The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute
Human Trafficking Newsletter April 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
A federal judge in Boston has ruled that one of three teens who alleged that Backpage.com facilitated their victimization has alleged sufficient facts to allow her to proceed in her lawsuit. She asserted that the website reworded an ad about her to suggest that she was an adult when she was actually 15. Doe et al. v. Backpage.com, LLC et al., No. 1:17-cv-11069-LTS (D. Mass. Mar. 29, 2018).
A class action lawsuit has been filed In Massachusetts in federal court alleging human rights violations associated with cocoa farming and processing. It is premised on a theory of unjust enrichment in violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law in that the defendant, Hersey Company, by failing to disclose trafficking and child labor in their supply chains, caused consumers to purchase products that they would not have purchased if they had known the truth. Tomasella v. Hershey Company, No. 1:18-cv-10360 (D. Mass. Feb. 26, 2018).
Lawyers for a consortium of Georgia strip clubs are challenging a new law that imposes a tax on adult entertainment businesses. They argue that it is unconstitutional because it targets free speech. The 2016 law requires these businesses to pay $5,000 or one percent of the gross revenue to finance the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.
The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) was passed by the Senate and is on the President’s desk for his signature. Among other things, it adds a new subparagraph to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act providing that nothing in the act may be construed to limit any civil action brought under the TVPA involving sex trafficking. The bill also gives state attorneys general authority to bring a civil action in federal court against an internet operator found to have “knowingly” participated in or aided or abetted sex trafficking. Craigslist reportedly shut down its personal ads after FOSTA passed.
HR 3249, the Project Safe neighborhoods Grant Authorization Act, passed the House. Under the bill, 30% of the appropriated money would go to establish regional gang task forces in areas where transnational organized crime groups are involved in crimes including human trafficking.
The Alabama legislature passed SB 179 which increases penalties for those who obstruct, interfere with, or otherwise get in the way of law enforcement’s investigation into child sex trafficking. The new legislation would increase the maximum offense to a Class A felony with a minimum jail sentence of ten years.
The Georgia legislature unanimously passed HB 732 which strengthens the existing law against sex trafficking in Georgia. The new bill would criminalize patronizing, not just soliciting, an individual who is a victim of sexual servitude.
A bill has been pre-filed in Louisiana which would include strip club employees and managers as mandatory reporters of human trafficking. Under SB 192, managers of adult-oriented businesses would be “human trafficking guardians” which would require them to participate in a training program. Under the bill, a business could lose its liquor license if an employee does not report something which he or she knew or should have known should have been reported.
The Minnesota legislature is considering HF 2967 and SF 2554. It allows for the collection of information on the connection between pornography and sex trafficking. In addition, it would allow that assessments on pornography-related crimes be sent to a fund to help victims of sex trafficking.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed into law HB 1260. The new law creates a presumption against bond for defendants being tried for sex trafficking crimes. SB 101 awaits Gov. Northam’s signature. It requires high school family life education curricula to include information on prevention, recognition, and awareness of child abduction, child abuse, child sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed SB 541 into law. It allows the state Department of Justice (DOJ) to use subpoena powers for human trafficking crimes. He also signed into law SB 704 which improves the state’s address confidentiality program.
Mar. 5, 2018: An attorney in Cullman, Randy Hames, has been arrested and charged with second degree human trafficking. He is accused of seeking sexual interactions in exchange for rent payments. Additional charges of first-degree and second-degree human trafficking were filed later in the month.
Mar. 21, 2018: Leroy Christopher Orbeck, 25, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in Maricopa County after he pled guilty to a number of charges including sex trafficking and child prostitution. He was also accused of beating one of his victims so that she would miscarry his child.
Mar. 30, 2018: Ventura County detectives conducted an investigation that led to the arrest of James Powell, 31, and the discovery of three juveniles and two adult trafficking victims. The investigation began when the sheriff’s office received information about a 14-year old female runaway who was thought to be in the Camarillo area. Detectives saw her posted on an internet service which advertised sexual services. Investigators found the 14- year old as well as a 17-year old and an adult woman. Later, they also found a 16-year old and another adult victim.
