Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not Forsaken: Reaching Sex Slaves in Mid-America

By Charlene Israel
CBN News Reporter
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kristy Childs of Kansas City, Mo. has painful memories of her childhood.

"I was born in a smaller town in Missouri and left home, started running away. Very abusive stepfather," she told CBN News.

That abuse forced Childs to leave home when she was only 12 years old. She started working on the streets.

"I started hitchhiking and my prostitution started there with the truck drivers," she explained. "I was doing what I had to do to survive."

After 24 years of drugs and the street life, Childs wanted out. But she knew breaking away from pimps and drug pushers would be risky. Her freedom came in an unexpected way.

"I went to abort my son twice and couldn't go through with it," Childs recalled. "I was threatening miscarriage. I was bleeding and I thought 'Thank you, God. This is my answer. I'm not going to have to have an abortion because I had had abortions - many of them - and was made to have several abortions."

"Ended up going to Truman Medical Center at the emergency room where they were going to do a DNC, but before they did that they wanted to see if there was a heart beat," she continued. "The moment I heard my son's heartbeat, God just spoke into my spirit and told me 'I'm going to bring you out. Have your baby and I'm going to bring you out.'"

Raising Awareness

Today, Childs works to rescue other women and girls who are trapped in the commercial sex trade through her organization Veronica's Voice. It is named for a friend of Childs who was killed on the streets.

"A lot of them are scared," she said. "Some come through the support system; some have bad attitudes. I deal with it all across the board. They're dealing with post traumatic stress. They're full of anger because they're full of pain. And we work with that."

Each year more than 4,000 American children fall victim to commercial sexual exploitation in Missouri. Nearly 1,700 are victimized in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Carrie Rossetti is with the Kansas City Coalition Against Human Trafficking, a group of organizations, including many faith-based programs. The coalition helps to raise awareness about the sex trafficking issue, provides outreach to rescued victims, and offers prayer support.

"We have learned that, hey, guess what? It's not just here, here, here, there. It's actually right in front of us in our communities, happening right now," Rossetti explained.

Rossetti told CBN News that Kansas City's easy access to highways and the large amount of commercial trade the pass through the state make it a hub for traffickers.

"So Kansas City, Mo., Kansas City, Kan. and Overland Park, Kan. are a great place to do international and national trade and not just in the trade of commercial products, but also in the trade of human beings," she said.

People You'd Least Suspect

Rosetti said most people would be surprised to discover who the sex traffickers really are.

"It is not just the sleezy people we think on the streets that this is happening. Traffickers can be doctors, and have been doctors, lawyers, dentists, social workers, teachers. There's really no end to the person that would be a candidate, so to speak, to be a trafficker."

Like Childs, many of the girls working in the sex trafficking industry come from abusive homes.

"They're coming from the foster care system. They are coming to us as runaways, children with no places to go. Children who have been victimized - sexual molestation, abuse, neglect," Rosetti explained.

Experts say the majority of the girls rescued from the streets will need long term recovery.

Exposing a Toxic Culture

Ministries in the Kansas City area are stepping up to answer the call.

"I got to be part of a two-some who provided chaplaincy services for one victim who wanted somebody to pray with after she got brought in," said Wendy Andrews, who serves on the leadership team for The Kansas City Boiler Room.

"There's a holistic approach that needs to be provided for these clients who come in on these cases," Andrews explained. "And I think that it's absolutely essential that a spiritual component of ministry or healing in the Holy Spirit is going to be necessary for their full recovery and health."

Exodus Cry is an international anti-trafficking organization committed to ending human trafficking and modern day slavery, They are headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., and recently opened a shelter for rescued victims of human trafficking.

The group is also working on a documentary that exposes the undercurrent of injustice beneath the surface of sex tourism. Benjamin Nolot, the group's founder, explained why they made the film.

"The issue of human trafficking is just exploding," he said. "Part of our goal in the documentary is to expose the toxic culture that we live in."

"We don't just want to say, 'Hey, look. Isn't this awful?'" Nolot continued. "We want to ask questions to get people thinking and really bring abut a grassroots movement, a purity revolution where we would literally raise up a 'see-no-evil' generation, a generation that says I don't want to see it."

One of the Lucky Ones

Meanwhile, Childs admits she is one of the lucky ones. She is working hard to help others break free from a life of sex trafficking.

"The girls that are making it out," she says, "They are miracles in every way."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Human traffickers supply nail-salon workers

By Alan Johnson

What is described as a multimillion-dollar human-trafficking scheme is operating out of nail salons in Ohio, with immigrants from Southeast Asia - many of them illegal - being forced to work as "indentured servants" in exchange for passage to the U.S.

