APRIL - Week 4
||Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.
We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Mum-of-four helped run Birmingham brothel Romanian sex traffickers
A MUM-of-four who ran a seedy Midland brothel for Romanian sex traffickers has avoided jail.
Pregnant Juanita Huntingdon, 41, acted as a receptionist for evil father and son Bogdan and Marius Nejloveanu.
Marius, 23, duped six women into coming to Britain from their home country with promises of well-paid jobs or through cynical declarations of love.
But once they arrived, the girls were beaten, sexually abused and put to work as prostitutes.
Huntingdon, from Wolverhampton, managed a brothel the gang set up in Bordesley Green and would also advertise its services in newspapers.
Last week the mum admitted charges of controlling prostitution for gain when she appeared at Manchester Crown Court. She was jailed for 32 weeks, but the sentence was suspended for two years because she is expecting a baby.
Earlier this year, Romanian national Marius Nejloveanu was jailed for 21 years after being found guilty of 27 charges, including four rapes, trafficking, assault and controlling prostitution. His father, 51, was jailed for six years.
The court heard the younger Romanian used “charm, good looks and claims of affection” to entice the women, aged between 16 and 25.
Once in the UK they were “threatened, beaten and degraded”, and forced to sell their bodies for money.
The son repeatedly raped two of the women, one on an almost daily basis, while his father gave him practical help and advice so he could set up his own prostitute business, warning the victims: “Make no trouble, or there will be trouble.”
The girls saw between ten and 20 clients each day, seven days a week.
Men would pay £40 for sex, with half going to the brothel and the other half to the father and son, who made thousands each week.
Detectives discovered that Huntingdon told the women how to behave with punters, reported back to Marius about their work and secured shifts for them at brothels across the Midlands.
She took a £10 cut from each customer she arranged for the girls.
The receptionist was arrested in January 2009 in the wake of raids which rescued the women from brothels in Birmingham and Manchester.
She was linked to the Nejloveanus's crimes by a receipt which showed she had used the son's credit card – the same card used to pay for newspaper adverts.
Huntingdon claimed that her relationship with the women had been “social and friendly”.
She denied knowing they had been trafficked, but admitted charges of controlling prostitution for gain.
Missing adult alert issued for Brookville, IN woman
by Amber Jenkins
BROOKVILLE, IN (FOX19) -
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office has issued a missing persons alert for a missing Brookville woman who was last seen on Thursday.
Officials are looking for 59-year-old Sharon Schoenung. She is a white female who stands at 5 feet 8 inches and weighs 170 pounds. She has green eyes and blonde hair.
Schoenung was last seen on Thursday, April 28 at 10:30am and is believed to be in danger. Officials do not know what clothing she was wearing but say she may be driving an orange 2008 Kia Spectra with Indiana plate 425 LED.
Anyone with information on Sharon Schoenung is asked to contact the Franklin County Sheriff's Department at 765-647-4138 .
Scholar Who Studies Sex Trafficking Wins National Journalism Award
by Lauren Sieben
Carrie N. Baker had only recently broken into magazine journalism when she received a national award for her reporting on sex trafficking.
Ms. Baker, an associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Berry College, in Georgia, became the first honoree of the Jane Velez-Mitchell Journalism Award this year. The award—named for the host of the talk show Issues on the HLN network—honors a journalist who brings attention to the issue of violence against women and girls.
Michelle Bart, public-awareness chair for the Northwest Region of Soroptimist International, one of the award's sponsors, solicited Ms. Baker's application after reading an article the professor wrote for Ms. magazine about legislation to protect victims of sex trafficking. Ms. Baker submitted her application materials, which included a personal essay and a few pages of basic paperwork, but she didn't elaborate much on her academic background.
"To gain more perspective on who this woman was, the committee Googled her," says Ms. Bart. "When we got reading on Dr. Baker, it was like, 'Oh my goodness, look at all this.'"
Ms. Baker, 46, received her bachelor's degree in philosophy from Yale University in 1987 and earned both a law degree and a Ph.D. in women's studies from Emory University before joining Berry in 2002.
She has written for scholarly journals about women's studies in the rural South and issues of race, class, and sexual harassment. Her book, The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment (Cambridge University Press, 2008), documents the grass-roots movement of the 70s and 80s that helped create public policy on sexual harassment.
