Human Trafficking News & Updates
2011 Massachusetts Law Provides AG Powerful Tool in the Fight Against Sex Trafficking (April 7, 2016)
With the recent announcement that indictments have been secured in three human trafficking schemes, the Massachusetts AGs Office is exercising a powerful tool conferred to state law enforcement agents by the legislature. Since the passage of a 2011 human trafficking law - establishing a state crime of human trafficking for sexual servitude, punishable by at least five years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 upon conviction - 25 people have been charged under the statute. Efforts to pass the law were led by then Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and former Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Florida AG Announces Multi-Agency Bust of Sex-Trafficking Ring (Sept. 22, 2015)
Florida AG, along with other state law enforcement agencies, announced the arrest of 21 people in connection to a sex-trafficking ring in Central Florida. The two-year investigation led to the rescue of eight victims, and also yielded charges related to drug trafficking and weapons possession.
California AG Announces Arrest of Four Suspects Running Emeryville Sex Trafficking Ring (Dec. 12, 2014)
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of four suspects accused of operating a sex trafficking ring out of Emeryville, California. Acucare Oriental Massage co-owner Jimmy Gong Lee and Tom Loi are also accused of making bribes to an Emeryville Police Captain—who was working undercover, posing as a corrupt officer—to further their illegal business operations.
Florida AG Announces Appointment to Human Trafficking Council (July 13, 2014)
Florida AG Pam Bondi announced the appointment of a Miami-Dade State's Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. Created by legislation in 2014, the Council, chaired by AG Bondi, brings together state and local law enforcement officials to help build capacity in the fight against human trafficking. AG Bondi worked with legislators to help make the Council a reality.
California Attorney General Announces Arrest of Two Sisters Running San Francisco Sex Trafficking Ring (June 9, 2014)
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of two women accused of operating a sex trafficking ring in San Francisco. The arrests are the result of a five-month joint investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Brothers Charged With Sex Trafficking (October 7, 2013)
The brothers were charged with trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual servitude, deriving support from prostitution, and failing to register as a sex offender.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris: DOJ Takes Down $2 Million Drug Operation in Sacramento County (June 20, 2013)
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of four individuals, including suspected Sureños gang members, and the seizure of an estimated $2 million in marijuana during a California Department of Justice raid of a marijuana growing operation in Sacramento County.
The arrests represent the culmination of a month-long investigation by Special Agents with the California Department of Justice. Agents seized more than 7,000 marijuana plants and 100 pounds of processed marijuana with an estimated street value of $2 million. Two 12-gauge shotguns and one .22 caliber semi automatic handgun were also seized.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announced Sentencing in Transnational Human Trafficking Ring (May 24, 2013)
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the sentencing of three defendants in a human trafficking ring in which women from Mexico were used as prostitutes in five Northern California cities.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris Announces Passages of Human Trafficking Legislation (Aug. 28, 2012)
California Attorney General Kamala Harris has announced the passage of two pieces of legislation that will combat human trafficking by making it more difficult for traffickers to hide assets that would otherwise go to assist victims. Assembly Bill 2466 prevents criminal defendants from disposing of assets that would be provided as mandatory restitution to victims, while Senate Bill 1133 broadens the class of assets that a trafficker of minors must forfeit and sets a formula for the distribution of those assets to community groups that assist trafficking victims. “Human trafficking is big business in California. It is a high profit criminal industry that is expanding rapidly across the globe, including here in California,” said Attorney General Harris. “This legislation will make sure those who perpetrate these crimes will not profit from them.”
Ohio Attorney General DeWine Releases Report on Sex Trafficking in State (Aug. 8, 2012)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his Human Trafficking Commission have released a report detailing the nature of sex trafficking in the state. The report, compiled by commission member and University of Toledo professor Celia Williamson and authored by visiting University of Toledo Professor Tasha Perdue, was based on interviews with more than 300 adult and minor sex trafficking victims. The commission released a report in 2010 concluding that each year, more than 1,000 American-born children are forced into sex trafficking in Ohio. Following the 2010 report, Ohio passed a new law requiring the Attorney General's annual compilation and reporting of data on trafficking, increasing training for law enforcement to identify and assist trafficking victims, and further defining and increasing penalties on traffickers.
The full report can be viewed here.
AG Promoting Awareness of Human Trafficking With Bus Ads, Billboards (Jan. 22, 2012)
In an effort to educate law enforcement and the public about the problem of human trafficking, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has placed ads on buses and billboards featuring photos of men, woman and children with declarations such as “Stop Slavery,” and “We are not for sale.” The ads additionally urge viewers to contact a national hotline if they suspect someone is being enslaved. The New Mexico AG’s Office has initiated 12 trafficking cases since 2008, when New Mexico past a new law defining and outlawing trafficking. Ten of the twelve cases are tied to prostitution rings, while the final two involve forced labor. The ads aim to increase prosecutions of the crime by enabling the public and law enforcement to recognize signs of trafficking when they see them.
