Friday, November 13, 2009

Trafficker from Florida finally arrested after forcing girl into sex slavery

By Dennis Culver

A Bonita Springs man was arrested early this morning for human trafficking after he allegedly forced a juvenile to perform sex acts for money.

Juan Gomez Domingo, 23, allegedly brought the victim from Homestead to Bonita Springs with plans to marry her.

According to a Lee County Sheriff’s Office report:

Investigators were contacted by Health Park Hospital in response to a pregnant juvenile in labor believed to be a victim of human trafficking.

When contacted by investigators, the victim became very emotional and said she had entered the United States three years ago illegally by crossing the Mexican border.

She then traveled to Homestead where she expected to begin work at a nursery but was told she had to perform sexual acts to pay the fee she owed the smugglers.

She told investigators she was forced to have sex with three managers of the nursery for five months.

Domingo, who was from the same hometown as the victim, knew about the girl’s situation, contacted the victim’s mother and told her he would get the girl out of the situation and marry her, if she would allow it.

Domingo then allegedly took the victim to Bonita Springs.

Once in Bonita Springs, the victim was taken to various places in the area to have sex for money.

After she became pregnant and had a child, Gomez allegedly became upset the child was not his and allegedly began to physically and emotionally abuse her.

He threatened to kick her and her child out of the residence if she didn’t work as a prostitute to help pay the rent.

The victim continued to work as a prostitute in various brothels in Bonita Springs.

There were several other unidentified women involved in bringing the girl to various locations to perform sex acts for money.

Domingo is facing one felony count of forced labor or services by human trafficking and remains in custody at the Lee County Jail.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

US officials begin push against human trafficking


BOSTON — Fourteen cities are being targeted in a new campaign aimed at alerting people about human trafficking, federal immigration officials have announced.

The "Hidden in Plain Sight" initiative, sponsored by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, features billboards highlighting "the horrors and the prevalence of human trafficking," which the agency says is equivalent to "modern-day slavery."

The words "Hidden in Plain Sight" are displayed on the advertisements with a toll-free number people can call to report situations where they believe people are being sexually exploited or forced to work against their will.

Cities in the new campaign are Atlanta; Boston; Dallas; Detroit; Los Angeles; Miami; Philadelphia; Newark, N.J.; New Orleans; New York; St. Paul, Minn.; San Antonio; San Francisco and Tampa, Fla.

Bruce Foucart, an ICE special agent in charge of New England, said officials hope the billboards persuade residents to report suspected cases to ICE or local law enforcement.

"It's difficult to identify victims and it's difficult for them to tell their stories," said Foucart.

About 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked each year around the world and about 17,500 of them end up in the United States, according to ICE. Immigration officials say the victims are lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs but are trafficked into the commercial sex trade, domestic servitude or forced labor.

Foucart said victims who cooperate with law enforcement are offered temporary status and can later apply to stay in the U.S. permanently.

Jozefina Lantz, director of New Americans services at Lutheran Social Services in Worcester, Mass., welcomed the new campaign and said the public is generally unaware that human trafficking is occurring near their homes.

"Often the victims get mistaken for undocumented immigrants," said Lantz. "It's not the same because these people were abducted from their homes and forced into trafficking."

Lantz said her group has recently helped trafficking victims from Africa and South America.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Victims of human trafficking speak out at the United Nations

By EDITH M. LEDERER (AP) – Oct 22, 2009

UNITED NATIONS — A father of two from Nepal who thought he was going to America wound up in Iraq, forced to work at a U.S. airbase. A 14-year-old Ugandan girl kidnapped by rebels spent nearly eight years in captivity as a sex slave and human shield. And a young Venezuelan woman lured to New York by the man she loved wound up in a brothel his family was running.
The three victims of human trafficking spoke Thursday at an event organized by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay who said it was "pressing and urgent" not only to listen to their stories of survival but to get their recommendations on how the international community can help end the growing global scourge.

