Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oakland man accused of sex trafficking

By Paul T. Rosynsky
Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND — Six years ago, Vincent Turner had the letters MOB tattooed across his chest, a prosecutor said Tuesday, to remind him of his credo: "Money over (expletive)."

And it is with that credo, deputy district attorney Sharon Carney said, that Turner engaged in an illegal business of kidnapping teenage prostitutes off the streets of Oakland and taking them to Stockton, where he forced them to work as his prostitutes.

"He specifically picked minors because they were easy targets," Carney said during closing arguments in the case against Turner, accused of eight felony crimes including rape, human trafficking and pandering by procuring. "The defendant was so into this lifestyle that he had the motto tattooed to his chest."

Turner, 31, of Oakland, faces life in prison if found guilty of forcibly taking a 15- and 16-year-old captive, raping them and then trying to force them to earn up to $2,500 through prostitution for their release.

Turner was arrested last year after one of the girls escaped 24 hours after she was taken and ran to a police officer for help. The second girl told a similar tale after being arrested during a routine Oakland police sting of prostitutes on International Boulevard. The second girl was held by Turner for about a week, Carney said.

The two girls told police and testified during the trial that they had had troubled childhoods. They admitted being prostitutes and said they turned to the streets after being kicked out of their homes.

They said they were working as prostitutes when Turner drove up pretending to be a customer. After they got into the car, they said, he told them they were now his property and he drove them to Stockton.

The girls testified that Turner told them they could only escape if they paid a fee. That fee could be a straight $2,500 payment, which neither girl had, or an agreement to have sex with Turner and a $1,000 payment, Carney said.

If they didn't have the money, Carney said, Turner said he would force the girls to work as prostitutes for him.

While admitting that the two victims "were no angels," Carney said that Turner's actions were illegal and that the felonies he is charged with were created to ensure someone conducting such acts gets punished.

"These are not throwaway children," Carney said. "The law protects them against predators like the defendant."

Turner's defense attorney, Spencer Strellis, admitted his client "might not be someone you want to take home for dinner" but urged the jury to look beyond his client's appearance and focus on the facts of the case. Those facts, Strellis said, are based on the testimony of two "ladies" who admitted engaging in prostitution.

"This arguably was a labor dispute. The young ladies were playing the game," Strellis said. "What they do for a living is break the law. It's something you have to consider."

Carney argued that the two victims never would have stepped forward if the actions they said were committed against them were not true.

"She goes up to a police officer, she goes up to law enforcement to tell her story. That is something extraordinary," Carney said. "It takes courage."

Full story at

Friday, March 26, 2010

Maryland pimp found guilty of sex trafficking

WASHINGTON, March 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Justice Department announced that Lloyd Mack Royal, III aka "Blyss", aka "B", aka "Furious" was convicted late yesterday of sex trafficking of minors and sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, as well as firearm and drug charges. Two other co-defendants, Angela Samantha Bentolila and Paul Raymond Green, previously pleaded guilty to related charges.

The jury found Royal guilty of 3 counts of sex trafficking, including sex trafficking of minors and sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion. The jury also convicted Royal of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence, and two counts of distribution of controlled substances to a person under the age of twenty-one.

"The defendant preyed upon vulnerable minors and prostituted them by a variety of deplorable means for his own benefit," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department of Justice will continue to devote its full efforts to prosecuting those who commit such exploitative crimes."

"We have made it a priority in Maryland to pursue criminals who lure or coerce children into prostitution," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "Maryland's Human Trafficking Task Force works with law enforcement officers and private sector organizations to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking and prosecute criminals who exploit them. Pimps who victimize children are at the top of our list."

Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. is scheduled for April 29, 2010. Royal faces incarceration of up to life in prison and potential fines in excess of $1 million.
In announcing the convictions, Assistant Attorney General Perez, and U.S. Attorney Rosenstein commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Montgomery County Police Department and Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force for their work in this cooperative investigation and prosecution. Assistant U.S. Attorney Solette Magnelli and Civil Rights Division Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit Trial Attorney Jim Felte are prosecuting this case for the government.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mid-East urged to take tougher stance against human trafficking

Middle Eastern countries have been urged to work together more closely and better train their law enforcement agencies to fight people trafficking.

“The idea was to strengthen co-operation between the Arab countries,” Dr Saeed al Ghufli, the co-ordinator of the UAE’s National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, said after a regional anti-trafficking forum in Doha this week that focused on creating a unified regional front.

The Doha Forum 2010 was held on Monday and Tuesday under the patronage of Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, the wife of the Emir of Qatar, and organised by the government of Qatar, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Arab League.