Kevin L. Miller, executive director of the Ohio Board of Cosmetology, said he expects "indictments and arrests" statewide in the next 60 days or so. State and local law-enforcement agencies, the FBI, Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are investigating, he said.

The legal problems involve human trafficking, illegal immigration, identify theft, fraudulent license testing and potential national security threats, said Miller, who added that he could not provide specifics because of the ongoing investigation.

The matter came up at yesterday's meeting of the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, convened by Attorney General Richard Cordray.

"It's a huge concern in most jurisdictions around the state of Ohio," Cordray said.

The cosmetology board annually licenses 145,000 people who work in nail shops, hair salons and tanning parlors.

"We're talking just in the state of Ohio about thousands of people who have fraudulently got their licenses," Miller said.

He told the commission that immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries, often brought illegally to the U.S. for a price, are given "laundered" false identities, including fake high-school diplomas, driver's licenses, immigration papers and other documents.

The employee then becomes an "indentured servant," working for the employer for two years for little or sometimes no money to pay off their debt. Often, the employees are required to live on the premises. The agency documented one case where 16 licensees lived at the same address.

Neither Miller nor Cordray commented specifically about homeland security issues. However, in his report to the commission, Miller referred by means of background to Najibullah Zazi, an al-Qaida operative who plotted to blow up New York subway stations using chemicals found in nail polish remover and hair dye.

The problem of illegal immigrants working in nail salons has cropped up in the past in Ohio and nationwide, but little has been done.

"It's easy to hide in plain sight," Miller said. "If they can get a driver's license, an address, a place where they went to school, they're all set."

The human-trafficking commission also discussed the need for more training for Ohio law-enforcement agencies. A majority of agencies which responded to a 2009 survey doubted their ability to recognize signs of human and labor trafficking; all wanted more training.

Lt. Matt Warren, head of the State Highway Patrol's criminal intelligence unit and a member of the human-trafficking panel, cited two cases in 2009 when training paid off in rescuing underage girls who were likely to become trafficking victims.

He said a trooper stopped an Idaho trucker for speeding near Athens last year and was suspicious about the 17-year-old girl in the passenger seat. Trained to recognize the signs of human trafficking, the trooper began asking questions and found the trucker was a sex offender who met the mentally challenged teenager online, picked her up in Marion and was transporting her when he was stopped for the traffic violation.

Similarly, a seemingly routine stop rescued a 17-year-old Detroit girl who was being trafficked at truck stops in the Lima and Dayton areas.


Monday, August 16, 2010

15 Men Arrested in Undercover Child Sex Sting in Florida

By Diane Macedo
Published August 16, 2010|

Fifteen men allegedly looking to have sex with underage girls were arrested in an undercover sting in Florida over the weekend, law enforcement authorities said.

The suspects were arrested between Thursday and Sunday and charged with traveling to meet a minor for sex or related crimes, during an extensive undercover operation conducted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, along with state and federal officials.

Police said 12 of the 15 suspects responded to ads authorities posted on Craigslist that shared the common theme “mom or dad seeking guidance for my daughter” for girls between 10 and 14 years old. The other three used chat rooms.

After the suspects answered the ads, they engaged undercover detectives in emails, instant messages and telephone calls, during which time the detectives told the suspects to come to an undercover location in Polk County, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.

“These men expressed specific desires to prey upon who they believed were innocent children,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a press conference Monday.

One of the suspects, Brandon Cashen, 31, asked a detective if she had a daughter younger than the one advertised, and when she said she had an 8-year-old, expressed a desire to have sex with the younger daughter, the sheriff's office said.

“Some of the men even sent pornographic images of themselves to the detectives and made very specific requests about what they wanted these children to do to them,” Judd said.

When the suspects arrived at the undercover location, they were met not by children wearing lingerie, but by undercover agents in vests, who placed the men under arrest.

"It's still a shock to me …when we have a predator show up with condoms in one hand and candy bars in the other hand," Judd said at a press conference Monday afternoon.

Judd said one of the agents was shocked to discover that a suspect, 33-year-old Tommy Dupre, had been his son's former baseball coach.

"This gentleman coached youth sports baseball in Lakeland. Our undercover sergeant recognized him because he coached his son 8-10 years of age," Judd said.

The suspects range in age from 18 to 67. Six of the suspects, including Cashen, are married, and one has six children of his own and one on the way, Judd said.

Cashen’s wife was shocked to hear the news of her husband’s arrest, Judd said, and told police, “He can rot in hell before I bond him out of jail.”

