tv Human Trafficking Summit - Law Enforcement Case Studies CSPAN February 3, 2018 12:18am-1:00am EST
hosting and for leading us in this fight. thank you very much for your time. [applause] announcer: the doj summit on human trafficking also included minnesota u.s. attorney greg brooker who spoke about some of the cases in his district, including the prosecution of people in a human trafficking ring. he also talked about a strategy to address an increase in online sex ads ahead of the super bowl. this is 40 minutes. >> thank you very much, and thank you very much for the invitation to be part of this next session. we are very lucky to have greg brooker -- the key feature of each introduction is to know the person's name. the u.s. attorney and the head prosecutor of the district of minnesota.
minnesota has been a key part of the department of justice's efforts, and i hope we can build on the work of the last and all give you some very specific and useful information about all of the terrific work they are doing there. greg has been a longtime prosecutor and served over a head prosecutor in minnesota as the united states attorney. minnesota is also as we heard, one of the districts that teaches and act team focused on human trafficking in the district. without further do, -- without further into, i would like to turn it over to u.s. attorney brooker. u.s attorney brooker: thank you for having me today. it was negative seven degrees in minneapolis, and it is a little warmer out right here. thank you, richard for the introduction, and thank you all for participating in this important summit sponsored by
the attorney general. i am pleased here to talk about an issue that my office, the u.s. attorney's office for the district of minnesota, is deeply committed to. and that the department of placed such a priority on prosecuting human trafficking. it is timely that this summit comes at the end of human trafficking awareness month, two days away from the super bowl in my home state of minnesota. i would like to take this opportunity to highlight trends in prosecutions in my district, as well as discuss some of the proactive work that is being done by minnesotans, in preparation for the super bowl on sunday. as we all know in this room, sex-trafficking s a big enterprise and data shows that
major sporting events like a super bowl can bring about an increase in online sex adds on craigslist, act page.com and other websites. we also know from recent research studies that commercial sex is not confined to a demographic group. according to a recent survey of 750 men in minnesota, most of the sex buyers are men between the ages of 30 years old and 50 years old, more than half are and many of them make $50,000 or more per year. a recent assessment from the human smuggling and trafficking center concludes that high-profile events with large crowd like the super bowl, can be attractive targets for sex traffickers.
in reparation for the super bowl in minneapolis, an anti-sex trafficking team of representatives from over 40 organizations was created, to map out strategies to crack down on sex trafficking from all angles across the entire state. the team is led by ramsey county attorney judge and another judge. the u.s. attorney's office is a vital player in that team. the team also includes some important nonprofit organizations such as the carlton family foundation, and the women's foundation of minnesota, long involved in these issues.
mentioned, has representatives from nonprofits, hospitals, and law enforcement throughout the state, and has been supported by the national football league. so what has this team been up to the last 19 months? we have developed a plan which includes additional emergency shelter beds, increased street outreach and a hotline to report trafficking related links tips tips to law enforcement. 24-hour, fully staffed hotline to ensure the victims can immediately find shelter, and worked with governmental entities to relax zoning requirements during the timeframe of the super bowl, to ensure that no victim will be denied space in a very cold month in minnesota. what is especially unique however, about this particular team, is that it not only brought together public and private stakeholders, but also key voices of sex-trafficking
survivors. the team also designed multiple public awareness campaigns, specifically for the super bowl, including the "don't buy it" campaign designed to educate men and boys about sex-trafficking. this campaign focuses on the demand side. here is a short clip of the "don't buy it" public service announcement now running in minnesota and online. >> he told me that he loved me, it was only for a little while, and then we would start a new life together. >> don't buy it. >> guys act like being a real man means dominating women. don't buy it. >> i am sure she loved it and is making a lot of money. don't buy it.