A regional UNODC initiative to bolster efforts to combat human trafficking was launched during the forum.

“I think the initiative from Qatar is good and it will add more to the efforts of the regional government bodies and NGOs,” Dr al Ghufli said.

Julie Platou Kvammen, an anti-human trafficking expert with UNODC’s regional office in Cairo, said the three-year initiative – which is expected to begin next month – will start with better training, especially how to identify and protect victims.

“We are assessing the needs of each country,” she said. “We also want to bridge the barriers between law enforcement agencies and NGOs [non-governmental organisations].”

During the forum, participants highlighted the need for more data on the crime to understand its extent in the region.

“There were discussions on the need for a data centre to analyse all data from the Arab countries to find where the problems lie,” Dr al Ghufli said.

Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and chairman of the UAE’s anti-trafficking committee, spoke on the opening day of the forum, outlining the country’s efforts.

The UAE’s Law 51 mandates harsh penalties for the crime, including life imprisonment, and has since resulted in dozens of cases of modern-day slavery coming before courts.

Since the law was introduced in 2006, other countries, including Syria and Oman, have followed suit, according to Maryam al Malki, the general manager of the Qatar Foundation for Combating Human Trafficking. Qatar is currently considering a draft law.

Ms al Malki also highlighted the need to provide protection for victims, including safe places for them to receive care.

In a speech, she cited several “promising” examples of sites in Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Damascus.

At the end of the gathering, a set of recommendations was released including calls for Arab states to ratify international anti-trafficking treaties, such as the Palermo Protocol, a UN anti-trafficking convention that was ratified by the UAE last year.

Regional governments were also urged to establish special bodies within law enforcement agencies to tackle the issue, as well as to consider the establishment of national funds to support trafficking victims and provide them with legal assistance.

Governments should also consider granting victims immunity if they committed the crimes as a result of them being trafficked.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Adviser to Americans in Haiti is Captured


Published: March 19, 2010

MEXICO CITY — The Dominican authorities said Friday that they had arrested Jorge AnĂ­bal Torres Puello, who acted as a legal adviser for a group of American church members who were detained in Haiti on child abduction charges, even though he himself was wanted on trafficking charges in the United States and El Salvador.

Working with United States law enforcement agencies, the Dominican authorities detained Mr. Torres on Thursday night without incident in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Santo Domingo, the officials said.

Mr. Torres, 32, who used a variety of aliases and falsely described himself as a lawyer, dropped out of sight in February after The New York Times questioned him about trafficking charges in El Salvador against someone with a similar name and a physical likeness.

When The Times showed Salvadoran police officials a photograph of Mr. Torres taken in Haiti after the earthquake, the authorities there began an investigation and contacted Interpol, which put out a notice for Mr. Torres’s capture.

Mr. Torres had fooled many people up until that point. Despite the arrest warrants against him, he flew into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, whose airport was under the control of the American military. He also passed along tips to journalists, some of which proved false. Though he had no law degree, he solicited tens of thousands of dollars from relatives of the 10 detained Americans and met with the Haitian judge handling the case.

In El Salvador, Mr. Torres is wanted on accusations of human trafficking and exploitation of minors for pornography and prostitution. In the United States, he faces accusations of smuggling immigrants in Vermont and of probation violations involving a fraud case in Pennsylvania.

“Hiding behind fake names or using phony identifications and passports will not protect those who prey on the most vulnerable in our societies,” John T. Morton, assistant secretary of homeland security for United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement.

Mr. Torres remained at large for more than a month after his past run-ins with the law were made public.

Last week, Mr. Torres, who was born in New York and has joint American and Dominican citizenship, said in a telephone interview that he wanted to turn himself in but that he was fearful about entering a prison in El Salvador.

“I want to bring this thing to an end,” he said, suggesting not very convincingly that he was in Panama. “I can’t keep hiding like this.” In an earlier conversation he apologized for lying to a reporter about his law degree and his links to the human trafficking case in El Salvador.

Don O’Hearn, a spokesman for the United States Marshals Service, said that despite Mr. Torres’s claim that he had fled to Panama, he never actually left the Dominican Republic. American and Dominican investigators have been tracking him in the Dominican Republic for weeks while preparing a provisional Dominican arrest warrant for him.

Mr. Torres is likely to be extradited to the United States after he is processed through the Dominican justice system and given the chance to contest his extradition, Mr. O’Hearn said.

Marc Lacey reported from Mexico City and Ian Urbina from New York. Kitty Bennett contributed research from St. Petersburg, Fla.

