Lawsuit Accuses Philly Hotel of Providing Rooms to Human Traffickers

A suit filed against the Roosevelt Motor Inn in Rhawnhurst is the first of its kind under the state’s 2014 human trafficking statute.

Roosevelt Motor Inn. Photo via Google Maps

A hotel in Northeast Philadelphia has been accused of regularly providing rooms to human traffickers.

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 17-year-old girl who claims she was forced to perform sexual acts with men at the Roosevelt Motor Inn, located at 7630 Roosevelt Boulevard in Rhawnhurst. The lawsuit, which was filed in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, accuses the hotel of knowingly and regularly providing rooms to her traffickers in 2013 and 2014, starting when she was just 14 years old.

It’s reportedly the first lawsuit of its kind under Pennsylvania’s 2014 human trafficking statute, which establishes that businesses that directly or indirectly benefit from human trafficking can be forced to pay compensation to victims.

The lawsuit, filed by Kline & Specter partners Thomas Kline, Nadeem Bezar and Emily Marks, lists the defendants as the Roosevelt Motor Inn; its manager, Yagna Patel; and the company that owns the motel, UFVS Management Company, which operates out of Purchase, New York.

The complaint states that the defendants “failed to take any steps to prevent human sex trafficking at the Roosevelt Motor Inn and instead permitted heinous and unspeakable acts to occur and profited from them.”

To read the full story by Claire Sasko on Philadelphia: Click Here

‘A Gift To Human Traffickers’: Report Warns Of Dangers Of Trump Immigration Policy

Study claims hardened stance on immigration leaves undocumented migrant workers at greater risk of modern slavery and human rights abuses 

Undocumented farm workers from Mexico at work on a farm in California
Undocumented labourers from Mexico at work on a farm in California. Analysts warn the new immigration policy will put such workers at greater risk of exploitation and debt. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s hardline approach to immigration has been branded a “gift to human traffickers” amid concerns that stricter deportation and border regulations will push undocumented migrant workers underground, putting them at greater risk of slavery and human rights abuses.

The new administration’s immigration policy – which hinges on the construction of a US-Mexico border wall and immediate repatriation of illegal immigrants – will force criminal networks to use more costly and potentially more dangerous trafficking routes by air and sea, say global risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft.

According to a report by the company, the controversial stance adopted by the White House towards migrant workers and immigration will be a major driver of human rights risks for business in 2017.

Developed countries are warned that human rights abuses are surfacing closer to home for western companies just as legislation strengthens and scrutiny of business practices increases.

Saket Soni, executive director of the membership organisation National Guestworkers Alliance, said the Trump administration’s new regulations will only exacerbate existing problems and proves that the US government is “part of the problem”.

“Trump’s policies are a gift to human traffickers,” said Soni. “We know firsthand what Verisk Maplecroft’s report confirms: criminalising immigrants makes them more vulnerable to forced labour, human trafficking, and modern-day slavery. Trump’s mass criminalisation will drive immigrants further into the shadows, where increasing numbers of them will face forced labour conditions.”

The report, entitled Human Rights Outlook 2017, draws on Verisk Maplecroft’s portfolio of global human rights data and its interactions with multinational companies to assess the top 10 human rights issues affecting business in the year ahead.

“The US is already classed as ‘medium risk’ in our index measuring modern slavery around the world, and the commodity risk that we’ve done shows that there are already extreme risks for migrants, including those on farms harvesting apples or citrus fruits,” said Maplecroft’s principal analyst, Alexandra Channer.

“There’s already a significant problem for undocumented workers in certain industries in the US. So the impact of these policies will be worsening an already serious issue, which we could see potentially widen to different industries, for example the transportation and hospitality sectors.”

To read the full article by Kate Hodal on The Guardian: Click Here

Fighting Human Trafficking In Detroit

When some 200 law enforcement officers raided the Victory Inn on Jan. 12, they recovered more than just narcotics.

They also rescued 14 victims of human trafficking who were being provided drugs in exchange for “commercial sex dates” in filthy rooms filled with needles, crack pipes and guns.

And they had expected to find even more victims.

“Traffickers move people, and it just so happened that some of the women were working elsewhere,” said Deena Policicchio, director of outreach and education services for Alternatives For Girls, which joined the operation 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Detroit-based nonprofit serves high-risk girls and women and partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations to offer the victims crises counseling, hygiene supplies, clothing, drug treatment referrals and transportation to safe lodging. WC Safe, a Wayne County nonprofit that helps sexual assault survivors, and the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic also assisted the victims.

