Grandma’s a Pimp Now, Too

Grandmas: Aren’t they great? Baking cookies, passing down family traditions, and spoiling grandkids are the usual, endearing job descriptors. But Tecora Brown’s grandkids can add “pimp” to that list, as their grandma helped run a sex trafficking ring in New Jersey.

Sold out by her son, Allen E. Brown, also known as “Prince,” the 73-old-woman pleaded guilty in court this month to promoting prostitution between 2000 and 2004, while Brown used her home to run his business. Brown himself admitted to recruiting girls for prostitution since 1990, hitting up places like nightclubs and bus stations and promising “the good life.” His version of the good life? Forced use of heroin and cocaine, beatings, total mind control, $1000 nightly quotas, and virtual imprisonment, among other “luxuries.” One girl was especially lucky, extorted for $500,000 after the lives of both herself and her family were threatened.

Prince Not-So-Charming had several cohorts, all of whom have been arrested and charged for their various degrees of complicity. And Brown will likely be sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison for both the human trafficking ring and the extortion — disgustingly weak, considering the lives he has ruined, and the methodical, violent way in which he ruined them. But that’s another post for another day; today, we’re talking about Grandma.

We can only assume that before Grandma opened her home to her son and his rape factory, she was at least marginally aware of his activities, for what mother doesn’t ask her grown children about their job? And while she actually played the part of Grandma Pimp, what exactly was her degree of complicity? I do hope that factor was thoroughly explored before arriving at her sentence, which will likely be between one and five years of probation, with the forfeiture of two vehicles. Is this slap on the wrist enough? How important should age be when sentencing a human trafficker?


The Mafia Caught Prostituting Kids on Craigslist

It looks like Craigslist is no longer just the tool of small-time pimps and human traffickers selling children for sex. They’ve moved up in the world and have successfully attracted the mother of all criminals: the mafia.

That’s right: the Gambino crime family, one of the most famous mob names in the U.S., was caught hocking young teens on Craigslist. When the mob starts using you to pimp kids, Craigslist, you know you’re a big-time child prostitution peddler. Ready to make a real change, yet?

The recent bust, which indicted 14 accused mafia members, was full of the sort of charges the mob usually sees — murder, extortion, etc. But this was the first time human trafficking made it onto the list for a case of this magnitude against the Gambinos. It’s just one more sign that human trafficking is a growing criminal enterprise, and that outfits like the Gambinos, who previously limited themselves to running drugs or guns, are now selling people. Specifically, they’re selling teen girls for sex, and they’re selling them on Craigslist.

Gambino soldier Thomas Orefice was in charge of watching over the girls, who supposedly ranged in ages from 15 to 19 years old. But federal officers have said that at least one of the girls looked much, much younger. The girls were advertised on Craigslist, and driven to appointments with buyers by the mob. They also shipped the girls out to Vegas and around to other high stakes poker games in Mafia-run facilities, as prizes for the gamblers there. When the girls had sex with the poker players, any fee for their services went directly into the pot of money. Otherwise, they sometimes got to keep half of what they were paid.


How Many Kids Can One Senator Marry?

Nigerian Senator Ahmed Yerima is in the process of redefining “political scandal.” That’s because Senator Yerima just got engaged to his fourth wife, who just happens to be a 13-year-old girl he’s importing to Nigeria from Egypt, despite the fact that she’s not old enough to consent to marriage and such an act is against Nigerian law. Mover over Mark Foley, there’s a skeezier politician in town.

Senator Yermina has been married at least four times (simultaneously) before. He recently divorced his first fourth wife who, despite years of marriage and a baby, is still well below legal voting age in Nigeria. Her age at marriage is unclear, but she was very young. To replace her, he arranged to import a 13-year-old girl from Egypt into Nigeria and marry her. Since directly transporting a child from Egypt to Nigeria for forced marriage is illegal, Yerima allegedly used his political connections to route her through neighboring countries. He also allegedly paid her family around $100,000 as a bride price. If that’s not buying a child for sex, I don’t know what is.

