Hillsborough County deputies recently arrested more than 100 people in connection with a five-month-long undercover investigation surrounding human trafficking. 8 On Your Side is now digging deeper into this growing problem in Florida.
Sheriff Chad Chronister, with Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in FL, said among the most disturbing arrests involved Jason Fitzgerald, 36, and Luis Colon, 29. An undercover detective posed as a stepfather with a 14-year-old girl, and arranged a time for the two men to perform sex acts on the fictitious child. The sheriff said the acts they requested to do are “so repulsive, that I won’t even begin to describe them.”
Andrew Frey, 54, of Coram on Long Island, NY, attempted to abduct sex workers on two separate occasions with the intent of forcing them to engage in commercial sex acts. Authorities says Frey has a history of violence against sex workers and poses a danger to the community.
Two South Jersey men, Barry “Bear” Schiff, 52, of Galloway, and Kenneth J. Crowell, 35, of Blackwood, ran an organized sex trafficking ring stretching into Pennsylvania, coercing and forcing six young women into sex work and collecting the profits. One victim told police that Schiff threatened to “chop her up into little pieces and throw her in the river” when she said she didn’t want to work for him anymore.
Selah Freedom, a Florida-based charity organization with a mission to end sex trafficking, recently opened its newest, and largest, safe house at an undisclosed Kenosha County, WI location. It will offer a safe residential program for those rescued from sex trafficking, educational planning, job placement, trauma therapy, life skills, and medical assistance.
A bill that would decriminalize the selling and buying of sex in the nation’s capital will NOT move forward this year, lawmakers said, after an emotional hearing and thousands of emails revealed deep divisions among D.C. residents. Similar proposals in New York and Massachusetts, among other states, have also failed to gain ground.
Taniece Temple appeared on the show Wednesday for her first on-camera interview since her abuser was sentenced. Temple was only 13 years old when her Toledo, OH pastor, Anthony Haynes, started sexually abusing her and forcing her to have sex with anyone he chose.
Edward Earl Daniels of Oxford, MS, was found with a minor in his vehicle during his arrest on a traffic violation. Police and FBI agents investigated and determined Daniels operated a prostitution ring with the minor and other victims.
South Florida man, William Foster, 48, formed a fake nonprofit called “Foster’s Care.” Its sophisticated website claimed it provided free service to victims of human trafficking. Foster targeted young women in group homes, shelters, or those working at strip clubs, particularly low-end ones, where the teens were likely to have violent pimps they wanted to escape.
Zerrell Fuentes, 25, of Charlotte, NC, made a series of phone calls from inside jail to lay out a plan that had his wife, Brianna Wright, and mother, Tanya Fuentes, travel to Myrtle Beach, check into a hotel, then traffic three female minors as prostitutes in hopes to use the cash for Fuentes’s bail.
Posters offering victims of human trafficking a way out will soon be posted in 48 bathrooms in 17 rest areas along two major toll highway rest area bathrooms, New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, as part of a multi-agency initiative to help those being trafficked.
Sgt. Roger Thomas, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, got a “Back the Blue” award Wednesday from Attorney General Ashley Moody. Sgt. Thomas worked beyond his midnight shift to identify the 17-year-old and reunite her with family.
The campaign called “Can You See Me?” includes a series of billboards depicting scenarios of the most common forms of human trafficking in the U.S. They are displayed in public spaces and transportation hubs across Texas to equip the public to recognize indicators and report suspicious behavior to dedicated hotline numbers.
The program is called “My Life My Choice” and is based out of Boston, MA. Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, located in IL, prevention program includes connecting young girls and women with survivors to help them better understand what do to if they are confronted with a sex trafficking situation.
Darrell Hampton, 30, of Memphis, TN, fired shots at the 17 and 18-year-old victims, told them they were not free to leave, told them he would take them to Atlanta to work and even told the 18-year-old he would kill her grandmother if she didn’t cooperate.
Emmanuel Fleming, 20, of Marietta, GA, posted sex ads featuring the 16-year-old girl on an adult escort website. The victim confirmed to police that she and Fleming “did prostitution all summer” at the motel. The victim also stated that she was doing it to help Fleming because he was homeless.