“They’re still in trauma and crisis mode,” Policicchio said shortly after the raid.

According to court records, Michael Randol, a 41-year-old convicted felon from Detroit, distributed drugs to women in exchange for sex dates at the motel. One woman described as a frequent Victory Inn resident told police she worked as a prostitute to pay back a man called “Q,” who sold her cocaine and heroin, and to “work off a drug debt she owed” to another man called “T.” She alleged the men had as many as 20 women “working for them.”

Melissa Novock, a WC Safe human trafficking specialist, said a lot of traffickers use drugs to manipulate women who have or develop addictions. But there are a number of reasons women fall victims to trafficking. Some fall behind on rent and need money. Others can’t get a job because of criminal histories. Some become involuntarily controlled.

“(Some)times what happens is a woman is selling herself, a pimp finds her, decides he wants to own her and he’ll just go in a hotel, rape her and then say she is his,” Policicchio said. “…and he will beat her and control her from that day forward.”

Pimps often target vulnerable young girls and women, though boys can be victims, too, Novock said. There’s also a misconception that victims are snatched from malls or bus stops.

“Sometimes that does happen. But a lot of the times…the young girls are not in a great situation,” Novock said, rattling off examples: They’ve been sexually abused, live in foster care or a homeless shelter, or suffer from an abusive relationship. “They’re looking for some type of attention, some type of love and a pimp takes advantage of that.”

Trafficking happens everywhere

While The Victory Inn sits next to a topless bar in an area known for prostitution, authorities say human trafficking occurs everywhere.

“We’re always thinking that this is happening somewhere else or to someone else, but it’s happening in Michigan, and it’s happening in the city and the suburbs,” Novock said.

Policicchio said she went on one raid with law enforcement in an affluent Wayne County suburb. They were looking for women forced to prostitute at a hotel full of families staying there for a soccer tournament.

To read the full story by Stephanie Steinberg on The Detroit News: Click Here

Indiana At The Crossroads Of Human Trafficking Fight

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – As the crossroads of America, Indiana is at the crossroads of the Nation’s growing problem of human trafficking.

Indiana state police are asking truck drivers, the men and women who work, eat, and sleep on the interstates, to look out for victims of trafficking. It is a crime a crime that often goes unseen and unrealized.

In the first ten months of 2016, 66 cases were called in to the National Human Trafficking hotline. According to the organization, 16 of the calls came from victims or survivors. 
Indiana State Police Trooper Yan Dravigne sees the tragedy first hand.

“These people are not treated as humans. They are treated as objects and once their job is done they are discarded,” he said.

Last month, Dravigne pulled over Procopio Torres along I-70 in Morgan County. Dravigne said Torres admitted he was paid to drive three boys from Texas to New York.

“He had no knowledge about their names or who they were,” he explained. “They were scared. Who knows what they were promised. They didn’t know where they were going, they were just promised something.”

Torres is charged with transporting illegal aliens for financial gain. The three boys, aged from 11-14 years old, are in the custody of federal authorities. Investigators believe their trip began somewhere in South America.

State police in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio are working with Truckers Against Trafficking. Troopers are encouraging drivers who see something suspicious, call a special hot line.

“They’ve seen this stuff happen at rest stops and truck stops,” Dravigne said.

Randy Gries admitted he’s seen plenty in his years of driving a truck, but never enough he said to warrant a call to authorities.

“The girls in the truck stops, for example. When you see them, you know, number one, that there is more behind it than that one individual,” he explained.

Sarah Hurley has seen and heard a lot, too. She founded Kristy’s House, which provides counseling and other help to women trying to escape the sex trade.

To read the full story by Rich Van Wyk on The Greensburg Daily News: Click Here

Trooper Who Rescued Teen: ‘No One Should Be Trafficked’

PHOENIX — An Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper said his training in identifying signs of human trafficking helped him rescue a 16-year-old runaway who was being sold for sex.

Trooper Jonathan Otto, 33, said a traffic stop near Kingman led to the discovery Jan. 11 after he’d noticed a vehicle driving in excess of 100 mph along U.S. 93 in the early-morning hours.

After interviewing the occupants of the vehicle, Otto said he recognized one of its female passengers as demonstrating indicators of human trafficking. Though the girl initially said she was 18, Otto said he found information about her at the scene that showed she was a minor.

At the time of the stop, the 16-year-old was in the company of a man and woman with whom she shared mutual friends, Otto said. They were identified by DPS officials as Rasheen Adams, 22, and Chicha Harris, 22, of Las Vegas.

