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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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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Exploited minors need our help, not punishment

Former Southwest Washington Congresswoman Linda Smith was back in the nation’s capital on familiar turf Wednesday, testifying before a House subcommittee in support of a bill aimed at combating sex trafficking of minors. It’s a topic in which Smith has developed considerable expertise since founding Shared Hope International in 1998 to “rescue and restore women and children in crisis.” The Vancouver-based nonprofit is a leader in the battle against human trafficking worldwide, due largely to Smith’s fierce dedication, strong work ethic and practiced political skills.

Last year, Shared Hope International completed what must be regarded as the definitive study of the sexual exploitation of children in the United States. The bulk of the research, funded by a U.S. Department of Justice grant, was conducted in nine U.S. cities and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory. A private grant provided for additional research in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Despite more than a decade’s experience working with victims of human trafficking, Smith said last fall that she was “shocked” by what the investigation revealed.

Researchers put the number of sexually exploited children in U.S. cities at upward of 100,000. “What we found,” Smith told Daily News reporter Cheryll A. Borgaard, “is I can go to Craiglist or a strip club or an adult shop anywhere to find a minor for sex. There’s no town, I don’t care where; if there’s buyers, there’s sellers.”

In her testimony Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Smith lamented the fact that young victims of domestic sex trafficking too often are treated as oenders. According to a report of the hearing by Joseph Picard of the International Business Times, Smith testified that sex-trafficking victims, whose average initial exploitation age is 13, are often treated as juvenile delinquents or adult prostitutes by the criminal justice system. “Those who are identified as minors are frequently charged with a delinquent act, either prostitution-related activities or a related offense such as drug possession,” Smith explained. That treatment, Smith added, only compounds the trauma of the sexual violence the minor has already experienced.

The bill Smith’s testimony supported — the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010 — would help promote a more victim-centered approach to addressing minor sex trafficking. It would authorize block grants to both help combat sex trafficking and provide services to minor victims of sex trafficking.

Minor victims would get shelter, substance abuse treatment, counseling and legal services. Law enforcement would receive specialized training on sex trafficking and grant funds for investigating and prosecuting the sex traffickers who exploit minors.

Smith told the House subcommittee it’s important not only that young victims of sex trafficking be identified and treated as victims, but also that traffickers and their buyers be apprehended and prosecuted. This legislation, H.R. 5575, would help do both.


Published in: on September 22, 2010 at 7:41 am  Comments (1)  
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When Victims Become Traffickers

Burmese police announced this week that out of the hundreds of human traffickers they have arrested over the past several years, at least 100 of them were once victims. Sadly, trafficking victims becoming traffickers is not unusual. But what makes a person go from victim to trafficker?

Most of the 100 victims-turned-traffickers were trafficked from Burma into China and Thailand for forced labor, forced prostitution, or forced marriage. Once discovered, they were shipped back to Burma, sometimes deported, and usually with no compensation. Back in Burma, there were no support services for them, no money for counseling or job training, no help with medical bills or education. The lack of support for victims traps them in a vicious cycle. Some people end up trafficked again and again because they cannot break out of that cycle. Others eventually break the cycle, by becoming traffickers themselves.

Victims can turn into traffickers for a number of reasons. For those trafficked as children, there may be no other conceivable industry for them to enter other than the one they were sold into as a child, whether that’s commercial sex, brick making, or domestic service. So as an adult, they follow the only career path they’ve known and recruit other children into the same industry. Others many find that the only model of power in their life is the person who owns and controls them — their trafficker. When they look around for ways to empower themselves, becoming a subjugater of others is all they see. Still others, as is the case with many of the 100 Burmese nationals, may not even realize what they’re engaging in is against the law. They know the trafficking routes, brokers, and bosses from the time they were forced to work. That they should recruit others to do the same thing might feel like the natural extension of their previous “job.”


Published in: on August 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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Ask Your Representative to Support H.R. 5575: Combat Child Sex Trafficking

The Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act (TDVSA), which was introduced by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) aims to address the significant issue of American children being trafficked for sex in the U.S. While existing legislation has provided tools and resources for children trafficked into the U.S. from other countries, American kids have traditionally been overlooked. The TDVSA would help fill that gap by providing much needed resources for victim services and law enforcement investigations.