Florida Aims Anti-Racketeering Bill at Human Traffickers, Sex Trade (Jan. 12, 2012)
Florida is looking to tackle the problem of human trafficking with new anti-racketeering legislation that empowers the statewide prosecutor, the attorney general and statewide grand jury and mirrors federal RICO laws in authorizing wiretapping and forfeiture. Florida AG Pam Bondi has expressed her wish to work with both houses of the state legislature to pass the new laws, saying that her office “wants to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking.” The U.S. State Department estimates that 700,000 individuals are trafficked into the U.S. each year, with Florida as a primary point of entry.
Federal and State Prosecutors in Alabama Promise Fight Against Human Trafficking (Jan. 12, 2012)
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange joined local Alabama prosecutors and U.S. Attorney George Beck of the Middle District of Alabama in a news conference to highlight the increasing number of human trafficking cases they are seeing in Alabama and to discuss federal and state efforts to address the problem. The press conference was called to raise awareness of the fact that January was named National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by President Obama. Alabama recently passed a law making trafficking a felony and is considering a new bill that would require the posting of a national hotline number in places where trafficking victims might see it.
President Obama Declares January “Human Trafficking Prevention Month” (Dec. 30, 2011)
Noting that January 1, 2012 is the 148th anniversary of the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation, President Obama has declared January to be Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In a written statement, Obama recognized the people, organizations, and government entities combating human trafficking and recommitted his administration to fighting “this inexcusable human rights abuse.” Obama noted that human trafficking networks operate both domestically and transnationally, and pledged to strengthen international partnerships and cooperation between federal agencies in order to better combat the crime.
Indiana AG Zoeller seeks sex-trafficking crackdown (Dec. 19, 2011)
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is among a group of Indiana policy makers looking to fast-track legislation addressing human trafficking before the Super Bowl is held in Indianapolis on February 5. In other cities, the Super Bowl has coincided with sharp increases in prostitution; for example, it is estimated that approximately 10,000 additional sex workers were drawn to Miami when the Super Bowl was held there. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels stated that lawmakers will push for a law granting more tools for prosecutors when the next legislative session begins on January 4.
Rhode Island Attorney General Kilmartin Committed to Fight Human Trafficking (Dec. 5, 2011)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has declared human trafficking a priority for his office, after the Associated Press reported that a state task force created under a 2009 law to address trafficking has never met and that some members did not even know that they had been named to group. Kilmartin noted that the AG’s Office is now prosecuting its first cases under the law, and that the process of enforcement is still in its infancy. According to Kilmartin, the AG’s Office is not responsible for convening the task force, but it will provide whatever resources are requested when the task force is launched.
Michigan Attorney General Files Human Trafficking Charges in connection with Prostitution, Drug Ring (Dec. 1, 2011)
The Michigan Attorney General’s Office is charging five people with, among other crimes, human trafficking and racketeering in connection with a prostitution and drug ring, which allegedly involved at least one minor. The charges arise from an investigation conducted by the Southeast Michigan Crimes against Children Task Force, a joint effort by Michigan State Police and the FBI. The ring’s alleged principal, Mustaffa Muhammad, is also charged with forcing women to run drugs from Texas to Michigan. Two of the other individuals charged were the ring’s “most trusted prostitutes,” who collected proceeds, posted ads and provided transportation. The Michigan Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Unit filed its first charges under Michigan’s updated human trafficking law in July of 2011.
States Failing in Fight Against Human Trafficking, According to New Report (Dec. 1, 2011)
Most states have inadequate laws in place to protect minors who are coerced into the commercial sex trade, according to a new report by the advocacy group Shared Hope International. Founded by former Republican Rep. Linda Smith of Washington, Shared Hope graded each state on its laws to address human trafficking, with more than half receiving a D or F. In fact, Washington, Texas, Illinois and Missouri were the only states that received above a C. Washington State Attorney General and National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) President Rob McKenna, who is spearheading NAAG’s 2011 Presidential Initiative on human trafficking, compares treatment and knowledge of the issue by states to that towards domestic abuse 40 years ago. States current treatment of the issue is characterized by low levels of awareness, low levels of law enforcement response, and almost no services for victims. States are paying increased attention to the issue, however, as the human trafficking has become one of the world’s most lucrative and fastest-growing criminal enterprises.