>> i was sold for sex. don't buy it. >> people are not product. men are more than consumers. learn more at don't buy it project.org. u.s attorney brooker: the anti-sex trafficking team also created a campaign aimed at preventing at risk youth from being trafficked. it is here toward youth between the ages of eight years old and 12 years old, and the teams sought input from youth who are trafficking survivors to develop this specific part of the campaign. these campaign ads are currently running at malls in minnesota, on bus shelters and billboards. second radio a 30 spot and they are being featured
on all of the social apps that i quite frankly, do not even begin to understand. facebook, snapshot, youtube. here is a clip from the "i am priceless" video running in minnesota. >> i am not alone. i am worthy of respect. i am my own hero. my body belongs to me. i am priceless. there is a way out of sexual exploitation. for help, call or text the number on your screen, or visit the website. r visit the website. u.s attorney brooker: in the months leading up to the super u.s attorney brooker: in the months leading up to the super bowl, bus drivers, hotel workers in all 10,000 super bowl volunteers received specific training on how to identify next -- sex trafficking when they see it and report it. in addition, major banking institutions in the twin cities
took the lead to train their own internal investigators, and analysts to identify trends and red flags that may be human trafficking indicators. the team is reporting such indicators to law enforcement. in addition, a collaborative team of dozens of local police departments in minnesota and the federal agencies led primarily by homeland security investigations and the fbi, are all currently executing targeted trafficking stings in the area and many arrests have been made since this began last week. this is all very important work, isn't it? but human trafficking of course, is not limited to such large scale events like the super bowl. these crimes against human rights occur 365 days a year.
human trafficking shows its face in many disturbing ways and yet it often remains hidden right in plain sight. in a non-super bowl year, many people would not think of minnesota as a prime location for human trafficking. however, the fbi has identified the twin cities as the nation's 13th largest location for child sex-trafficking . it is unique because of its it'saphy, population, and major industries. the twin cities represents a large metropolitan area home to dozens of fortune 500 corporations, a major airport, and the
largest shopping mall in the united states, as well as major league sports teams and event venues. we also share our northern border of course, with canada, and we have a very busy international shipping port in duluth. and throughout our interstate corridors, we are directly connected to other large midwestern cities, chicago, st. louis, milwaukee. the state has 11 federally-recognized indian tribes, and is home to many immigrant groups including sizable somali, ethiopian and liberian communities. minnesota pretty much has everything. however, the things that make my state unique are the things that represent human trafficking vulnerabilities. this is why the fight against human trafficking is a crucial mission that none of us can afford to ignore or to only emphasize when the super bowl
comes to town. in 2016, the district of minnesota was only one of six federal districts, designated as an anti-trafficking coordination team or act team location. this is a collaborative initiative, as he mentioned this morning. among my office, the fbi, the department of homeland security and the department of labor. through this initiative, we focus on developing high impact trafficking prosecution. and investigation. as well as developing strong partnerships with victim service providers, and state and local law enforcement partners. epth ofry proud of the d the work of our office, in
conjunction with tribal, state, local law enforcement. together we have investigated together huge large-scale international trafficking cases, as well as cases involving an individual trafficker who targeted migrant children. we know that as people go about their busy lives, usually we are not paying attention to the indicators of human trafficking. so, these crimes often occur, as has been noted, right before our eyes, in plain sight. that is why through our federal and state law enforcement task forces, not just during the super bowl but throughout the year, we are focusing our training efforts on employees who work in hotels, airports, casinos, and other hospitality and entertainment occupations. we are reaching out to teachers, and schools, banking and
transportation workers and health care providers, and the faith community. these trainings throughout minnesota have resulted in actionable tips into our office and the fbi and hsi. we have also collaborated with an organization called "club operators against sex trafficking ," to provide education and training to owners and employees of adult entertainment clubs throughout minnesota. they may be the most likely once to encounter signs of a sex trafficking victim, and this cannot be ignored. so, what cases have we investigated and prosecuted in my district? here are a few examples. i would like to start with one that deals with labor
trafficking, because what is lost sometimes in this conversation about human trafficking are forced labor cases. >> last year in a wealthy suburb of st. paul, 2 local police officers encountered a woman wandering the streets at night, bloody, beat up and frail. a native of china, she could see the airplanes moving toward our international airport, and was walking in the direction of the airport, many miles away. officers stopped her and spoke to her, and this is key, because of their recent training in human trafficking issues, they were quickly recognizing this woman as a victim of human trafficking who had escaped her trafficker. the officers were able to refer her and
provided the resources necessary, and they involved homeland security agents from the outset. the subsequent investigation revealed that the woman entered -- endured horrific abuse at the hands of the defendant. lily wong. the defendant in addition, holding this person against her will, in her home, forced her to work up to 18 hours per day, and the victim was kicked, punched, grabbed by the hair and threatened with knives. the victim told law enforcement agents that she hid clumps of her own hair under her mattress, so that the defendant once -- would not force her to eat the hair. my office work hand-in-hand with local and state partners to achieve a successful prosecution of the defendant in this labor trafficking case.
