Colorado officials’ crackdown on human trafficking and prostitution

Human trafficking is on the rise in Colorado. Enforcement officers are working to remove offenders from the community, but these efforts could lead to wrongful convictions.

The FBI is making efforts across the nation to put an end to human trafficking, a crime that is becoming more prevalent in Colorado in recent years. According to the FBI’s Operation Cross Country VII, part of the Innocence Lost Task Force, Colorado ranked fourth in the nation for the number of operation arrests. The FBI admits that many of these individuals are likely “victims, not suspects,” according to a recent report in The Gazette. Officials arrested nine suspects in a span of three days in July, charged with connections to prostitution offenses. Colorado enforcement agencies also participated in earlier investigations that resulted in the issuance of sex crime charges. One conducted in June of 2013 focused on escorts who advertised online. The operation led to 12 arrests for prostitution related offenses. Another focused on an establishment in Golden called Happy Feet. The massage business was accused of prostitution, money laundering and tax evasion. Authorities note that they will help victims of these crimes that are pulled in from other countries. Victims are often brought to the country with the promise of a new life. Once they enter the country they must first pay off

the debt through either illegal work practices or commercial sex. Human trafficking and prostitution in Colorado Human trafficking is referred to as a modern day form of slavery. The term refers to the use of humans for exploitation and generally falls into one of two categories: forced labor or commercial sex. Operations run by the FBI focusing on prostitution are often concerned that human trafficking violations may also be present. Police departments throughout the state are concerned the level of human trafficking has increased and are reaching out to The Colorado Trafficking and Organized Crime Coalition (CTOCC) to assist in investigating and combating these violations. Agencies work to hold offenders accountable, but their efforts could lead to false accusations Although it is important to hold those who violate these laws accountable for their actions, it is equally important to drop any charges against those who are falsely accused of sex crimes. A false accusation could lead to a conviction that would negatively impact the accused for the rest of his or her life. Those accused of these crimes must take the charges seriously. A conviction can lead to various penalties, including imprisonment, monetary penalties and the need to register as a sex offender. Defenses are available that can lead to the reduction or even dismissal of charges. Contact an experienced Colorado sex crime lawyer to discuss your case and potential defenses.

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Published in: on October 10, 2013 at 10:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kara Nichols Missing Update: Colorado Teenager Model Photo Found on Website, Victim of Human Sex Trafficking?

A 19-year-old Colorado teen model named Kara Nichols was reported missing less than two months. Recently, photos of the teenager was found on a Las Vegas escort service website. This may provide clues for the police investigation to find the young aspiring model.

The erotic photos that were discovered were taken down from the website and there has been no more confirmed reports about Nichols being in Las Vegas.

“We had not seen those photos. Those are not in her bedroom. I don’t know if they are a Photoshopped situation or not,” Michelle Bart said representing Nichols’ family. “Unfortunately, this has definitely shaken the family quite a bit, that somebody would be this vicious.”

Nichols’ family and friends have not heard from her since October 9, 2012, when she apparently left to attend to a modeling gig in Denver, Colorado.

The illegal sex industry is a subculture that has long exploited young aspiring models to be involved in “illicit drugs and prostitution.” CBS affiliate KLAS reported that Nichols may have fallen victim to human sex trafficking.

There were some sites related to the illegal business in the search history of the websites Nichols visited.

If anyone has information regarding the missing teenager, please contact El Paso County Sherirff’s Office at 719-390-5555 or Crime Stoppers at 719-634-STOP.

Published in: on December 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Three girls arrested in local sex trade sweep

Three girls were arrested on charges of prostitution during a four-day roundup of those involved in the sex trade industry in the valley, Las Vegas police said Thursday.

Sgt. Gil Shannon with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Vice Section said the sweep, which took place June 19-22, was intended to rescue children caught in the sex trade.

“Even one is successful when you’re taking children off streets who are engaging in prostitution,” Shannon said.

In addition, 61 adult prostitutes and five pimps were arrested locally during the sweep, dubbed “Operation Cross Country.”

Shannon wouldn’t disclose where the three girls were taken, saying only, “We have them in a safe location.”

He also wouldn’t specify the girls’ ages other than to say they were younger than 18.

Shannon said the arrests made only a small dent in the local prostitution market. He estimated that thousands of prostitutes work throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

Shannon said 37 agents with the FBI and Las Vegas police collaborated to make the local arrests.

Nationally, 345 people, including 290 adult prostitutes, were arrested in the sweep in Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and other cities.

In Reno, agents arrested 13 adults.




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Victory! LAPD Releases Detained Trafficking Victims

Last November, a police raid on a Los Angeles club resulted in the arrest and detainment of 80 undocumented women. But instead of listening to their claims of abuse and spotting the many, significant indicators of human trafficking, the LAPD treated the women like criminals and turned them over to ICE. Now, finally, all the women have been released from custody. But the club’s owners and operators and the men who bought and used these trafficked women are still free.