Reflection Ministries of Texas is set to open “The Village” – a set of homes that will house victims of human trafficking – at the beginning of next year. Lisa Bownds, founder of Reflection Ministries, said they have several acres of land with five cottages. Four of the cottages will be used for housing and the last cottage will be a multi-purpose building used for counseling, therapeutic services and training classes.
Cindy Malott, Director of Advocacy Services for Crisis Aid International, works with survivors of sex trafficking. She said social media is now the “most common way” she sees traffickers are making initial contact with victims. “Every app you can imagine,” said Malott. “Even apps specifically focused for young children.”
After a recent grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime to fight human trafficking, the International Rescue Committee will work with the Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center on awareness and outreach, as well as offer trauma-informed services to trafficking survivors throughout Leon County, FL, and nearby rural communities.
The Senate Education Committee unanimously passed the bill on Tuesday. The curriculum would be part of public schools’ health education and would focus on how to recognize and understand human trafficking.
Xuedan Ou, 34, of Tewksbury, MA, is charged with trafficking a person for sexual servitude, keeping a house of prostitution, and deriving support from prostitution. She ran a a prostitution business from her spa, TCM Therapy Center, located in Tewksbury.
Florida law that passed in 2013 allows victims of human trafficking to clear records of arrests that resulted, but process can be slow and complicated. The Justice Restoration Center in Dunedin, FL, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping trafficking victims erase criminal records. Executive director Brent Woody said Florida has the best such law in the nation, and his organization has worked with more than 200 victims.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida says its frequent prostitution stings help curtail human trafficking. But cases are complex and difficult to prove, so few arrests result in prosecutions on trafficking charges.
Simon Hessler, 47, of Ellington, CT, has been charged with four counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and four counts of risk of injury to a child. Hessler was previously arrested last year after seeking out girls between the ages of 10 and 12 online with the intent to train a young girl in his “slave quarters” and have sex with the girl.
The Kalamazoo Planning Commission in Michigan approved a request for a single-family home in the Vine Neighborhood to house victims of human trafficking. The housing will be the only shelter of its kind in Southwest Michigan that allows men, women and children.
Ryan Russell Parks, also known as “Dinero,” 26, of Baltimore, MD, trafficked both a 15 and 16-year-old girl, prosecutors said. Parks used online ads with photos of the girls and descriptions of them for commercial sex acts.
Anthony J. Miles, of Crestview, FL, recruited the child, provided addictive drugs to the child, and arranged for hotel rooms where he would keep the child to set up appointments with people seeking sexual favors.
Detectives in Washington with the Bellevue Police Department’s vice unit have joined a prostitution chat forum in an effort to help sex workers. One longtime sex worker has already contacted the vice unit and is encouraging others on the forum to do the same.
Ohio lawmakers proposed a bill to create a public registry that will include the names of people who are convicted of buying sexual services. The bill’s goal is to increase penalties for johns and pimps.
Devonte R. Roberson, 27, of DeSoto, TX, tried to sell a woman to an undercover detective for sex, authorities said. The woman was identified and rescued with the help of Unbound, a local nonprofit that offers services to victims of human trafficking.
Wellspring Living, the Atlanta nonprofit that received the funding, estimated that $200,000 could help 80 women through its programming. The organization offers services including recovery programs, housing and professional development to victims and people at risk of sex trafficking.
All of the men are accused of reaching out to the undercover officers, believing they were children, and making arrangements to meet for sex at a Somerset County residence in N.J., when no one else was home. The officers posed as underage girls or boys on social media platforms to target online predators.
Peter Paul Castillo, 30, and Johnette Amanda Terrell, 18, both of Los Angeles, CA, forced a 15-year-old girl, who had been reported as a runaway, into prostitution. The victim was rescued, offered immediate services and resources, then safely returned to her family.
Survivor Karla Solomon, 30, of Texas, was first trafficked for sex when she ran away from home at just 12-years-old. Her mother and stepfather were addicted to crack, and she never knew her biological father.