The wife of Kevin Scott, 35, had similar sentiments, telling police, “I never want to see him again, I don’t want my children see him again, I hope he rots in jail for life.”

Judd said the oldest suspect, Donald Knuckles, said he'd waited his entire life for the opportunity to have sex with a 14-year-old girl and her mother.

Another, Gregory Alan Archambault II, 32, "bragged that when he was 16 he had sex with an 8-year-old girl, and when he was 21 he had sex with a 12-year-old girl," Judd said.

Authorities are now investigating "to see if we can determine when they may have victimized other children along the way … to make sure we charge them with everything we can charge them with," Judd said.

Members of the Tenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, State Attorney Jerry Hill, Attorney General Bill McCollum’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, the Lakeland Police Department and the Plant City Police Department also contributed to the operation.


A story of modern slavery in Utah

By Lee Davidson
Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Chan, a short man but strong from a lifetime of labor in rice fields, tells how he blundered into a trap when he left Thailand to work abroad. In fact, the U.S. government officially calls him, in diplomatic parlance, a victim of "human trafficking."

Chan is more blunt. "We were slaves," he says about himself and scores of fellow Thai workers.

He says their employer controlled their movement. If they failed to work long and hard, the employer could ensure that their families back home would lose everything. Housing lacked enough heat in freezing winters and air conditioning in scorching summers. They repeatedly went hungry and even trapped wild birds to subsist.

That did not occur in Sudan, Burma or some other infamous Third World slavery abyss.

It happened in Utah — from 2005 to 2007 for a group of workers from Thailand who eventually managed to get help, freedom and a new life in America.

With their experiences as a starting base, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating what could become the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history.

At the center of scrutiny is Global Horizons, a Los Angeles-based company that recruited people in Thailand for farm work in the United States. It eventually placed some of them with two Utah companies: Circle Four pig farms in Milford and at Delta Eggs chicken farms in Delta.

Chan, Bon, Tin and Rong — all pseudonyms because they and their lawyer fear extended families in Thailand could be targeted because they are talking to the press — look like Americans now.

The skinny men wear polo shirts or T-shirts, blue jeans and sneakers. Their haircuts are American-style. They grin as they talk about America and its opportunities, sounding like politicians on the Fourth of July. One of their T-shirts even says "American Tradition" and has an eagle on it. Tin just came from a job interview in the land of opportunity.

They share their stories while seated around a polished conference table at Utah Legal Services, a nonprofit that gives legal aid to the poor. They say that agency and attorney Alex McBean rescued them and won them "T visas" from the Department of Homeland Security as victims of human trafficking. Those visas allow them to stay in America and seek permanent residency.

The four tell how they were conned into what sounded like a good deal to work in America, only to land in modern slavery in Utah. They became victims of human trafficking even though each had worked abroad previously without problems on farms and in factories in such countries as Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and Israel.

(parts removed)

The workers say they arrived legally in America at different times in 2004 and 2005 with H-2A visas for agricultural work. Such visas are good only as long as workers remain with the employer that obtained them, which in this case was Global Horizons. If workers tried to leave Global, they would lose their legal status.

Workers were sent to farms nationwide and at first were not in Utah (where their slavery story later would worsen and then end).

(parts removed)

Chan added, "They did not allow us to go outside and get to know anyone. And they did not allow outsiders to come into the premises. It made it hard for us to live in that confinement." They didn't have a lot of time to socialize anyway, working 10 hours a day, six days a week — not counting long commute times.

While no guards kept them in their trailers, workers say that Global Horizons supervisors constantly warned that if they broke the rules, they would be sent home — and their families would be ruined.

(parts removed)

The Thais in Utah may be just the tip of the iceberg of human trafficking. Between 2001 and 2008, the Justice Department convicted 515 people on human trafficking charges. Last year, it convicted another 47.

The federal government last year issued 313 "T visas" to foreigners considered victims of human trafficking in America and another 273 visas to members of their families. Also, 299 potential victim-witnesses were granted continued presence in the country while awaiting final visa decisions.

A report this summer by the State Department acknowledged to the world that America has a problem with human trafficking, "specifically forced labor, debt bondage and forced prostitution."

It describes some problems much the same way as do the Thai workers in Utah.

"In some human trafficking cases, workers are victims of fraudulent recruitment practices and have incurred large debts for promised employment in the United States, which makes them susceptible to debt bondage and involuntary servitude," the report said.

It adds, "Trafficking cases also involve passport confiscation, nonpayment or limited payment of wages, restriction of movement, isolation from the community, and physical and sexual abuse as a means of keeping victims in compelled service."

See the entire article here.