the defendant was sentenced to one year in custody, after which she agreed to be deported to china. he was ordered to pay over $100,000 in restitution to the victim, and to the third party victim services which provided services to the victim. and she was required to forfeit her home, worth approximately $400,000. the second case i would like to discuss with you, involved an all too common human trafficking scenario. minor children. last year, four teenage girls testified at a federal trial against a trafficker who had sold them for sex in the twin cities. the investigation began when a concerned mother reached out to her local sheriff's office to report that a man by the name of
devonte charles was recruiting her 17-year-old daughter to engage in sexual acts and prostitution. in his facebook messages to the victim, he described how the girl could make money, and promised a trip to vegas. he indicated that her life, which was not all that wonderful, would be smooth sailing from here on out. he told her he would provide condoms and protect her from "the clients." the defendant also instructed the young girl to save his phone number, under the name "daddy." that initial report by the victim's mother to the sheriff's office, led law enforcement to identify several additional juvenile victims.
a 14-year-old girl told law enforcement that the same defendant had requested sexually explicit images of her. the defendant also sent 2 pornographic images of an adult female and instructed the 14-year-old victim to send pictures of herself in similar poses. the defendant trafficked another minor child who was 14 years old, and used her to produce sexually explicit images. he asked the victim to make a video of herself engaged in very specific sexual acts, and while recruiting this 14-year-old, the , you will make lots of money, you will indeed make lots of money. when she asked what he meant, he replied, you will make much money from the sexual acts that i want you to perform. knowing that she was 14 years old, the defendant responded in
one text, -- you are kind of young, but we can make a lot of money from young. the fourth victim was 17 years old, the defendant sent messages to her about making quick money and promising her a better life. after picking the victim up in the minneapolis suburb, he posted her so-called escort photograph on backpage.com he then made a hotel reservation using an alias and paid cash for the room. for the next several days, the defendant sold the victim for commercials sex and kept all the money the victim received as a result of the sex acts she was forced to engage in. at the time of all of these
advances with these four victims, the defendant was a registered sex offender based on this prior conviction for soliciting a child to engage in sexual conduct. the case went to trial. justice was served when the victims' important testimony at federal trial led to his conviction and a 36 year sentence in federal prison. the final case i would like to highlight, is one of the largest sex trafficking prosecutions in the nation. this particular case is truly remarkable because of the collaborative efforts of -- multiple law enforcement partners, victim's service providers and industry partners across many jurisdictions in our country. the investigation started through good old-fashioned police work.
a federal agent with homeland security investigations received a report from her hsi colleagues down in arizona that multiple thai women were being trafficked in arizona and that the operation was moving some women up to minnesota. our office immediately commenced an investigation with our local law enforcement partners, and eventually other federal state and local jurisdictions from around the country. we worked with multiple u.s. attorney offices, hsi, state and local enforcement across the country, the u.s. department of state as well as components here at the doj, including the human trafficking prosecution unit, and very importantly, the money laundering and asset recovery section. through good surveillance, a review of records and receipts, and other techniques, our agents learned that the thai victims were being trafficked in almost every major city in the country under the watchful eye of a
massive criminal organization. and it was a massive criminal organization. the enterprise was responsible for trafficking hundreds of impoverished women from bangkok, thailand to cities throughout the u.s. -- minneapolis, los angeles, chicago, atlanta, phoenix, las vegas, houston, dallas, austin, seattle and right here at the nation's capital. putting the pieces together required close coordination with international, national, and state local partners. there were several trips to thailand by federal law
enforcement officials, including a trip to the former u.s. attorney, andy luger, from minnesota. our current prosecution is the result of more than four years of work. dismantled ay has highly profitable operation that generated millions, up to $24 million that we have counted thus far, into a highly sophisticated sex-trafficking scheme. the victims typically came from very poor backgrounds and spoke very little english. vulnerabilities of course, that the traffickers exploited. the women were promised a better life in the united dates, but with that promise came a large bondage debt, of anywhere between $40,000 and $60,000.