Officials said the girl was trafficked in Southern California, taken to Arizona, and was on her way to Las Vegas at the time of the traffic stop.

Adams and Harris were arrested and face felony charges including sex trafficking of a minor, custodial interference and theft of means of transportation, the DPS stated. Both were booked in to the Mohave County Jail and were each released on a $10,000 bond, officials said.

Runaway sought to ‘get away from her impoverished life’

In a news conference in Phoenix on Thursday morning, Otto recalled the signs that led him to believe it was more than just a typical traffic stop.

He said that when he first approached the vehicle to talk to the occupants, he smelled a pungent perfume that had permeated the vehicle. A female occupant in the front passenger seat was wearing only lingerie, and the teen in the backseat was scantily clad.

To read the full story by Garrett Mitchell of The Arizona on USA Today: Click Here

Hiding In Plain Sight: Chicago Neighborhoods Fight Modern Day Slavery

In the grand scheme of things, it was a small victory but for impoverished neighborhoods like Chicago’s Englewood, it was a triumph.

After a protracted and sometimes acrimonious City Council battle in March, a bill to allow city strip clubs to sell liquor on their premises was shelved after its sponsor admitted she wasn’t fully aware of the bill’s contents.

Under current law, there is a ban on strip clubs selling alcohol if those clubs feature nude dancers. The law also states that dancers in these clubs must wear “hot pants” and cover their chests.

Communities like Englewood, which fear a proliferation of strip clubs, are standing up to fight back against abuses they see as threats to their very foundations.

The sponsor of the rejected bill, Alderman Emma Mitts of the 37th Ward, withdrew the ordinance proposal after meeting stiff opposition from community leaders who saw a lifting of the liquor ban as likely to contribute to the growth of sex and human trafficking in the city.

“A drunk man is even worse than guys coming in just to see a strip because it causes more violence against women. I won’t support any of it. It became so heated so quick, they actually pulled back the legislation,” explained Alderman Toni Foulkes of the 16th Ward, and one of the ordinances most vocal opponents.

Human Trafficking
The US State Department has identified three ways to fight the scourge of human trafficking: prosecution, protection and prevention. (Photo: US State Department).

For local leaders like Foulkes, the kerfuffle over liquor licenses in strip clubs is something she considers a matter of communal survival.

To read the full story by Duke Omara on Medill Reports Chicago: Click Here

Human Trafficking Fight Makes Progress as US Cross-agency Effort Gains Traction

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirms a focus on providing victim- and survivor-centered efforts to combat human trafficking, Oct. 24, 2016.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirms a focus on providing victim- and survivor-centered efforts to combat human trafficking, Oct. 24, 2016.

Calling human trafficking a “multibillion dollar criminal enterprise,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday reaffirmed a focus on providing victim- and survivor-centered efforts to combat it.

“It’s an assault of human rights and it’s a threat to global stability,” Kerry said Monday at the annual meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking.

U.S. officials across agencies reaffirmed their commitment to combating trafficking in persons, including following the recommendations of the Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, which released its report last week.

The advisory council, made up of 11 survivors of human trafficking, called on government agencies to increase availability of victims’ services, including relocation and housing services and specialized training of law enforcement and government officials dealing with victims of human trafficking.

To read the full story from VOA News: Click Here

Santa Clara County: Motel Sting Targets Human Trafficking And Sex Exploitation As Part Of Broader Sweep

SANTA CLARA — At the end of the night, after a series of encounters that ended with a few citations issued and some stern talks given out, the detective found herself having a heart-to-heart with a young woman fumbling to explain how she ended up in a motel room filled with police.

“He doesn’t force me,” the woman said of the man police suspect is her pimp, “but if I choose not to do something he threatens me.”

She continued: “So I don’t have a choice. I mean, I have a choice, but not the ones I want to make.”

The detective, sitting next to her on the motel bed Wednesday, interjected.

“It sounds like he’s manipulated you emotionally,” the detective said. “Is it right for someone to get the money that you’re doing all the work for? He doesn’t seem to care about you. He has two other girls.”

Her tone softened further.

“I would really like to help you get out of this,” the detective said. “I would really like to help you move forward with your life.”
So ended the second night of an undercover sting spearheaded by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, as part of the county’s two-year-old human-trafficking task force, aimed at curbing sexual exploitation within the South Bay’s underground sex trade.

Through the first two days of the operation, the task force detained or questioned 20 prostitutes and customers in the joint effort that also involved the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, county juvenile detention, and local victim-advocacy groups. They arrested one man they suspect was pimping a 16-year-old girl.

