Human Trafficking Newsletter March 2016

March 2, 2016

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.

Legislation

Federal

President Obama signed into law H.R. 515, the International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders.

Congress has closed a loophole in the Tariff Act of 1930 that allowed goods made by convict, forced, or indentured labor to be imported and sold in the United States if that is the only way to meet consumer demand. In an amendment (section 912) to the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, H.R. 644, passed last month, Congress eliminated the consumptive demand exception. The President signed the bill late last month.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations voted unanimously to send to the full Senate a resolution to hold Carl Ferrer, CEO of the Backpage.com website, in contempt for his failure to appear at a Senate subcommittee hearing in November.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee adopted an amendment to H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act, that would require that airline employees receive training on recognizing and responding to potential human trafficking cases.

The House Education and Workforce Committee is considering H.R. 4466, Enhancing Detection of Human Trafficking Act. The bill would require the Department of Labor train relevant personnel to detect and assist law enforcement in preventing human trafficking.

State

Two bills are up for consideration in the Iowa legislature. SF 2095 requires training on the red flags of trafficking for those who are mandatory child abuse reporters. SF 2191 establishes an Office of Human Trafficking within the Department of Public Safety.

The Missouri House unanimously approved adding language that expands the crime of sexual trafficking of a child. H.B. 1562 includes advertising the availability of a a child under the age of 12 to participate in “a commercial sex act, a sexual performance, or the production of explicit sexual material.”

In Utah, HB 136 passed the House. It would allow the death penalty to be an option in the event that a homicide occurs while an individual is engaged in human trafficking, even if that individual did not commit the homicide. The bill would apply both to the trafficking of children and of adults.

Wisconsin lawmakers passed AB 673 which awaits the governor’s signature. This bill creates a program to ensure that the addresses of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and stalking victims be kept confidential. AB 737 was reported out of the Committee on Children and Families and now is on the calendar for the Committee on Rules. The bill would classify child sex trafficking as child abuse which would bring child protective services into the case.

State Investigations/Arrests/Prosecutions

Alaska

Feb. 14, 2016: Fairbanks police investigating a report of a stolen rental car arrested brothers Kendale Lamar Standifer, 37, of Concord, California, and Jamal Marquick Williams, 34, of Antioch, California. Further investigation led to a hotel where police found a 19-year old who eventually told police that she was being pimped out by Standifer and was afraid to leave because of threats. The brothers have been charged with one count each of first-degree, second-degree and third-degree sex trafficking.

Arkansas

Feb. 28, 2016: North Little Rock police have arrested two individuals, Jerry Nutt, 41, and Tavaris Candy, 28, on human trafficking charges. The arrests came following an investigation into the trafficking of juveniles. A third man, Martrazie Harris, was arrested later and faces both rape and sex trafficking charges.

California

Feb. 29, 2016: With assistance from HSI and the Rancho Cucamonga Sheriff’s Office, San Bernardino police arrested two individuals on suspicion of pimping and pandering after finding three females who were identified as victims of sexual exploitation, including a Chinese woman who spoke little English.

Feb. 14, 2016: An investigation by the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force into a missing 15-year old girl from Las Angeles has led to the arrest of two individuals, Araceli Mendoza, 23, and Ariel Guizar, 35, on human trafficking charges. Police spotted the suspects’ car at a Ramada inn in Anaheim and also rescued two 19-year old girls who were with the defendants.

Feb. 10, 2015: A Shasta County jury convicted Melvin Baldwin-Green and Tanishia Williams on sex trafficking and pimping a minor, child abuse, kidnapping, kidnapping for extortion pandering and false imprisonment by violence charges. There were seven alleged victims involved in this case.

Connecticut

Feb. 10, 2016: A third man has been arrested by Hartford police in connection with a sex trafficking investigation that involved an 18-year-old who was allegedly held against her will, physically abused, and forced into prostitution in Connecticut.

Georgia

Feb. 9, 2016: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced it had arrested four Cobb County residents as part of a multi-state investigation into alleged online child predators and sex trafficking. The investigation leading to the arrests involved a partnership with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that focused on Dalton, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Kentucky

Feb. 12, 2016: Two men, Patrick Peterson and Lamair Seargent, were arrested for human trafficking by Louisville police. One of the victims was 17 and was listed as a missing person. Seargent allegedly threatened the children of one of the victims as a strategy to keep the individual prostituting for him.

Maryland

Feb. 18. 2016: An undercover operation targeting prostitution has led to the arrest of a Pennsylvania man, Sergio Vargas, on human trafficking charges. The Washington County Narcotics Task Force, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Hagerstown police conducted the joint operation. Police responded to a posting on Backpage.com and arranged for a meeting at a hotel. They observed Vargas dropping off a young woman close to the hotel. Vargas allegedly met the 16-year old through Facebook.

Feb. 17, 2016: Howard County police monitoring the website Backpage.com made an appointment with a girl advertised on the website at a local hotel. The 17-year old girl was brought to the meeting by a man and a woman riding in a Cadillac which then parked at a nearby restaurant. Police identified themselves after the girl agreed to sex in exchange for money. She identified the people in the Cadillac as her traffickers. Police found Janice Figueroa, 19, in the car and arrested her. Her companion, Nathaniel Lee Thompson, 28, escaped through the back door of the restaurant. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Massachusetts

Feb. 29, 2016: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that Michael Leoney (aka Pure) was sentenced to seven years and one day in state prison after he pled guilty to running a human trafficking operation.