the women were told that after they worked off their debt, they would become u.s. citizens, their recruiters who met with them in thailand were friendly, helpful and made their future in the united states sound bright. they brought them to a photography studio in bangkok to take professional-quality, escort-style photographs which ultimately were sent to traffickers here in the u.s. they were used to advertise the victims for sex online. the traffickers encouraged the women to get breast implants in bangkok in an effort to make them more appealing to men in the united states. the cost of the surgery of course was added to the bondage debt. when the women arrived in the united states everything , changed. they were essentially held prisoner in prostitution houses and only allowed to leave if
accompanied by an employee of the organization. the women were forced to have sex with strangers for many hours each day, even if they were abusive. the traffickers insured that the women remained isolated in the u.s., they had very little money, no freedom of movement and no interaction with the outside world. the structure of this sex trafficking organization was very hierarchical. traffickers,of money launderers, facilitators and runners. each of these players with a clearly defined role and keeping this criminal organization profitable. at the top of the organization were the traffickers, in both the united states and in
thailand, who were responsible for recruiting the victims and controlling their bondage debt. they learned everything that they could about the women and learned detailed information about their families. the information obtained was an important piece of the scheme. armed with the information, the traffickers threatened anyone who wanted to or tried to escape , including threats to their family back in thailand, who would be harmed if the woman did not do everything they were told. the traffickers also determined where in the united states the women would be sent. but first they had to get the women into the united dates. -- united states. the traffickers did this by engaging in widespread visa fraud including arranging sham marriages, lying on visa applications. in order to facilitate the travel of the women from thailand to our country.
in the united states, the women were sent to one of the many houses of prostitution. came the house bosses, or reported to the traffickers, and/or responsible for the day-to-day operations of these houses. they advertised the women, usually on websites, scheduled sex buyers, and ensured that the cash earned was routed back to the trafficker, with the house boss taking hersex cut. little money was left for the victim to play off her bondage pay off heroff -- bondage debt. they helped lease apartments and other locations used as houses of prostitution. they booked travel, advertised the women, and scheduled
commercial sex acts. they were the ones primarily responsible for laundering and routing millions of dollars generated through this commercial sex trade. and finally, there were the runners. the trafficking organization feared that the women would try to escape, so the runners accompanied them when they left the house or hotel room. they were also responsible for bringing them to and from the airport. the organization regularly moved women to different cities throughout our country so that the women did not develop local connections. runners also took them to the bank, where the victims would deposit their payments and individual accounts. that was part of the money laundering scheme. the runners were typically men and were often paid at least in part, insects with the victims -- in sex with the victims.
the prosecution of this case was a major undertaking. we have publicly indicted 38 defendants, 17 so far have pled guilty. a trial date is set for early may for the rest. hundreds of victims have been identified. millions of dollars have already been seized, which will go forward to a much deserved restitution fund to the victims. weapons were also confiscated when the houses of prostitution were closed. centeredbeen a victim prosecution. prosecutors and agents have helped provide the victims with a sense of hope and a sense of justice. as noted, the organization made millions of dollars annually and the prosecution team is working
to secure that money for victim restitution. the doj money laundering and asset recovery section is playing a major role in this aspect of the case. they have documented more than 5 million -- more than $25 million in proceeds from commercial sex acts that have been laundered back to traffickers. when dealing with this level of organized crime, we know that we can only shut down a sophisticated sex trafficking organization when we take away their money. very importantly, our office collaborated with an organization in los angeles called "the thai community development center," a d.o.j. grantee. they specialize in working with the thai population to help victims access culturally sensitive and language specific services. today, some of the victims in our case have learned english. some are taking vocational courses, and many are living independently.
we must take seriously the department of justice's directive to take a victim-centered approach to human trafficking cases. thankfully, we have some unique resources that provided services to stabilize and support victims throughout the case's long investigation and prosecution. in conclusion, i would like to make the following observation. although the increased awareness that an event like the super bowl can bring to our nation's problem with human trafficking is very important, if we really want to get to the problem of human trafficking and get it under control, awareness and enforcement efforts must be nurtured, must be supported, and
most importantly, must be sustained long after the big game is over. thank you. [applause] >> we have reserved a few minutes before the lunch break for discussion. we would like to give you a more interactive part for the remainder of our session here. so, u.s. attorney booker, i was very interested in your characterization of the sophistication and hierarchical nature of the organization you are prosecuting. can you give us a sense of how you have had to evolve in terms of investigation and prosecution tactics as a result of facing an organization like that in this context?