Full story at

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Minnesota man busted for trafficking wife and threatening daughter

By Michael Sheridan
Thursday, March 18th 2010, 3:43 PM

A Minnesota man has been busted in Chicago for pimping out his wife via craigslist — and allegedly threatened to hurt their 3-year-old daughter if she didn't obey.

Clinton Danner, 32, was charged with pandering after he traveled to the Windy City in order to allegedly punish his wife for failing to keep her sexual appointments, which authorities claim he arranged.

"He told her in a phone call that he was very disappointed in the amount of money she had collected during the weekend," the Cook County sheriff's office said in a statement, "and was personally driving up to get her so he could express that disappointment."

Danner allegedly used craigslist to book clients in eight different states, including New York, Florida and Georgia, as well as Washington, D.C.

He would travel with her and their 3-year-old girl, living in a minivan, while the woman engaged in sex for money, officials said.

Danner began pimping his wife, whose name has not been released, when she became pregnant four years ago, said Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Erin Antonietti.

"He met his wife when he was 27 and she was 17 while he was her church youth counselor," Antonietti told the court during Danner's bond hearing on Wednesday.

"She became pregnant with his child and he continued to pimp her out while she was pregnant."

Authorities claim he forced her to have sex with strangers in Minnesota, but in the past six months expanded his business nationwide, flying her to different locations for rendezvous with men.

The woman had attempted to flee but feared for her child's safety.

"The victim indicated said Danner regularly threatened he would take the child away from her or harm the child if she did not comply with his demands that she prostitute herself on his behalf," said a sheriff's office statement.

"As part of his efforts, Danner never allowed the woman to be left alone with the child."

Danner's wife eventually reached out to the Polaris Project, an organization that combats human trafficking, which led her to the Department of Women's Justice Services, part of the sheriff's department.

"The victim was initially apprehensive about working with DWJS staff and spent the weekend carrying out some of her husband's orders," the sheriff's office statement said. "But during that time, she agreed to work with DWJS."

When Danner arrived in Chicago on Sunday, he was arrested. The child was with him, and both she and her mother are now together, authorities said.

Danner, who has prior convictions for lottery fraud, narcotics and burglary, is being held on $150,000 bail.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

South Africa "magnet" for human trafficking

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's "open, cosmopolitan" society was being used to facilitate human trafficking, a United Nations representative said on Wednesday.

"The fact is that South Africa is being used because of its (technical and travel) infrastructure. Its cosmopolitan society is being used for the facilitation of crime," UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) national project co-ordinator for trafficking Johan Kruger said.

"Its own open society and democracy environment is conducive to trafficking."

Kruger said organised crime syndicates were using another of South Africa's attributes, its economic strength, to aid their profitable human trafficking endeavours.

Economic pull

UNODC international law enforcement advisor Patrik Engstrom concurred that economic factors were drawing human traffickers.

"The strong economic pull factor in the region is not just for people, but for traffickers," he said.

"I'm absolutely convinced that it is a real problem with South Africa."

Kruger and Engstrom were speaking on the sidelines of a workshop on international co-operation in trafficking in persons and smuggling migrants in Johannesburg.

The workshop was hosted by the UNODC and Southern African Development Community (SADC).

UNODC regional representative Jonathan Lucas said a lack of legislation had hindered law enforcement against human trafficking in the SADC.

"In the whole of the SADC region there has not been a single conviction for human trafficking," Lucas told reporters.


Only five of the 15 SADC countries had proposed legislation to deal specifically with human trafficking - Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa.

South Africa's draft anti-trafficking legislation was only tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

Six SADC countries were receiving legal and technical help to draft legislation against human trafficking.

Lucas did, however, single out South Africa favourably, because it had prosecuted human traffickers by using existing legislation against such crimes as fraud and extortion.

Combating human trafficking was also difficult because of a lack of statistics kept by affected countries.

"To counter trafficking in persons more forcefully and adopt appropriate strategies, we need increased and better information," Lucas said.

Knowledge gap

"We discovered that some countries do not collect even basic data about trafficking in persons. In others, the information is incomplete."

"This knowledge gap enables criminals to operate in the shadows, while we grope in the dark," he said.

The lack of information had also affected how the scale of the problem was perceived in South Africa.

"In this country, people are being taken away. It's definitely a country being taken away from," said Kruger.

"Mostly for sexual exploitation to labour exploitation."

Sexual exploitation comprised not only prostitution, but also pornography, including child pornography.

