Friday, September 10, 2010

Three Chicago Men Charged in Child Prostitution Probe

Two Chicago men were arrested earlier today while a third man remains at-large, culminating a two-year joint federal/state investigation into a child prostitution ring that was centered on Chicago’s west side. The arrests were announced today by Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Jody P. Weis, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department (CPD), who were joined in making this announcement by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney.

DATQUNN SAWYER, age 31, of Chicago, was arrested early this morning, without incident, by FBI special agents and detectives from the CPD, Vice Control Section and Special Investigations Unit, in the 5300 block of West Potomac. SAWYER was charged in a criminal complaint filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Chicago with one count of sexual trafficking of minors and sexual trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, in interstate commerce, which is a felony offense.

Two other men, WAYMOND ORR, age 30, and KEVIN SHARP, age 51, both of Chicago, were also charged in connection with this investigation. Both men were charged in Cook County Circuit Court with one count each of pandering, which is a class 4 felony. SHARP was arrested this morning, without incident, while ORR remains at-large and is now the subject of a nationwide manhunt.

According to the federal complaint, SAWYER is charged with having operated a child prostitution ring from his residence and his mother’s residence, both of which are located on Chicago’s west side. The complaint alleges that SAWYER ran this operation from at least March of 2009 through August of this year. During that time, he is believed to have recruited as many as nine minor females between the ages of 13 and 17 who, at SAWYER’s behest, engaged in sexual acts for money. The complaint further alleges that SAWYER would “brand” his prostitutes with a tattoo and used violence and threats of violence to enforce his rules and regulations.

SAWYER is believed to have advertised his business through the Internet, making extensive use of Craigslist and similar online media, charging anywhere from $150 to as much as $350 for sexual services. SAWYER is alleged to have kept all of the proceeds from the sexual encounters, providing his prostitutes with only minimal subsistence. SAWYER also served as a driver for his prostitutes, shuttling them from location to location for sexual encounters, which usually took place at Chicago area motels or the customer’s residence.

When not responding to online bookings, SAWYER is also alleged to have forced his prostitutes to “work the track”, a term used to refer to girls walking the streets or standing on street corners to solicit customers for sex acts for money. Numerous locations in Chicago were used for this purpose, as well as locations on or around Cicero Avenue.

According to state prosecutors, SHARP and ORR worked for SAWYER as drivers and enforcers, transporting his girls to locations on the street and monitoring their activity to ensure they were not pocketing money they earned from their sexual encounters. It is also alleged that on occasion, SHARP or ORR would chauffer SAWYER to locations around the city so he could supervise his prostitutes.

In announcing the filing of the charges announced today, States Attorney Alvarez said the arrests signal an ongoing commitment between her office and law enforcement at both the federal and state level to combat the sex trafficking of minors. Said Ms. Alvarez “These defendants are alleged to have maintained control over vulnerable girls through violence and intimidation. Through our efforts, there are at least nine girls who are no longer being forced to engage in the horrific trade of sex trafficking.”

SAWYER appeared before Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox, earlier yesterday, at which time he was formally charged. SAWYER was ordered held without bond, pending his next scheduled court appearance. If convicted of the charge filed against him, SAWYER faces a possible sentence of up to life in prison. SHARP is scheduled to appear in Central Bond Court tomorrow.

The female victims of this sex trafficking operation have been provided with counseling and related assistance by the FBI, Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and private social services providers.

The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Copies of the federal criminal complaint filed in this case are available from the Chicago FBI’s press office at (312) 829-1199. Copies of the state criminal complaint are available from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office at (312) 603-3423.

Source: Criminal Justice Online

Thursday, September 9, 2010 Tries to Increase Sex Trafficking

by Amanda Kloer

When Craigslist voluntarily blocked their adult services section, the pimps, johns, and traffickers who had been using the site to buy and sell children and victims of human trafficking were, for the first time in ages, briefly lost about where to continue advertising for rape. Lucky for them, stepped in with a helpful guide on how to continue profiting from the sexual exploitation of children. And by sharing their guide to buying sex online with their nearly 20 million readers, Gawker is practically guaranteed to be facilitating more child rape.

Like Craigslist, the sex-for-sale websites Gawker is promoting are a mixed bag of men, women, and transgender individuals voluntarily engaged in prostitution; adults who have been forced or coerced into prostitution; and children. The latter two categories are victims of human trafficking, and online classified ads like Craigslist and the websites in Gawker's guide have played an increasingly large role in facilitating their repeated rape for profit. The demand for commercial sex, which when it outstrips willing suppliers causes human trafficking, is a complex and nuanced phenomenon. It's affected by the price and availability of commercial sex, social norms and laws around buying sex, and potential buyers' ethical views. Craigslist's adult services section and similar sites have provided a space where buying sex is easy, normalized, and anonymous, effectively increasing the demand without increasing the supply. Hence, the human trafficking on online classified sites like Craigslist.

If Craigslist (or any other online classifieds site) wasn't a website, but an abandoned warehouse at the edge of town where children as young as 11 were being bought and sold for sex by dozens of men a night, no one would argue that warehouse's closing impinged upon "freedom of speech." No one would claim, as Danah Boyd on the Huffington Post recently did, that the child sex warehouse should continue to operate since "a one-stop-shop is more helpful for law enforcement." And if the pimps and traffickers were locked out of it one night, no one would publish a guide directing them to other abandoned warehouses they can turn into child sex factories. A website and a warehouse may not be exactly the same, but with this guide Gawker is standing on a virtual street corner directing would-be child traffickers and abusers to new meeting points. And the saddest part is that they really don't seem to understand that's what they're doing.

Gawker and many tech blogs are trying to cast Craigslist's voluntary blocking of their adult services section as forced "censorship" of the site. They're trying to make this a conversation about freedom of speech, not sexual exploitation. They're trying to paint Craigslist as a poor scapegoat, whose only sin was to be the largest and most famous of many websites who exploit children (which they were). It's not true. The campaign to ask Craigslist to stop facilitating the exploitation of human trafficking victims on their site was just one small part of a larger plan anti-trafficking groups are implementing to fight the trade in humans. And has been running a similar campaign against -- prior to Craigslist's voluntary block. Without Craigslist's adult services section operating, there will now be one less website increasing demand for commercial sex and one less place for child rapists to find victims on the Internet.

Unless, of course, Gawker continues to try and fill that void.

Photo credit: katayun