Charles Wayne Caldwell, 37, of Sacramento, CA, has a violent past with a history of victimizing vulnerable women. Throughout the investigation the victim told police about multiple times she had been abused and forced to perform commercial sex acts.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Reno, NV, said in her ruling “that plaintiffs were unlawfully forced into prostitution and sex trafficked in Nevada and other states is not sufficiently traceable to Nevada laws … as opposed to other factors, namely the illicit behaviors of private bad actors.”
Terrance D. Nordwall, 50, of Faribault, MN, exchanged text messages with a Homeland Security Investigations agent, who he believed was a “pimp” for two girls, ages 14 and 15. Nordwall agreed to pay $200 for a half hour with the two girls, drove to Iowa, and there he was met by law enforcement officers.
Investigators found the teen and took her to a nearby hospital before she was released to Child Protective Services. Officials arrested Imani Cole, 22, of Spring, TX, who created the sex ad for the 15-year-old girl. Raven Lovings, 28, of Houston, TX, was also arrested for his role in the girl’s sex trafficking.
In 2018, 127 cases of human trafficking were reported in Pennsylvania, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. At the 2019 Rural Human Trafficking Summit hosted by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health at Penn State Tuesday, advocates said that to target and stop trafficking, the public needs to first recognize the situation.
The Rochester Human Trafficking Court in NY is expanding its services to include towns and villages around Monroe County, with the help of a $750,000 federal grant. Rochester City Court Judge Ellen Yacknin says that much of the funding will go toward providing coordinated services.
Uber, a ride-sharing service, trained its drivers in Baltimore, MD, to spot possible signs of human trafficking. Uber partnered with the Polaris Project, a non-profit that fights human trafficking and runs a national hotline. Polaris said there were more than 650 sex trafficking cases reported to their hotline in Maryland between December 2007 and June 2018.
The trafficker would always pay for the rooms in cash and when he didn’t have money for rooms at the Econo Lodge in N.Y.C., NY, he allowed hotel staff to rape the 10-year-old girl “in lieu of his payment for the rooms,” the papers show. There was even a bowl of free condoms displayed at the front desk that the victim would use when they ran out, the suit states.
An Ind. man convicted of sex trafficking a 15-year-old Indianapolis girl received his sentence. Krisean Porter, 32, received 15 years after being convicted of charges including promoting human trafficking, promoting prostitution and sexual misconduct with a minor.
“Thanks to many years in the fight, nonprofits have the insight and resources needed to craft effective legislation and policies. USIAHT, for instance, offers a program called the “TraffickingFree Zone” that equips businesses, churches, counties and other communities to reduce demand and combat trafficking.” writes Sharon Bates, an abolitionist with the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking.
Armand King of San Diego, CA, spent more than a decade working as a pimp. Today, King speaks publicly about his experiences in sex trafficking all over the country to law enforcement agencies and professionals. King’s personal story, told in his book, takes a look at the impact pimping and prostitution has had on communities of color.
Kenneth Hutto, 46, of Summerville, S.C., trafficked a female for sex commerce between South Carolina and Georgia. An undercover deputy in Georgia responded to an advertisement on backpage.com that showed the victim with bruises on her backside. Through text message the deputy was told to meet Hutto at a motel.
Dane County, WI Executive Joe Parisi announced that he’s including $80,000 in his 2020 budge to create a new position for Project Respect, a program that helps juvenile and adult survivors of trafficking.
The victims said they met the woman, Kendra Bey, of Milwaukee, WI, when she was a worker at Milwaukee Academy, a treatment facility for adolescent girls, some who are already victims of child sex trafficking.
De’Angelo Johnson, otherwise known as “Cowboy” or “D”, age 31, of Maryland, faces federal indictment charges for sex trafficking and distribution of heroin and cocaine that may have occurred August 2018 through May 2019.
Adonis Baker, 35, Inkosi Gandberry, 38, and Leotha Williams, 58, have all been charged with sex trafficking in and around New Mexico. Their female victims were beat up and injected with heroin to ensure their cooperation.
