Human Trafficking Newsletter August 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

State

In State v. Washington-Davis, No. A14-0460 (June 29, 2016), the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Antonio Washington-Davis on six counts involving sex trafficking.

Legislative Action

Federal

Congress passed, and the President signed into law, H.R. 636, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016. Among other things, the bill requires training of airline employees to recognize the signs of human trafficking.

State

In an omnibus crime bill that passed this session, Alaska legislators have made it safer for a sex worker to report crimes to police. Governor Bill Walker signed the bill, but is asking the legislature to pass a stand-alone bill in its special session that would correct language which could hinder the prosecution of sex traffickers.

AB 1684 was signed into law by California’s Governor Jerry Brown. It allows public authorities in the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to seek damages on behalf of human trafficking victims. Also in California, AB 2513 has passed out of committee. If passed and signed into law, it would give judges specific discretion to consider the vulnerability of a human trafficking victim as an aggravating sentencing factor.

Hawaii Governor David Ige signed into law HB 1902 which replaces the crime of promoting prostitution in the first degree with the crime of sex trafficking, which is classified as a violent crime and a class A felony. It also makes paying for sex in reckless disregard that the person is a victim of sex trafficking a class C felony.

In Louisiana, SB 377 goes into effect in August. It requires all Louisiana hotels to post the human trafficking hotline number in employee notice areas.

The Massachusetts Senate has passed a bill aimed at strengthening anti-human trafficking laws. S. 2444 is designed to close a loophole in the law that allows practitioners of “bodywork therapy” to operate without having to meet the licensing requirements needed for massage therapy.

State Investigations/Arrests/Prosecution

Alabama

July 14, 2016: Attorney General Luther Strange announced that the grand jury has indicted lawyer Edward “Chip” Dillard, already facing 15 charges related to an alleged human trafficking ring, on an additional nine charges. The new charges include allegations of bribing some of the victims and destruction of evidence. Co-defendant Timothy Wylie Staggs was also indicted on additional charges. The additional indictment also lists three more victims in the case; thus far, nine victims have been identified.

Arizona

July 13, 2016: The Chandler police department announced that Leon Daniels was sentenced to 196 years in prison for sex trafficking. He brought three victims, including a teen-ager, from California to be prostituted during Super Bowl XLIX. At the time of the arrest, Daniels was on probation for felony offenses in California.

California

July 21, 2016: Two men were sentenced by a Santa Maria Superior Court judge to nine years, four months for their role in the sex trafficking of a teen-ager.

July 18, 2016: Hemet police responding to a 911 call that alerted officials to a possible trespass situation into a vacant house found Delano Jackson-Abron inside with a 15-year old girl. Further investigation revealed that Jackson-Abron had been pimping out the teen and several other girls. He was arrested on human trafficking charges.

July 14, 2016: Madera police arrested a man who they accuse of being a pimp and a person soliciting sex at a local house. After a neighbor’s tip to police, video surveillance was conducted of the residence; the surveillance and showed as many as 30 men a day walking in and out of the house. Police also observed the alleged pimp moving girls to and from the bus station.

July 9, 2016: In Orange County, police have arrested two individuals with prior felony convictions and charged them with human trafficking and associated crimes. It is alleged that Austin Woods, 23, and Jalil Wollerson, 22, drove two women from northern California into the county, forcing them to prostitute themselves.

June 27, 2016: A call from a local market led police to a person who had been reported missing. The 21-year old told Redding police that she had been held against her will at a nearby apartment and that she had been trafficked for the sex trade between Stockton and Sacramento. A second alleged victim was located in Sacramento as was the suspect, 20-year old Stevie Lee Boston.

Connecticut

July 22, 2016: In Meriden, undercover detectives from the Connecticut State Police Computer Crimes Unit arrested Raymond Harlow, 54, of New Haven and charged him with criminal attempt to commit sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor. Harlow had made an arrangement with undercover investigators to “engage in forcible sexual contact” with a pre-teen victim.

July 20, 2016: In Waterbury Superior Court, Jason Gibbs, 36, pled guilty to multiple charges involving the sex trafficking of two 16-year olds. He was sentenced to 5½ years in prison.

Florida

July 20, 2016: After a one and one-half year investigation, police have arrested Pena Fernandez and Rachel Gonzalez on human trafficking, racketeering, and associated charges. Investigators have determined that there are at least 20 victims of the trafficking conspiracy. Fernandez is being held without bond.

