The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

Human Trafficking Newsletter May 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.

Headline News

In Texas, Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer pled guilty, on behalf of the company, to human trafficking, and will set aside $500 million as a fund to compensate victims of the company’s criminal activities as well as pay a $240,000 fine. In addition, Ferrer himself pled guilty to money laundering. In the case against principals of Backpage.com in California, Ferrer pled guilty to conspiracy and three counts of money laundering. In a negotiated plea among California, Texas, and the federal court in the southern district of Arizona, Ferrer has agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation into Backpage.com and the other individuals associated with the company. He will serve up to five years in prison.

The U.S. Department of Justice seized the website of BackPage.com, replacing it with a banner indicated that it had been seized. In addition, seven people, connected with the website, were charged in a 93-count federal indictment with crimes of conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate commerce, conspiracy to commit money laundering and associated crimes. The federal investigation and subsequent seizure and indictments were accomplished through assistance by the Texas and California Attorneys General Offices.

Legislation

Federal

President Donald Trump signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act into law on April 11. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette joined other officials at the signing ceremony.

Congress passed the Cloud (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data) Act, H.R. 4943, which was incorporated in the omnibus spending bill. It amends the Stored Communications Act which allows law enforcement to require U.S.-based technology companies via warrant or subpoena to provide data stored on servers overseas. It was signed into law the end of March. The Cloud Act should provide state and local prosecutors a method to receive information without going through the lengthy MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) procedure.

The House has passed the End Banking for Human Traffickers, HR 2219. The bipartisan bill would require an existing presidential task force to recommend how Congress can better thwart money laundering by traffickers. It would also update the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report to require a country-by-country assessment of whether foreign governments have a framework in place to prevent financial transactions involving the proceeds of severe forms of human trafficking. The House also passed HR 4203, the Combat Online Predators Act. It enhances the penalty under federal law for those who stalk victims under 18.

State

Colorado has joined a number of states in passing legislation, HB 18-1018, that requires people seeking a new commercial driver’s license to complete training on recognizing and preventing human trafficking. The bill was signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper in early April.

The Oklahoma legislature sent HB 2651 to the governor for signature. It allows the commissioner of Public Safety to require training for students working towards receiving Class A, B, or C commercial licenses to include training on the recognition, prevention, and reporting of human trafficking.

Kentucky Governor Bevin signed HB 70 into law. The new law prohibits sex offender registrants from using an electronic communications device to gather information about a person less than 18 years of age.

The Michigan legislature passed an amendment to its human trafficking law, HB 5438, that would include facilitating or controlling an individual’s access to a controlled substance as being included in the definition of “coercion.”

SB 176 passed the Tennessee legislature and was signed by the governor. It imposes a $2.00 privilege tax on adult performance businesses for each customer who enters the business. Proceeds from the tax will be allocated to the sex trafficking victims fund to be used to provide services for the victims of sex trafficking.

The Virginia legislator has passed SB 725 and it was signed into law by the governor. It requires the human trafficking hotline number to be posted at rest areas and in health care facilities. Governor Northam also signed into law a SB 451 which expands a locality’s ability to require abatement of real property to include properties where commercial sex acts are regularly being conducted.

State Investigations/Arrests/Prosecution

Alabama

Apr. 9, 2018: With the assistance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Homeland Security officers, Tuscaloosa police conducted a sting operation. They arrested one individual, Yusef Muhammad, 63, on first-degree human trafficking and second-degree promotion of prostitution charges and another individual, Bradford Oneal Simmons, 30, on second-degree promoting prostitution charges.

Apr. 3, 2018: Cricket Darlene Kimbrough, 35, was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and marijuana in late March in Limestone County. After investigators searched her cell phone, they found evidence that she ran a prostitution ring involving at least 14 different people, both male and female. She allegedly set up “sex parties” with customers at local motels. She has now been charged with 2d-degree human trafficking as well as the original possession charge.

Arizona

Apr. 23, 2018: Travon Jarvel Jackson of Tampa, Florida, was sentenced in Tucson to 15 years in prison for forcing a woman into prostitution in both Tampa and Tucson. He controlled the victim by withholding food, money, and her property.

California

Apr. 28, 2018: During a traffic stop in Henderson, Nevada, police arrested Richard Graham, 33, on an arrest warrant issued by Riverside, California, authorities. He is accused of sex trafficking two women, ages 17 and 21, at a hotel in Riverside’s Eastside neighborhood. He awaits extradition to California.

