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Friday, March 30, 2012

Fairfax-based Crips members charged with recruiting girls for prostitution - The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/fairfax-based-crips-members-charged-with-recruiting-girls-for-prostitution/2012/03/29/gIQAJRx6iS_story_1.html

Source: The Washington Post

By Justin Jouvenal, Published: March 29

The Crips leader approached the 16-year-old on the Metro, federal prosecutors allege, told her she was pretty and broached an offer he and his associates would make to high school girls across the area: She could make a lot of money by having sex with men.
Flattered by the compliment, she was one of at least 10 teenage girls who became prostitutes for the Underground Gangster Crips, a violent street gang in Fairfax County, court papers say. The girls were recruited on Facebook, at bus stops and even in school, according to authorities, then forced to stay through threats and violence, including rape.
Justin Strom, 26, of Lorton is accused of leading the gang. He and four other alleged members have been charged with sex trafficking, according to documents unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. If convicted, each could serve life in prison.
Federal prosecutors said the operation was unusual because it preyed on girls living at home, not runaways, and used social media to lure teens from Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. At least one teenager was recruited at school by a classmate who was working as a prostitute, authorities say.
“There’s no high school that’s immune to this possibility,” said Ken Cuccinelli II (R), Virginia’s attorney general, at a news conference. “This is a problem — thanks to the Internet — that can reach across borders more easily.”
Strom’s attorney, Alan H. Yamamoto, said Thursday afternoon that because he had just learned about the case and had not met with his client, he would not comment on the charges.
In recent years, street gangs have turned to prostitution as a moneymaker, authorities said.Members of the violent gang Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, have been accused in federal court in Virginia of prostitution-related chargesinvolving juveniles.
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said Strom and his associates are accused of posing as a woman named “Rain Smith” on Facebook and sending more than 800 messages to girls they found attractive to lure them into the ring. Strom instructed a 17-year-old runaway, who was the gang’s most senior prostitute, to help find others, court records say.
In November, that girl, identified in court papers as M.W., approached a classmate at an unnamed school and told her she was a “confident pretty woman.” M.W. also chatted her up on Facebook:
“M.W.: Lol u tryna make sum money . . . ?
Girl: Howww
M.W.: Trickin . . . Like u get 50% n u get all da drugs . . . uwwant basically.”
The classmate became part of the ring, earning $100 per client, according to court records. Other girls were often required to submit to sex with gang members as a “try out,” before they could join the operation, court records say.
The teens were advertised on Web sites such as Craigslist and Backpage.com, according to court records, and the prostitution allegedly occurred in Strom’s Lorton home. At other times, the victims were taken to “out calls,” sometimes driven in one gang member’s white, four-door Cadillac. The girls also worked door to door at apartment complexes in Northern Virginia, court documents say.
On one such trip, M.W. and another girl had sex with 10 to 15 men, charging them each $30 for 10 minutes, according to court records. Afterward, the girls met up with Strom, bought PCP, ecstasy and other drugs, and partied, court records say.
If the girls refused to work, it sometimes turned violent. Strom made an 17-year-old girl he was recruiting use cocaine, cut her arm with a knife and forced her to have sex with him, according to court records. The girl was then taken to an apartment, where she was forced to have sex with 14 men, court documents say. Strom allegedly collected $1,000 that night.

While Strom ran the operation, other gang members served as bodyguards and drivers, court papers say. Michael Tavon Jeffries, 21, ofWoodbridge; Donyel Dove, 27, of Alexandria; and Henock Ghile, 23, and Christopher Sylvia, 22, both of Springfield, were arrested over the past several weeks. Attorneys for the men did not return requests for comment.
Officials said that the ring might have been in operation for as long as five years but that authorities began investigating it in November. The investigation was a joint operation ofFairfax County police, the FBI and the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force.
It was not clear how the ring unraveled, but court papers say that in November, M.W. told a staff member at her school that a man had been paying her to have sex with people and that “she was not sure what to do.” The next day, the documents say, the teenager was interviewed by investigators and said she did not need help and was “living the life she chose.”
Officials also said they were contacted by a parent who had questioned a daughter and learned she had been working as a prostitute for the gang.
The Underground Gangster Crips are a subset of the Crips gang, which formed in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and early 1970s, authorities said. The gang operates in the Washingtonregion, officials said. It has a long and violent history in Fairfax County, allegedly committing rapes, armed robbery and selling drugs, according to court documents.
Authorities said the case should be a warning to parents to be vigilant about their children’s activities on social media sites.
“This type of crime is insidious in its nature,” said Ronald T. Hosko, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “It leaves profound psychological scars on its victims.”