"In every part of the world, countless individuals are callously exploited for profit," Pillay said. "While trafficking may be a problem related to migration and to transnational crime, it is also — and fundamentally — an attack on the dignity and integrity of the individual. Trafficking involves practices prohibited in every country including slavery, debt, bondage, forced labor and sexual exploitation."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who opened the event, said the global economic crisis "is making the problem worse."

He urged governments to heed his "call to action" and step up efforts to prevent exploitation, protect victims and pursue traffickers whose conviction rates in most countries "are microscopic compared to the scope of the problem."

The U.N. Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking estimated last year that annual profits from trafficked, forced labor is around $31.6 billion. Some experts say it is now the second-largest illicit business in the world after drugs.

Buddhi Gurung, who calls himself a poor Nepali man, described how he was unable to get a job to support his wife and two sons during fighting by Maoist rebels and the army in 2004. When an agent promised him a job in America for $500 a month, he said he borrowed about $2,800 to pay him — but instead of going to the United States, he was taken to Jordan via New Delhi.
After a month in Jordan, he said he was put in a van with 11 others and driven to Baghdad. Twelve Nepali friends in the van that left just before his were abducted, paraded on television and eventually beheaded. Gurung said he wound up at the U.S. Al Asad Air Base where he was forced to work and paid less than the promised $500 a month.

"We would hear bomb blasts nearby and we knew our life was at risk," Gurung said. "I always wanted to go back to Nepal but neither my passport was with me, nor did I have any money or knew any other way to go back. ... Finally, after 15 months, I was permitted to go back to Nepal. ... This is how my life was saved."

Gurung and the families of the 12 Nepali men have filed a U.S. federal lawsuit accusing Houston-based defense contractor KBR Inc. and a Jordanian subcontractor, Daoud & Partners, of human trafficking.

Gurung urged the "big people" at Thursday's event "to develop a mechanism to save people like me from such traps of human trafficking."

Charlotte Awino described how she and 138 other girls were abducted from a boarding school in 1996 by rebels from the Lords Resistance Army, marched for three months into southern Sudan, and used as human shields during fighting against Uganda soldiers.

"As usual, we girls suffered more," she said. "We were distributed to rebel commanders, as objects without rights, and we were sexually abused. ... I was given to a man who had 20 other abducted girls, and he was a brutal man. I had two children with him."

Awino, who escaped in 2004 when the rebels went back to northern Uganda, urged the U.N. to "try to get back the children who have been trafficked through war, some as young as 6."
She also called for victims to be given counseling, health care and education, for countries to better protect their citizens during war, and for improved methods to track and trace missing people. She also urged understanding for the plight of victims.

"One day I was at home. The next day I was among the rebels," Awino said. "Is everyone going to call us rebels or terrorists?"

Kikka Cerpa described falling in love with a man named Daniel while working at a hotel in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, when she was 17 years old. A few years later, she said, Daniel moved to New York and eventually she went to join him, only to discover that his family ran a sex trafficking ring.

Cerpa said her passport and money were taken, she was put in a basement and told she owed the family a lot of money, and the only way to pay it off was to work in a brothel.
"The first night was the worst," she said, her voice quavering. "I have to service 90 men."
Cerpa said she was trafficked from brothel to brothel over the next three years. Sometimes police would raid the brothels, but "instead of rescuing us, they demand that we perform sexual services on them." After her best friend in the brothel was murdered by a customer, she said, she knew she had to leave — so she married a customer, but he beat her and threatened to have her deported.

Finally, she escaped and was helped by an organization to get a divorce and legalize her status in the U.S.

"I'm telling my story to help all the trafficking victims around the world," she said. "We need to pass and enforce laws that will protect us from traffickers like Daniel."
Cerpa said customers should also be held accountable and "treated like a criminal, like they are," and police officers and prosecutors should be trained to identify and protect victims.