Apr. 25, 2018: Contra Costa prosecutors filed nine felony charges against Jerome Monroe, 26, after a police investigation revealed that a teen-aged girl was being forced into prostitution. He has been charged with human trafficking, pimping, forcible rape, furnishing drugs to a minor, kidnapping, and criminal threats.

Apr. 25, 2018: A San Bernardino detective observed a car narrowly miss a pedestrian walking beside a road. Officers stopped the car and talked to the driver, Matthew Fraise, and a passenger, Stacey Salgado, and also talked to the pedestrian, a 17-year old girl. Officers identified the juvenile as a possible victim of human trafficking and determined that the near collision was a purposeful act because Fraise and Salgado were attempted to force the juvenile to work as a prostitute for them. Fraise and Salgado have been charged with human trafficking and pandering.

Apr. 24, 2018: On April 22, a juvenile asked help from San Bruno officers, saying she was trying to get away from someone. She told police that she had been driven to the area by the Shops at Tanforan by a male and female to meet with someone to engage in commercial sex. Officers located a vehicle parked nearby and arrested Taroy Lakeith Ireland, 26, and Ieshea Lucetia Pearl Marie, 27, on human trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Apr. 20, 2018: Kinning Donell Jefferson, 23, pled guilty in Orange County to two counts of human trafficking, two counts of pimping, two counts of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, and one count of making criminal threats. He was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison. He trafficked 18 year old twins, forcing them to prostitute themselves in multiple California cities, from San Francisco to Los Angeles. When the twins tried to leave, he choked and punched one of them and threatened to kill the other’s baby.

Apr. 20, 2018: An undercover investigation targeting human trafficking demand was conducted in South El Monte. Thirteen men were arrested on suspicion of various sex acts and two men were arrested on suspicion of arranging to meet a minor for the purpose of lewd behavior.

Apr. 14, 2018: A woman was kidnapped in San Francisco and driven to Santa Clara County where she managed to escape. Police were able to identify one of the suspects as Willie McCoy II, 20. After obtaining a search warrant, police searched McCoy’s Oakland resident and found a number of firearms. He was arrested on suspicion of firearms violations, but he immediately bailed out. Investigators with the San Francisco police department human trafficking team took over the investigation and obtained a warrant for McCoy’s arrest on suspicion of pimping, human trafficking, kidnapping, and making criminal threats. He was arrested and is being held on $1.175 million bail.

Apr. 11, 2018: After Fresno police stopped Gerrey Brown, 34, for not having a front license plate on his car, they interviewed a passenger in the car, a 16-year old girl. She told police that Brown was directing her to work as a prostitute in cities around the state. Brown, who has an extensive criminal record and is reputing to be a Rolling 20s Crip member, was arrested and charged with human trafficking.

Apr. 6, 2018: One of two men accused of taking a person for prostitution without consent, a felony, pled “no contest” in Los Angeles County Court. Eric Hamway, 31, befriended the victim on Instagram and flew her to California from Texas. After a short time, he “sold” her to his co-defendant, Michael Shaw. Shaw is accused of viciously attacking the victim when she attempted to flee.

Colorado

Apr. 23, 2018: Colorado Springs police arrested four men on suspicion of soliciting prostitutes during an undercover human trafficking operation. Two of those arrested had previous arrests for soliciting a prostitute and one was a registered sex offender.

Apr. 23, 2018: After police spoke to an alleged victim, Joshua Weldon, 36, was arrested in Colorado Springs on suspicion of pimping, pandering, human trafficking for sexual servitude, extortion, and keeping a place of prostitution.

Florida

Apr. 27, 2018: A Marion County judge sentenced Ryan Gemelle Polle, 33, to 30 years in state prison after a jury found him guilty of human trafficking, deriving support from prostitution, unlawful use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a felony, sexual battery, and branding. This is the first conviction under Florida’s branding statute.

Apr. 8, 2018: Tallahassee police arrested Marvin Perry Jr., 41, and charged him with trafficking two underage girls along with soliciting a minor online and child pornography. Police had been searching for two juveniles who had been missing since the middle of January. When their first pimp was arrested, they were transferred to Perry who was a driver for a transportation company.

Georgia

Apr. 18, 2018: After a call from a social worker in Washington who called requesting a welfare check on a 20-year old woman from Settle staying in a motel in Conyers, law enforcement contacted the woman. She said she was waiting for the social worker to send her social security card and birth certificate so she could get a Georgia ID card. The social worker informer police that the woman had been trafficked while she lived in Washington and was concerned she was being trafficked again. When police once again visited the woman, she told them that she was being forced to prostitute herself by Brad Gaskin, 36, and wanted to leave. Police subsequently arrested Gaskin and charged him with human trafficking.