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Human trafficking happens ‘every day’, conference told - Local - Tyrone Times

http://www.tyronetimes.co.uk/news/local/human-trafficking-happens-every-day-conference-told-1-3667326

Source: Tyrone Times


Monday 26 March 2012 12:43

DOMESTIC servitude, slave labour and prostitution are happening “every day” in local communities, a major conference on human trafficking has been told.
Bernadette McAliskey, CEO of Dungannon based community development organisation STEP, was addressing delegates at an event which took place in the town’s Ballysaggart Business Complex on Wednesday.
Representatives from the PSNI, Women’s Aid, and Migrant Help, were in attendance, along with officials from Dungannon Churches Forum, Dungannon Community Safety Partnership, the Law Centre and the Human Rights Consortium.
Welcoming those present, Mrs McAliskey suggested much work needed to be done to ensure that the conditions which create a climate for people to become victims of trafficking, must be broken down.
“When people read of human trafficking the story tends to concentrate on the more sensationalised context of brothels and prostitution with the moral outrage centred on buying and selling sex”, she continued.
“The reality is that this tip of a scandalous iceberg can exist only in the context of human trafficking that excites less public attention – the exploitation and dehumanising of labour. People who are treated as no more than cheapest units of imported labour - whether lawfully imported; smuggled or trafficked are vulnerable to destitution and the downward spiral of unprotected rights forces them into domestic servitude, slave labour and prostitution.
“All these things are happening every day in the communities in which we live as part of the fabric of our society. This is modern day slavery. Nobody will protect the human dignity and human rights of the 21st century slave if we do not. Today’s conference will highlight the reality of the practice; the efforts to stop it and what you can do to help.”
The event was organised as an opportunity for those working within both the community/voluntary and statutory/public sectors to come together to discuss the emergence of human trafficking as a major issue.
A panel of key speakers whose work centres on the victims or perpetrators of human trafficking afforded the conference delegates an in-depth look into the severity of the issue within Northern Ireland and the current processes in place to support victims or counteract the occurrences or longevity of the victims’ subjection to conditions of forced labour, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation.
John McCallister, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, spoke about his campaign work on human trafficking and the need for the assembly to address current legislation and policy.
He urged those working within the community to lobby and campaign on the issue so that it becomes a multi-agency focus and makes it “everyone’s business”.
Other speakers included Lois Hamilton, representing The Law Centre, Belfast, who gave details of the various legal processes victims must go through, while DS Philip Marshall, PSNI. detailed statistics of cases within Northern Ireland and successful prosecutions on behalf of victims of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
Victims’ perspectives were discussed by Marie Brown, Women’s Aid and Roger McVicker, Migrant Help, who are the first-hand response to female and male victims respectively within Northern Ireland.
They gave accounts of the type of support emotionally and practically required by victims of trafficking and the impact of the experience of trafficking on an individual’s physical and psychological well-being.
Khara Glackin, STEP’s Solicitor and event organiser, concluded: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the delegates from the various sectors for their participation in the conference and particular thanks to the panel of speakers who provoked much discussion by their extensive knowledge and expertise on a subject that sadly is becoming an increasing part of our society here.”
STEP will be producing a conference report based on the information highlighted by the key speakers at the event. To receive a copy, contact roisin@stepni.org
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Sex Ring Suspects Appear In Court - Boston News Story - WCVB Boston



Check out the URL:

