JUPITER, Fla. — Something was amiss at a massage parlor near one of the wealthiest barrier islands in Florida. First, a health inspector spotted several suitcases. Then she noticed an unusual stash of clothing, food and bedding. A young woman who was supposed to be a massage therapist spoke little English and seemed unusually nervous. The inspector reported her findings to the police. They would eventually learn that her suspicions were right: The women were not just employees: They were living in the day spa, sleeping on massage tables and cooking meals on hot plates in the back. Some of them had had their passports confiscated. The inspector’s suspicions prompted a sprawling investigation across four Florida counties and two states — Florida and New York — over nearly eight months, resulting in the disruption of what authorities say was a multimillion-dollar human-trafficking and prostitution operation.
Most tenants of a drab, four-story building in Park Slope, Brooklyn, knew about the brothel in their building. Strange men buzzed their apartments at all hours, looking nervous as they headed toward the same two apartments where many residents believed sex was being sold. Calling the landlord was useless, several tenants said. “I thought it was strange that he didn’t seem worried about it,” one woman who lived in the building for seven years said. “It was so out in the open.” In September, the police broke up a large prostitution ring that had been protected by seven police officers. Prosecutors said the landlord of that Park Slope building, Isaac A. Schwartz, was in on it. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of enterprise corruption and conspiracy.
Millions of women, men, and children around the world become victims of human trafficking each year, according to the United Nations. In an attempt to not only raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking but end the practice, the United Nations has used the end of July to mark World Day against Trafficking in Persons since 2013. But the practice of human trafficking won't be eradicated without everyone's help, including yours. Start by educating yourself on this World Day Against Trafficking in Persons with these 13 alarming sex trafficking statistics.
Inside a handsome brick building on a tree-lined street near Brooklyn’s Prospect Park lay one of the city’s dirtiest secrets. As people strolled past the Prospect Heights home on their way to the park, the Brooklyn Museum or a bar where celebrated authors give readings for The New Yorker crowd, two 16-year-old girls were allegedly being kept inside as sex slaves. For one harrowing month last year, the teens’ captors forced them to strip to their underwear, pose for Backpage.com ads and have sex with up to 10 johns a day, prosecutors charge. The girls were saved when one of them escaped in July and ran to police. But they are just two of the thousands of sex slaves being trafficked under the noses of New York City residents every day, part of a silent epidemic that law enforcement is struggling to contain.
The FBI’s closure of the sleazy classified-ad site Backpage.com hasn’t made it any harder to buy and sell sex online — it has just given rise to other flesh-peddling web marketplaces, according to cops and johns. “For the social-media-savvy degenerate, there was no lapse” after Backpage.com went kaput last month, a law enforcement source told The Post. Several copycat sites saw huge spikes in traffic since the site’s April 6 closure. Bedpage.com, for example, which shows up in search engines as “Bedpage: Site similar to backpage” and appears to be hosted in Canada, has rocketed up the online charts since April, according to traffic-statistic site Alexa. The feds seized and closed Backpage because it was being used by sex traffickers, often to sell underage victims — but experts say the criminals have just moved on.
SAN FRANCISCO — Uber will no longer force customers, drivers or employees who claim they were sexually assaulted or harassed when using the ride-hailing service to pursue their cases behind closed doors, a move meant to make the company’s safety issues more transparent. Previously, people with such claims were forced to take their claims to arbitration, a private legal framework that shields cases from public view. Victims who settled claims were also required to sign confidentiality agreements, effectively silencing them. On Tuesday, Uber said it was changing those rules to allow its customers to choose their preferred course, which will now include open court as well as private mediation.