The TDVSA passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 5, 2010. Now, it must also pass the House of Representatives. Please, take a moment to contact your Representative and ask him or her to support or co-sponsor H.R. 5575, the House version of the bill.


Alameda DA Gets Grant To Fight Sex Trafficking

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has been selected as one of only four recipients of a U.S. Department of Justice grant to combat human trafficking of minors, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced Tuesday.

The district attorney’s office will receive $300,000 over two years from an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program Grant, which was awarded after a nationwide submission process, O’Malley said.

She said the grant will help advocates for victims of human trafficking increase their capacity to identify children at risk or those involved in commercial sexual exploitation and to link those children to essential services throughout the Bay Area.

O’Malley said fighting human trafficking is important because the sale and purchase of children for sex has become a multi-million-dollar industry. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the U.S.

The district attorney’s office created a human exploitation and trafficking unit called HEAT – or Human Exploitation and Trafficking – in 2005.

Earlier this year, the district attorney’s office collaborated with several community partners to introduce HEAT Watch, which O’Malley said is a multi-system, multi-jurisdictional collaborative approach to combating the sexual exploitation of minors.

The program involves training law enforcement officials, vigorously prosecuting offenders, pursuing legislation through policymakers and providing services for children who have been sexually exploited.

O’Malley said the grant will fund the coordination and training efforts of HEAT Watch.

Deputy District Attorney Sharmin Bock, who heads the HEAT unit, said, “This grant will greatly assist in our fight to combat the trafficking of children.”

The other grant recipients are the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the city of Boston and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in Chicago.



Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Virginia as a source of human trafficking

For many Virginians apart from those living in Northern Virginia, sex trafficking victims have the faces of Asian girls in massage parlors or Eastern European ladies in strip clubs. To them, that the victim’s face can be one of many American children sexually exploited anywhere in the United States does not seem to enter in their mind. However, the past reports show that Virginia is nowhere near to be a safe haven for the minor trafficking victims in the United States. The domestic minor sex trafficking in fact may go unnoticed when general public as well as law enforcement authorities are unaware that American children can be trafficked just as much as Asians or Russians are. 

Virginia as a source of human trafficking

A few cases show the glimpse of the truth behind Virginia as a source of human trafficking:

In October 2009,  police arrested a man who recruited two minors for forced prostitution in Virginia. The two minors were recruited from the state of Virginia, where they were forced into prostitution. The man promised the minors that if they “would serve as prostitutes in Virginia, for a short period of time, they and he would earn enough money to go to Florida for an extravagant vacation.”  As soon as they arrived in Florida, the Virginia minors were also forced into prostitution to pay for hotels, food, and other items. 

In July 2007, A 15 year old girl was taken from a group home in Virginia. She was advertised on Craigslist and forced into prostitution. She was rescued through a software program developed a few years later. 

 And these are, of course, only two cases in addition to numerous examples of sex trafficking in massage parlors and other cases in Northern Virginia. 

Awareness raising is essential

 Some people may argue that human trafficking, apart from Northern Virginia, does not happen in the state because they do not hear about it on the local newspaper. However, this is not to say that children in Virginia are immune from the danger of being trafficked out of the state. Pimps may not choose to sell children in the middle of cornfield in Virginia. But, pimps will, as they certainly have, recruit children in Virginia and force them into prostitution in bigger cities outside of the state. The cases mentioned above therefore are only a reminder that awareness raising effort to protect Virginia children becomes more vital. So, what can you do to educate public and law enforcement authorities to protect Virginia children from being trafficked out of the state? 