Mar. 29, 2018: Stevie Lee Boston was sentenced to 214 years in state prison by a Shasta County Superior Court judge. He kidnapped and forced two victims into sex trafficking. One of the victims read a letter recounting how he beat her and whipped her with a belt.
Mar. 19, 2018: Deandre Kion Sweeney, 21, pled not guilty to prostituting a minor over the age of 16 and two counts of human trafficking. He is accused of trafficking two female minors in Bakersfield. In addition to the human trafficking charges, he has been charged with suspicion of participation in a criminal street gang.
Mar. 17, 2018: Members of the San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force were conducting surveillance in areas known as human trafficking corridors when they saw a man pick up a suspected prostitute and drive off. Officers stopped the car and, after an investigation, determined that the driver, Brandon McDonald Jr., 22, was trafficking the woman riding with him. McDonald was arrested and the woman is receiving services.
Mar. 8, 2018: In Boron, Lisa Michelle Bohl, 45, has been arrested on labor trafficking and related charges. The alleged victim was hospitalized for injuries.
Mar. 7, 2018: In August 2017, San Rafael police responded to an advertisement on an internet escort session. After meeting with the woman, detectives learned she was a victim of human trafficking. She named Andrea Lopez-Luna, 21, as her trafficker who had controlled her by confiscating her money and identification. Police arrested her associate, Diana Vasquez-Reyes, but Lopez-Luna was able to flee the area before police found her. She has now been located and arrested.
Mar. 6, 2018: San Bernardino investigators were on the lookout for a runaway teen when they spotted her walking with Nicole Williams, 19, to a nearby car. Police conducted a traffic stop and investigators learned that Williams was allegedly trafficking the girl. Williams was charged and bail was set at $150,000.
Mar. 29, 2018: The Sarasota County Sheriff’s office arrested three individuals from Orlando on human trafficking and drug charges. Deandre Green, 24, Autumn Manning, 28, and Tyree Lebby, 29, have been booked into the Sarasota County Jail. Green allegedly coerced two women into prostitution. Lebby was arrested after a search of Green’s vehicle in which he was a passenger revealed more than two dozen oxycodone pills and seven grams of marijuana. Green was found with nearly 1.5 grams of rock cocaine. Manning faces prostitution charges.
Mar. 20, 2018: The Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution unit secured the conviction and sentencing of two individuals for operating a massive drug and human trafficking ring. An Orange County jury found Keith Hamlet, 47, and Edward Redmond, 32, guilty on multiple charges of racketeering and drug trafficking. The investigation, dubbed Operation Pop-A-Smurf because of Hamlet’s nickname, began in 2013 when women were found in Orange County hotels with drugs in their system and forced to have sex. In all, 25 victims were located, including a 17-year old girl.
Mar. 14, 2018: Okaloosa County sheriff’s investigators arrested Chloe Summer Smith on charges that she acted as a recruiter and liaison for two men engaged in human trafficking. She allegedly assisted Anthony Miles and De’Join Kimbrough in trafficking a juvenile in the sex trade. The trial for both Miles and Kimbrough is scheduled for early April. Smith’s role was to allegedly collect money from her fellow prostitutes, take calls, and place ads. She has been denied bond.
Mar. 14, 2018: At the request of Labette County authorities, Dallas police arrested a man that is alleged to be involved in sex trafficking a teen. The minor communicated with Xavier C. Jones through her social media accounts about a month before he met her in person.
Mar. 9, 2018: Charles Wesley Walls, 36, of Lawrenceburg, pled guilty to one count of human trafficking and one count of unlawful use of electronic communications system to procure a minor for sex. He was arrested after an investigation by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations Cyber Crimes Unit.