It’s an elusive but rewarding find. Most of the people who responded to detectives’ online ads were men looking to buy sex, along with a few women who asserted they were working of their own volition, all of them caught in the wide net cast in search of exploited minors and victims of coercion. Most were issued identical misdemeanor prostitution citations — the state penal code does not distinguish between customer and worker — and sent on their way.

To read the full story by Robert Salonga at The Mercury News: Click Here

Seventeen Individuals Indicted for Respective Roles in Human Trafficking Scheme that Exploited Hundreds of Thai Women for Commercial Sex in the United States

Sex Trafficking Organization Engaged in Visa Fraud and Debt Scheme to Recruit Victims into the United States for Prostitution
An indictment unsealed late yesterday in St. Paul, Minnesota, charges 17 members of an international sex trafficking organization with transporting hundreds of women from Thailand and profiting from advertising them for commercial sex throughout the United States.

The charged defendants include 12 Thai nationals and five U.S. nationals.  Eight of the 17 charged defendants were arrested yesterday at various locations in Minnesota, California, Illinois, Georgia and Hawaii.  One charged defendant was previously arrested in Belgium and four defendants remains at large.

The announcement was made by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger of the District of Minnesota; Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; Special Agent in Charge Alex Khu of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) St. Paul Division and Special Agent in Charge Shea Jones of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) St. Paul Field Office.

“Human trafficking is a degrading crime that undermines our nation’s most basic promises of liberty and security,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “This case demonstrates the Justice Department’s determination to hold traffickers accountable and to help the survivors of this appalling practice reclaim their freedom and dignity.  As part of our nationally recognized Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative, the District of Minnesota is playing a crucial role in those vital efforts, and I want to commend all of the team members whose cooperation led to today’s action.”

“The 17 people charged in this indictment ran a highly sophisticated sex trafficking scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Luger.  “They promised women in Thailand a chance at the American dream, but instead exploited them, coerced them and forced them to live a nightmare.  In short, the victims lived like modern day sex slaves.  Today’s indictment is our ninth sex trafficking case since 2014, but it is the first that targets an entire organization.  We will continue to work closely with our federal and local law enforcement partners to target and dismantle these types of far-reaching organizations.”

“The Justice Department created the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) Initiative to bring together federal law enforcement agencies to enhance our impact in investigating and prosecuting human trafficking,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta.  “This case is an outstanding example of these efforts.  We will continue to work tirelessly with them to bring traffickers to justice and vindicate the rights of vulnerable victims.”

“This week’s arrests reflect HSI’s global reach and ongoing efforts to dismantle criminal organizations that engage in human trafficking activities,” said Special Agent in Charge Khu.  “HSI also remains firmly committed to rescuing victims and getting them help they desperately need to begin recovering from the depredations forced on them by these criminals.”

“From coast to coast, IRS Criminal Investigation is determined to team with our law enforcement partners to track down the individuals who facilitate and launder the proceeds of sex trafficking crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Jones.  “Those who seek to enrich themselves by exploiting the desperate circumstances of their victims will not be tolerated in our cities.”

According to the indictment, which was returned under seal on Sept. 28, 2016, since at least 2009, the criminal organization has recruited and transported hundreds of women, which the organization refers to as “flowers,” from Thailand to various locations across the United States, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas and Austin, for purposes of exploiting them for prostitution.  Once in the United States, victims were allegedly placed in houses of prostitution where they were forced to work long hours – often all day, every day.  As alleged in the indictment, the women were not allowed to leave the prostitution houses unless accompanied by a member of the criminal organization.

According to allegations in the indictment, which identifies several of the women as victims of human trafficking, the organization often recruited women from impoverished backgrounds who spoke little English.  Recruiters exploited these vulnerabilities during the recruitment process, promising the victims access to a better life in the United States in exchange for a debt of between $40,000 and $60,000, which the women were required to pay off through prostitution earnings.  As alleged in the indictment, before transporting the women to the United States, the organization would typically arrange to have the women photographed for purposes of advertising them for sex on websites like backpage.com and eros.com.  The organization also encouraged the women to have breast implants in Thailand to make them “more appealing” to potential sex buyers in the United States and added the cost to the victims’ debt.

The organization engaged in widespread visa fraud to facilitate the international transportation of the women into their commercial sex enterprise, the indictment alleges.  Members of the criminal organization assisted in obtaining fraudulent visas and travel documents for the women, and members of the conspiracy used personal information on the women and their families, which they gathered in the course of obtaining the fraudulent documents, to threaten victims who became non-compliant or tried to flee.