July 5, 2016: Thirty-year old Brandon Jackson was arrested after members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office found a 32-year old woman being held against her will and forced to prostitute herself. Jackson was located hiding in a locked bathroom with a loaded .380 automatic pistols and 190 grams of marijuana. He is facing charges of sex trafficking, false imprisonment, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of marijuana.

June 28, 2016: A 17-year old Ft. Myers girl told investigators that she was brought to Broward County by a Miami Gardens man who raped her and forced her to have sex with seven or eight men at a hotel room. She reported that she thought about jumping out of the fourth-floor motel room to escape, but realized men were watching her. Joseph Lewis Jr., 34, is facing charges of human trafficking and sexual battery on a minor.

Georgia

July 15, 2016: Decatur police reported that they arrested two men on sex trafficking charges. The warrants, issued July 5, stated that the trafficking for sexual servitude incident occurred in Tucker.

Indiana

July 29, 2016: A 36-year old Randolph County man has been charged with sex trafficking. Investigators allege that he forced a woman to have sex with men he had met online. Shaunta Debouse is accused of receiving money from the commercial sex activity and physically abusing and threatening to kill the victim. Debouse is also facing charges of sexually abusing thee children.

Iowa

July 12, 2016: Polk County detectives, with the assistance of the U.S. Marshalls Service, executed a search warrant at the home of Michael Lee Williams, 50, and subsequently arrested him on human trafficking charges. Police in Minnesota tipped off the Iowa detectives when the father of a 9-year old girl found her picture posted on social media. An arrest warrant has also been issued for Minnesota resident Cynthia Mitterness, 48. Mitterness allegedly brought the girl to Iowa to have sex with Williams. Williams is a convicted sex offender.

Kansas

July 11, 2016: Michael Bressler, 50, of Red Oak, Iowa, has been sentenced in Ellis County court to 155 months in prison on his pleading guilty to charges including aggravated human sex trafficking, attempted aggravated indecent liberties with a child, and criminal threat. He acknowledged that he conspired with his co-defendant, Lester Crayton, who was previously sentenced to 94 months in prison, to bring a minor from Iowa to Kansas for the purpose of sex.

Louisiana

July 23, 2016: A Louisiana State Police investigation, begun in November with information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has led to the arrest of Tara Guidry, 35, and Jenarius Brown, 31. They are accused of money laundering and trafficking a child for sexual purposes in New Orleans. In addition, Brown has been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

July 12, 2016: In New Orleans, officials have arrested two individuals on human trafficking charges involving two 16-year old girls. The girls, one of whom had been reported missing and the other reported as a runaway, were spotted on a street corner near a hotel. When officials searched a room in the hotel, they found several cellphones, a laptop, sex toys, condoms, lubricant, ledgers containing reference to Backpage.com advertisements, and a list of people with their phone numbers. A four-month old boy who had evidently been fathered by Pierre Smith, 36, one of the individuals arrested, was also found. Arrested with Smith was Angela Cagnolatti, 38.

July 9, 2016: Neighbors in an Amite neighborhood reported to police that a woman was being held in a cage in a neighborhood backyard. Police located her, covered in insect bites, malnourished, and living in a six by eight foot outdoor cage. The woman, who is autistic, was allegedly being forced to perform sexual acts. Five people, apparently related to the woman, have been taken into custody.

June 27, 2016: Louisiana State Police have arrested and charged two individuals, Mark Casson and Emma Helaire, with human trafficking and drug charges in West Monroe. An alleged victim came forward and claimed that she was forced to prostitute herself in several cities.

Maryland

July 26, 2016: An undercover Howard County detective noticed that a very young girl has posted ads on Backpage.com. He reached out under the guise of another teen who was interested in joining to make money. When the teen arrived at the meeting, the police took her, another girl, and the man driving the car into custody. Arthur Coleman, 46, was charged with multiple counts of human trafficking, prostitution, sexual solicitation of a minor, sex abuse of a minor, and attempted second-degree sex offense.

Massachusetts

July 7, 2016: Two individuals have been arrested and charged with human trafficking. The arrest came as part of an investigation into the activities of the Kilby Street Gang in Worcester. According to investigators, Jovani Delossantos, 23, and Victoria Power, 20, provided drugs to six women who were housed at various locations and advertised on Craigslist and Backpage.com to prospective customers.