Feb. 2, 2016: At 5:30 in the morning, Chicopee police officers responded to a call of a woman in distress. They discovered that the woman was being prostituted, having been taken from North Carolina against her will, and was being threatened with violence. They arrested Bruce Stevenson of Queens, New York, and charged him with kidnapping, larceny over $250, and trafficking persons for sexual servitude.

Minnesota

Feb. 12, 2016: Jurors in Ramsay County convicted a 35-year-old St. Paul man, Rashad Ivy, of recruiting at least seven girls and women for his sex-trafficking ring. One of these turned him in after she was beaten and left at a hospital. Ivy was found guilty on four counts of sex trafficking, three counts of soliciting prostitution and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Mississippi

Feb. 10, 2016: Biloxi police dispatchers received a report that a missing juvenile was in Biloxi. After police found her, investigators determined that she was a victim of sex trafficking at the hands of three perpetrators from Alabama: Demetri Montrez Evans, 24, Kendrick Cortez McCollum, 28, and Sherrica Monique Lewis, 22. They have been arrested and are now in the Harrison County jail. Bond has been set at $100,000 each.

North Carolina

Feb. 28, 2016: A 22-year old woman from Tampa, Florida, was arrested in Wake County and charged with human trafficking of a child and of promoting the prostitution of a child. Her victim is a 17.

Feb. 12, 2016: U.S. Marshalls arrested Raleigh resident Kenneth Ward, 37, on a warrant issued by Raleigh police on charges of sex trafficking of a minor and promoting prostitution of a minor.

Oklahoma

Feb. 8, 2016: Tulsa vice squad officers arrested a man who was corresponding on social media with a person who he thought was a juvenile and who he was trying to recruit to be a prostitute for him, promising her a car and help with a GED. Instead, when he arrived at the Tulsa motel for the meeting, officers who had been corresponding with him on line arrested him. According to the news article, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office has provided grant money to perform these kinds of undercover activities targeting sex traffickers.

Oregon

Feb. 19, 2016: In Salem, Dennell Smith II and Marvellus Lucas Jr. were sentenced to six years, 8 months in prison for their involvement in sex trafficking of two victms, including an underage girl. Both men must pay restitution to their victims.

Pennsylvania

Feb. 17, 2016: Jason Guerra was convicted on sex trafficking of a minor charges and related charges of rape and promoting prostitution. His victims included a 14-year old that he beat and threatened so that she would continue to prostitute herself. He will be sentenced on May 20 in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

Tennessee

Feb. 12, 2016: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested Hector Velasquez of Rossville on charges of trafficking a 17-year old girl. Acting on a tip from the non-profit Second Life Chattanooga , officers tracked the child through an Internet ad and located her in a hotel room in Chattanooga. Velasquez has been charged with numerous crimes, including sex trafficking a minor and promoting prostitution.

Texas

Feb. 8, 2016: Texas Department of Public Safety officers arrested former high school teacher Matthew Turner, 34, and charged him with sex trafficking. A 15-year old homeless girl, who told investigators she was being forced to work as a prostitute, said that Turner was one of her repeat clients and that he had asked that she introduce him to an even younger 9-year old girl.

Feb. 7, 2016: Henry Reyna, 38, was arrested at a hotel in San Antonio when police noticed suspicious activity there. He has admitted to trafficking a 15-year-old girl, supplying her with condoms and methamphetamine, and posting ads for her on Backpage.com. He is in the Bexar County jail on charges of human trafficking and sexual assault on a child.

Wisconsin

Feb. 11, 2016: One man has been arrested and two suspects are still being sought in a sex trafficking case from Appleton. Two women went to a party in November at defendant Tha Moua’s house where they were introduced to two Minnesota men. They were then taken to an Appleton motel where one was sexually assaulted and overheard that they were to be taken into Minnesota to be prostituted. Mua has been charged with conspiracy to commit human trafficking. Wisconsin police are working with their Minnesota counterparts to locate the other suspects.

News of General Interest

Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards has written U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting that the Alaska Attorney General’s office be cross designated to pursue Mann Act violations against VECO CEO Bill Allen for allegedly transporting a young woman across state lines for sex. Under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, the federal government must either permit the cross designation or provide a detailed reason that it declines to do so. This article details the history behind Gen. Richards’ request.

The Australian version of Sixty Minutes featured Katy Lang, a young woman who was trafficked across the world by a Jamaican pimp. She was a witness against him at his Florida federal trial.

In the FBI-led initiative to target human trafficking at Super Bowl 50, seven juvenile victims were recovered and 12 pimps were arrested.

The Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime has released a video series addressing various aspects of human trafficking.

The Freedom Collaborative has launched an online service platform that allows organizations and individual users involved in stopping human trafficking to connect with each other through a news feed, searchable database, and private messaging service.

The Administration’s budget proposal for FY 2017 includes $22 million in funding to assist foreign and domestic victims of human trafficking. A full description of the budget request can be found on pages 274-282 in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Congressional Budget Justification.


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 jmckee@naag.org.

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