Human Trafficking Newsletter November 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

Federal

Three Oklahoma men filed a federal class action lawsuit alleging that they were victims of labor trafficking because they were forced by a drug rehabilitation program to work for free in chicken processing plants. The men were in a court-ordered drug rehabilitation run by Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery (CAAIR). This is the second federal lawsuit filed in this case. A state lawsuit containing similar allegations has also been filed in Arkansas.

State

Backpage.com has settled the lawsuit filed by three girls who alleged they were sold for sex in the “escort” section of the website. This is the first lawsuit against Backpage.com that defeated the website’s argument that it was protected by the Communications Decency Act. J.S., S.L., and L.C. v. Village Voice Media holdings, L.L.C. dba/ Backpage.com et al.,No. 12-2-11362-4 (Super. Ct. Pierce County Jan. 29, 2017).

Legislation

Federal

S. 1986, the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act, has been introduced. If it becomes law, it would extend the jurisdiction of tribal courts to cover crimes involving sexual violence, including sex trafficking.

State

California’s AB 368 will go into effect January 1, 2018. It allows California prosecutors to consolidate more child sexual assault cases, including sex trafficking, from different counties into a single trial as long as all district attorneys involved agree. Under the new law, all child sex assault, domestic violence, and trafficking prosecutions for children under 14 will be able to be consolidated.

The D.C. Council has passed a bill to allow for the vacatur of some convictions and expungement of some arrest records when they were a direct result of an offender having been a victim of trafficking.

In New York, SB 6893 has been introduced. It would mandate the establishment of a standard uniform human trafficking recognition training program and require employees of hotel and gaming facilities to attend.

AB 540 has been introduced in Wisconsin. It would require technical colleges and private schools which offer commercial motor vehicle driver education courses to include instruction in the recognition and prevention of human trafficking.

State Investigations/Arrests/Prosecution

Alabama

Oct. 14, 2017: According to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, Joseph Stevenson Glenn, 59, was providing drugs and shelter to women in exchange for sexual favors. He has been charged with second-degree human trafficking, distribution of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, and first-degree possession of marijuana.

California

Oct. 25, 2017: Louis Ray Coleman, 42, was tried in Martinez on 25 felonies, including human trafficking, molestation, and kidnapping. He was convicted of kidnapping two people, a woman and a 12-year old girl, and attempting to traffic both victims.

Oct. 20, 2017: A 28-year old man from Lodi was arrested in Utah. He was wanted by Modesto Police on suspicion of trafficking two teenage girls. Allen Anthony Elseth and a female companion were involved in a minor traffic accident on I-80 in Salt Lake City. Utah State Troopers responding to the scene noticed a strong smell of marijuana coming from the car. Both Elseth and his passenger were detained. However, Elseth got out of the car and ran across I-80, climbed a barbed-wire fence, and called an Uber from a nearby airport parking lot. Troopers stopped the car, Elseth jumped on top of the driver and put his foot on the accelerator. Finally, troopers were able to grab the key out of the ignition and put the car in park. Elseth is charged with two counts of human trafficking, two counts of pimping a minor, and related charges.

Oct. 16, 2017: A Fresno County Superior Court jury convicted Herbert Dean Goodwin Jr. of seven felony charges involving the human trafficking of two women, ages 17 and 42. He kept one woman victimized by stealing the ashes of her deceased mother.

Oct. 10, 2017: Adrien Michael Jamison was arrested by San Bernardino sheriff’s officers on suspicion of human trafficking, pandering a person under the age of 16, and pimping prostitution to a minor. An investigation began when a mother of a 15-year old alerted police that her daughter was in distress in San Bernardino.

Florida

Oct. 27, 2017: In Palm Beach County, a Ft. Pierce man and woman are facing human trafficking charges. They allegedly tried to force a person living with them to have sex with their cocaine dealer. Officials had just come to the house to serve a warrant when they discovered the victim barricaded in a bedroom so she would not be raped. Edward Helmly Jr., 45, was charged with kidnapping-coercing commercial sexual activity and failing to report a change in address as a sex offender. Nadeen Serrano, 34, was charged with a human trafficking felony offense, and Jean Luxone Coriolan, 42, was charged with sexual assault, possession of marijuana, and possession of cocaine.

Oct. 18, 2017: Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the arrest of Robert Atlee Miner V for human trafficking multiple victims. He allegedly recruited victims using online advertisements seeking to hire young women to work as dancers or companions. Those answering the ads were then threatened and forced to perform sex acts for money. Although there is no record of Miner having any legitimate source of income, bank account records reveal that he had consistently made large cash deposits since January 2015. The FBI, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force were all instrumental in developing the case.