Despite her prolific background in academe, Ms. Baker was a stranger to journalism until she attended a workshop for scholars through Ms. last summer. She thought of the workshop as an opportunity to bring her scholarly research to a wider audience. Just a few months earlier, she had attained tenure at Berry, so it seemed like a good time to branch out with her writing.
"Academics obviously write like academics," she says. "Journalism is very, very different. As an academic, you get so in your rut of writing 50-word sentences. I think it was really good for me as a scholar to kind of say, Let's bring this to a level where it can be popularly consumed."
In her Ms. article, "Jailing Girls for Men's Crimes," Ms. Baker examines how several states have worked toward establishing safe-harbor laws that protect underage girls and victims of human trafficking from being prosecuted for prostitution.
In the article, she explains that sex trafficking "tends to conjure images of girls in Southeast Asian brothels or women from former Soviet-bloc states," but that in 2010 the U.S. Department of State included for the first time a country narrative about the United States in its annual "Trafficking in Persons Report." The document cited cases in this country involving compelled labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution, among others.
The five-person committee that selected Ms. Baker for her honor included Ms. Velez-Mitchell, who is known primarily for her TV commentary on high-profile crimes and court cases and for speaking out against what she calls "the war on women." Next year Ms. Baker will also serve on the selection committee.
Ms. Baker accepted the award from the television host in Portland, Ore., in January. The media exposure has led to other opportunities, including a TV appearance on Issues with Ms. Velez-Mitchell. The professor continues to contribute to Ms. as a blogger —the scholars who attended the Ms. workshop were invited to blog for the magazine's Web site—and she's also started to use Ms. as a teaching tool in her own women's studies classrooms.
"I think of the classroom as a place for activism and social change," she says. "I want my academic work to be relevant to the broader world. I want to make my students engaged citizens. I'm not trying to tell them what to think, but I'm trying to communicate to them the importance of engaging in the world around them."
Ms. Baker hopes to write more articles for Ms. this summer, when her academic workload is a little lighter. She will move to a new position beginning this fall as an assistant professor of women and gender studies at Smith College, where she plans to continue to do research on sex trafficking.
"For my students to be able to go to my blog or have them read my article ... I really feel like that informs my teaching and my scholarship," she says. Reaching not just scholars but activists and other women through Ms. "makes the rubber hit the road. It brings it to the real world, and then I can come back into the scholarly world and use that experience."
Mother and boyfriend accused of horrible abuse of child
by John Woodrow Cox , Times Staff Writer
April 26, 2011
HOMOSASSA — When Billie Murray flicks on the lightbulb and stares into that closet, she wants to believe it's just a closet.
Not her grandson's prison.
Not a 4- by 4-foot cell where, authorities say, a now 5-year-old boy with dark eyes and wispy blond hair was locked away for hours. Where he was starved. Where he was forced to drink his own urine and eat his own feces.
She wants to believe her daughter, Crystal Jean Ciampa, could not have committed such horrors against her own son.
"You'd have to be more than an animal to do this," she said Monday. "I couldn't imagine that my daughter could …"
Murray stopped, unable to push the words out. Tears trickled down her cheeks.
The 26-year-old and her live-in boyfriend, Joshua Louis Heater, also 26, were arrested by Citrus County sheriff's deputies Thursday on counts of aggravated child abuse, child neglect and tampering with a witness. She denied it all. But Heater implicated Ciampa and confessed to nearly everything, investigators said, though Heater insisted he was so addicted to prescription pills that he rarely took part in the abuse.
Ciampa's five sons, fathered by three different men, had lived with the two in the mobile home on Lima Avenue until authorities removed them all in February. But the woman is accused of abusing only one. Because, she used to say, the little boy reminded her of his father, her ex-husband.
She punished him — tortured him — for nearly anything, authorities and neighbors say. For sneaking chocolate candy bars or sharing his toys. Once, a report says, Ciampa caught him taking a soda without her permission. She made him chug it until he threw up.
Then, she made him lick the vomit up from the floor, the report says.
Neighbors recall him standing outside in 30-degree weather once this winter, dressed only in his underwear. He begged his mother to let him back inside. Other times, he was locked outside during rainstorms, authorities say. People hundreds of yards away could hear his screams through the night.
