Human Trafficking Newsletter September 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.
In the Courts
The law firm that filed a lawsuit against Backpage.com on behalf of three child sex trafficking victims has filed a petition for certiorari to review the First Circuit’s holding (817 F.3d 12) that the web site was immune from suit under the Communications Decency Act.
A federal district court judge has held that Carl Ferrer, Chief Executive Officer of Backpage.com, must comply with a subpoena issued by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on investigations. The court rejected contentions that the subpoena was issued outside of the subcommittee’s jurisdiction and outside of its authority. The court gave Ferrer ten days to comply with the subpoena. However, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay against enforcement of the subpoena, granting time for a full hearing on Backpage.com’s argument that the subpoena should be quashed as interfering with First Amendment rights.
California legislators have passed three bills that await Governor Brown’s signature. SB 823 would allow victims of human trafficking arrested or convicted of non-violent crimes during their trafficking experience to have those charges removed from their records. AB 1276 would allow those 15 and under to testify through closed-circuit televisions to tell their story of victimization away from the presence of the jury and the defendant. Critics contend that the bill is unconstitutional because a defendant normally has the right to a physical, face-to-face confrontation with his accuser. Under SB 1322, the laws involving solicitation and loitering with the intent to commit prostitution would no longer apply to those younger than 18. Some prosecutors oppose the bill, arguing that its passage would make it harder to prosecute pimps.
A bipartisan group of officials in Georgia, including Attorney General Sam Olens, is leading an effort to urge voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would fund services for children who are victims of human trafficking. If approved, the money would come from a newly instituted fine of $2,500 for anyone convicted of human trafficking and from a new $5,000 annual fee on strip clubs and other adult businesses.
Illinois Governor Bruce Raunder signed a bill into law that will create a state-wide human trafficking committee, combining members of the Chicago Regional Human Trafficking Task Force with legislators and the director of the Illinois State Police. The task force will deliver findings and recommendation to the governor and general assembly by June 20, 2017. Another bill that was signed into law is one that will provide medical assistance, starting in 2018, to foreign-born victims of human trafficking, torture, and other serious crimes.
Aug. 18, 2016: In Tuscumbia, Rashad Deante Ricks, 26, has been indicted on first-degree human trafficking charges by the Colbert County Grand Jury. His alleged victim was a 14-year old girl.
Aug. 23, 2016: Ventura County authorities have arrested five individuals, charging them with sex trafficking involving about 28 victims. The defendants include Hsin Chieh Wang, 40, who is alleged to be the ring leader of the criminal enterprise. His sister, Yiwen Wang, is alleged to have laundered money obtained through the sex trade. Jiuyin Cui, 63, and Runan Xia, 32 are accused of taking clients to and from hotels and motels to visit the victims and Defung Hu, 33, allegedly coordinated the appointments with those seeking sex from the victims. All of the victims are female Chinese nationals who came to the United States on legitimate visas. Authorities have seized several million dollars in assets including three pieces of real estate.
Aug. 12, 2016: Benjamin Pennington pled no contest to sex trafficking charges in Compton and was sentenced to 17 years in state prison for pimping a 17-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman. He has also been ordered to register as a sex offender.
Aug. 12, 2016: Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced that his office had made multiple arrests as a result of an investigation into a human trafficking ring. The investigation revealed that a combined number of 50 juveniles and adults in the county were involved. Three men responsible for the trafficking organization have been arrested – -Antonio Alvarez, 34, Joel Mancini, 40, and Anthony Raya, 19. As a part of the investigation, detectives filed more than 75 search warrants with various social media sites and cell phone numbers and identified 23 juveniles and 29 adults. Another suspect was arrested later in the day.
Aug. 11, 2016: In Oakland, two brothers – Samuel Asa Wynn, 39, and Lewis Asa Wynn 38, were sentenced to long prison terms for the attempted sex trafficking of a woman. Samuel Wynn was sentenced to life and Lewis Wynn was sentenced to 21 years. The victim was working as a prostitute when the Wynns kidnapped her, forcing her into a car. A witness heard her screaming and called 911. Police were able to locate the car within a short time later.
Aug. 11, 2016: In Tulare County, officers have arrested Antonio Alvarez, 34, and are looking for two other suspects; they are allegedly behind a sex trafficking ring that victimized at least 21 under-aged girls, 2 under-aged boys, and 29 other women. During the course of the investigation, officers discovered the IP address of one of the sheriff’s office corrections deputies. He is now on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues.