attorney booker: right. as you can imagine, i don't know if i am on, i will yell. as you can imagine, if your office is used to prosecuting traffickers who may be our threebe our trafficking or four minor girls with not a lot of sophistication and organization, right? to tackle this level of what i would submit is a mafia-style organization with very detailed roles that a large number of folks play, you have to leverage your resources and you have to have a game plan. right? we have had superseding indictments. the indictments have come in waves, as is typical when you prosecute a large organization. the outreach to the appropriate victim service organizations was crucial from day one.
that can be very crucial in a small human trafficking case of course, but can you imagine the scale with hundreds of victims spread throughout the country? it took the work of a large organization called the department of justice to make this prosecution work. and for all of you u.s. attorney folks, those are important resources to leverage as you tackle larger human trafficking cases. >> i was intrigued by her -- your comments about the use of money laundering as an investigative technique. how do you see this playing out as we go forward? >> in this particular case, because there were folks who were specifically given the duty to launder the money, those folks have been indicted when we can find them. as you can imagine, some are
off-shore. a lot of them are on the west coast fortunately and we were able to indict. so when you have a specific indictment against a money launderer and they come in to plead guilty, then you say, "open up your books and start writing checks out to us as part of the plea." as most of you know, restitution but aered on the backend, good prosecutor and agent begin to think about the money on the front end. that is crucial in all of these types of cases. unfortunately as you know, a small human trafficking case involving maybe three or four minor women within state boundaries, that defendant may not have any resources. and so, that can be a frustrating piece of the prosecution. here with this international sophistication of an
organization, we could go after directly as part of the prosecution the money launderers and thus the money. >> i would add, from where i sit in the criminal division in our money laundering and asset recovery section, we are firmly committed to working with the u.s. attorney's offices across the country and have dedicated an attorney purely to look at money laundering and asset recovery in the context of human trafficking cases. we have also tried to expand our training to make sure we have that ability and consciousness to use this as a tool because i agree it is a very powerful thing. when it comes to the international aspect that we heard the attorney general mention the successful extradition from mexico of several people involved in human trafficking in the united states, do you have any further thoughts on how the international part of the problem makes our lives more difficult or perhaps gives us opportunities?
>> obviously, you need to coordinate in any international case and seek the cooperation of folks who probably have a totally different justice system than ours, different from ours. some of those trips to thailand the former u.s. attorney took with the fed head and official s from homeland security were very helpful. it is just an added layer to the prosecution. the prosecutors have to keep focused on the folks they are indicting. fortunately, the department and the state department have resources that can focus on that international piece somewhat so that the prosecutor can remain busy doing his or her job prosecuting the defendants and continuing the investigation within the united states.
>> maybe i will drop a footnote here as well. one other aspect of the department's efforts is to train foreign law enforcement so they will be able to do their part of the case when it involves this kind of transport. we have invested a fair bit of money in the international training in countries like the philippines or nepal, the balkans, all of these trainings have happened in the last year. one other aspect, and i think we can wrap up with this, i have heard you mention advertising through backpage twice in your speech. certainly from the perspective of the child exploitation section here, we have seen numerous cases and sting operations through online advertising. how do you see the advertising platforms playing into the problem? does that create investigative opportunities as well? >> well, as we have found in many human trafficking cases
involving sex, many roads lead to online web-based advertisements. they are the modern version of the old, truly back page of whatever rag was being printed in the local city. it has increased the volume we are seeing. it is just part of the challenge of prosecuting these cases. but there is evidence that one can use from those sites, right? and of course, good agents are capturing screenshots as we speak right now investigating their human trafficking cases. as is anything, when the media changes, and remember, i did not know much about some of the social apps i talked about earlier, you have to be nimble
as a prosecutor to view that as a positive way to get evidence. but it is very much a presence in our society now, and we are going to have a challenge tackling that. and that is probably all i should say about backpage.com. thank you. >> certainly, i think the fact that a lot of advertising can be focused in a particular set of online locations may present an opportunity for deterrence as well if we can attack the problem in that way, in a way that perhaps before the advent of advertising online there was not an excellent opportunity. i think we are out of time. we very much appreciate your attention. thank you again for a very interesting and powerful presentation. [applause] >> thank you. >> next, a look at services and resources available