Alfred Spaulding, 32, of Ocala, FL, pleaded guilty to human trafficking and other charges. When detectives interviewed Spaulding, he admitted to profiting from his female victim’s sex acts, giving her drugs, and hitting her.
A former Youngstown, OH Police Department dispatcher pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted obstructing justice and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. Elaine Hellman, 72, is the second person to plead guilty in a case involving human trafficking.
More than half of the homeless youth in metro Atlanta have experienced human trafficking, with minority and LGBTQ youth being more likely to be forced into working against their will, according to a study by Georgia State University sociology professor Eric Wright.
Kevin Fuqua, who authorities wrote goes by the nickname “Knote,” was pimping a teen girl who had run away from her home in Solano County, CA. Investigators say they uncovered text messages that indicate Fuqua was physically abusing the girl. Fuqua knew the girl was underage — having attended her 17th birthday months before the arrest — and forced her to walk areas known for prostitution until she made $500 per night.
A recurring guest star on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta”, Lyndon “Sas” Smith, 26, and his accomplice James Ruffin, 27, were planning on traveling out of Georgia to traffic two teenage girls for prostitution, authorities said.
Kevin Kishaun Martin, 46, and his girlfriend Lyndzy Michelle Donovan, 35, of Columbus, OH, would prey upon females on the street promising them a better life, lure them into their home or a hotel where they provided the females with drugs, and then demanded that they work the streets to pay back their debt.
Arizona man Louis Broadway-Phillips, 25, indicted for trafficking two adult victims and one minor victim, contacted these three victims while out on bond. The three victims reported that Broadway-Phillips wanted them to relinquish their victim rights and recant their original reports. Broadway-Phillips is now jailed without bond.
Valdez Lawrence, 34, of Baltimore, MD, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in human trafficking and five counts of human trafficking. Police interviewed several victims who said they worked for Lawrence and discovered how he ran the trafficking operation.
The bill at the center of the hearing would amend existing city laws to eliminate criminal penalties for selling or buying sex in the District. If passed, it would make the District the only U.S. jurisdiction to legalize prostitution, outside of some areas of Nevada where legal brothels exist. Prostitution involving minors and coercing others to engage in sex work against their will would remain illegal.
Krisean Porter, 32, of Indianapolis, IN, was convicted on felony charges including promoting human trafficking, promoting prostitution and sexual misconduct with a minor. Prosecutors said text messages between Porter and the victim showed a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviors, commonly used by sex traffickers.
Pascal Lamont Williams, 46, of Dayton, OH, is accused along with another man, James “Damean” Rowles, of holding four women against their will for months, forcing them to engage in sex acts on both Williams and Rowles, as well as other people in exchange for drugs or money.
Letty Serrano appeared to be a typical Texas high school student with a loving family until she was forced into sex trafficking. The family says at just 13 years old, Serrano was drugged and sold to sex traffickers.
Sex trafficking is a lucrative $2 billion a year industry in the United States that preys on the vulnerable and hopeless. It may seem far away from places like Eugene and Springfield, OR — but, sadly, it is not.
This month, Florida became the first state in the nation requiring sex-trafficking education as part of every student’s curriculum. “Tragically, human trafficking is an epidemic in our country,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said upon passage of the new rule. “Children of all ages need to know and understand the hazards of human trafficking and how to protect themselves from dangerous predators.”
The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office GHOST task force has arrested 12 more people in connection to human trafficking in Michigan. The arrests are part of the task force’s latest phase in their ongoing operation targeting human trafficking.
Hope Joy Zeferjohn, a Topeka, KS native, became a victim of the commercial sex trade while in state custody, ran away, and was sent to prison for aggravated human trafficking. Despite federal and state laws that bar prosecuting children for prostitution, Zeferjohn is serving a nearly six-year sentence in the Topeka Correctional Facility and will spend a lifetime on the state sex offender registry.