Investigators have accused Ciampa of striking the little boy until his eyes were black and blood streamed from his nose. They say the couple burned him with a cigarette lighter, sliced his hands with a plastic cake cutter and, once, beat him so badly his body was covered in 42 bruises.
Since early 2009, Citrus authorities had received reports about Ciampa and Heater abusing the boy. But every time they investigated, the boy refused to talk or blamed his older brother. The bruises were concerning, investigators said, but they were never bad enough to file charges or take the kids away. Then, in mid February, authorities learned of the vomit incident and saw the boy wrapped with injuries, so all five boys — ranging in age from 2 months to 9 years — were removed and placed in either foster care or with relatives.
Since then, sheriff's Detective Kathleen Liotta conducted 12 interviews with people who corroborated the allegations. Even the boy, eventually, detailed the atrocities committed against him and admitted he was compelled to lie before. Many times, the boy said, he was forced to consume his own "poop" and "pee."
"It's unfathomable," said sheriff's Sgt. Mike Kanter, "that parents or caregivers would do that to their kids."
Ciampa and Heater, deputies told Murray, trafficked drugs from the house. A September report says two men, armed with a gun, stole 45 Somas and 110 oxycodone pills from them. Neighbors say they've seen dozens of cars pull into the driveway where Ciampa would meet them and sell prescription pills.
After hearing last week that the children had been taken, Murray quit her job managing a hotel in Virginia and drove down to Homosassa. Recently, she was told her grandson had been locked up after he looked at his presents before Christmas. She spoke to him Sunday about living with her. "'Grandma, I'm not going to get into the presents, so you don't have to put the lock on the door,'" she recalled him saying. "I just had to pause and cry."
The house is strewn with contradictions. Toy trucks, blocks and everything SpongeBob SquarePants is piled in one room, just feet away from 12 bottles of Jagermeister atop a cabinet. On a wall is the boys' "Job Chart": take out the trash, pick up toys and take showers. On a marker board tacked nearby, in Ciampa's handwriting, is a reminder to call a "child protection investigator."
The couple had bought three big-screen TVs, one 6 feet across, but Murray has spent nearly $3,000 — all that she has — covering Heater and her daughter's unpaid rent and electric bill.
Though she's 54, with diabetes, she intends to raise her grandchildren, if she gains custody.
"They didn't ask to be brung into this world," she said. "They deserve to have a beautiful life."
Two Hillsborough men charged with child abuse in separate incidents
by Shelley Rossetter, Times Staff Writer
January 2, 2011
TAMPA — Deputies arrested two men on child abuse charges in separate incidents Saturday.
In Plant City, deputies arrested Glenn Alan Powell, 49, and charged him with aggravated child abuse and aggravated assault.
According to an arrest affidavit, Powell hit his son with a stick several times after an argument and pulled a gun on him. Powell told the boy to run and shot at him as he did, the report states.
In another incident, Frank Iasevoli of Tampa is accused of grabbing his stepson, throwing him to the ground and pulling out clumps of his hair after the boy refused to take out the garbage, an arrest report shows.
Deputies arrested Iasevoli and charged him with child abuse and tampering with a victim.
Ages of the children in both cases were not released.
Both men were in the Hillsborough County Jail on Sunday, Powell on $15,000 bail and Iasevoli on $4,500 bail.
Pa. girl, 10, charged with murder in death of baby
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – A 10-year-old central Pennsylvania girl who allegedly caused a baby's death by violently shaking him and throwing him into a crib was charged with third-degree murder.
The charges filed against the fifth-grader on Friday in Franklin County came after a coroner's inquest into the death of 11-month-old Heath Ryder. The girl was released into the custody of her parents and ordered not to have unsupervised contact with children under 5.
"This is not a kid that has a mental health disorder. She does not have a personality disorder," the girl's attorney, Jason Kutulakis, told The Public Opinion of Chambersburg. "She is not a bad person. She has no history of behavioral problems or school problems."
Also charged Friday was 56-year-old Dottie Bowers, who was babysitting both children at her home near Shippensburg, Pa., when the shaking allegedly occurred on July 29.
Bowers was charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly failing to seek medical care for the infant. Ryder died of traumatic brain injury at a hospital on Aug. 2.
