Georgia AG Launches Campaign against Sex Trafficking (March 19, 2013)
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and other state law enforcement officials have recently started a new effort targeting sex trafficking. Employing the slogan “Georgia’s not buying it,” the public awareness campaign has a specific focus on those who pay for sex. The initiative is a public-private partnership between Olens’ office, law enforcement, nonprofit advocates Street Grace and youthSpark, and the Governor’s Office of Children and Families.
5 State AGs, Mexican AG Will Meet in Mexico City (March 19, 2013)
The attorneys general of Colorado, California, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico will meet tomorrow with Attorney General Karam of Mexico to discuss human trafficking, drug trafficking, and judicial reform.
It was announced today that State Attorney General Bill Schuette will head up a new human trafficking initiative in his state that will review state policies on the issue. The commission will include lawmakers, law enforcement and activists and is scheduled to report its findings in six months.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris Announces Passages of Human Trafficking Legislation (Aug. 28)
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 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.
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 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.
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
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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 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.” The letter can be viewed here.
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 under a $100,000 secured bond, as well as an immigration detainer.
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. A copy of the NAAG letter with requested funding levels can be found here: http://www.naag.org/sign-on_archive.php.
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.
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.