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/r/30764594/detail.html


Age verification for 'sex-ads' now the law in Washington; first in nation : NPR

http://www.npr.org/local/stories/KPLU/149647872

Source: NPR

by

March 29, 2012
Washington state has become the first in the nation to require verification of age for online ads that promote sex-related services, such as the escort ads that appear in backpage.com.
The bill, Senate Bill 6251, was among a dozen anti-trafficking bills signed into law by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire today.
“Some of them are leading edge legislation, including the first time in the nation criminalizing those who advertize minors online if they have not done the verification of age,” said Rose Gundersen is co-founder and Executive Director at Washington Engage, a non-profit.
Gundersen was in Seattle attending an anti-trafficking summit put on by the National Association of Attorneys General. Gundersen said under the new law, classified ad companies will be motivated to check the ages of escorts in their ads.
“This groundbreaking, bipartisan bill responds to the public's outrage over the exploitation of vulnerable kids - including runaways and addicts - by certain businesses,” said Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna in the press release. “Just weeks after Sen. Kohl-Welles' legislation received national attention, legislators in Connecticut introduced a similar proposal. We expect that other states will soon follow Washington's lead.”
Published by Villlage Voice
Locally, backpage.com publishes in the Seattle Weekly. Another bill signed increases the minimum fine for convicted Johns. Some of the money collected will be used to help victims. Washington was the first state in the nation to criminalize human trafficking.
Backpage.com operates a robust online clearinghouse for sex escorts. Critics estimate parent company Village Voice Media makes more than $22 million per year from sex-related ads, a figure the Phoenix-based company has not disputed. It owns 13 weekly newspapers, including Seattle Weekly.
The Seattle Police Department says it has linked 22 cases of child prostitution since 2010 to girls who were advertised as escorts on the website.
‘National leader’
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D—Seattle, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 6251, said in a press release, “I am ecstatic this anti-trafficking legislation is now law, the first of its kind in the country. This makes the strongest possible statement that there should be no selling of minors online – or anywhere!”
“This bill makes our state a national leader in protecting children from sexual exploitation. From Senator Kohl-Welles’ tireless work on this issue to Governor Gregoire’s signature today, our state elected leaders have come together to lead the nation in the prevention of underage sex trafficking” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “This innovative legislation provides a national model for other states to follow, and I hope to see this approach adopted across the country.”
“For the past six weeks, representatives from Backpage.com – the classified-ad site owned by Village Voice Media, which also owns Seattle Weekly – have met in good faith with the Mayor. In each and every instance, Mayor McGinn convened a press conference, issued a press release, or leaked data—prior to contacting us, prior to canceling the city's advertising, and prior to sitting down with us.
“Voters must wait for the next election to deal with the mayor. As for Backpage.com, there will be no more meetings with McGinn. Instead, Backpage will continue to cooperate with the Seattle Police Department and to seek the highest level of online security to screen against underage exploitation in adult classifieds.”
Convictions
The Seattle Police Department, meanwhile, says it has linked 22 cases of child prostitution to girls who were advertised as escorts on Backpage.com, a subsidiary of Village Voice Media, which also owns Seattle Weekly.
In October, Damenique Lajuan Beasley pleaded guilty to one count of promoting prostitution and one count of attempted promoting prostitution after prosecutors charged he advertised a 17-year-old girl as a sex escort on Backpage.com. He was sentenced to three and half years in prison.
Hub for human trafficking
In a letter signed by more than 40 state attorneys general and sent to Backpage.com in August, the law enforcers called the site a "hub" for human trafficking and implored it to shut down its escorts section.
Backpage.com rebuffed the request, citing the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996, which ensures website operators aren't liable for the speech of unaffiliated parties.
Currently, Backpage.com asks those posting escort service ads on its website to vouch for the age of those whose services are offered. The company also works with various law enforcement agencies in weeding out suspected cases of child sex trafficking.