"Our goal is to work with the police and find out what really happened," said Bowers' lawyer, Joseph Caraciolo. "When Dottie has her chance, she will tell her story."
A judge immediately transferred the girl's case to juvenile court, where records are sealed. Pennsylvania law requires murder charges to be initiated in adult court regardless of the defendant's age, according District Attorney Matthew Fogal, who supported moving the case to juvenile court. The suspect was 9 when the baby was injured.
The Public Opinion reports that all charges were in line with a jury's recommendations after a two-day inquest held in mid-April. The proceedings included testimony from police, the infant's parents and another girl who was in Bowers' care at the time.
The baby's father, Mark Ryder, said following the inquest that he wanted the suspect punished for what happened to his son. He declined comment after charges were filed Friday.
Numbers behind the missing
by Esther J. Cepeda
Apr. 29, 2011
On April 15, Melissa Ann Best went missing — "vanished into thin air," her husband said.
By the time Chicago and Kenosha, Wis., media picked up the story about the stay-at-home mom of two teenagers who had disappeared after dropping her daughter off at a friend's house for a sleepover, the police had been looking for her for six days. Thanks to leads generated by all the attention, police found her body Monday in the back seat of her minivan parked in an apartment complex lot. The investigation is continuing.
That the 34-year-old resident of Round Lake Park, Ill., a town of only 6,300 people, made the news was itself an achievement of sorts. Despite a handful of high- profile cases, few of those who are desperately being searched for by police and despondent family members ever make headlines. There are just so many of them.
According to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, last year there were 692,944 new reports of individuals who were missing and not assumed to be gone by their own choice. These people might have a mental or physical disability, or the circumstances under which they disappeared indicate that they were in physical danger, or there is a reasonable concern for their safety. Those under 21 are automatically counted as missing regardless of whether their absence is voluntary or not.
Approximately 51 percent of those reported missing in 2010 are female, 60 percent white or Latino and 33 percent African American, roughly mirroring the U.S. population, though almost 80 percent of the missing are under 18.
If it seems like nearly 700,000 missing people in one year is a lot, it is. And these are just the cases that are reported to the federal clearinghouse. According to an FBI spokesperson, law enforcement agencies report adult missing persons cases on a voluntary basis — they're only mandated by law to report missing children.
But, to speak to the public's constant frustration that law enforcement agencies don't undertake massive media campaigns every time someone goes missing, that's because they mostly come back. On Dec. 31, 2010, after all those new people were added to the previous year's number of never-found people, 749,713 were taken off the list because they were located by a law enforcement agency, the person returned home, or the record was determined to be invalid. This left 85,820 people on the active list of missing people — a number which has decreased in each of the past three years.
Since July 1999, when the NCIC began keeping expanded records on the most likely reasons for people to disappear, only about half of all law enforcement agencies have included that information in their official records. But of the new missing persons reports in 2010 that included information about the circumstances, a whopping 96.9 percent of all the missing were suspected of being runaways, a number skewed by how many of the missing are under 21. A scant 0.1 percent were thought to have been abducted by a stranger. By comparison, 0.8 percent were abducted by a non-custodial parent.
Which brings us back to Melissa Best. She was found just a few miles from home and there are still many questions about the circumstances of her death. But at least now her husband and children will have the opportunity to say their goodbyes.
She will not remain in the unbearable limbo of the never-found missing persons statistics. Tragically — but at least definitively — she did not join the 85,820 lost men, women and children whose absences continue to burn a hole in the hearts of their loved ones — gone, but never forgotten.
A&E Network Presents The New Real Life Series ‘The First 48: Missing Persons' Premiering June 2
by Bill Gorman
NEW YORK, NY, APRIL 29, 2011 – When a person goes missing, every second counts. A&E's new real life series “The First 48: Missing Persons,” a spinoff from one of the most-watched nonfiction investigative series on cable, “The First 48,” follows the Chicago Police Department's missing persons unit in The First 48 hours of their search for missing loved ones. ‘The First 48: Missing Persons' premieres Thursday, June 2 at 10PM ET/PT on A&E.
Based in the heart of one of the country's most colorful law-enforcement cities, the Chicago Police missing persons unit gets more than 17,000 calls each year and is the one of the only major police departments in the country that responds to every missing persons call immediately. For the first time ever, the Chicago Police Department gives unrestricted access to ongoing investigations and allows cameras to follow the elite, passionate and dedicated investigators who handle all missing persons and child abduction cases.
