Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Florida woman pleads guilty to charge of sex slavery

LEE COUNTY: A Southwest Florida woman pled guilty to charges relating to sex slavery. NBC2's Stacey Deffenbaugh was the only reporter in court as the woman told the judge what happened.

During the one hour hearing Tuesday, 31-year-old, Naomi Vasquez told the judge she and a co-defendant would give illegal drugs to the victims and make them perform acts of prostitution for money.

Click the links in the "Related Stories" section at the right to read the original article on Vasquez as well other NBC2 articles on sex slavery and human trafficking.
A 19-page plea agreement gives specific details of what happened. Police arrested Vasquez and co-defendant Derek Ned after two undercover operations.

The three victims - all Cape Coral women, ages 27, 25 and 20 - worked with police to set up undercover stings and at the La Quinta Inn in Fort Myers and another location in Bonita Springs.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the defendants were involved in a sex slavery organization that utilized women of Haitian and American descent, forcing them to commit acts of prostitution by threatening the women with serious bodily injury if they did not prostitute themselves.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors outlined the case, saying the women performed as many as 10 acts of prostitution a day.

They received between $150 and $300 and investigators say Vasquez and Ned kept all the money.

The women told police they were afraid to leave because they heard Ned say he was a murderer and he was willing to kill again.

Vasquez is facing 20 years in prison. But in court, prosecutors said they will be recommending the low end the sentence guideline.

As for Derek Ned, prosecutors believe he was the mastermind of the sex slavery business and they will ask for a longer sentence in his case.

By Stacey Deffenbaugh

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Anti-Human Trafficking Activists protest against Craigslist in San Francisco

A large group of protesters is gathering outside Craigslist headquarters in San Francisco today to protest what they say is the facilitation of sex trafficking by the popular classified-ad website.

Dozens of human rights and anti-trafficking organizations will participate in the protest, scheduled for noon outside 1381 Ninth Ave.

The groups will be asking Craigslist to remove its "Adult Services" section, which they say encourages sexual exploitation.

Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, said Craigslist has "defied and defeated" state attorneys general, a lawsuit, and members of Congress who have tried to take on the company.

"Nothing seems to get the message to this company that they are contributing to human trafficking in a very significant way, so we are bringing this message to their doorstep," Ramos said.

A spokesperson for Craigslist was not immediately available for comment.

Ramos said the protest will feature picket lines, signs and a handful of speakers, including authors Aaron Cohen and Victor Malarek, and actress Terria Joseph, who is the mother of singer Alicia Keys.

She said she hopes the protest will convince the company to change its policy.

"It's a very simple request: stop hosting these ads, which are being used to facilitate human trafficking," Ramos said.

A group of sex workers is also headed to Craigslist headquarters today for a counterprotest, said Rachel West, a spokeswoman for the US PROStitutes Collective.

The human rights groups are asking for a change that West said would put more women in danger rather than save them from exploitation.

"It's pushing prostitution underground and making women more vulnerable to rape, violence and arrest," she said. "By closing down ways for women to be able to advertise, and working more safely indoors, we'll put women in more vulnerable positions."

Craigslist gets more than 20 billion page views per month, the seventh-highest total worldwide among English-language sites, and has more than 50 million users in the U.S. alone, according to the company's website.

Photo of protest: Tweetpic by Greg Dewar (@njudah)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

5 Ukrainian brothers charged with human trafficking in Philly

Four Ukrainian brothers are under arrest and a fifth is being sought on charges that for seven years they staffed their Philadelphia cleaning business with illegal immigrants kept in virtual bondage by threats, intimidation and rape.

U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said the brothers found the mostly male workers in their native Ukraine, and smuggled them in through Mexico with the promise of a legitimate job.

Instead, they worked 16 hour days cleaning retail and grocery stores and were paid little, if anything. The crimes are alleged to have occurred between 2000 and 2007.

Memeger described the brothers as "human smugglers" who kept the workers in "involuntary servitude."

One smuggled immigrant, a woman, was repeatedly raped by the oldest brother "in order to keep her in control" said Memeger. He was identified as Moylan "Milo" Botsvynyuk, 51, who was arrested Wednesday in Germany on an Interpol warrant and will be returned to the United States.

The Botsvynyuks brothers confiscated the victims travel documents, and housed them five or six to a room as they were shuttled between jobs in New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Washington D.C.

Moylan Botsvynyuk ran work crews out of a residence on the 3200 block of Aramingo Avenue, in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, court records say. The home, a former retail shop, is in a neighborhood of well-kept row houses. The brothers also housed work crews in other nearby houses.

About 30 victims were brought into the country illegally. Eight of the victims - two women and six men - have been identified and are cooperating with investigators, Memeger said. They will likely be allowed to remain in the country legally.

"They are all recovering from a very traumatizing experience," said FBI Special Agent Ned Conway.

One brother, Stepan Botsvynyuk, 35, was arrested in Philadelphia and was ordered held without bail pending a hearing next week. The other brothers had left the country after 2007 when the cleaning business was closed.

Two of them, Mykhaylo Botsvynyuk and Yaroslav "Slavko" Churuk, 41, were arrested by Canadian police. Dmytro Botsvynyuk is in Ukraine, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

All the brothers were unaware of the investigation until law enforcement officials in the three nations swept in and placed them under arrest, said FBI Assistant Special Agent-In-Charge Douglas E. Linquist.

The cleaning business in Philadelphia operated under a variety of names, and provided night time work crews at large and small grocery stores, and chains including Target, KMart, Walmart and Safeway.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel A. Velez said the large discounters did not hire the immigrants directly, and were likely unaware of their status.

Many of the victims were fresh out of the Ukrainian military and looking for a better life overseas. But upon arrival, the workers were told they owed at least $10,000 to the Botsyynyuk brothers, and had to work for essentially no pay until that debt was considered paid off.

After some workers escaped, the brothers "resorted to. . .threats to the workers families in Ukraine." One worker was told an eight-year-old daughter in the Ukraine would be forced into prostitution.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI, Immigration and Customers Enforcement and state and local police.

The brothers had all entered this country on tourist visas, but overstayed the time limit, law enforcement officials said.

Memeger and Lindquist said the investigation, which started in 2005 with a tip from overseas, was lengthy because of language barriers, fear, and a mistrust of American police after experiences with law enforcement in their homeland.