Aug. 10, 2016: Kurtis Chappel, 23, was sentenced to three years in state prison on charges relating to trafficking two victims for commercial sex. The case was investigated by the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force and the Costa Mesa Police Department.
Aug. 6, 2016: The Orange County District Attorney’s office announced that Jarrod Cross, 29, and Saquila Osborne, 32, were each found guilty after a jury trial of one felony count of human trafficking, one of kidnapping to commit robbery, and associated charges. Sentencing will be held the end of September.
Aug. 13, 2016: A Weld County jury convicted Paul Burman 33, on 32 counts including sex trafficking, child prostitution, and related charges for pimping girls throughout northern Colorado and into Nebraska. Burman found his victims on Facebook; he faces up to life in prison.
Aug. 9, 2016: In Arapahoe County, Matthew Witherspoon, 24, has been sentenced to 24 years to life in prison for sex trafficking a minor. A jury convicted him in May of sex trafficking and related charges.
Aug. 22, 2016: In Sussex County, after an eight-month investigation by Delaware State Police, the Ocean City Police Department, and federal partners, George Dunn, 24, and Rashawn Davis, 24, were arrested and charged with multiple counts of human trafficking. Detectives have identified eight women who were allegedly victimized by Davis and Dunn.
Aug. 11, 2016: In Clearwater, Robert Wyche, 62, pled guilty to charges of racketeering and human trafficking and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Aug. 1, 2016: Orange County sheriff’s deputies arrested Michael Brandon Ashford after they received a tip that a woman was being held against her will at a hotel in Orlando. They found a 14-year old girl who had been working as a prostitute for Ashford for about ten months.
Aug. 24, 2016: The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office reported that Robert Tate, 30, was sentenced to life in jail after his was found guilty on several charges involving the sex trafficking two 16-year old girls. Earlier, his co-conspirator Jamal King was sentenced to thirteen years with seven on probation.
Aug. 14, 2016: Federal, state, and local authorities served search warrants at the Teppanyaki Grill and Buffet in Indianapolis as part of a labor trafficking investigation. An ongoing investigation into the chain of restaurants in Indiana has led to the identification of several undocumented – and unpaid – workers.
Aug. 31, 2016: Lawrence Campbell Jr., 35, was arrested in Waterloo on charges that he lured two teens he met on social media from Chicago, purchased bus tickets for them, and then required them to prostitute themselves. The girls were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting; they told police that, in addition to prostitution, Campbell required them to steal clothes that he would sell for cash. Subsequently, police also arrested his wife Sade Deseri Campbell, 24, on two counts of human trafficking, alleging that she drove the teens to the sexual encounters. Police searching their home found clothes the girls had worn in an online ad, clothes with security tags, and stubs from bus tickets.
Aug. 18, 2016: In Lawrence, Tracy Releford, the father of a KU basketball player, was arrested and charged with human trafficking, promoting the sale of sexual relations, and commercial sexual exploitation of a child. Releford was released from a Missouri prison in January after serving 20 years for second-degree murder.
Aug. 11, 2016: Jakaynah Maylene Burtzloff, 18, has been arrested by Lawrence police on two felony charges of aggravated human trafficking. She is accused of recruiting, harboring, transporting, or obtaining a 17-year old person “knowing that the person . . . will be used to engage in forced labor, involuntary servitude or sexual gratification.”
Aug. 16, 2016: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, together with the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney, announced the indictment of three members of a multi-jurisdictional Maryland-based human trafficking enterprise. Collaboration among the attorney general’s office, the Prince George’s State’s Attorney’s Office, Maryland State Police, and the Prince George’s County Police Department led to the grand jury indictment against Rashid Mosby, 42, Terra Perry, 35, and Joshua Jones, 26. Over a three-year period, the defendants are alleged to have promoted their criminal activity through the guise of a modeling and escort agency.
Aug. 9, 2016: Montgomery County police have arrested Atuan Saran Rogers, 34, and Dierra Victora Thomas, 19, on charges of trafficking a minor for sexual servitude. Investigators believe that additional juveniles may have been victimized and are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying them.
Aug. 21, 2016: Worcester police arrested Narragansett Regional High School teacher on sex trafficking charges. Details behind the charge have not been released, but the teacher has allegedly had “inappropriate” conduct with both a former and current student at the school.