Michigan

June 29, 2016: Battle Creek police report that five people have been arrested involving sex trafficking in the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo areas. Three victims were identified.

Minnesota

July 17, 2016: In Woodbury, police arrested Lili Huang, 35, and charged her with five felony counts, including labor trafficking, false imprisonment, and assault. The arrest came after a woman was found wandering in the street, looking for an airport so she could fly back to China. She told police that she had been brought in from China on a visa to act as a nanny, that she had worked 18 hours a day, had never been paid, was not allowed to leave the house, had been beaten, and threatened with a knife. When police searched the home, they found a bag full of hair hidden under the victim’s mattress. The victim said that it was hair that Huang had pulled from her head and that she had hidden it so she wouldn’t have to eat it.

July 27, 2016: A Woodbury man who was convicted of attempting to hire a child for sex was sentenced to 30 days in prison and five years’ probation in Washington County District Court.

July 3, 2016: Rossville police arrested two suspects after they responded to a report that sex trafficking was occurring at a local hotel. Two male suspects were taken into custody.

June 28, 2016: In Washington County, Damon DiMartino pled guilty to promotion of prostitution of a minor and sex trafficking in the first degree. His victim was 17 years old. He admitted that he took her to have sex at a hotel and at stripping parties. He has two previous convictions for criminal sexual conduct with children.

Nebraska

June 29, 2016: In Lincoln, two women have been arrested in connection with sex trafficking a minor and a third woman is being sought. The victim told investigators that she was asked for pornographic images and pictures that were to be used to advertise her on the internet.

Nevada

July 29, 2016: Las Vegas SWAT officers conducted a raid on a home, located a teenage girl who, police allege, was being forced into sex, and took a resident, Carl Blackman, 33, into custody.

New Jersey

June 24, 2016: New Jersey state police arrested Charles Willson and Ebony Thomley, both from California, on human trafficking, kidnapping, and other charges. The arrests are a part of an on-going investigation.

New York

July 27, 2016: In Suffolk County, Andy Gayot has been sentenced to 32 years on 34 counts, including sex trafficking, promoting and compelling prostitution, rape, and strangulation. The victims were 15, 21, and 26 years of age when Gayot held them at a home and used drugs and physical abuse to make them engage in commercial sexual activities.

North Carolina

June 30, 2016: Three individuals are facing child sex trafficking charges in Wilson County. Law enforcement authorities alleged that the trio took a child under 16 to migrant camps and hotels in the area and forced her to perform sex acts over a nearly two-year period.

North Dakota

June 20, 2016: A two-day investigation by Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, police into sex trafficking led to 18 arrests. Officers, posing as 15 to 17 year old girls, posted ads on Backpage.com, Craigslist, and phone apps such as Grindr and Whisper. They received 159 responses in two days.

Ohio

July 19, 2016: Commenting that the case was the worst one she has seen during her time on the bench, Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz sentenced April Corcoran, 32, to 51 years in prison for pimping out her 11-year old daughter to her drug dealer in return for heroin.

July 12, 2016: Three people have been indicted on human trafficking charges in Cuyahoga County involving two separate cases. In one case, Tryvon Williamson, 22, and Sharonika Allen 26, have been accused of forcing four women, ages 14-18 with whom they connected on social media, to engage in prostitution by using threats and physical abuse. In the second case, Reginal D. Williams faces two counts of trafficking in persons and related charges. Officials allege that he trafficked two 15-year old girls.

Rhode Island

July 20, 2016: A Providence Superior Court judge sentenced Troy Footman to 85 years in prison. Footman was convicted last year of selling a 14-year old girl for sex at a strip club in Providence as well as pimping her out on Backpage.com. He was arrested not long after he had been released from prison for interstate transportation of a minor for prostitution.

South Carolina

July 1, 2016: In Richland County, three people were arrested and charged with human trafficking and related crimes. Police found three runaway girls at a motel, led there through a tip from the mother of one of the girls. The alleged victims are 15 and 16 years old.

Tennessee

July 31, 2016: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) arrested Tavarie Williams, 36, and charged him with two counts of trafficking for a commercial sex act. He is accused of bringing a 12-year old from Texas to Nashville to traffic her. After the TBI received a report of the missing girl, they located her in a hotel in Franklin.

