Missouri Attorney General To Investigate Backpage With New Human Trafficking Unit

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announces new initiatives to crack down on human trafficking at a safehouse near St. Louis on Monday, April 3, 2017.


JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has begun the process of investigating the online advertising website Backpage, using a new unit in his office tasked with prosecuting human traffickers under the state’s consumer protection laws.

Hawley told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday that evidence already points to Backpage and its affiliates knowingly participating in illegal trafficking activity and concealing it, including findings from a U.S. Senate committee, which examined 1.1 million pages of documents supplied by the company.

Spearheaded by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the probe culminated in a scathing report in January that alleges the site automatically filters out any words in ads that indicate the site was offering sex with minors.

Critics of the site’s practices say that it’s become a hub for commercial sex exploitation, with traffickers using it to sell sex through the “adult” sections, which once allowed users to advertise escort services, strip clubs, and “adult jobs.”

To read the full story by Celeste Bott on St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Click Here

Slavery Still Exists In The Land Of The Free — We Must Confront It

(CNN)More than 150 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, slavery is illegal almost everywhere. But it is still not abolished — not even here, in the land of the free. On the contrary, there is a cancer of violence, a modern-day slavery growing in America by the day, in the very places where we live and work. It’s called human trafficking. The time has come for a new abolitionist movement to confront this oppression and turn it back.

Each year, thousands of people, usually women and girls, are deceived, threatened or simply forced into commercial sexual exploitation. That is, they are forced to provide sex for money. Don’t be misled, this isn’t a crime confined to exotic locales. It happens all the time, even in a neighborhood near you. Sex trafficking occurs when a young woman is forced into prostitution at a truck stop; when a sexual predator lures a teen on the internet; when a family member makes a child sell sex for cash.

Josh Hawley is the attorney general of Missouri.
Josh Hawley is the attorney general of Missouri.

The International Labor Organization estimates that 4.5 million people are trapped in commercial sex exploitation worldwide, 98% of them female. Since 2007, the National Trafficking Hotline in the United States has received more than 31,000 reports of trafficking happening in this country. Nearly 2,000 calls to the NTH have come from my home state of Missouri.

Sex trafficking amounts to a form of slavery: It is forced, unchosen labor. Left unchecked, it threatens to disfigure our society. That’s a danger I take personally. As attorney general of Missouri, I am my state’s chief law enforcement officer. I swore an oath to uphold the rule of law, and that means fighting violence and oppression wherever it exists, especially violence against the poor and vulnerable. The swelling epidemic of human trafficking makes a mockery of the law and its protections. Confronting this evil demands new thinking and decisive new action. And this is my pledge: In Missouri we will act, and we will act now.

To view the full story by Josh Hawley on CNN: Click Here

Deeper Cuts Proposed For Human Trafficking Victim Services

BISMARCK — The chairwoman of the state’s anti-human trafficking task force says victim service programs could be in jeopardy under a funding cut recommended Tuesday, March 28, by a legislative committee.

The House Appropriations Committee recommended reducing funding for human trafficking victim services to $250,000 for 2017-19, half of what the Senate approved and one-fourth the level requested by the Attorney General’s Office.

Committee members cited budget challenges as the need to cut general fund spending.

“I do believe it’s an important program,” said Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington. “I do believe we also have to be cognizant of where we’re at.”

The programs, which received $1.25 million in state funding for 2015-17, served 79 victims in 2016, including 26 minors.

Christina Sambor, chairwoman of FUSE, the anti-human trafficking task force, said programs have leveraged the state dollars to receive federal grants, supporting emergency housing, case managers and other programs.

Without sufficient state funding, the programs may not have enough matching dollars to get future federal grants, Sambor said.

“It can put the whole system in jeopardy, for sure,” she said.

To read the full story by Amy Dairymple on the West Fargo Pioneer: Click Here

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

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

Major Regional Human-Trafficking Ring Shut Down, Maryland Prosecutors Say

It started out with promises to the young women, according to prosecutors, assurances from someone on the other end of an online ad that they would be models or have their debt disappear. But the women soon found themselves beaten and threatened into a life of prostitution.

Prosecutors in Maryland said the enterprise known as “Pink Pleasure Entertainment” operated for years before authorities shut it down recently. Over that time, there were dozens of victims, officials said.

Top law enforcement leaders from the state and Prince George’s County announced Tuesday that the three people allegedly behind the operation — Rashid Mosby, 42, Joshua Isaiah Jones, 26, and Terra Perry, 35 — have been indicted on charges of human trafficking and prostitution.