Because no political scandal comes without a hearty dose of irony, it turns out Sen. Yermia has served on the anti-corruption committee of the Senate for a number of years. Hmmm … a member of the anti-corruption committee using his political clout and money to traffic a child across international borders so he can illegally marry her? That sounds preposterous. Almost like dozens of members of a political party that runs on a homophobic, family values platform cheating on their spouse with a series of gay sex scandals. Oh, wait … that’s the U.S. I’m thinking of.


Radio Show Praises Steven Seagal for Keeping Sex Slaves

Time will tell whether or not Steven Seagal really moonlights as a sex trafficker. But while we’re waiting for the outcome of this case, it goes without saying that sex slavery is no laughing matter, right? Apparently not: Shane French, a.k.a. Rover of Rover’s Morning Glory in Columbus, OH, seems to think it’s hilarious and recently praised Seagal on his radio show, calling the actor a “hero” and “the man.”

The oh-so-witty banter over this topic continued, wherein Rover and his co-hosts fantasized about taking in their own sex slaves. When a female co-host observed that what they were discussing was illegal, the response was, “Who would tell? The slut?”

Wow. Have you fallen off the couch yet, barely able to contain your laughter?

A state-chapter member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) heard the broadcast and didn’t find it very funny, either. So she called in to the station in order to voice her outrage. Greeted charmingly with, “Would you like to be Rover’s sex slave?” the NASW member replied, “No.” She went on to state her purpose of telling Rover and his cohorts that sex slavery is a crime. She then did just that, pointing out that their subject of mockery was called human trafficking, and their unfunny approach failed to respect human beings. Morning Glory’s response? Talking loudly amongst themselves over the NASW member and finally saying, “Someone needs to shove something in your month and exploit you. Thanks for calling … ” Click.

Yeah, it went like that.


U.S. Spends 0.1% of War on Drugs Budget Fighting Human Trafficking

If the budget of the U.S. government is a reflection of our national priorities, then our national priorities are seriously out of whack. That’s because, according to a recent special edition of Larry King Live focused on human trafficking, the U.S. government’s budget to fight trafficking of people is about 0.1% of its budget to fight trafficking of drugs. Does this mean that the government really thinks it’s 1000 times more important to find an ounce of cocaine or marijuana, than a little girl in a brothel, an immigrant being beaten in a field, or a domestic worker enslaved inside a home?

USAID esimates that the government spent around $134 million a year on programs to combat human trafficking between 2001 and 2008. That averages out to about $17 million a year. As far as congressional budgets go, this is chump change. According to the always ticking War on Drugs clock, the government has spent at least $13 billion this year, and spent $19 billion in 2003. And in case you’re wondering, that means the average annual expenditure on anti-trafficking programs is exactly 0.1307% of the estimated expenditure on the war on drug so far this year.

Given the question, I think most people would agree that it is a greater national priority to go after criminals who are enslaving, and in some case killing, innocent people, than those who are bringing in illegal drugs to make some kid’s spring break in Dayton Beach a little more interesting. So why is the financial gap so huge? Is it simply because drug trafficking and abuse is a better documented problem which has had more time to seep into the American psyche? Is it the force of inertia, that keeps multiple agencies on the trail of narcotics while human beings are smuggled across borders and from state to state with impunity? Or is it simply that drugs touch the lives of more voters and taxpayers (who doesn’t have at least one friend or family member who has struggled with addiction) than human trafficking does.


Child Trafficking Are Children Property?

Kids are great. They’re miniature versions of us, with smaller bodies, less-developed minds, and a whole lot less emotional baggage than we grown-ups have. But we decided a long time ago that kids don’t have all the fully autonomous rights that adults do until they reach a certain age.