State and Federal Law Enforcement Raid Maine Chinese Restaurants (Nov. 18, 2011)
Local police and federal agents have raided Chinese buffet restaurants in Brewer, Lewiston, Waterville and Portland Maine, as well as a house in Brewer where, according to an 18-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, approximately 18 illegal immigrants who were working at one of the restaurants were housed in “deplorable living conditions.” The court documents allege that the restaurants are part of an operation run by Zi Qian Zhang and his wife Ai Hui Lu, both of Massachusetts, who federal agents began investigating in February 2006. The investigation was launched based on suspicions that the couple were hiring illegal immigrants and laundering money through their restaurants in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. A total of seven Brewer police officers assisted the federal agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Hawaii AG Joins Call to Ban Sex Trafficking Ads on Backpage.com (Nov. 8, 2011)
Hawaii Attorney General David Louie has joined 45 other state attorneys general in calling for Village Voice Media to halt publishing ads on its classifieds website, Backpage.com, that facilitate sex trafficking. Specifically, the attorneys general ordered Village Voice Media to demonstrate that it was making active efforts to identify and remove ads that support illegal activity. Backpage.com features an adult services section that openly claims to connect clients to such services as escorts, body rubs, strippers, strip clubs, and pornographic web sites. Investigators in several states have reported finding hundreds of ads for illegal services and 50 cases in more than 20 states involving the trafficking of minors. AG Louie called the site a “beacon for human traffickers.”
9th Circuit Rules Human Trafficking Victim May Seek Punitive Damages (Nov. 7, 2011)
The United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that federal law providing compensation to victims of human trafficking does permit the recovery of punitive damages, but that the law does not apply retroactively from its effective date of December 12, 2003. In a case under the Traffic Victims Protection Act, the Court explained that human trafficking satisfied common law standards for an award of punitive damages because it is “intentional and outrageous,” and furthered Congress’s purpose in enacting the law, which was to increase protection of victims and punishment of perpetrators. The defendant admitted to providing drugs to minors in order to recruit them for commercial sex, and the plaintiff filed suit for compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that she was one of the victims identified in the defendant’s plea agreement.
Pennsylvania Attorney General joins 43 others to fight human trafficking (Nov. 1, 2011)
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly’s Office has announced that it is joining with 43 other state attorney generals to combat human trafficking. AG Kelly signed on to a letter sent by the National Association of Attorneys General to the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations leadership urging them to fund a series of programs to fight human trafficking and slavery. The letter states: “[s]lavery damages our communities, taints the products and services we consume and the profits we earn, and is one of the most pressing human rights challenges of our time.” Read more
Human trafficking ring leader taken into custody in North Carolina (Oct. 31, 2011) The Sheriff’s Office in Pitt County, North Carolina, announced the arrest of three individuals for their involvement in a prostitution operation that is part of a larger human trafficking ring. A female trafficking victim, who travelled from Western North Carolina to take a promised cleaning job but was instead forced to engage in sex labor, was identified and rescued. The lead suspect, Oscar Salinas-Rodriguez, was charged with Sexual Servitude Adult Victim and is being held in the Pitt County Detention Center unde a $100,000 secured bond, as well as an immigration detainer.
Attorneys General Request Federal Funding for Human Trafficking Programs (Oct. 31, 2011)
The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) has delivered a letter from 44 state and territorial Attorneys General to U.S. House and Senate Appropriations leadership requesting that they fund a series of programs designed to combat human trafficking and slavery. The letter offers support for the four provisions in two bills, S. 1572 and H.R. 2596, which provide the funding. NAAG President and Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said that the proposed funding increases would provide valuable assistance to state and local law enforcement in their efforts to prosecute traffickers and assist trafficking victims. Read a copy of the NAAG letter with requested funding levels.
Conference Focuses on Human Trafficking in Iowa (Oct. 26, 2011)
The Network Against Human Trafficking (NAHT) hosted the first Iowa Conference on Human Trafficking in the Memorial Union on Wednesday, October 26, 2011. the conference featured representatives from national and state anti-trafficking initiative, including members of the business, nonprofit, law enforcement and academic communities. Former Iowa Attorney general Bonnie Campbell said in her keynote address at the conference that human trafficking is a $32 billion enterprise, second only to drug trafficking as the largest criminal activity in the world. Conference sessions included Identifications of Trafficking Victims, Journey to Restoration and Recovery, Sex Trafficking, and Forced Labor, all of which discussed specific examples of trafficking in Iowa. The conference closed with a panel of law enforcement officials detailing their handling of trafficking cases in Iowa. Speakers emphasized the need for collaboration to address the problem, and noted that communities can still get involved with anti-trafficking efforts by promoting law enforcement training, legislation, services for victims, involving churches and encouraging "child safe zone" hotels.
New Mexico Attorney General Indicts Albuquerque in Prostitution Case (Oct. 19, 2011)
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office has indicted an Albaquerque man on charges of human trafficking. The indictment alleges that 22-year-old Kendel Morrell forced a juvenile girl to engage in commercial sexual activity, in violation of the state’s anti-human trafficking statute. Attorney General Gary King says Morrell also is accused of promoting prostitution, accepting the earnings of a prostitute and battery.