An actress from the television series “Smallville” was charged on Friday with sex trafficking for her involvement in an organization promoting itself as a self-help group for women that forced its members to have sex with its leader, federal prosecutors said. The actress, Allison Mack, 35, helped gain recruits for what was purported to be a mentorship group but instead exploited its followers, who were branded with a symbol containing the initials of the organization’s leader, said Richard P. Donoghue, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement. Ms. Mack participated in a group known as Nxivm (pronounced Nex-e-um), the authorities said. The organization, near Albany, was led by Keith Raniere, 57, who was arrested in March by federal officials in Mexico on sex-trafficking charges. Its followers were forced to have sex with him because they feared that if they did not do so, compromising material that they had provided about themselves would be released publicly, according to a complaint.
They stand at the courtroom podium, heads bowed. Beyond their swollen, black eyes lies a palpable fear. Court of Common Pleas Commissioner Mary McDonough empathizes with these weary women — prostitutes snubbed by respectable society. Many have suffered physical and emotional torment for decades, yet present a lacquered, impenetrable exterior. One is in her 40s but appears much older. She asks to be sent to prison after being hit with a fine for driving without insurance. Her father sold her into prostitution as a teenager, she explains, and the drugs failed to deaden the pain. Prison would be a relief. Another young woman, who initially insists that everything is "fine," waits to approach the sidebar before the words tumble out. She had been carrying a bag of clothes when she was beaten and raped on the street.
The founder and chief executive officer of Backpage.com, a website linked to human trafficking, has pleaded guilty to charges including conspiring to facilitate prostitution and money laundering. Carl Ferrer, 57, of Frisco, Texas, will face a maximum of five years in prison. Part of his plea agreement with federal and state authorities includes forfeiting all corporate assets related to the website and making sure it's permanently shuttered.
PHOENIX — A co-founder of the classified advertising site Backpage.com who has been jailed for the last 10 days on charges of facilitating prostitution was released on a $1 million bond Monday as he awaits trial. At a brief hearing at a federal courthouse in Phoenix, James Larkin was ordered by Magistrate Judge John Boyle to put up two properties as surety on the bond. Larkin also was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device. Larkin, co-founder Michael Lacey and five Backpage.com employees were arrested earlier this month on federal charges. Larkin was the last of the seven to be released from custody. Lacey was released on Friday after posting a $1 million bond.
Looking for love or a “casual encounter”? You’ll have to find it someplace other than Craigslist. The venerable online classifieds site removed its “personals” section this week, after Congress sent a bill to President Trump aimed at curtailing sex trafficking. Craigslist, little changed since it unveiled its spare text design in 1995 and began to crush the paid print classifieds business, will no longer offer a way for anonymous people to connect for romance or sex. While many people used the site to find relationships — one of the discontinued categories is “strictly platonic” — it was no secret that some postings were thinly veiled solicitations for prostitution, despite the site’s efforts to fight overt solicitations for money.
According to the FBI, sex trafficking of children in this country has become a nationwide problem. And traffickers target troubled girls with low self-esteem -- girls like Alyssa Beck. Beck was just a naïve 15 year old living in Jacksonville, Florida, when she found herself trapped in a sex trafficker's web. She would be in and out of their trap for almost five years. CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller has been following Beck's story and the horrific world of sex trafficking of kids. It could happen to anyone – that's why actor and activist Ashton Kutcher has taken on this cause to save other young victims.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 21, 2018) – Polaris applauded the U.S. Senate today after the chamber passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). The legislation was spearheaded by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), with a version passing the House by 388 to 25 in late February. SESTA provides a much-needed update to the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to help hold websites like Backpage accountable when they knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. Polaris worked with Sens. Portman and Blumenthal, human trafficking advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, technology sector leaders, and survivors to craft compromise language that could pass Congress while protecting both First Amendment rights and people from being exploited online.
ARLINGTON, Va. - One group fighting sex trafficking calls itself S.O.A.P. - Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution. And they've actually found a way to use soap to battle this second leading crime in America. This weekend, they gathered a couple of dozen volunteers in Arlington, Virginia across the Potomac from Washington D.C.
During my tenure as a detective working human trafficking we've identified a victim from at least every high school and several middle schools the Northern Virginia area, explained Detective Woolf who has been working to combat human trafficking and gang activity in the region for years.