So what are children before they are adults? Are they people? Are they the property of their parents? Are they something in between, that we don’t have a clear legal category for? While the idea of children as the property of their parents stretches back to the beginning of human history, it’s causing some very modern problems with children being sold into slavery.

The idea of children as property of the family is an old one, and not necessarily nefarious. In agricultural communities, children are an asset to the family farm, able to work it when the family can’t afford hired labor. In large families, older children will take care of the younger ones. And parents have controlled their children’s movements, speech, and general outlook on life for centuries. In fact, one of the major criticisms of modern parenting is that parents don’t treat their children enough like property; when everything is the child’s choice, that can lead to spoiled, self-centered grownups. So how can the idea of children as property be harmful?

As technology and globalization shrink the world, people are increasingly pushing the idea of children as property outside of the family and into the world. Children are being forced into marriage by their families, a concept which only exists if you first think of the child as the property of the parents, able to be controlled and compelled by them. Children are also sold by their families into forced labor, forced prostitution, and domestic servitude. How can you sell what you don’t already own? And the idea of children as property extends beyond families who treat them that way. The trafficker who buys a child from his mother now treats that child as property. And the man who buys sex from a child in a brothel or on the street treats her as an object of his pleasure, not as a human being.


See No Slavery, Hear No Slavery, Speak No Slavery

Next to my fabulous co-bloggers, I’m a relative newcomer to the anti-slavery movement. No less passionate — but still in that stage of the game where lack of interest toward this cause surprises me. I guess I’m not jaded enough, yet, to shrug my shoulders and go on my merry, abolitionist way. Learning and writing about this issue has given me the opportunity to share the topic with others who aren’t aware of what of “human trafficking” means, and that it occurs both all over the world and in the U.S. But, beyond that initial conversation of, “So, what’s your job at all about?” I generally find that people aren’t so keen on hearing, much less doing, more about modern-day slavery.

I can think of lots of reasons why not. First of all, not everyone is an activist — and that’s okay. I wasn’t born an activist, and I think it’s important to recognize that, like many other roles, it’s one you adopt if and when you are ready for it. In addition, already-existing activists might be interested in human trafficking, but already have their plates full with their own cause, or causes. I get that, too.

Exposure is an issue. If it’s not on the nightly news, will mainstream America know about it? Will they consider it important when they do? Stories and stats make a subject meaningful, but human trafficking is shadowy crime, tricky to pin down for the sake of victim testimonies and hard data. Without those, it’s sort of difficult to broadcast a report.

And then there’s framing: Does the average American hear about an underage prostitute and correctly think “human trafficking victim?” Do they even think “victim?” Or, do they automatically jump to “criminal?”


A Clockwork Orange 7 Ways to Save “Steven Seagal Lawman”

As close readers know, Clockwork is a huuuuuuuge fan of Steven Seagal Lawman. Sadly, the A&E reality series has shut down due to silly allegations of sexual harassment, illegal trafficking of females for sex, failure to prevent sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and false representations about employment lodged against the actor/lawman.

First, can you imagine how much better the show would have been if all those things had happened in front of the cameras? Personal assistant Kayden Nguyen alleges Steven Seagal had two Russian hookers at the ready to fulfill his sex needs. Russian hookers = ratings gold. They spent an entire Lawman last season debating whether to kill rats, fer chrissakes.

B) No doubt rejoicing are the thugs, petty criminals and assorted scum of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, where Steven Seagal served as deputy chief of the reserve deputies. (Don’t go telling me that was a title made up for the reality show; Steven Seagal was the only member of the force always shown in a flak jacket with “Sheriff” emblazoned across the chest.)

Well, good citizens of Jefferson Parish, rejoice. Clockwork presents seven ways to save Steven Seagal Lawman.

* Weave in a plot line about how Steven Seagal was performing an undercover sex trafficking investigation. Why hadn’t Steven Seagal told anyone Steven Seagal was performing an undercover sex trafficking investigation? Because he’s Steven Seagal! Steven Seagal doesn’t follow the suits’ “rules.”