The defendants include:

  • Sumalee Intarathong, 55, who was a boss in the scheme is currently incarcerated in Liege, Belgium, is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; sex trafficking by use of force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy to commit forced labor; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering; conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution and conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
  • Chabaprai Boonluea, 42, of Winder, Georgia, was a house boss in the operation and is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; sex trafficking by use of force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy to commit forced labor; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • Watcharin Luamseejun, 46, was a house boss in the scheme and is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit forced labor; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • Pantilla Rodpholka, 31, of Mount Prospect, Illinois, was a house boss in the operation and is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit forced labor; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • Noppawan Lerslurchachai, 35, of Lomita, California, was a facilitator in the scheme and is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; sex trafficking by use of force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy to commit forced labor; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • Khanong Intharathong, 44, of Dunwoody, Georgia, was a facilitator in the operation and is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • Andrew Flanigan, 51, of Winder, was a facilitator in the operation and is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • Patcharaporn Saengkham, 41, of Los Angeles, was a facilitator in the scheme and is charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
  • Yadaporn Panngoen, 30, Los Angeles, was a facilitator in the scheme and is charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
  • Supapon Sonprasit, 31, of St. Paul, was a facilitator in the operation and is charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
  • Thi Vu, 48, of Atlanta, was a runner in the operation and is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • Todd Vassey, 54, of Lahanina, Hawaii, was a runner in the scheme and is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • John Zbracki, 59, of Lakeville, Minnesota, was a runner in the operation and is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.

According to the indictment, Intarathong served as a boss before her arrest in Belgium earlier this year.  As alleged in the indictment, each woman identified as a victim of human trafficking was “owned” by Intarathong or another boss until the victim could repay the debt.

According to the indictment, other members of the criminal organization served as “house bosses,” who owned one or more of the houses of prostitution where the “flowers” were exploited for commercial sex.  House bosses were responsible for day-to-day operations, including advertising the “flowers” for commercial sex, maintaining the houses of prostitution, scheduling appointments with sex buyers and ensuring that a significant portion of the prostitution proceeds were routed back to the trafficker/boss to pay down the debt.  The house boss kept the remainder of the prostitution proceeds, while the women were not permitted to retain any of their earnings, except for the occasional tip offered by a sex buyer.

As set forth in the indictment, other members of the criminal organization served as “facilitators,” who were primarily responsible for laundering the criminal proceeds of the organization and for directing the movement of victims within the United States, while other co-conspirators served as “runners.”  The runners were typically men who were paid, in part, by receiving access to sex acts with the women.  Runners accompanied the women anytime they were permitted to leave a house of prostitution to obtain personal items, travel as directed by the criminal organization or deposit money into accounts set up by the organization for repayment of the women’s debts.  Runners were also sometimes asked to rent hotel rooms, apartments or other facilities for the organization.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The District of Minnesota is one of six districts designated through a competitive, nationwide selection process as a Phase II ACTeam, through the interagency ACTeam Initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor.  ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by HSI; IRS-CI; Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; St. Paul Police Department; Anoka County, Minnesota, Sheriff’s Office; and Cook County, Minnesota, Sheriff’s Office, with the support of the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melinda Williams and Laura Provinzino of the District of Minnesota are prosecuting the case with the assistance of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

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Press release from the US Department of Justice

Student Hackers To Help Manhattan DA Fight Human Trafficking; They’ll Focus On Workers With Little To No Wages

It’s the coding answer to community service.

Students from Cornell and Columbia universities will be hacking for a good cause over the weekend through a program with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Response Unit.

Specialized prosecutors and staff assigned to the unit will guide technology students in a hackathon as they experiment with ways to bring human trafficking to light, with the goal of identifying criminal activity in the dark corners of the web. Hackathons bring programmers together to work on all kinds of projects.

In recent memory, prosecutors have brought cases against pimps with the aid of massive troves of electronic evidence.

They are often able to connect the dots between a pimp and victims — or to a larger network of trafficked people.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. spoke to students at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Friday morning, putting their challenge in a courtroom context.

In recent years, Vance’s office and other law enforcement agencies have begun treating prostitutes as victims as they are often essentially brainwashed and dependent on psychologically and physically abusive pimps.

“We understand now how difficult it is for trafficking victims to separate from the person who is trafficking them,” Vance said.

To read the full story by Shayna Jacobs at The NY Daily News: Click Here