Oct. 18. 2017: Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced that a week-long undercover sting targeting human trafficking and online prostitution ended with 277 arrests. Undercover detectives posted fake ads while others responded to profiles and ads. Some of those arrested were those who posted ads; 209 arrests were those who solicited undercover detectives posing as prostitutes.

Oct. 10, 2017: An anonymous caller in Tampa notified police that a missing 13-year old could be found at the home of Cedric Gatlin. When police arrived, the young girl was found naked in Gatlin’s bed. She told police that Gatlin had given her molly and cocaine. She had had sex with him and some of his friends who then paid Gatlin. He is being charged with sex trafficking and drug possession.

Oct. 9, 2017: Franklin County law enforcement arrested Kevin Wyatt, 49, wanted in connection with sex trafficking charges, after they were tipped off that he was hiding out on a houseboat off East River. Gadsden County authorities had issued a warrant for him. He is accused of prostituting a young girl from the age of three to earn money to pay for drugs. The child came forward in 2015 when she was 15. Celeste Chambers of Tallahassee, Florida, has also been arrested in the case. She is charged with two counts of sexual abuse, a count of lewd and lascivious behavior, and one count of child cruelty.

Georgia

Oct. 3, 2017: A man who was part of an online child sex trafficking sting operation last February pled guilty and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and seven years’ probation in Whitfield County. Martin Juarez, 27, of Austin, Texas, was caught in a multi-agency undercover investigation coordinated by the George Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and local agencies which targeted the demand side of child sex trafficking.

Louisiana

Oct. 25, 2017: Barron Lewis, 51, was arrested in Tennessee after a New Orleans judge signed a warrant for his arrest. He is accused of human trafficking after investigators say he prostituted a 19-year old woman in New Orleans in August. The victim’s cellphone records confirmed her statements and accounts, advertisements, and hotel rooms were tracked back to Lewis.

Maryland

Oct. 28, 2017: A Howard County man who pled guilty in September to one count of human trafficking has been sentenced to twenty-five years in prison, with all but six years suspended. Detectives monitored the internet advertisements of a known runaway teenager and arrested Tyron Purvey, 24, when he drove the young girl to meet a “date.” It was determined that Purvey had trafficked another young girl as well and there was evidence he had physically assaulted both girls.

Massachusetts

Oct. 20, 2017: Coordinating its investigation with the FBI’s Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Task Force, Woburn police arrested Theodore Gamble-Williams, 32, and Jarrid Thomas, 29, and charged them with running a human trafficking operation. The two men were allegedly pimping a young woman out of their car. A search found 117 grams of cocaine and marijuana and $24,000 in cash.

Oct. 20, 2017: Newton police conducted an undercover sting as part of an FBI human trafficking operation at a hotel in Newton. After contacting a female who had been advertised on the internet, she described a car that a man who had brought her to the hotel was operation. Police found a car matching the description and placed James Florence, 22, under arrest.

Michigan

Oct. 31, 2017: An Ingham County jury found Brad Cournaya, 50, guilty of human trafficking of a minor and of using a computer to commit a crime. He will be sentenced the end of November. Cournaya had been convicted for criminal sexual conduct three times previously which included one case involving a minor.

Oct. 3, 2017: The Macomb Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous tip last month about an incident at a mobile home park. Subsequent investigation revealed that a 29-year-old female with mental and physical disabilities was being housed in a vacant shed near the mobile home of Misty George, 30, and Michael Welch, 38 in Macomb County. The victim was advertised for sexual services on online websites. She eventually made her way back to her family who called police. George and Welch have been arrested on human trafficking and related charges.

Nebraska

Oct. 18, 2017: In Sarpy County, a high school student, DeArch Stubblefield, pled guilty to attempted human trafficking, aiding and abetting first degree sexual assault, and possession of child pornography.

New Jersey

Oct. 12, 2017: A Bridgeton man, Marcus E. Tukes, 47, was indicted in March for human trafficking of a child, endangering the welfare of a child, two counts of human trafficking of adults, and possession of cocaine. He pled guilty to human trafficking of an adult and was sentenced to ten years in prison.

New York

Oct. 27, 2017: Thomas Edwards, 50, pled guilty in Orange County Court to sex trafficking, admitting that he used violence and coercion to compel four women into prostitution. He had originally been indicted on 33 felony counts. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Oct. 24, 2017: A Buffalo man, Derek Harris, 23, pled guilty to sex trafficking victims as young as 14. He ran a trafficking operation out of a hotel in Amherst. He faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced in November.