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Protesters: Village Voice helps sell kids for sex - KansasCity.com

http://www.kansascity.com/2012/03/29/3522970/protesters-village-voice-helps.html

Source: KansasCity.com

BY VERENA DOBNIK

Associated Press

The son of Norman Mailer joined a protest Thursday against the Village Voice, the New York City weekly his late father co-founded that's now accused of running ads peddling underage prostitutes.
John Buffalo Mailer, 33, an actor and writer, marched with about 100 protesters from a park to the Voice's East Village offices on Cooper Square. They want the weekly's parent company to shut down its Backpage.com adult classified section, which they say includes ads linked to child sex-trafficking.
"This was once a progressive paper, a people's paper, and to see it lose its credibility is heartbreaking," Mailer told The Associated Press. "He would not have approved of this at all."
One sign read: "Village Voice - Stop Profiting from Sex Trafficking."
The Phoenix-based Village Voice Media, which operates the paper, said Backpage.com cooperates with law enforcement, reports potential sexual exploitation of children and uses such tools as an automated filter system and manual reviews to detect and prevent sex trafficking.
"The realities and complexity of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are such that to announce that a single website - Backpage.com or other - is the primary source of the scourge and therefore holds the cure to this horrendous problem is not only unsupported but irresponsible," said Liz McDougall, general counsel for Village Voice Media.
The Rev Galen Guengerich, senior pastor of Manhattan's All Souls Unitarian church, said he believes there's another reason the ads appear in the paper:
"It's all about the money," he said.
He said the adult ads boost the finances of a publication that's been struggling to survive in recent years. He said, "It's ironic that at its beginning, the Voice did exactly what we're doing today" - opposing corruption and social wrongdoing.
"Now, they're defending a revenue stream," he said.
Protesters set up a pile of children's sneakers.
"These are for the girl who should have been walking in these shoes, but isn't," said Guengerich, holding up a pair. "We hear the silent cries of those who have been used and discarded."
The coalition of protesters - religious leaders, activists and politicians - delivered a petition signed by almost a quarter of a million people demanding that Village Voice Media stop running the ads.
Opposition to them started last year. In August, a group of attorneys general from across the country wrote a letter to Backpage.com saying its efforts to curtail the ads had failed.
"While Backpage.com professes to have undertaken efforts to limit advertisements for prostitution on its website, particularly those soliciting sex with children, such efforts have proven ineffective," the prosecutors said.
They said that over three years, they had tracked more than 50 instances, in 22 states, of charges filed against those trafficking or attempting to traffic minors on the site.
In some cases, adults are pictured but minors are substituted at the point of sale in a grossly illegal transaction, the prosecutors said.
Several New York City Council members have introduced a resolution asking Village Voice Media to close down the adult section being used as a "platform to traffic minors for sex."
Such classifieds often use veiled words like "petite" and other codes to signal underage sex, said one protester, Katrina Eugenia, 24, a photographer and painter.
Thursday's rally was organized by Groundswell, the social action initiative of the New York-based Auburn Theological Seminary, which trains Presbyterian clergy.
Thu, Mar. 29, 2012 06:14 PM
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Human Trafficking Awareness Training for Professional Tour Directors at ITMI Symposium Attendees Finance Safe House for Orphans in Haiti

http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2012/3/prweb9340924.htm

Source: PRWeb

Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) conducted the first-ever human trafficking awareness training for professional tour directors and guides at the International Tour Management Institute (ITMI) Symposium in Sacramento, California in January.

    Nancy Rivard
    Quote startHuman trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, predators profit from the control and exploitation of others,” says Nancy Rivard, founder and president of Airline Ambassadors International.Quote end
    San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) March 28, 2012
    March 28, 2012 – Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) conducted the first-ever human trafficking awareness training for professional tour directors and guides at the International Tour Management Institute (ITMI) Symposium in Sacramento, California in January.
    “Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, predators profit from the control and exploitation of others,” says Nancy Rivard, founder and president of Airline Ambassadors International. “Victims are kept powerless, especially when being moved from country to country where they don’t speak the language.”
    “When Nancy Rivard told Symposium participants that millions of women and children are abducted and sold into slavery each year, she touched the hearts of everyone in the room,” notes Ted Bravos, CEO of ITMI. “The children who were orphaned by the earthquake in Haiti are easy targets for human traffickers, AAI is now building safe houses for these orphans. ITMI together with the tour directors in attendance raised enough money to build one safe house, which will be dedicated in Haiti in April.”
    Human trafficking is the fastest growing business in the world and the most important human rights issue of our time. AAI is the only international aid and development organization to leverage the capabilities and expertise of the airline industry and to teach travel and tourism professionals how to recognize and report human trafficking.
    “ITMI is proud to be working closely with AAI, to provide tourism industry professionals with the tools to recognize suspicious behavior and report it to the Transportation Security Administration or other law enforcement authorities,” Ted Bravos added.
    About ITMI:
    Since 1976 ITMI has been the premier training and certification institute for travel and tourism professionals. For more information about ITMI contact Annemarie Osborne (415) 957-9489 or Annemarie.osborne@gmail.com or visit: http://www.itmisf.com.
    About Airline Ambassadors International:
    Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization affiliated with the United Nations and recognized by the U.S. Congress. For more information about AAI, contact Nancy Rivard 415-359-8006 or nancy@airlineamb.org or visithttp://www.airlineamb.org.