Mar. 20, 2018: Just minutes before his New Orleans trial on sex trafficking and related charges was to begin, Lance Everson, 36, entered a plea agreement with prosecutors. He had a history of arrest on drug possession and a previous incident when he was accused of pimping out a minor. The latest investigation began when he was accused of beating a 17-year old in the face with a baseball bat in a domestic assault incident. He was arrested on aggravated battery and drug charges. A later investigation revealed that he was forcing the minor to prostitute herself.
Mar. 23, 2018: A Frederick County grand jury returned two indictments against Robert Ruiz-Hernandez, 47, on charges of human trafficking, rape, reckless endangerment, and related charges that took place between July and August 2016 and for human trafficking and related charges committed in September 2016.
Mar. 7, 2018: A case that began in August 2016 has led to the arrest of Roberto Ruiz Hernandez, 47. He has been charged with three counts of human trafficking and related crimes. The victim was first interviewed by investigators at a hospital when a condom with drug residue was found inside her. She told investigators that she had been raped and assaulted since being brought to the United States. Investigators lost contact with the victim but detectives and federal investigators were able to re-establish contact which eventually led to the arrest by the US Marshall’s Service Fugitive Apprehension Team when Hernandez was back in the Frederick area.
Mar. 30, 2018: Two men were arrested by Lowell police and the State Police High Risk Victim Unit. They were conducting an operation to recover juveniles who were being commercially sexually exploited. Jahi Malary, 30, and Donal Aaron, 28, were charged with trafficking a person for sexual servitude.
Mar. 28, 2018: A Middlesex Superior Court jury found Shakwaan Simpkins, 26, guilty of sex trafficking in connection with an incident in late 2015 where the defendant tried to recruit an undercover Burlington police officer to work for him as a prostitute at a Burlington hotel. He was sentenced to five years in state prison.
Mar. 9, 2018: Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Michigan State Police announced charges against Monroe County First District Judge Jarod Calkins. He has been charged with one count of transporting a person for the purpose of prostitution and four counts of hiring women for the purpose of prostitution.
Mar. 26, 2018: Lee Edward Smith, Jr., was sentenced to 20 years in prison after a Hennepin County jury found him guilty on two counts of sex trafficking, one of which involved a vulnerable adult.
Mar. 2, 2018: Oxford police stopped a vehicle when they detected a switched tag. During the stop, the driver acted as though he was under the influence and, after searching the car, the officers found narcotics. During the subsequent investigation, they also discovered that one of the passengers was a reported runaway from another county and that she was allegedly being trafficked for commercial sex acts. Edward Daniels, the driver, was then arrested and charged with human trafficking.
Mar. 16, 2018: Officials from several agencies, including the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office and the O’Neill Police Department conducted an anti-human trafficking operation. Robert Dean, 61, was arrested for solicitation of prostitution and Dosha Harris, 27, for pandering. The operation also led to the rescue of a female identified as a human trafficking victim.
Mar. 29, 2018: A 44-count indictment has been unsealed against five alleged members of the Bloods in Suffolk County. They are accused of running a human trafficking ring where the victims were physically threatened and psychologically tortured. Four victims have been found, but investigators think there may be more. The group allegedly preyed on women who were addicted to drugs.
Mar. 13, 2018: John Spencer, 42, was convicted on 22 criminal counts stemming from a prostitution operation he ran out of a Rochester home. Three trafficking victims testified at his trial, recounting the cycle of abuse they suffered at his hands. He took advantage of the women’s addiction to drugs, preying on that vulnerability to victimize them in the sex trade. He will be sentenced in April.
Mar. 15, 2018: A New Hanover County jury found Roderick Jermaine Boykins, 39, guilty of five counts of human trafficking of an adult victim, two counts of sexual servitude of an adult victim, and various counts of promoting prostitution. He was sentenced to 43 years in prison. According to prosecutors, the victims’ testimony played a pivotal role in securing the lengthy sentence.
