Las Vegas in the early 2000s.
Jan. 16, 2018: Anthony Brooks, 33, was extradited from California and booked into the Washoe County jail on four charges, including sex trafficking of a minor, child abuse causing substantial bodily injury, battery causing substantial battery harm, and violating conditions of parole. Detectives received a report in May regarding a teen who had been battered and sexually abused, discovered that she was a sex trafficking victim, and issued a warrant for Brook’s arrest..
Jan. 5, 2018: A third person has been arrested and charged in a human trafficking case involving a 16-year old woman. Fayetteville police reported that Ashley Skinner, 23, joined co-defendants Karla Bernice Gainey, 35, and Antonio McAllister, 33, who were arrested in October, in being charged with victimizing the teenager.
Jan. 18, 2018: Pearl Coffey, 34, pled guilty to several human trafficking charges in Summit County. She admitted to providing young girls and women with shelter and drugs in exchange for them prostituting themselves for her benefit. She will be sentenced later this month. Her co-defendant, boyfriend Darren Townsend, is set for trial early this month.
Jan. 18, 2018: Thomas Sawyer, 70, owner of Brown County Asphalt Company, pled guilty to engaging in corrupt activity and compelling prostitution. He hired women to work for his company. They were awarded with a high salary and drugs but, in exchange, Sawyer required sex. Most of the women hired were heroin addicts.
Jan. 26, 2018: A Washington County Circuit Court judge sentenced Ahmed Turay Jr. to six years in prison for trafficking a 17-year old girl. He was arrested as part of an undercover operation where authorities arranged to meet with the teen-ager featured in ads on Backpage.com.
Jan. 20. 2018: A Comal County jury found Gloria E. Romero-Perez guilty of trafficking her teenage niece. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The guilty verdict came even though the judge presiding over the trial interrupted the proceedings to say that God told him to convince the jury to find the defendant “not guilty.”
Jan. 22, 2018: In December, Lynnsie Reddish and Terrance Jones pled guilty to two counts each of Human Trafficking for Forced Sexual Exploitation. The charges arose from allegations that Reddish and Jones were running a sex trafficking ring out of a massage parlor front in Ogden. They used violence, humiliation, and drug dependency to control their victims. One of the victims was an adult woman with diminished mental capacity. Her story is the basis for an upcoming bill before the Utah legislature to more harshly penalize traffickers who target vulnerable adults. Reddish and Jones have been sentenced to an indeterminate prison sentence of 1-15 years. The charges were investigated and prosecuted by the Utah Attorney General’s office.
Jan. 26, 2018: An undercover detective in Oshkosh, responding to a suspected prostitution ad, arranged to meet two teenage girls, 16 and 17, at an apartment used for undercover prostitution stings. Other investigators stopped the car that had brought the two girls and found Shane Taylor, 32, Christopher Hutcherson, 31, and Alicia Boyce 28, inside. They also found a phone with an open line to one of the girls along with a gun inside a book bag. The three now face two counts each of trafficking a child and enticing a child into prostitution. Taylor also faces charges of possession of a firearm as a felon and seven counts of felony bail jumping.
Jan. 26, 2018: A former Everett, Washington, firefighter has been arrested and charged in Sweetwater County with two counts each of human trafficking and sexual servitude of a minor. He allegedly offered two young girls, 12 and 14, a ride when he met them in a parking lot in Seattle and learned they were attempting to reach their grandmother from Kansas who had agreed to meet them halfway. They were running away from their mother. He is accused of demanding sexual contact from them.
Other Items of Interest
With January being Human Trafficking Awareness Month, many attorneys general announced initiatives, proclamations, and reports on their states’ anti-trafficking efforts.
- Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced that his office has joined in participating with the Georgia-based nonprofit organization, Street Grace, in an effort to raise public awareness of sex trafficking in Alabama.
- Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge highlighted the national human trafficking hotline and red flags indicating possible trafficking in her announcement.
- Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich joined Truckers Against Trafficking and other organizations to announce a new partnership to help rescue victims of human trafficking. The office will provide 25,000 stickers that will provide victims a telephone number to call or text for help. These stickers will be placed on semi-trucks throughout Arizona.
- D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced that his office has employed new resources to fight trafficking in the District and is undertaking an educational outreach to students in D.C. public schools and to judges, prosecutors, and advocates who work with children.
- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi presented a Florida Cabinet resolution recognizing January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month and commending law enforcement, local governments, advocates, and communities for efforts in combating the crime.
- Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, in conjunction with Street Grace and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, launched the “Demand an End” initiative to combat Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in Georgia and around the nation.
- Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Free2Hope’s new Drop-in Center and emphasized his and his office’s commitment to support and work with Kentucky’s nonprofit, public and private sector partners to stop human trafficking and seek justice for survivors.
- Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill disclosed that he is expanding his office’s effort to stop human trafficking in Indiana. He will assign additional investigators and attorneys to the office’s Human Trafficking Investigations Unit.
- Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt acknowledged Human Trafficking Awareness Day by asking the legislature to increase protections for victims of human trafficking.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined with the Suffolk District Attorney to recognize survivors of human trafficking at the opening of an installation of the “Now You See” exhibit which highlights portraits of survivors of human trafficking.
- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette joined the Oakland County Human Trafficking Task Force at the unveiling of a new resource website for the county and encouraged Michigan citizens to learn more about human trafficking, directing them to several websites which will help inform about the crime.
- Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson recognized January 11 as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day by announcing the “Demand an End” campaign. A video produced by the office is available on YouTube.
- North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced that his office will host workshops around the state to train law enforcement on how to identify traffickers and treat victims.
- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued the annual Human Trafficking Commission Report. The report states that there were 208 potential victims of human trafficking identified in 2017. It also notes that 221 suspected traffickers were identified by law enforcement, including 10 potential labor traffickers.
- South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced a formal partnership with Truckers Against Trafficking, hosted the Southeast Human Trafficking Coalition for a two-day forum, and released its 2017 annual human trafficking report.
- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton unveiled a new training video to educate and mobilize Texas citizens in the fight against human trafficking. The video, “Be the One in the Fight Against Human Trafficking” will be distributed to all state agencies and is mandatory viewing for the 4,000 employees of the attorney general’s office. The video is available to view here.
- Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, in partnership with the Governor’s Office, presented a gubernatorial declaration recognizing January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and awarded several groups that are working to combat human trafficking locally and internationally.
- Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Secretary announced the development of a guide that can be consulted if a person has concerns that a youth is being trafficked or exploited. General Schimel noted that the Wisconsin Human Trafficking task force has established goals and a statewide plan that includes developing a curriculum that will train various professionals who work with youth and launching a web-based training for the hospitality industry that will be available in English, Spanish, and Hmong.
Several strip clubs on Bourbon Street in New Orleans have had their liquor licenses pulled after investigators reported they found multiple instances of prostitution, lewd acts and, in some case, illegal drug activity. New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison stated that the closures represent a first step in an ongoing effort to combat and confront human trafficking in New Orleans.
The Department of Defense has a program that trains military veterans to help law enforcement identify and curb online child exploitation. Under the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child-Rescue Corps program, 130 veterans have been trained to lead digital forensics investigations searching for online evidence of sexual assault of child abuse imagery produced by organized crime rings.
A hearing, held by the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, was held the end of the month on “Following the Money: How Human Traffickers Exploit U.S. Financial Markets.” Among those testifying was Cyrus Vance, Jr., District Attorney of New York County, who spoke about the problems prosecutors face in investigating human trafficking, including smartphone encryption, cryptocurrencies, and anonymous shell corporations.
Polaris released a 100-page report on human trafficking in illicit massage businesses. According to the report, more than 9,000 illicit massage parlors are operating in the U.S. with a total revenue of about $2.5 billion a year.
A 2017 study of foster care and human trafficking gives a state-by-state evaluation on anti-trafficking protections for youth within the foster care system. It is available here.
An attorney for accused sex trafficker Benjamin Biancofiori, 38, has filed a pre-trial motion with a federal court judge in Chicago arguing that the #MeToo movement has made it almost impossible to get an impartial jury and asks that the trial be delayed.
A newspaper article highlighted the role of volunteers who work for Saved in America. Made up of former U.S. Navy Seals and retired police, the volunteers investigate the cases of missing juveniles, conduct surveillance, and work with local police and the victims’ parents to rescue the child. Fifty-eight out of fifty-eight children have been rescued to date.
Oakland County, Michigan, has developed a website that is intended to be a primary source of information about human trafficking for the region. It provides information and support for anyone interested in learning more about the issue and how to help identify and counter the crime.
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.