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    Fear of deportation stops human trafficking victims from reporting crimes, officials say - NY Daily News

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/fear-deportation-stops-immigrants-reporting-crimes-article-1.1051967

    Source: NY Daily News


    Most of 5,000 special T visas available to them go unclaimed


     METRO: CITIZENSHIP NOW!: L to R: Julie Dinnerstein, from Sanctuary for Families Immigration Intervention Project, Lynn Bourdeau, the US Citizenship Assistant Center Director, Scott Whelan, of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Office of Policy and Strategy, and Andrea Quarantillo, the District Director of the Queens United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Center, right. Federal immigration officials host a press conference to discuss assistance for victims of human trafficking (including including forced prostitution, forced labor, and involuntary domestic service), violent crimes, and domestic violence here at the new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Center's Queens Office at 27-35 Jackson Ave in Long Island City, today March 20, 2012. (Jeanne Noonan/ for New York Daily News)

    JEANNE NOONAN FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

    From left: Julie Dinnerstein, Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project; Lynn Boudreau, assistant center director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Vermont Service Center; Scott Whelan, Office of Policy and Strategy, USCIS and Andrea Quarantillo, district director of the Queens USCIS Center, discuss assistance for victims of human trafficking and violent crimes.

    Fear of deportation stops many immigrants who are victims of crimes or trafficking from reporting to authorities what happened.
    Trafficking survivors, in particular, are so wary of coming forward that the pool of 5,000 special T visas available to them each year go largely unassigned. Just 557 were approved last year. Officials believe thousands more immigrants are out there who haven’t found help.
    “They’re right in front of us and we don’t even know it,” said Scott Whelan, an officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Office of Policy and Strategy.
    Whelan and other USCIS officials are touring the country — from Los Angeles to Boston to Queens in New York — to spread the word about T visas and other special visas that let immigrant victims who help law enforcement stay in the U.S.
    They stopped in the agency’s new Long Island City office last week to teach cops, immigration agents, community groups and nonprofits more about the benefits available to victims.
    Dozens of staffers from groups like Sanctuary for Families, Safe Horizon, Kids in Need of Defense and Legal Aid showed up for the training, which is part of a Homeland Security anti-human trafficking project called the “Blue Campaign.”
    While T visas are just for survivors of labor or sex trafficking, the feds give U visas to immigrants who are victims of serious crimes.
    As co-director of nonprofit Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project, Julie Dinnerstein has counseled many clients to alert police or testify before a grand jury without fear of deportation after terrible misfortunes.
    In one shocking case, an undocumented Mexican immigrant mom living in the Bronx came into Dinnerstein’s office last year and told her she’d discovered that her boyfriend had repeatedly raped her 10-year-old daughter.
    “The child rapist had been telling this little girl that if she said anything to the police or her schoolteachers, to her mother, that her mother would be deported and that she and all of her siblings would end up in foster care,” said Dinnerstein.
    “And of course, the child was terrified. The reality of what happened when she finally told is actually quite different.”
    Dinnerstein said her group is now working with the feds to secure U-visas for the family.
    Lynn Boudreau, an assistant center director at USCIS’ Vermont Service Center, where all victim-related petitions from around the country are filed, said a growing number of immigrants are securing U visas.
    For the past two years, the agency has awarded all of the 10,000 U visas available each year.
    Before then, many went unused. If pending legislation to renew the federal Violence Against Women Act is approved, the feds will raise the cap for the next few years and give out U visas from past years that were never awarded.
    epearson@nydailynews.com
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