Mar. 19, 2018: Columbus police arrested Antwan D. Williams, Sr. after two adults and a juvenile were rescued as purported victims of sex trafficking. He has been indicted on seven charges including promoting prostitution and pandering sexually-oriented material involving a minor. A sheriff’s deputy tipped off the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force which led to the subsequent investigation and the rescue of the women.
Mar. 14, 2018: A Franklin County grand jury indicted four people on state RICO charges for allegedly luring women into human trafficking. Curtis Deshane Gossett, 59, who is said to have recruited homeless women addicted to heroin, is thought to be the mastermind of the enterprise. Stacey Anne Rockney, 44, Christina Blair Austin, 28, and Jeffery Martin Bagley, 37, were indicted with him. They are accused of assisting him in various aspects of the operation, including prepping the women, taking photos and posting ads on the internet, delivering drugs, delivering money, and providing transportation and protection. The case was investigated by the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force from the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
Mar. 8, 2018: Police are searching for two individuals that are allegedly connected with a prostitution ring that recruited young girls from Edmond high schools. Germaine Coulter is facing new charges of human trafficking, pandering, and conspiracy. One of his known associates, Elizabeth Andrade, is suspected of being involved. Both have a long history of criminal behavior. Coulter was recently released from prison on a racketeering charge after he was convicted of running a criminal enterprise related to prostitution.
Mar. 9, 2018: Medford police arrested Lamar Mitchell, 45, for allegedly trafficking a 20-year old woman in a number of states. Officers received a call from the alleged victim’s mother that her daughter was being held against her will in Medford. Police located her inside a car with Texas plates. The victim was able to exit the car without incident, but Mitchell refused to leave the car, resulting in a one-hour standoff with police. He was finally arrested and charged with human trafficking and related crimes.
Mar. 15, 2018: A call from an FBI human trafficking task force member and Pittsburgh police led Cranberry Township officials to arrest Oscar Carter at a local hotel. A teen-ager was picked up in Pittsburgh by police for prostitution. She told them that she was being controlled by Carter and showed them her key for his hotel room. A search warrant found counterfeit credit and gift cards, false IDs, cell phones, and a log which detailed prostitution appointments.
Mar. 28, 2018: A business in East Providence is under investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. Accompanied by Rhode Island State Police, investigators searched Martins Maintenance, a company that provides janitorial service, for evidence of alleged labor trafficking.
Mar. 10, 2018: An 18-year old missing teen from Jackson, Mississippi, was found outside a Memphis grocery store. She told police that she met the suspect, Reginald Harris, online and ran away with him after she had had a fight with her parents. She said she was forced to have sex with more than a dozen men. A warrant has been issued for Harris’ arrest.
Mar. 28, 2018: Police officers raiding on a Waco massage parlor found two Chinese women who authorities believe are sex trafficking victims.
Mar. 24, 2018: College Station police were called by the manager of a motel about a bag of drugs that had been left on the counter in the office by a woman staying at the hotel. Police responding found a woman and a child in a room with Dedrick Henderson. After an investigation where the juvenile and the woman told police that Henderson was pimping them to other men for sex, Henderson was arrested and charged with human trafficking and drug possession.
Mar. 19, 2018: The Utah Attorney General’s office has charged a Wyoming man, Joseph Jay Moore, 46, with one count of human trafficking of a child, one count of human trafficking and two counts of aggravated exploitation of a prostitute. One eighteen-year old and one 16-year old are the alleged victims of his trafficking scheme. A tip from the Ogden Police Department led the AG’s SECURE Strike Force to begin the investigation which led to the charges.
Mar. 12, 2018: Prince William County police have arrested Maurice Lamont Cotton, 36, in connection with a sex trafficking incident in Woodbridge. He allegedly arranged for a 19-year old woman to meet with two males for sex.
Mar. 15, 2017: Longview police arrested Jay Douglas, 56, on suspicion of second degree rape of a child, second degree child molestation, commercial sexual abuse of a minor, second degree trafficking, and possession of child pornography. Heather Lindsey, 43, was also arrested on similar charges. Lindsey allegedly introduced a minor to Douglas who participated in sex acts with her and compensated Lindsey.