Mosby, Jones and Perry would beat, intimidate and threaten women and girls as young as 15 to engage in prostitution in dozens of motels and hotels across Maryland and Virginia, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said.

The trio paid for victims’ food, lodging and travel, and said that the women and girls had to pay them back before they could be freed, Frosh said. They also advertised and recruited women on Backpage.com, telling some of them that they would become models, he said. Once the women made contact with the group, they were trapped, he added.

“They used threats and violence to keep these young women under their control,” Frosh said.

To read the full story by Lynh Bui on the Washington Post: Click Here

State Leaders Unveil Poster Aimed At Raising Awareness About Human Trafficking

State leaders Thursday unveiled a new poster created as part of a statewide campaign that organizers hope will raise public awareness about human trafficking, generate tips to break up networks and get resources to victims.

“This is a crisis hiding in plain sight,” Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said during a news conference at the Capitol also attended by state lawmakers, law enforcement and other partner agencies and nonprofits.

“This is servitude. This is modern-day slavery, and we can’t tolerate it,” Schimel added.

Creation of the poster, promoting a national human trafficking resource center hotline number, was required by the passage last year of Wisconsin Act 5, legislation aimed at strengthening the state’s response to the buying and selling of men, women and children for sex or labor.

To read the full story by Karen Rivedal at the Wisconsin State Journal: Click Here

New Awareness Campaign Stresses that “Human Trafficking Happens Here Too”

CLEVELAND)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today joined Karen Walsh, Director of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, and members of Greater Cleveland’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking, to unveil a new human trafficking awareness campaign in northeast Ohio.

The campaign, entitled “Human Trafficking Happens Here Too,” will launch on July 1, and continue during and after the Republican National Convention (RNC).  The main goals of the campaign are to raise public awareness and increase recognition of the signs of human trafficking in Ohio and across the United States.

“Many people believe that human trafficking only happens in foreign countries far away from here, but human trafficking is happening in Ohio, it’s happening in Cleveland, and it’s happening all across the United States,” said Attorney General DeWine.  “By launching this campaign to coincide with the Republican National Convention, there will be thousands of people from Ohio and all over the country seeing this message, and we hope it will help them be better aware of human trafficking, no matter where they live.”

The campaign message will be displayed in several concourses at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, on Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority buses, and on a number of billboards throughout the Cleveland area.  The campaign also includes a new website – www.HappensHereToo.org – which will include more information on the crime, signs of human trafficking, and how to get help.

According to RNC organizers, approximately 50,000 visitors are expected in Cleveland during the convention, which runs July 18-21. The awareness campaign will continue after the conclusion of the event.

“The nearly 30 organizations in Greater Cleveland’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking are committed to working together as a multi-disciplinary network to address the complexities of the crime and to provide victims with a safety net,” said Karen Walsh of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking.

To read the full story from Huffington News: Click Here

Calley Calls On All To Fight Against Human Trafficking

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Thursday that everyone in Michigan needs to have a hand in fighting against human trafficking.

“Every person in every community must be a part of it,” he said. “If you’ve got a pulse, you’re part of this movement.”

Calley made the remarks during his address to the Detroit International Human Trafficking Summit at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit.

“I was very pleased to receive the call to be here and be a part of this conversation for what will hopefully be a long-term movement to not just reduce, but to eliminate, human trafficking in Michigan and beyond,” he said.

About 280 community leaders, government, law enforcement and human service organization officials attended the event, organized by Liberty & Freedom Now, a Detroit-based nonprofit that works to raise awareness about and end human trafficking.

“We’re trying to broaden the conversation about human trafficking with this summit,” said Reneé Axt, a volunteer with Liberty and Freedom Now. “We want more people to have more tools to make our communities safer from human trafficking.

To read the full story by Charles E. Ramierz at The Detroit News: Click Here

Lawmakers Ok Trafficking Notices In Rest Stops, Airports

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislature has voted to require the posting of human trafficking notices in rest stops, strip clubs, airports, and bus and train stations.

The bill sent to Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday says the notices must reference the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline as a place for victims to get help and services.

Republican Rep. Kurt Heise of Plymouth Township says the goal is to put notices in certain venues where traffickers bring victims but are less likely to monitor them — such as adult entertainment clubs. He says the measure would serve as a possible means of escape for victims or rescue by members of the public.

The proposed law would not apply unless a state department is given funding to carry out enforcement and other duties.

Originally found on WWMT West Michigan: Click Here