This victory was won by the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights in Los Angeles and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, both of whom worked to get the detained women released, and in some cases, interviewed as possible human trafficking victims. Additionally, over 1,000 members signed a petition demanding that the LAPD stop treating potential trafficking victims like criminals. Thanks to the advocacy of so many, this case has a happy ending. But across the country, trafficked men and women — especially undocumented victims — are treated as criminals and deported before they get a chance to tell their stories.

The remaining failure in the Club 907 case is that the police didn’t arrest any of the people responsible for trafficking, abusing, or taking advantage of these women. Sadly, the double injustice of arresting trafficking victims while their traffickers and buyers go free is not unusual news. In this case, the injustice of arresting victims has been corrected. But as Lauren Markham writes over on the Immigrant Rights blog, the club owners were advertising for more dancers on Craigslist within a week.

The process of reforming police departments to identify potential trafficking victims and treat them as such will be a long one. That’s why the efforts from organizations like CHIR and AILA, as well as grassroots advocacy like members holding police accountable, are so critical to protect human trafficking victims. And maybe next time, this victory will be even more complete when the victims are treated as victims and their abusers are held accountable.





Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Trans-America: Selling Boys for Sex in the U.S. Capitol

Every day in the capitol of the U.S., boys identifying as gay or transgender are bought and sold for sex by adult men. In Washington D.C., suburban “Johns” with gold wedding bands drive nice cars into the city to regularly solicit these youths for sex. LGBTQ sex trafficking, and especially transgender sex trafficking, is a grossly misunderstood issue. Fortunately, Courtney’s House in Washington, D.C. is one of the few organizations in the country recognizing trafficking of LGBTQ people.

While Washington, D.C. is a hotspot for gay and transgender child sex trafficking, it happens across the country. LGBTQ youth, and especially transgender youth, are at an increased risk for sex trafficking for a number of reasons. They are disproportionally disowned by their families, and the social stigma and institutional bias against this vulnerable population has led to a lack of services, opportunity and epidemic homelessness. Pimps take advantage of these vulnerabilities and profit from selling these children to adult men.

Pimps who specialize in selling LGBTQ and homeless youth are often called “Mamas,” and they lure LGBTQ youth into an artificial, twisted family structure. The “Mama,” usually a transgender woman herself, acts as the head of the household and sets quotas for her makeshift family that they must fulfill each night via prostitution.  If they don’t make the required sum of money, they are socially isolated by the “family” and threatened to be kicked out.  The money that each person makes on the streets is handed over to the Mama, who then gives them a small, token amount of spending money.  This inadequate allowance isn’t enough to cover living expenses, forcing them to borrow money from the Mama and keeping them in debt.


Tell Village Voice Media to Stop Child Sex Trafficking on

Child sex trafficking on, owned by Village Voice Media, is becoming a disturbing trend.

Earlier this week a Georgia man was arrested for pimping two 17-year-old girls around the Nashville area. Detectives responded to a suspicious ad on and drove to a motel. There, they found the teens and their 37-year-old pimp, as well as a laptop computer, likely used for the online advertising. Just four days prior to that, four people in Denver were arrested for forcing a teen girl into prostitution. They also advertised her sexual services, including semi-nude pictures, on Backpage. And last year, a South Dakota couple was arrested for selling underage girls for sex on …. wait for it … yet again.

Backpage’s terms of use, of course, prohibit advertising for illegal commercial sex acts or exploiting minors, but both are happening anyway in Nashville, Denver, and Sioux City. And like Craigslist, Backpage and their parent company Village Voice Media are doing little to prevent the sale of children or trafficked adults on their site. Village Voice Media has a duty to ensure that young girls aren’t being abused in the commercial sex industry with help from their website, and that they aren’t facilitating human trafficking.

humanPlease, ask Village Voice Media to stop child sex trafficking on


What Will the Election Mean for Imprisoned Trafficking Victim Sara Kruzan?

The 2010 California governor’s race — while adversarial, expensive, and uncertain — has one predictable outcome: Arnold Schwarzenegger will no longer be the head honcho of the Golden State. And while the Governator has repeatedly shown he’s a four star general in the fight against human trafficking, one young woman is betting her life on that reputation. Will Schwarzenegger put election politics aside long enough to release child trafficking victim Sara Kruzan from prison?

Sara met G.G., the 31-year-old man who would become her pimp, when she was only 11. G.G. groomed Sara for two years by buying her gifts and taking her roller skating. Then when she was 13, he raped her to initiate her into prostitution.  By then, his control was complete.  Sara and the other girls who G.G. exploited were forced to sell sex on the streets from 6pm to 6am, every night.  Twelve hours a night, seven days a week, for three years, Sara was raped by strangers so G.G. could profit. She was in every sense, a modern-day slave. At just sixteen, and with no other perceivable way out, she shot him to escape slavery.