July 21, 2016: In the midst of his jury trial in Campbell County, 62-year old Alonzo Branson pled guilty to eight counts of Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act and related charges. He was sentenced to 13.5 years and ordered to be placed on the sexual offender registry.

Texas

July 29, 2016: In Corpus Christi, Jovan Miles was sentenced to 40 years for his trafficking of a 15-year old girl. Krista Leeburg Melton from the Texas Attorney General’s Office assisted Neuces County’s ADA Michelle Putman in the prosecution of the case.

July 29, 2016: In El Paso, Edeme Missiadan has been charged with one count of sex trafficking of children. He is accused of forcing two children into prostitution. The investigation began with information from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center that police in Mesa, Arizona, had been looking for the suspect and they believed he had travelled to El Paso with at least one possible victim. The El Paso investigators found photos of two girls on Backpage.com. Officers responding to the ad found the two girls, 15 and 17, and located Missiadan in the courtyard of the hotel.

June 26, 2016: McLennan County sheriff’s deputies have been conducting an undercover sting operation targeting sex traffickers and customers. Fifty-six individuals have been arrested so far on prostitution-related charges with five outstanding warrants. Eight of these are alleged pimps.

Utah

July 18, 2016: In Salt Lake, the Utah Attorney General’s Office announced that it had filed charges against Quinien Atkinson for human trafficking of a child and related offenses. Atkinson was on parole from other charges. Bail has been denied.

July 18, 2016: Charles Kelley has been sentenced to one year in custody and three years’ of supervised probation on his pleading guilty of attempting to recruit an underage girl for prostitution in Utah. Kelley traveled with two adult women to profit from commercial sex at a motel in Midvale. He approached a 15-year old girl in the parking lot of the motel and asked her if she wanted to “make some money.” The child and her mother reported the encounter to law officials.

July 13, 2016: A news conference, hosted by Attorney General Sean Reyes along with police chiefs and investigators across the state, provided information about Operation Broken Heart III. This operation was conducted across the nation in April and May by Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force members. Seventy-one arrests were made in Utah which included people manufacturing child pornography and adults soliciting other adults to engage in sexual activity with children under their care. In addition to the arrests, there are eleven human trafficking investigations that were conducted, two of which involve labor trafficking.

Wyoming

July 29, 2016: The Cheyenne Police Department, the Wyoming Division of Criminal investigation, and the FBI conducted a joint anti-human trafficking operation during Cheyenne Frontier Days. Numerous men were arrested for soliciting.

News of General Interest

The annual Trafficking in Persons report was released by the U.S. State Department on June 30, 2016.

Traffick Cam has created a crowdsourced database with help from programming researchers at the University of Washington in St. Louis to help police identify where pictures of sex trafficking victims are taken. Travelers can take four pictures of the hotel room they are staying in, capturing the room, the bathroom, the foot of the bed and details such as carpeting and furniture. They can then upload these pictures to a website with the hotel name and room number. 1.5 million photographs are now in the database. Using the Traffick Cam’s algorithm, police can compare scenes with the database images and find possible matches. The Traffick Cam app can be downloaded by visiting www.exhangeinitiative.com.

A recent report on human trafficking in Nebraska has been released by the Women’s Fund of Omaha. The information is drawn from interviews with 22 local survivors. The research was conducted by professors from the University of Nebraska Medical School’s College of Public Health.

The Miami-Dade Circuit Court has developed a special court for children who have been victims of human trafficking. It will be called the GRACE Court for Renewed through Acceptance, Change, and Empowerment. Part of the circuit’s juvenile dependency division, it will provide services to both victims and their families.

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families and the Office of Victim Services have announced that individualized care plans, treatment, and case management will be available for survivors of child sex trafficking. These children will receive assistance for a minimum of nine months.

A poster has been created in Wisconsin to increase community awareness surrounding human trafficking and to promote the use of the hotline run by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Among the officials speaking at the unveiling of the poster was Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel.

The Texas legislature created a Human Trafficking Prevention Business Program which will be implemented by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. Part of the prevention initiative requires businesses to work with local law enforcement to set up training for employees. Businesses will be recognized for their anti-human trafficking efforts by a certificate of recognition.

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office is working with the Kansas Department of Revenue to make human trafficking training a part of the truck licensing process in Kansas.


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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