Kansas

Apr. 5, 2018: A man pled guilty in Shawnee County to two charges of soliciting two boys for sex after making contact with them on Facebook. Scott Vladmir Anderson, 27, will be sentenced in May. After making contact on Facebook with one youth, Anderson first gave him methamphetamines, then sought sex acts from the boy and then sex acts for the three other defendants who also pled guilty to various charges including criminal sodomy with a child and electronic solicitation of a child.

Indiana

Apr. 13, 2018: Following a child pornography investigation, Indiana State Police arrested Jeffrey Kramer, 48, in Pendleton on 36 felony charges, including promotion of human trafficking of a minor. He was allegedly grooming an underage girl he met on a dating website to meet for a sexual encounter.

Iowa

April 1, 2018: Iowa City police responding to a possible human trafficking incident at a local Travel Lodge found a 17-year old girl and Aarion M. West, Jr., 24. The girl complained that, when she tried to leave the motel, West choked her and hit her in the face. She reported that she had been working as a prostitute for West for several months. He has been charged with human trafficking, pimping and pandering, assault, and associated crimes.

Kentucky

Apr. 24, 2018: A Franklin County grand jury indicted Almo D. Harding on six counts of unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities and associated misdemeanor counts.

Apr. 18, 2018: Quentin J. Burris, 26, was arrested by investigators from the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office. He is charged with offering two 16-year old girls for sex on Backpage.com. He has been in custody in Louisville since the end of January for wanton endangerment and contempt of court charges in another case. Two other individuals were earlier charged in the case: Abigail Varney, 22, and Nigel Karl Nicholas, 51.

Apr. 12, 2018: The Christian County Grand Jury indicted Stanley McMeeken, 37, and Cecelia Slade, 29, on charges of Human Trafficking of a Victim under 18, and two drug charges. Oak Grove police stopped a car driven by McMeeken because of a broken headlight. A 15-year old teen who had been reported as a runaway from Georgia was in the car with Slade and McMeeken. Slade acknowledged that she was involved in prostitution and said she had made the juvenile in a hotel in Georgia.

Louisiana

Apr. 25, 2018: A Louisiana state trooper made a traffic stop near Leesville after he observed two traffic violations. In the car, were the driver, Douglas Zabala Cubillan, 45, of Georgia, and four undocumented Mexicans. It was learned that the two women and two men were allegedly under debt bondage and that Cubillan was transporting them to different cities to work. Cubillan was arrested and charged with nine counts of labor trafficking.

Massachusetts

Apr. 30, 2018: Maine police arrested Jason McLeod, 35, of Mattapan, Massachusetts, on a nationwide warrant for sex trafficking issued Friday by Massachusetts authorities. The charges stem from a homicide in. He is being held pending extradition.

Apr. 5, 2018: In Plymouth County, Dorian Sylvestre was found guilty of sex trafficking after a bench trial. She was sentenced to serve five years in prison. A 16-year old girl from Fitchburg told police that she had traveled to Brockton for a party. When she attempted to leave, she was held against her will and forced to perform sex acts. Two co-defendants will be tried later. Chinier Bennett, 20, is accused of bringing the victim to Brockton. Keith Grace, 26, is accused of trying to rape the victim.

Apr. 3, 2018: Steven Forsley, 65, and Liu Yang, 61, were indicted by a Springfield grand jury on charges including trafficking women for sexual servitude, deriving support from prostitution, and money laundering. They were arrested in January for allegedly running a human trafficking ring fronted through massage parlors. Investigators from the Attorney General’s office found thousands of dollars at Yang’s residence.

Apr. 2, 2018: Jayquan Monteiro was arraigned on three charges of trafficking of a person for sexual servitude, deriving support from prostitution, and assault and battery in Orleans District Court on Cape Cod. Victims told police that Monteiro used Backpage.com to advertise them for sexual services.

Michigan

Apr. 5, 2018: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that Chrisopher Lowery, 24, was sentenced to 7 to 15 years in prison after he pled guilty for participating in a human trafficking operation in southeast Michigan. The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Southeast Michigan Trafficking Exploitation Crimes Task Force. Together they conducted an undercover operation in Redford which led to Lowery’s arrest. Ninety-seven invoices for ads posted on Backpage.com were found on Lowery’s account.

Minnesota

Apr. 14, 2018: Ashley Ann Pick-Gassama, 27, pled guilty last November to a felony charge of aiding and abetting the promotion of the prostitution of a child. She has now been sentenced to seven and one-half years in prison. A 17-year old told police that she had been trafficked for sex out of a St. Cloud apartment and would be beaten if she refused to participate. Police connected Pick-Gassama’s phone number with Backpage.com advertisements involved in the case.