Sara was arrested and tried in 1994, before anyone was using the term “human trafficking” and when the country was still struggling to understand issues like domestic violence and pimp control. There was no expert witness at Sara’s trial to explain how her years of repeated rape, trauma, and abuse had affected her actions. There was no one to tell the jury that with counseling, support, and care, Sara could heal from her traumatic past and grow to be a strong and moral woman. So she was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. She has now lived half her life in prison.


Interview: Founder Yanks Personals to Prevent Child Trafficking

Online classified site and Craigslist competitor announced this week that is was permanently closing its online personal ads, citing a desire to ensure Geebo was never used to advertise human trafficking the way Craigslist has been. I caught up with Geebo founder Greg Collier to ask him about his company’s attitudes towards human trafficking on online classified sites. And unlike certain other online classified founders, he was actually happy to talk to the media. is a popular online classified ad web site which has been around since 2000 and operates in more than 150 communities nationwide. What sets Geebo apart from competitors, however, is a commitment to social responsibility. Their tagline, “safe community classifieds,” means they review every classified before posting and reject anything that smacks of scams, violence, or illegal activity. And they’ve taken care to prevent any human trafficking from infiltrating the site. Here’s some of my chat with founder Greg Collier about Geebo’s anti-trafficking stance.

Amanda: What instigated Geebo’s decision to remove their personal ads section, and is it gone forever?

Greg: This decision has been a long time coming for Geebo. Since our inception we have advocated for increased security and privacy features for classified site users. Our review process allowed us to prevent child trafficking, prostitution, and other morally repugnant behavior, while also protecting the safety of our users genuinely looking for love. Even though we have NEVER had a problem [with human trafficking], we don’t want to risk the lives, liberty, or property of our users. The personals section is gone forever.

Amanda: What do you think of Craigslist’s recent decision to block their “adult services” ads in the U.S.? Do you think they should voluntarily block those ads in other countries as well?


Branded: How Pimps Use Tattoos to Mark Women as Property

Pimps use a number of techniques to control and manipulate the women they sell, many of which leave long-lasting emotional scars. But one control technique which also leaves physical scars is branding. In the underground world of forced and coerced prostitution, pimps mark women and girls as property with tattoos. It’s the same principal as writing your name inside your shirt, but instead of a garment being claimed, it’s a human being.

Chicago police recently noticed several girls between 13 and 18 in prostitution had the same tattoo — “P-Child” inked on their backs, chests, or shoulders. The distinct markings led them to Datqunn Sawyer, a pimp who was forcing nine underage girls into prostitution. He gave them all new names beginning with the letter P and used the tattoos to brand them as being in his “stable”. Also in Chicago, pimp Alex Campbell, owner of a brothel masquerading as a massage parlor, forced the women he controlled to get his birthday 9/17 tattooed on the backs of their necks. Another California-based pimp managed to ink his 16-year-old victim withing a couple weeks of meeting her on Myspace. And some pimps choose more painful brands for their victims, including signature burns and actual cattle prods.

For pimps, tattoo branding serves a number of purposes. It marks victims as their property, sending a message to other pimps to stay away. It helps them advertise to buyers looking for specific types of girls, especially young ones. And perhaps most importantly, it sends a powerful message to the victim herself: I own you, and I own you forever. A tattoo is a permanent physical mark, and pimps use the psychology of that mark to make victims believe theirs is a permanent relationship. If victims try and leave their pimp, the tattoo serves as a reminder of their abuse. And, of course, it signifies the bearer as a slave.


FBI Denies Facilitating Child Sex Trafficking to Nab Mob

Federal prosecutors in New York City are fighting allegations that they allowed a 15-year-old girl to be forced into prostitution while they investigated the Gambino crime family’s human trafficking activities. A defense lawyer for the Gambinos, however, claims the government allowed the teen to be exploited in order to make their case. Did the FBI allow child sex trafficking?

A few months ago, the infamous Gambino crime family was caught pimping kids on Craigslist, a move that many considered a low point, even for them. The bust was the result of a long government investigation, which included the participation of a cooperating witness who worked for the Gambinos. According to the witness, he began working with the government in 2008. But for most of 2009, while collaborating with the FBI, he acted as a pimp for a 15-year-old girl.

The government claims they broke up the ring as soon as they discovered a minor was involved. However, they apparently learned about and halted the ring in August 2009, but didn’t hand out indictments until 2010, despite the fact that all of the women sold by the Gambinos were under 20. Why the delay? The FBI has stated categorically that they did not and would not authorize the continuation of criminal activity or sexual exploitation involving a minor. But would they care if adult women were being trafficked against their will?