Friday, August 20, 2010

Human trafficking ring busted in Los Angeles

BALDWIN PARK -- Police have arrested two men accused of human trafficking after 36 suspected illegal immigrants were found inside a Baldwin Park house believed to have been used as a holding cell.

At around 7:00 p.m., officers form the Baldwin Park Police Department say they received a call from an alarmed man claiming to be an illegal immigrant being held against his will.

Arriving officers saw several suspects fleeing the home in the 5000 block of La Rica Road in Baldwin Park.

After an investigation, officers discovered several men, women and one child being held inside the home.

Police believe they had been in the residence for up to one month.

They were smuggled into the country illegally from Mexico and Central America and were being held until family members paid a certain sum of money, Lt. David Reynoso said.

Image from showing officers outside of slave home

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nail salons front for human trafficking in Ohio

What is described as a multimillion-dollar human-trafficking scheme is operating out of nail salons in Ohio, with immigrants from Southeast Asia - many of them illegal - being forced to work as "indentured servants" in exchange for passage to the U.S.

Kevin L. Miller, executive director of the Ohio Board of Cosmetology, said he expects "indictments and arrests" statewide in the next 60 days or so. State and local law-enforcement agencies, the FBI, Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are investigating, he said.

The legal problems involve human trafficking, illegal immigration, identify theft, fraudulent license testing and potential national security threats, said Miller, who added that he could not provide specifics because of the ongoing investigation.

The matter came up at yesterday's meeting of the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, convened by Attorney General Richard Cordray.

"It's a huge concern in most jurisdictions around the state of Ohio," Cordray said.

The cosmetology board annually licenses 145,000 people who work in nail shops, hair salons and tanning parlors.

"We're talking just in the state of Ohio about thousands of people who have fraudulently got their licenses," Miller said.

He told the commission that immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries, often brought illegally to the U.S. for a price, are given "laundered" false identities, including fake high-school diplomas, driver's licenses, immigration papers and other documents.

The employee then becomes an "indentured servant," working for the employer for two years for little or sometimes no money to pay off their debt. Often, the employees are required to live on the premises. The agency documented one case where 16 licensees lived at the same address.

Neither Miller nor Cordray commented specifically about homeland security issues. However, in his report to the commission, Miller referred by means of background to Najibullah Zazi, an al-Qaida operative who plotted to blow up New York subway stations using chemicals found in nail polish remover and hair dye.

The problem of illegal immigrants working in nail salons has cropped up in the past in Ohio and nationwide, but little has been done.

"It's easy to hide in plain sight," Miller said. "If they can get a driver's license, an address, a place where they went to school, they're all set."

The human-trafficking commission also discussed the need for more training for Ohio law-enforcement agencies. A majority of agencies which responded to a 2009 survey doubted their ability to recognize signs of human and labor trafficking; all wanted more training.

Lt. Matt Warren, head of the State Highway Patrol's criminal intelligence unit and a member of the human-trafficking panel, cited two cases in 2009 when training paid off in rescuing underage girls who were likely to become trafficking victims.

He said a trooper stopped an Idaho trucker for speeding near Athens last year and was suspicious about the 17-year-old girl in the passenger seat. Trained to recognize the signs of human trafficking, the trooper began asking questions and found the trucker was a sex offender who met the mentally challenged teenager online, picked her up in Marion and was transporting her when he was stopped for the traffic violation.

Similarly, a seemingly routine stop rescued a 17-year-old Detroit girl who was being trafficked at truck stops in the Lima and Dayton areas.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

UK says 2,600 women trafficked to brothels

(Reuters) - Almost 10 percent of women working in brothels in England and Wales are migrants who are victims of human trafficking and come mainly from Asia, police said on Wednesday.

A report by the Association of Chief Police Officers into the sexual exploitation of foreign nationals found that 17,000 of the 30,000 women who worked in brothels or other similar premises were migrants

Of these, 2,600 were deemed to have been trafficked, with 2,200 originally from Asia, mainly China. A further 9,200 women were considered to be vulnerable and who might be further victims of trafficking.
The "Setting the Record" report was the result of a year-long study titled Project Acumen, commissioned by ACPO to discover the true extent of trafficking in "off-street prostitution."

"It provides us with a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of how migrant women are involved in prostitution -- how they are influenced, controlled, coerced, exploited and trafficked," said Deputy Chief Constable Chris Eyre.

The government said that in order to tackle the issue it was important they had a better understanding of the problem.

"Human trafficking is a brutal form of organised crime where people are traded as commodities and exploited for profit by criminal gangs," said Immigration Minister Damian Green

"Having any number of people trafficked into the UK is unacceptable, therefore it is vital that we use Acumen to re-focus our efforts both at targeting the criminal gangs that trade in this human misery and in helping victims escape and recover from their ordeal."

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)

Monday, August 16, 2010

FBI busts human trafficking ring in Florida

A 15-year-old Jacksonville runaway is safe and getting therapy after the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says she spent a month as a sex slave.

Ian Sean Gordan and Melvin Eugene Friedman have been indicted on federal felony counts of selling the 15-year-old girl to customers between February 24 and March 31.

Three other men, Oris Alexander English, Alfredo Martinez Riquene and Phillip Anthony Aiken have been arrested for buying the victim from Gordan and Friedman.

A sixth man, Antonio Ford, is charged with having knowledge of the child exploitation and failing to report the felonies to authorities.

"Such trafficking in the nature of this operation was tanamount to slavery," Sheriff John Rutherford said at a Monday afternoon news conference announcing the indictments. "The victim was forced to engage in acts of prostitution in exchange for money, shelter and drugs."

Police would not elaborate on how the girl became involved with the suspects, but say she was held against her will until she was able to escape and call her mother.

Officials from the FBI believe the girl was held in several different locations around Jacksonville during her month in captivity and say it's possible more arrests are made in connection with this case.

"We had a case some time ago involving juveniles that were trafficked down here from Virginia," Mike Williams with the Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Unit said. "But this is the first local case that we've put together that involves a local citizen. And it's important to point out that human trafficking is not just an international or national problem. It's a local problem. And that's why we're so committed to rooting it out."