Oct. 22, 2017: Two young girls, 15 and 14, from Ulster County were rescued from kidnappers who allegedly planned to pimp them out. The girls were lured into the Bronx by someone they trusted and taken to a so-called “trap house” – an apartment used by gangs to run prostitutes and throw parties. The girls were then taken to a house in East New York where they were held by two men and a woman. One of the girls was able to get her GPS information to her father. Rudy Rocker, 18, Donald Jackson, 20, and Nebahate Derisa, 19, were arrested on attempted sex trafficking and related charges.

North Carolina

Oct. 31, 2017: Armando Graciano, 43, pled guilty in Forsyth Superior Court to attempted rape of a child, human trafficking, sexual servitude, and two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. He was sentenced to a minimum of thirteen years, one month to twenty years, and nine months in prison respectively. The victim was 12 years old. In April, his co-defendant was sentenced to a maximum of sixteen years, six months after she was convicted of sexual servitude, felony child abuse involving prostitution, and felony child abuse involving sexual acts.

Ohio

Oct. 4, 2017: Sara Cousino, 28, was arrested on charges that she assisted a Gibsonburg man in trafficking a 25-year old woman. In August, Chad Pickens, 27, was indicted on felony human trafficking, kidnapping, rape, and felonious assault charges. The victim rescued in this case was from northwest Ohio; her mother had reported her missing. It is alleged that she was kept in the house in Gibsonburg against her will.

Oct. 2, 2017: After a bench trial, Jermar White was found guilty on six of eight charges relating to allegations that he victimized two 15-year old girls into sex trafficking. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Montgomery County judge. His co-defendant, Iesha Heard, was previously found guilty and was sentenced last month.

Oklahoma

Oct. 17, 2017: Oklahoma City police have arrested Izavia Smith on suspicion of trafficking after an 18-year old reported to police that he had kidnapped her. She told police that she had gone to Dallas to celebrate her birthday with friends at a club. Smith allegedly abducted her when she went outside; he took her to a hotel room in Dallas and held her against her will. He then drove her back to Oklahoma City where he posted her on an internet ad. A man answering the ad told her that he thought she looked 16 so he had come to rescue her. He took her to her grandparents’ house where she called police.

Pennsylvania

Oct. 26, 2017: A Cambria County jury convicted Barshay Reqwan Dunbar, 36, on twelve of the fourteen charges he faced, including two counts of trafficking individuals and five counts of promoting prostitution. In the county’s first human trafficking prosecution and conviction, Dunbar faces four to eight years of incarceration for each of the trafficking charges. An investigation began after the general manager of a hotel notified police of suspected prostitution taking place in the hotel. Prosecutors alleged that Dunbar used the internet to set up sexual encounters for two women to whom he provided drugs. Pennsylvania law includes the control of an individual’s access to controlled substances as a means of trafficking a person.

Oct. 12, 2017: Northern York County regional police began investigating Willie J. Johnson, 57, in June when a woman reported that Johnson was trafficking her and another women. He has now been arrested. Police say Johnson trafficked six women between 2014 and 2017, provided them with heroin, and housed them at local motels.

Tennessee

Oct. 12, 2017: During a human trafficking sting, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office located a young missing North Carolina girl in the car of Timothy King. King was arrested and is facing felony charges of trafficking for sexual servitude.

Oct. 9, 2017: Randall Ray “T-Bone” Ward, 52, was arrested in Jackson, Tennessee, on two counts of trafficking for a commercial sex act and two counts of promoting prostitution. An investigation was initiated as a result of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department receiving a tip; a grand jury returned a True Bill on October 2.

Texas

Oct. 12, 2017: Addressing complaints from residents of the North Springs area in Houston, the Harris County Constable’s Office conducted an undercover operation focusing on suspected prostitutes and their clients. The operation yielded 44 arrests, including 25 suspected purchasers of commercial sex and 10 individuals that are alleged pimps, five of whom are suspected traffickers. Four sex trafficking victims were recovered.

Utah

Oct. 2, 2017: In Tooele, Santos Moyica Majoica, 44, pled guilty to second-degree felony identify theft. He had originally been charged with aggravated human trafficking, pattern of unlawful activity, possession of forged writing, and additional counts of identity fraud. These charges were dismissed as a result of his plea. The court suspended a potential one to fifteen years prison term and ordered him to serve one year in jail with credit for time served and indicated he would be facing deportation. The dismissed human trafficking charges accused him of bringing a woman from Guatemala to Mexico and then to Utah, requiring her to have sex for money and threatening her with never seeing her children again if she refused.

Virginia

Oct. 4, 2017: Gary Gusler, 54, pled guilty in Giles County to human trafficking. Authorities believe that Gusler, a former bail bondsman, bonded dozens of women out of jail in exchange for sex and then held them against their will in his home. He was sentenced to 30 years, but all but seven years were waived.