* Point out that the two Russian hookers were actually Sgt. Larry Dyess and Captain Alex Norman in drag.

* Blame it all on PTKSD (Post Traumatic Katrina Stress Disorder).

* Explain Steven Seagal did not reach Steven Seagal’s ham hands up the skirt, try to touch the breasts and stick his ham hands down the pants of Nguyen on her first night just for jollies. Steven Seagal was teaching the 23-year-old the proper way to pat down a perp.

* As for repeating the unscheduled pat down the next day, state that Steven Seagal was again giving a lesson. As Steven Seagal’s sensei taught Steven Seagal: repetition, repetition, repetition!

* Let Fortunato take the fall. Works every time!

* Change the name of the series to Steven Seagal Lawman? Not So Much.


Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 2:36 am  Comments (1)  
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Human Trafficking in Alabama

“It’s just really significant for our state to not be the last for a change.  We do not need to be the last in this one.”

Sunny Slaughter is the Education Chair of Freedom to Thrive, a group dedicated to bringing an end to human trafficking, not just in places as far away as Cambodia, but also here in Alabama.

“Oh yes, we do have human trafficking cases here in Alabama.  We have human trafficking indicators as well,” says Slaughter.

That’s why advocates, such as Slaughter, are pushing to get legislation passed which would increase prosecution of cases, stiffen penalties, and provide protection to victims.

“This is a great way to let traffickers know that Alabama is serious about prosecution.”

Slaughter also emphasizes that law enforcement and citizens need to know what human trafficking looks like.

What’s now called domestic minor sex trafficking used to be called juvenile prostitution.

With only a couple of legislative days left in the session, Slaughter says it’s absolutely ridiculous that matters such as bingo are at the forefront instead of human trafficking.

“Political posturing with bingo may cause the victimization in our state to go unnoticed…and silence the voices of victims living in crisis.”

There are two identical anti-human trafficking bills, HB 432 and SB 372.  Both have passed through committee.  Slaughter encourages you to contact your legislator to ask that the bills be passed by both houses before the session ends next Thursday, April 22.


Why Forced Marriage is Un-Islamic

Forced marriage is and has been a problem in all cultures and religions. From the fundamentalist Christian polygamist sects of the American west, to Israeli cult leaders, to the sale of child brides from Hindu families in India, religion has been used as a justification to enslave and control girls and women in marriages against their will. However, most of the recent stories of forced marriage and child brides in the news have centered around Islamic countries and cultures. So is forced marriage supported by Islam, or is it “un-Islamic?”

The recent case of a 12-year-old Yemini girl who bled to death after being forced to marry a man (and subsequently raped by him) has brought the spotlight to shine squarely upon the issue of child brides in Muslim countries. Some scholars and humanitarians have claimed that the serious, almost obsessive valuing of female chastity until marriage in many Muslim countries and communities leads families to “preserve” girl children’s virtue by forcing them to marry before they develop an interest in sex. Others have claimed that the lack of political freedom and economic equality of women in Muslim countries contributes to the problem. Regardless of the cause and even though forced marriage is far from a uniquely Muslim problem, it seems to be rampant in Muslim countries.

Tariq Ramadan, a world-renowned Swiss Islamic scholar, says that despite that pattern, forced marriage violates the basic tenets of Islam, and it’s time Muslim religious leaders began to speak out against it. Ramadan points out that Muslim religious texts, traditions, and social mores are interpreted by human beings — just like those of every world religion. Traditions and values change over time as human beings learn more about the world around them. Practices which were once acceptable to people of faith (slavery, child abuse, racism) should no longer be tolerated by religious tradition. And forced or child marriage is one of these “traditional” practices which needs to evolve with the growing importance of basic human rights for women around the world. Islam, Ramadan says, just needs to evolve its traditions into the 21st centrury.