VICTIMS OF MURDER, Unfortunetly this murder was my father.   June 11,1986 My father was murdered. No one has ever been arrested in the case. The state police consider his case an accident. I had proof that my father was working on a case against his astranged wife’s father. A murder for hire case that a local Fire Department was working in Bell’s junk yard. Bell is my father’s astranged wife’s father. Funny he’s the one that gave my dad the car that he died in. Bell stated in Interrogatories “He would kill anyone who knew too much about his business”. My father owned a biker’s bar and was a Chief with the Fire Department. Respect is what my father gave and is what is got in return. I worked in my fathers bars and when he was missing I had all the love honor and repect from only the bikers. I wondered where all the family friends where when I needed then the most. The only people who came through for me were the guys from the bars. They were there in full force at my fathers funeral. His murderer was there as well, The guys came to protect me and my family. I have only the most LOVE, HONOR & RESPECT I want all of you guys to to know this. You were there for us when we needed you. Thank you Jimmy Regan for all your help with the bar when dad died. I know how much my dad respected you.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 9:31 am  Comments (2)  
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If Sex Trafficking is the Question, (Male) Condoms Aren’t the Answer

Condoms are super. They guard against the transmission of HIV and other STDs. They help people plan when and how to start a family. And if you look hard enough, you can often get them for free or cheap. But when it comes to helping sex trafficking victims, condoms just aren’t the answer. At least, the male ones aren’t.

While traditional male condoms are generally considered very effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy and STDs, there is one key to their effectiveness: you have to use one every time you have sex. That means you have to make an active choice about your sexual situation, be able to present it to your partner, and be able to insist on it. Sex trafficking victims, almost by definition, aren’t able to make active choices about their sexual situation. They aren’t able to choose who they have sex with, when, or how often. Why would they be able to choose whether or not to use a condom?

This doesn’t mean sex trafficking victims never use condoms. Some are able to successfully negotiate condom use with some of the men who buy them. Others find that their pimp insists upon regular condom use to protect his investment, though an increase in price will speedily throw this rule out the window. And some of the men who buy sex with trafficking victims also choose to use condoms. But the availability of male condoms near trafficked women and girls doesn’t guarantee their use by any means, and may actually do nothing to protect them against STDs and pregnancy.

One possible solution for this is the female condom. The female condom is the only female-initiated form of birth control that also protects against STDs. It has been available for several years, but lack of marketing, cost, and unavailability in some areas has kept it from coming into wider use. The female condom may be especially important for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence who aren’t able to control male condom use during sex.


Published in: on June 28, 2010 at 12:29 am  Comments (2)  
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One not guilty verdict won’t stop prosecution of sex-trafficking cases

LARGO — Prosecutors plan to move ahead with more cases against what they say was a human trafficking and forced prostitution ring, even though a jury has acquitted one man.

“We’re looking forward and we’re still going to proceed,” Assistant State Attorney Della Connolly said, adding that “I very much believe in my victims.”

Colin Anthony Dyer, 37, was found not guilty of sexual battery and human trafficking. Prosecutors said he had raped a woman who worked as a dancer at the Vegas Showgirls strip club and who testified that she was expected to work as a prostitute inside private “VIP rooms” there.

Juror Victor Rendon of Largo said jurors felt three dancers made inconsistent statements, hurting their credibility.

For example, one dancer initially told police Dyer had grabbed her by the arm but testified this week that he choked her as well. Another apparently testified incorrectly about a double-locked door in an apartment where she said she was held. It was hard to believe one woman, who said she had been dancing in strip clubs since age 15, when she said she did not know how to tell the difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis, he said.

“None of them struck us as being really credible,” he said.

Deciding about the human trafficking charges was more difficult than the sexual battery, Rendon said, because most jurors believed something improper did occur.

He also said Dyer, who testified in his own defense, did not seem fully knowledgeable about the scheme, which prosecutors said was mostly orchestrated by another man, Kenyatta Cornelous, who is awaiting trial. “I thought he was a dupe in the whole thing,” Rendon said about Dyer.

Defense attorney Bryant Camareno said he believed the witnesses appeared to have embellished their stories.

Vegas Showgirls manager Jason Byers said in an interview that prostitution is not allowed at the club and denied the dancers’ allegations. Asked why they would testify about prostitution, he said, “I think they were coerced into what they were supposed to say.”

The case was watched by some Stetson University College of Law students who, by coincidence, were in the final days of a course on human trafficking. Professor Luz Nagle said several students who went to watch the case told her they were “shocked” by the outcome.”

“I think that the students learned that this an evolving field in the law,” she said.

Three more cases are pending, including the one against Cornelous.