Missouri

Apr. 26, 2018: The sentencing of Dustin Thomas, 23, to 14 years on various charges involving two 15-year old girls in Camden County was announced by Attorney General Josh Hawley and Camden County Prosecutor Heather Miller. His conviction is part of a broader, ongoing investigation into sex trafficking in Missouri.

New Jersey

Apr. 11, 2018: New Jersey Attorney General Gubir Grewal announced that a grand jury in Mercer County has indicted Ashley Gardener, 30, and Breon Mickens, 26, on first-degree human trafficking charges for allegedly forcing a 17-year old girl to engage in prostitution. The defendants were arrested in January. The case was investigated after state troopers found the girl walking along I-295. She told police that she had been forced to perform sex acts with from four to fifteen men a day. She was allegedly deprived of food, given marijuana, and prohibited from calling her family. She was found after she was able to escape from the hotel.

New York

Apr. 22, 2018: Reagan “Flex” Conception pled guilty to one count of sex trafficking involving a 14-year old in Queens. He forced her to have sex with him and then with multiple men and, when she did not comply with his demands, he physically assaulted her. He was arraigned on a 76-count indictment. He faces an indeterminate term of six to twelve years in prison at his sentencing.

Apr. 18, 2018: In Monroe County, John “Smurf” Spencer, 43, was sentenced to 17-21 years in prison after he was convicted on eight counts of sex trafficking as well as promoting prostitution, assault, robbery, unlawful imprisonment, menacing, and permitting prostitution. Spencer forced three victims into prostitution and provided them with illegal drugs.

North Carolina

Apr. 11, 2018: In Fayetteville, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office has arrested Candace Grantham, 31, on human trafficking, first-degree kidnapping, advancing prostitution, and multiple other sex-related charges.

Ohio

Apr. 28, 2018: The City of Columbus has temporarily closed a massage parlor after investigators discovered that employees were allegedly being forced to perform sex acts there.

Apr. 25, 2018: David Kalna was indicted on human trafficking charges in Youngstown. Although details are lacking, it is alleged that the charges involve relatives of Kalna’s, including a 12-year old.

Apr. 19, 2018: Eight people were arrested during a human trafficking sting in Warren. Seven were charged with solicitation and one was charged with promoting prostitution.

Oklahoma

Apr. 19, 2018: After Tulsa police received a tip that prostitution was occurring at A-1 Foot Massage, an undercover officer made an appointment and, while he was getting a massage, was offered sexual services. The manager of the salon, Haolin Yang, was arrested on a complaint of human trafficking.

Pennsylvania

Apr. 7, 2018: In Burlington County, Christopher K. White, 20, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on his earlier pleading guilty to trafficking a 17-year old girl. His co-defendant, ex-girlfriend Adria Regn pled guilty to second-degree conspiring to commit human trafficking and will be sentenced to five years in prison.

South Carolina

Apr. 20, 2018: Richland detectives have arrested a mother and her son on allegations that they used the Eve’s Haven & Spa in Columbia as a front for human trafficking. Yevett Michell Pratt and Carban Kiaeem Epps, 18, are alleged to have enticed and solicited a 16-year old into prostitution, providing a location for her to perform sex acts for money.

Texas

Apr. 16, 2018: An 18-year old girl escaped from a residence in Irving and reported to police that she was kidnapped from California and forced into prostitution in North Texas. When police arrived at the residence, they found America Anderson, 20, and Devanshu Gupta, 26, leaving. They also located a 16-year old girl who told authorities she was being held against her will and forced into prostitution. Anderson and Gupta face charges of trafficking of persons, trafficking of a child, and compelling prostitution.

Apr. 4, 2018: A Houston-area pimp who allegedly choked and threatened his victims, including threatening to hurt a six-year old child, has been arrested and charged with two felony counts of trafficking of a person, two felony counts of compelling prostitution by force, and one felony count of aggravated promotion of prostitution . He was out on bond for felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and felony assault-family violence at the time of his arrest. Police allege that Marquis Cominick Homes, 27, would withhold documents and food and threaten and harm his victims if they did not turn over $1,500 in revenue daily.

Utah

Apr. 3, 2018: The Utah Attorney General’s Office has filed charges against Raymond Burk, 38, accusing him of human trafficking of a child and aggravated kidnapping. Burk also faces charges in Arizona. According to investigators, the juvenile posted a message on a social media platform, saying she was depressed and wanted someone to “pick her up.” Burk responded, saying he lived nearby, but once she was in his car, he told her that he actually lived in Phoenix and that he was taking her there and she would become his “pet.” Once in Phoenix, he sexually assaulted her, tied her to the bed when he was away, and took her to his drug dealer’s house and ordered her to have sex so that he could get marijuana.