Aug. 9, 2016: Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni announced the indictment of Hadyetou Diaby, 32, on 20 criminal counts, including aggravated rape of a child and trafficking of a person under 18 for sexual servitude.
Aug. 24, 2016: In Saint Cloud, Jonathon Hanson, 21, pled guilty to first-degree attempted murder and to sex trafficking. He was sentenced to 13 years on the sex trafficking charge to run concurrently with his 17 year sentence for attempted murder. His victim was a 16-year old girl.
Aug. 17, 2016: Suspicious activity around a hotel led Ridgeland police to the arrest of 25-year old Devondra McFall on sex trafficking charges and the rescue of two juveniles.
Aug. 30, 2016: Breanna Joy Ingalls, 20, pled guilty to one count of promotion of prostitution in Great Falls. She was involved in helping a 17-year old victim post her picture on Backpage.com. Ingalls was also a trafficking victim of Joe Llewllyn Johnson who was sentenced earlier in the month. (See below.)
Aug. 15, 2016: In Great Falls, Joe Llewllyn Johnson of Seattle pled guilty through a plea agreement with the state. He admitted compelling a woman to engage in sexual activity for financial gain. He was sentenced to 40 years with 27 years suspended.
Aug. 25, 2016: David Coil, 63, was arrested and charged with sex trafficking juveniles in a scheme where he recruited young girls to undress and give body massages and rubs to male clients in Coil’s Las Vegas home.
Aug. 22, 2016: Nathaniel Clarke, 36, pled guilty to charges relating to his victimizing seven individuals in a sex trafficking scheme. He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Aug. 11, 2015: In the first prosecution of its kind in Hillsborough County, Donald Kaplan has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to human trafficking. He controlled his victim by controlling her access to heroin. After about a month, the woman was able to escape and contact police.
Aug. 30, 2015: Mercer County prosecutors released information regarding the arrests of Kevin Jasper, 56, and Jianying Chen, 48, of New York City. They have been charged with human trafficking and promoting prostitution. According to police, Jasper and Chen used online escort sites to find Asian women to transport from New York City to a Lawrence motel. The women were then confined to a hotel room for a week while they engaged in prostitution.
Aug. 16, 2016: The Bronx District Attorney’s Office has reported that Shakiem Washington, 35, pled guilty to sex trafficking as well as assault of an inmate at Rikers Island. He faces 11 years in prison and designation as a sex offender.
Aug. 27, 2016: An investigation by both federal and local law enforcement personnel has led to the arrest in Greensboro of Celenia Bennett, 20, and Ashley Upchurch, 25, on charges of human trafficking of an adult and sexual servitude of an adult.
Aug. 18, 2016: Cumberland County officials have arrested Huaan Xie, 41, and charged him with operating a continuing criminal enterprise and three counts of promoting prostitution. He is the owner and operator of the Oasis Spa in Fayetteville which police alleged was being operated as a front for prostitution and sex trafficking.
Aug. 11, 2016: Human trafficking charges have been filed in Cass County against Eric Donte Watson. Watson has an extensive criminal record from Minnesota. The charges come from an allegation from an 18-year old girl whom police questioned. Watson’s current whereabouts are unknown.
Aug. 30, 2016: After a trial in Jackson County Circuit Court, Virgil Don Rucker, 41, was found guilty on 13 counts including forcing a young woman into prostitution and raping a 15-year-old girl. He was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison, beyond the 29-year prison recommended by the District Attorney’s office. The adult victim testified that she had been trafficked across the nation, branded with Rucker’s name on her arm, kept away from friends and family, and heard threats against her children.
Aug. 18, 2016: Police in Bend conducted a sting operation targeting prostitution at several local hotels. One 19-year old woman found told investigators she had been a victim of sex trafficking since she was 13. Rennell Buen, 23, was arrested on six counts of trafficking.
Aug. 19, 2016: In Norristown, charges have been filed against Bruce Steele, 44, alleging that he trafficked at least seven women in the five-county Philadelphia area. He faces 34 felony counts including human trafficking, involuntary servitude, and prostitution.