Each hour- long episode of “The First 48: Missing Persons” follows the specialized investigation of one or two high-stakes cases, from the moment the call comes in, as detectives search for the husbands, wives, sons and daughters who have disappeared. Just like a homicide on the original series “The First 48”, if they don't find the missing person in The First 48 hours, their chances of finding them alive are cut in half.
In the premiere episode, Detectives Selles Morris, Laura Skrip and Jim Corcoran team up to search for a straight A college student. They uncover surveillance footage that shows the 19 year-old sophomore walking toward the lakefront, then disappearing. Their around-the-clock search comes to a shocking conclusion and just when they think they're finished, Detectives Morris and Skrip have to pull double duty. Morris hunts down a father who vanished mysteriously, putting his own family in danger and Skrip has just minutes to save the life of a distraught missing woman who left a note threatening to end her life.
“The First 48: Missing Persons” is produced by Found Films, LLC for A&E Network. The executive producers for Found Films, LLC are Robert Schneiger, Gary Sherman and Conrad Riggs. The executive producers for A&E Network are Robert Sharenow and Laura Fleury.
Missing Crestwood Family Found Safe
The girls apparently were stranded in a car with their mother after the car ran out of gas
by Jeff Goldblatt and BJ Lutz
Four members of a southwest suburban Crestwood family have been found safe after Illinois State Police issued an "endangered missing person advisory" on Thursday.
Madison Owens, 11, and her 9-year-old twin sisters, Kristen and Nicole Owens, were found Friday morning in a car with their mother, the girls' father, Dwayne, told NBC Chicago. He said the car had run out of gas and their mom's debit card had been declined.
Dwayne Owens was told they had been stranded in the car for at least a day. "A big, huge relief crossed over me," he said after hearing the news that they were OK.
The girls were last seen with their mother, Stephanie Owens, on Sunday at their Crestwood home.
The family has lived with Stephanie Owens' brother for about the last 18 months, the girls' uncle told authorities. He said he didn't think anything of not seeing his nieces on Monday because they had off of school and he assumed they were with their mother.
He alerted authorities on Wednesday when the family still hadn't turned up, adding that his sister seemed depressed and distraught when he last saw her.
In their investigation, authorities started calling other family members. The girls' grandmother reported received a text message from the young girls:
"Hi mom. We are not having Easter because God told mommy not to. Also, Happy Easter. But guess what if you don't do Easter you get to see God."
"I'm very scared for my grandchildren. [Stephanie Owens] is truly a wonderful person. She has a heart of gold, but I'm afraid of what she's going to do," the grandmother, Cheryl McKinney, tearfully told NBC Chicago via telephone. "I never in my wildest dreams imagined I'd see one of my children or my grandchildren on one of those [missing persons] flyers."
Investigators looked into email messages and Facebook messages that may have been traded between Stephanie Owens and a Facebook friend in California.
"The Facebook friend didn't put too much weight into these messages, the emails going back and forth, until now, now that she's missing. She talks about God, talks about the Devil and something big that's going to happen," said Theresa Neubauer, Crestwood's police chief.
The four were believed to be traveling in a 1996 silver Lexus four-door with Illinois license plates L321854.
The vehicle was last reported being seen by police in Abingdon, about 50 miles east of the Iowa/Illinois border. The vehicle was parked, unoccupied, in the American Legion parking lot at the time but was no longer there.
Cell phone records indicated the phones have been powered off since Monday.
It remains to be seen whether police will seek kidnapping charges.
Nebraska Missionary To Talk About Human Sex Trafficking
by Chris Fankhauser
(Chadron)-A missionary to India will be in Chadron this weekend, bringing a message to people about a topic that is somewhat sensitive.
Brady Cone will be speaking on Sunday morning at the Ridgeview Bible Church on human sex trafficking, and what people in Chadron, Nebraska can do about it. Cone recently accompanied human rights activist and missionary Sujo John to India.
Cone is passionate about raising awareness about human trafficking and how it affects men, women and children around the world, as well as in the United States.
He will be sharing some practical things people can do in order to help with the problem. His presentation will be at 10:30 Sunday morning.