Foster Shane Gaines, 42, has pleaded guilty to operating a drug and sex trafficking ring from his prison cell in Represa, CA, where he was already serving an eight-year sentence for directing the prostitution of another woman. The trafficking ring, largely operating in Tidewater, VA, involved 10 adult women and two underage girls.
The Well Drop-In Center at the Salvation Army’s location, 2300 W. Mound St. Columbus, OH 43204, will be open Wednesdays and Fridays. It will provide survivors with a safe place, plus food and help finding shelter, along with detox services if needed, said Michelle Hannan, the anti-human-trafficking director at the Salvation Army.
Pace Center for Girls has a specific focus on preventing sex trafficking. Pace Center for Girls works towards long-term solutions by building resiliency through gender-responsive services and support (including physical health, mental health, legal, and education); social emotional learning; and developing coping skills in a safe and trusted environment.
James L. Rodgers, 30, of Farmington, MO, has been charged with one count of sexual trafficking of a child first degree and one count of sexual trafficking of a child second degree. Investigators said Rodgers contacted the children over the internet and the interactions were sexual in nature.
The owners, Michael James Pratt, 36, and Matthew Isaac Wolfe, 37, and two employees, Ruben Andre Garcia, 31, and Valorie Moser, 37, of two popular pornographic websites were charged this week in San Diego, CA with sex trafficking and other crimes. Using “deception and false promises” they lured women who had answered modeling advertisements on Craigslist to participate in sex videos that were posted on the internet.
The website allowed customers paying for sex to buy upgraded accounts where they would be able to read and write prostitute reviews, send private messages to prostitutes and view which prostitutes were currently available. Some of the women advertised for escort and prostitution services were minors, authorities said.
A diversion program for victims of human trafficking is spreading to cities around the country. The model has roots in Columbus, Ohio, where a judge decided to direct women toward rehabilitation instead of jail.
Brooklyn Pohl, 37, of Wisconsin, was given 10 years for sex trafficking a 16-year-old girl in Iowa and Nebraska. Pohl posted online ads for the girl to perform sex acts for money. Prosecutors say Pohl would help the girl negotiate prices with the customers.
David Wills, of San Antonio, TX, was found guilty of conspiring with Maria Losoya to traffic a minor girl when she was 10 years old. Wills promised to pay for the victim’s college tuition if Losoya allowed him to sexually assault the young girl. Wills faces up to life in prison.
Authorities in Baltimore, MD, said they shut down a brothel, made four arrests and rescued two victims. Edward Sanchez, Gladys Luna-Hernandez, Jose Arevalo and Julio Galvan were arrested and charged with human trafficking and prostitution. The victims were immediately placed in safe housing.
The New York lawsuit stated that employees were required to pay a contract termination fee of up to $25,000 if they left before the end of their term. US District Judge Nina Gershon found owners Benjamin Landa and Bent Philipson liable for violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). This act “prohibits the use of threats of serious harm or abuse of legal process to obtain the labor or services of a person.” This not only includes physical abuse, but also circumstances where employees are forced to work to avoid getting harmed.”
Brian Curtis, 30, of Memphis, TN, has been charged with sex trafficking, kidnapping and assault after a 19-year-old woman told police Curtis held her in his hotel room, destroyed her cell phone and forced her to have sex with men for money. The victim was beaten so badly that she had to be taken to the hospital where she alerted the police.
Employees of a Little Rock, AR hotel were silent when victims of sex trafficking screamed, ignored women who walked by each day with fresh bruises, and gave traffickers exclusive access to an entire floor of the building, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.
Christopher Childs, 47, operated as a pimp in the Milwaukee WI. area and elsewhere. Childs recruited adult females and at least one minor female to work for him. Childs pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion. Childs faces at least 15 years and up to life in prison.
The Sheriff’s Office released an update of the results of seven of those arrests Wednesday through a press release “in an effort to promote transparency. ”Each man was arrested on multiple counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and was subsequently convicted. They have each received either jail or prison terms. No minors were harmed during the sting operations, Anita Mortensen, spokeswoman for the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, told St. George News Wednesday.