Mar. 2, 2018: Lakewood police, with the assistance of the Washington State Patrol, arrested nearly a dozen persons in a human trafficking sweep at a truck stop in northern Pierce County. In a four-hour period, they found seven victims of human trafficking.
Mar. 8, 2018: Two Milwaukeeans on the run from sex trafficking charges have been captured in Minnesota. A state trooper stopped to help a car stranded in the snow. When he ran the plates, he found the car was stolen. Domonique Crayton, 29, and Melody Gray, 30, were in the car. As the trooper was putting Crayton in handcuffs, Gray placed a gun by the trooper’s head and pulled the trigger. The gun misfired. The alleged victim was sexually abused by Crayton after she refused to travel with him to be trafficked. He had told her earlier she would be killed.
Mar. 4, 2018: Sean Hayes, 50, has been arrested in Milwaukee and charged with sex trafficking of a minor. His alleged victim is a 17-year old student at a local high school. He is alleged to have trafficked her in Chicago and Wisconsin. At one point, she overheard him talking to his mother on the phone and she recognized the mother’s voice as her high school teacher. She confessed to the teacher about why she had been missing school; the mother turned her son into police.
Other Items of Interest
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and the state’s Human Trafficking Commission chair announced the design and distribution of human trafficking signs to raise awareness about the crime occurring in the state. The signs will be displayed at transportation centers, rest areas, welcome centers, job centers, ABC-licensed locations, and emergency rooms across the state.
Last year, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office began an initiative focused on helping to identify frequent runaways who are at risk of being trafficked. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) Missing Persons Unit identify those at risk by using data from the Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse. Upon identifying those at-risk children, BCI provides the information with intervention assistance to local law enforcement agencies.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced that his office will offer law enforcement training to target and reduce human trafficking.
Child welfare workers in Ohio are being trained to recognize the signs of human trafficking.
The Department of Homeland Security has released a guide for the hospitality industry to help identify human trafficking situations.
The co-founder of a group called Nxivm, a self-help group that offers personal and professional development seminars, was arrested in Mexico and returned to the United States on sex and labor trafficking charges filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn. Keith Raniere is accused of turning female followers of the group into slaves, branding them with his initials, and coercing them into having sex.
A neighbor alerted officials that she was concerned about a situation occurring in Katy. Officials located a woman from Nigeria who was a victim of domestic servitude. She had worked nearly 24 hours a day for years without pay, taking care of a couple’s five children. Federal prosecutors handling the case determined that the alleged traffickers, Sandy and Chudy Nsobundu, had significant assets and were able to seize $120,000 from the couple’s bank account to give to the victim. According to the Department of Justice, this is the first case in the country where a human trafficking victim has been compensated the money owed her in a lump sum.
Two individuals were sentenced in a federal sex trafficking case in South Carolina involving minor victims. Ashford James Simmons, 29, in arguing for leniency at his sentencing hearing, compared selling minors for sex to investing in the stock market. He was sentenced to 210 months. His girlfriend, Brittany Nicole Smith, 24, was sentenced to 47 months.
In Alabama, Brian David Boersma, 48, pled guilty to federal charges that alleged he planned to kidnap a mother and her daughter, sell the daughter to a sex trafficker in Tennessee, and rape and murder the mother.
The FBI is investigating allegations that a large church in Hawaii is victimizing members by requiring them to raise funds by selling baked goods. One member who was on a religious visa from the Philippines alleged that she was punished by being slapped when she didn’t sell enough. After she ran away from the church, another church member charged her with sexual assault.
ELERTS, which provides mobile apps for transportation agencies, has added reporting human trafficking to its See Say app. Use of this app allows citizens to report suspected trafficking with the push of a button on their phones. Sixteen transit agencies, from Buffalo to Santa Clara, have already enabled human trafficking reporting in their ELERTS-powered apps.
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 email@example.com.