Ridgeview Bible Church is located at 919 E 10 th Street, or the corner of 10 th and Ridgeview, in Chadron.
For more information, call the church at 308-432-5131 .
MSNBC to Premiere Documentary on Sex Trafficking in the United Kingdom
Human trafficking—the buying and selling of human lives for profit—is a growing menace across the globe. For years, MSNBC 's documentary team has investigated and chronicled this gruesome business in the ongoing series "Sex Slaves."
On Sunday, May 1, at 10pm ET, MSNBC will spotlight one of the least-suspected countries where human trafficking has made inroads in "Sex Slaves: UK."
Human trafficking is now a $500 million business in the United Kingdom, and according to Bridgette Carr, a law professor at the University of Michigan and an expert in human trafficking, "selling human beings can be easier and is definitely more profitable than selling drugs." The two-hour special, narrated by TODAY's Natalie Morales, looks at an extraordinary nationwide investigation undertaken by the British police, Operation Pentameter 2. The film takes viewers behind-the-scenes into the gripping tales of police work one usually only sees in fictional crime shows—but these stories are a harsh reality for countless victims.
October Films, which produced the film in association with MSNBC , had extraordinary access to the undercover investigations and numerous brothel busts staged by the British police. Throughout the film, MSNBC follows Britain's Operation Pentameter 2 as they locate, arrest and finally bring to justice those criminals who have sold others into sexual slavery. By the end of Pentameter's three-year investigation, British police were able to rescue 164 victims, arrest 406 suspects and charge 67 of them with human trafficking.
Despite its great success, as Ms. Morales points out at the conclusion, "Since the end of Operation Pentameter Two, there have been no other coordinated national operations in Britain to combat sex trafficking." This brings home yet again the fact that human trafficking in Britain and here in the United States rarely receives the legal resources it needs to stop this growing problem.
Built on the worldwide resources of NBC News, MSNBC defines news for the next generation with world-class reporting and a full schedule of live news coverage, political analysis and award-winning documentary programming -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MSNBC's home on the Internet is msnbc.com. Msnbc.com delivers a fuller spectrum of news. Drawing on its award-winning original journalism, NBC News heritage, trusted sources and Microsoft's advanced technologies, the site presents compelling, diverse and visually-engaging stories on the consumer's platform of choice.
October Films is a leading British independent film and television production company based in the London. They produce award- winning content for broadcasters worldwide and have a well-established reputation for smart, hard- hitting factual programming.
Leaked cables paint unflattering portrait of Montreal
MONTREAL - Massive telemarketing fraud. Brazen video piracy using hidden camcorders in theatres. Trafficking of underage girls for exploitation in strip clubs and prostitution rings.
Montreal has literally become a "Bangkok of the West," a North American hot spot for questionable sex trade activities and other criminality, American diplomats suggest in newly leaked cables.
Penned by diplomats stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Montreal between 2003 and 2007, the cables were among the latest batch of sensitive documents made public by Wikileaks after unknown people leaked them to the group.
They were among hundreds Wikileaks published about Canada this week.
Written after interviews with RCMP officers and Montreal police detectives, the U.S. diplomats described a major Canadian city grappling with extensive underworld criminality.
A common factor: Hells Angels outlaw biker gang involvement, the diplomats wrote.
The officials also reported that, based on their private chats with Mounties, the national police force lacked sufficient resources to properly investigate such crimes or considered some, like video piracy, a lower priority.
One cable discussed the extensive use of - and trafficking in - underage girls in Montreal strip clubs and prostitution operations. In addition to exploiting runaway local teens, organized crime smuggled and imported foreign women and girls into Montreal to work the sex trade.
Such operations are expanding from Montreal to Ontario cities such as Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls, a U.S. diplomat wrote in a 2003 cable, adding that Chinese girls (using fake Japanese passports), Russians and Indian girls were brought to Quebec for the sex trade.
U.S. diplomats obtained data from the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association that suggested 18% of all pirated movies sold around the globe were traceable to recording in Montreal theatres, costing Canadian members alone more than $118 million in 2005.
The RCMP did arrest one unidentified video pirate in Montreal, but reportedly told U.S. diplomats they only did so "as a personal favour" to an unidentified CMPDA official, one cable suggests.