Washington

Oct. 3, 2017: Seven gang members have been charged as part of a child sex exploitation ring centered in Pierce County. Five men have been arrested and two are still at large. An investigation began when Matthew Holt, the 25-year old leader of the Tillicum Park Gangsters street gang, was heard on a jail call discussing the prostitution operation. Fifteen alleged victims have been identified, including a 13-year old. The other men arrested range in age from 19 to 33.

Wisconsin

Oct. 14, 2017: Jahlani Davis has been charged in Racine County Circuit Court with one felony count of trafficking a child. He is alleged to have brought two teenage girls to the county to have sex with a man who turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Other Items of Interest

The FBI led Operation Cross Country XI in 55 FBI field officers across the country with the help of 78 state and local task forces and five international partners. Eighty-four minors were recovered and 120 traffickers were arrested. Victims as young as three months and eighteen months were recovered; the average age of victims was 15. A related video can be found here.

The Connecticut Attorney General’s office has intervened in a sex trafficking case after the attorneys for one of the defendants filed six subpoenas requesting access to the victims’ medical records. Many of the young victimized men had mental illnesses. According to the motion to quash filed by the AG office, the subpoenas seek information from state facilities that may not be requested or disclosed for the purpose sought.

In Milwaukee, the U.S. Attorney has charged the owner of several area gas stations with forced labor that involved aggravated sexual abuse, harboring an alien for financial gain, and document servitude. According to the indictment, Harshinder Bhatia, 58, forced and threatened an Indian national woman to work, threatening her harm if she refused. He also held her passport. Authorities are planning to seize the station and other properties traceable to the crimes for which he has been charged.

A federal indictment has been returned against the company that owns a Howard Johnson hotel in Bartonsville, Pennsylvania, and the hotel’s manager for sex trafficking. The indictment alleges that Faizal Bhimani, 41, and Om Sri Sai, Inc., facilitated and profited from sex and drug trafficking. Prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of the hotel property and its liquor license.

Federal authorities in Huntsville, Alabama, have assumed the prosecution of Bill Randolph Edwards, 63, on multiple charges of human trafficking, sexual abuse, and sodomy. Edwards allegedly paid more than $20,000 in exchange for sexual favors from a Honduran teen who had been smuggled into the country by his father.

The Henry Jackson Society has issued a report that demonstrates how sex trafficking lures recruits and funds terrorism.

Television news stations across the county have shown a video titled Selling Girls. A Florida station also had a segment on selling boys, reminding viewers that boys, particularly those who are within the LGBTQ community, are at risk.

A recently released report details the work that <href="#7dd860c7fbf1">ECPAT-USA has done to protect children from the commercial sexual exploitation that occurs in hotels. About half of all hotels in the U.S. have received training about how to detect and disrupt child sex trafficking.

The Phoenix Suns Charities has teamed up with the Phoenix Dream Center and Verizon to help fund computers and other learning equipment so that victims of human trafficking have a place to study and learn new skills.

ArtWorks for Freedom sponsored an outdoor photography display of trafficking victims. It was set up in sidewalks in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. The pictures depict victimized men, women, and children along with quotes from each of the subjects.

A Northampton, Massachusetts, spa that was closed in the wake of a human trafficking investigation now faces fines of more than $10,000 for labor violations, including the failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance and the use of unlicensed employees.

As part of her dissertation, Rebecca Portnoff, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate in computer science, has developed automated techniques to identify adult ads tied to human trafficking rings by linking the ads to public information from Bitcoin. Computer scientists from UC San Diego and the New York University Tandon School of Engineering were also involved in the study. The researchers combined automated stylometric and timestamp analysis to identify sex ads by both author and Bitcoin owner.

In light of the ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations, a bipartisan group of representatives wrote a joint letter to the U.S. Trade Representative regarding a request by the Computer & Communications Industry Association and the Internet Association’s recommendation that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) be added to a revised NAFTA. Since Congress is currently considering a revision to CDA in order to address human trafficking, the letter urged that no such language be included in a new NAFTA so as not to immunize any company from profiting from the commercialization of sex trafficking in Mexico, Canada, and the United States.

The Connecticut State Police are training cyber dogs to sniff out hidden electronic devices. The Westchester County, New York, police now have one of these “cyber dogs,” Haley, whose nose will help investigators searching for information which could be stored on computers, thumb drives, and other electronic devices. In 2015, authorities investigating then-Subway sandwich pitchman, Jared Fogle, used a cyber dog, Bear, who found a hidden thumb drive that contained pornographic images of minors.


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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