Kruger said the dearth of information made it difficult to know whether the problem was one of trafficked persons being brought into the country to work, being recruited in South Africa, or only stopping in South Africa before being taken elsewhere.


Engstrom said his office had recently launched a 36-month project to improve human trafficking detection at borders and international airports.

This would include document examination sites at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, King Shaka Airport in Durban, and Cape Town International Airport.

Immigration officials on the borders would also receive training to help them stop potential victims of human trafficking.

Engstrom cautioned that many human traffickers took advantage of fraudulent documents and entry procedures rather than open borders.

Presently, the UNODC border programme would only assist South Africa.

But Engstrom said if it was successful it would encourage better monitoring in other SADC countries and co-operation across borders.

Something that would be necessary as the region drew closer.

"When a region integrates like this you will reach a point where you need to do it with regional co-operation," Engstrom said.

Original Article from

Friday, March 12, 2010

Nigerian traffickers using voodoo to enslave women

German federal police say they have noticed a disturbing new trend in human trafficking. Some Nigerian traffickers are manipulating a belief in a traditional religion related to voodoo to intimidate their victims.
A recent investigation of 600 brothels by the Greman Federal Criminal Police uncovered at least 170 Nigerian women working illegally as prostitutes. Authorities determined that 50 of them were victims of human trafficking.

Nigeria is one of many countries to have signed the United Nations Protocol against human trafficking. But some young Nigerian women as young as 15 are still smuggled to Germany and elsewhere in Europe to work in the sex trade.

Federal Police Inspector Markus Steiner has been checking on the brothels around Frankfurt's central train station, where the city's red light district is located.

"This is the neighborhood where a girl from a village in Nigeria arrives. In a foreign city where neither the language nor the culture is known to her, where fighting is normal and where even a German person would be uncomfortable," Steiner told Deutsche Welle.

One brothel he visits, a huge, red-lit house topped by sculptures of nude women, has a parking lot full of posh cars.

Steiner said that more than 140 women work there, but the number of prostitutes working each day in the neighborhood around the train station totals about 500.

"At the moment we might not find any African prostitutes, well no Nigerians, anyway," Steiner said. "For us this is a success. But one has to admit that just because no Nigerian victims are found here, that doesn't mean there are fewer victims of human trafficking. It just means that the victims have been sent to other cities like Hannover, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Munich and elsewhere in Germany."

'Voodoo oath'

The Nigerian trafficking networks frequently use a set of traditional beliefs, commonly referred to in the West as voodoo, to intimidate and manipulate their victims.

Belief in voodoo is very strong in parts of Nigeria, and the women are often forced to make an oath by one of the religion's priests, in which they swear obedience to their trafficker or pimp.

Most of the illegal Nigerian prostitutes caught by the police have a lot of stories to tell, but getting them to talk can be difficult. It takes a lot of experience and patience for police to get the real truth from these women - and only then are they able to help them. Because the police are aware of the dangers for trafficking victims who return home, the women are offered political asylum.

'Not easy to say something'

Ritha Ekweza has been through this process. She began working as a prostitute in Germany in September 2007. After being caught, she testified in court in Frankfurt against her sponsor. After the trial, she explains with tears in her eyes how painful it was to have to recall everything she underwent during her time as a prostitute.

"It is not easy to stand and say something, but the thing is, when they bring the girls here, they will just tell them that everything is good, everything is easier, but when you come here it's not the same situation," said Ekweza. "They will bring you and take advantage of you."

Once Ekweza was brought to Europe, her traffickers informed her that she had to pay back some 60,000 euros ($82,000) to them for her flight and other expenses. She worked as a prostitute seven days a week, sometimes attending to more than 18 men a day, to pay off the debt.

In May 2008, she was jailed in Frankfurt for being an illegal prostitute. But together with police and a local women's rights NGO, she overcame her fear of breaking the voodoo oath. She now works as a hairdresser, and has started a family. She still receives counseling from a local NGO called FIM, or Women's Rights are Human Rights. Ekweza is one of more than 900 African women the organization serves as clients each year.

"We try to stabilize her, socially and psychologically," said Elvira Niesner, a coordinator with FIM. "We look [to make sure] that she feels secure. That is very important, and she will get the money from the officials to survive."

But the biggest challenge remains that of countering the belief in voodoo, which complicates efforts to stop human trafficking from Nigeria. Although police are able to help some women escape from the traffickers, most end up returning to prostitution.

They still want to fulfil their promise of paying back the 60,000 euros that they made in front of a priest in Nigeria.

Author: Asumpta Lattus/svs
Editor: Rob Turner