Aug. 18, 2016: The Chester County District Attorney’s Office announced the arrests of Lawrence Jamieson, Jr., 57, and John Brown, 25, on sex trafficking of minors, sexual abuse of children, sexual assault, conspiracy, and related charges. Police executing a search warrant recovered devices that contained 50,000 images and videos involving child pornography. Police identified one of the victims, a 15-year old girl, who had been lured into a sexual relationship with Jamieson and Brown and had been filmed during the sexual activity.
Aug. 16, 2016: Hopewell Township police assisted the FBI in arresting two individuals in connection with a missing teenage sex trafficking victim. An undercover investigation led to the rescue of the girl and the arrest of Megan Edwards and Daniel King.
Aug. 29, 2016: Florence police arrested Juwabbie McCall, 40, after an online prostitution investigation conducted by law enforcement. The victim provided evidence of sex trafficking.
Aug. 26, 2016: Rapid City police conducting an investigation of online sex trafficking, arrested a number of individuals on both prostitution and soliciting charges.
Aug. 25, 2016: A team of federal, state, and local law enforcement, including the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office and the South Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, announced that eight individuals were arrested on sex trafficking charges during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. They face Attempted Enticement of a Minor Using the Internet charges with three of those arrested also being charged with Attempted Transfer of Obscene Material to a Minor.
Aug. 25, 2016: A Montgomery County grand jury indicted Jason Michael Carpenter, 43, on charges of patronizing prostitution by purchasing or obtaining a 17-year old for a commercial sex act.
Aug. 6, 2016: The Montgomery County Grand Jury has indicted 22-year old Kiersten Napodano on charges of sex trafficking and money laundering. She is accused of victimizing a 17-year old girl.
Aug. 4, 2016: A sting conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) led to 16 people being charged with trying to buy sex from a minor. TBO agents posted ads on Backpage.com, posing as a juvenile. One of those arrested is a teacher at a local Nashville high school.
Aug. 27, 2016: Police in San Antonio have arrested Darius Williams on charges that he trafficked two young girls in 2014, advertising them on mocospace.com.
Aug. 8, 2016: In Comal County, Gloria Romero Perez has been arrested for trafficking her 15-year old niece from Honduras. She allegedly sold the child to Julio Jimenez-Ramirez, who has also been arrested; he is said to have paid Perez the $6,000 in exchange for the girl. The child has given birth to Jimenez-Ramirez’s child.
Aug. 5, 2016: Two individuals, Sarah Rhodes and Robert Salazar, have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in a minor being prostituted in San Antonio. An investigation revealed that Rhodes, 19, took pictures of the 16-year old victim and posted them on the Internet. The phone used belonged to Salazar and his driver’s license was used to book a motel room. Three others are suspected of being involved in the operation.
Aug. 23, 2016: Timothy Galloway, 46, was arraigned in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington on four counts of human trafficking. He is accused of forcing at least six drug-addicted women into prostitution.
Aug. 18, 2016: A 14-year old girl from Sheboygan was able to escape from a Milwaukee hotel and contact police to tell them that she was being trafficked by Christopher Tipton, 29. She also reported that Tipton and a girl, Kayla, received the money she made. Tipton has been arrested and charged with sex trafficking.
News of General Interest
The owners of a former Red Roof Inn in Charlotte, North Carolina, have agreed to forfeit $175,000 to the federal government as a penalty for allowing the motel to be used for child sex trafficking and other criminal activities.
Operation Summer Rescue, a multi-agency crackdown on human trafficking in Los Angeles, has led to 153 prostitution-related arrests and the rescue of 10 victims from the sex trade.
The Nashville Human Trafficking Intervention Court held a ceremony to celebrate the graduation of its first enrollee. The Cherished H.E.A.R.T.S. intervention court is one of only five in the nation.
A Harris County, Texas, judge ordered the owners of the Plainfield Inn to either close down or take certain specific steps to stop prostitution and potential human trafficking occurring there. Since 2014, police have received more than 400 calls for service at the hotel. Ruling in a nuisance suit filed against the hotel, the court ordered the installation of surveillance cameras and a security gate, stopping the acceptance of cash payments without proper identification, elimination of hourly rates for rooms, restricting access only to registered guests and visitors with valid identification, and engaging a licensed peace officer to provide security.
A report from the Netherlands on human trafficking revealed that 35 to 46% of the sex trafficking victims are Dutch and a quarter of the trafficking victims are under 18.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined with Truckers Against Traficking and the Texas Trucking Association to meet with San Antonio law enforcement to partner in fighting human trafficking.
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.