Virginia

Apr. 26, 2018: An Albemarle County jury found Quincy M. Edwards guilty on all ten counts of commercial sex trafficking by force. He is the first person in the county to be tried and convicted by a jury under Virginia’s updated sex trafficking statute.

Wisconsin

Apr. 22, 2018: Corey D. Hereford, 46, of Beloit was arrested by Janesville police at the Rock County Jail where he is presently being held for charges of trafficking a child for commercial sex acts and child enticement. The current charges involve evidence that he was setting up commercial sex acts for additional victims. Hereford is a registered sex offender for 1994 convictions of sexual assault of a child.

Apr. 6, 2018: Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel announced that Kevin M. Robinson, 27, was sentenced to 63 years in prison and 25 years extended supervision for human trafficking. He was found guilty on all counts by a jury late last year. Oak Creek police arrested Robinson in a motel parking lot after police found an adult male and female and a juvenile female in a room that Robinson had paid for. A later investigation found two additional female victims. Police also discovered that Robinson had kidnapped a 17-year old girl, physically assaulted her and threatened to tie her up and burn her to death inside of a car that he would light on fire.

Other Items of Interest

In Chicago, Charles McFee pled guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor. McFee introduced “Minor A” (Desiree Robinson, 16) to Joseph Hazley for a $250 finder’s fee. Hazley advertised her on Backpage, com. Desiree was subsequently murdered by a customer on Christmas Eve, 2016.

In a case that illustrates the complexity of some of the schemes used to lure victims into being sex trafficked, a federal district court in the western district of Washington has sentenced David D. Delay, 52, to 33 years in prison for targeting teens and young women while he posed as a film producers. He claimed he had a multi-million dollar contract from HBO to produce a documentary on prostitution and convinced his victims by falsifying bank account screenshots and seemingly official, binding contracts that he would pay the women $20 million on completion of the film. Delay’s co-defendant Marysa Comer was sentenced to three years last December. The case was investigated by Redmond, Washington, detective Natalie D’Amico.

Smallville actress Allison Mack is facing federal sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy charges in New York in connection with the self-help group Nxivn whose founder, Keith Raniere, was arrested last month on both sex and labor trafficking charges. She is accused of recruiting women to join a purported female mentorship group which was actually a group created by Raniere to take sexual advantage of the women. She has been released on a $5 million bond.

Two labor trafficking cases being handled by federal officials illustrate the premise that many of these cases involve the enslaving of foreign nationals by their own countrymen. In Washington, two Guatemalans were sentenced for luring family members into the country and then holding them in debt bondage. In Texas, federal charges were filed against two individuals who allegedly brought a five year old into the country from Guinea in 2000 and then compelled her to cook, clean, and take care of their five children while withholding her documents. The victim escaped in 2016 with help from former neighbors.

The federal government released the 2017 federal Human Trafficking Report and also unveiled a new website, TraffickingMatters.com. The website hosts the 2017 report, trending cases, case studies, court decisions, articles, and a resource section.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing in April on what progress, if any, has been made on ensuring the safety of children who enter the country alone. The Subcommittee had published a report on an investigation initiated after authorities found that eight Guatemalan teens had been labor trafficked on egg farms in and around Marion County, Ohio. That case was the subject of a recent Frontline report, shown on PBS. Testimony at the hearing noted that there is no follow up by Health and Human Services officials after unaccompanied children are placed.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and Catholic Charities of Louisville released the 2017 Human Trafficking Task Force Report, the first overall look at the state’s coordinated efforts to fight human trafficking since the office received a federal grant in 2016. The report highlights the new streamlined notification process that better assists in investigations and follow-up services for victims.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office is conducting training for the state’s nurses to help them identify possible victims of human trafficking.

The North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission held its second regional symposium in New Bern in early April. Experts from public health, public safety, legal, and law enforcement backgrounds will discuss their experiences and conduct in-depth trainings for professionals working to fight human trafficking. The symposium was funded by the Governor’s Crime Commission.

The annual report from the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on action against Trafficking in Human Beings is calling for implementation of stronger legislation across the EU to protect the rights of victims of labor trafficking. The report states that labor trafficking is on the rise across Europe and has overtaken sexual exploitation as the predominant form of modern-day slavery in several countries, including Britain, Belgium, and Portugal.

Mary G. Leary, Professor of Law at Catholic University and a warrior in the fight against trafficking, has authored a law review article on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.


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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