At the time, Mounties complained there was no criminal code provision to prosecute illegal camcorder pirates, making such probes a "low priority." They said they would focus intellectual property crime investigations on counterfeit drugs instead.
Since that cable was written, the federal government passed legislation that makes it a criminal code offence (in addition to a Copyright Act offence) for people to make video recordings of movies playing in a cinema or movie theatre for commercial purposes.
U.S. diplomats also complained U.S. senior citizens were being targeted by well-organized telemarketing fraud "boiler rooms" in Montreal and Toronto, working in cahoots with U.S.-based fraudsters.
Montreal is a favourite for such scams, the diplomat wrote, because of cheap call centre labour and hydro-power and "lax regulations."
Annual losses total $700 million, with the Hells Angels biker gang running the larger boiler rooms, a U.S. diplomat wrote in March 2006.
"In the U.S., telemarketing scammers can be charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. In Quebec, regulations are significantly more lax," the cable stated, noting that strict Quebec privacy laws make it harder for Canadian police to get cell phone account information for probes than their U.S. counterparts.
Though the RCMP has responsibility to pursue telemarketing scammers in Canada, "in many cases (it) lacks the resources to pursue and convict suspect operations," a U.S. diplomat added.
Justice and Education Departments Commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month with Students at Banneker High School
WASHINGTON – Wrapping up a month's worth of events in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Departments of Justice and Education participated in a town hall-style event today at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C. Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli; Susan B. Carbon, Director for the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW); Vincent Cohen Jr., Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney; Sunil H. Mansukhani, Deputy Secretary for Policy at the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights; and local resource providers took part in a discussion with the school's student body focused on healthy relationships, sexual assault prevention, early intervention and resources available to assault victims.
President Obama first proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2009, urging Americans to support victims and to work together to prevent these crimes in our communities.
“We at the Justice Department share a vision of a world where women, men, girls, boys and communities live without fear of sexual violence,” said Associate Attorney General Perrelli. “I am honored to be here today with a thoughtful and engaged set of students, because it's never too early to begin a dialogue about these issues and work to find solutions.”
“Sexual Assault Awareness Month provides an important focus for recognizing that we can all be agents of social change and end sexual violence,” said Director Carbon. “In the 16 years since the Violence Against Women Act was signed into law, we have been able to equip communities with the resources to save lives and protect survivors. This month's theme encourages everyone to get involved, take action, and support the ongoing work done in the field of sexual assault—and we hope to impress that same message upon the students here at Banneker High School.”
More than 400 students engaged in a lively question and answer session with department officials, Neil Irvin of Men Can Stop Rape, Tonya Turner of Break The Cycle and Melinda Coles of the DC Rape Crisis Center.
Throughout April, Director Carbon and members of the department's OVW team have visited nine different states to discuss sexual assault prevention and awareness. During these visits OVW spoke with members of the military, student groups, advocates, elected officials and community members about the importance of getting involved in stopping these crimes and supporting the work of those in the field who are working to transform the lives of survivors.
The Justice Department's 2006 National Violence Against Women Survey found that nearly 18 million women and 3 million men had experienced a sexual assault. In 2008, according to the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, 57 percent of the sexual assaults against females were committed by an offender whom they knew, and one in five sexual assaults against females was committed by an intimate partner. Less than half (47 percent) of the sexual assaults against females in 2008 were reported to police. Young women ages 16 to 24 are at greatest risk, and an alarming number of young women are sexually assaulted while in college. One National Institute of Justice study found that 1 in 4 women will be raped over the course of their college career.
OVW provides leadership in developing the nation's capacity to reduce violence against women through the implementation of Violence Against Women Act and subsequent legislation. Created in 1995, OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. For more information, please visit www.ovw.usdoj.gov .
Child Abuse/Neglect Numbers are Staggering
April 28, 2011
SUBMITTED BY HEART TO HEART CHILD ADVOCACY
Child abuse and neglect has been a problem on the Cherokee Reservation for years, and it is a problem that continues to grow. While reported cases of child abuse have grown in number and can often be seen on local news broadcasts, cases of child neglect do not often receive as much attention.
Child neglect, however, is statistically as big a problem as child abuse, it is just harder to recognize and less often reported. Neglect has been called the “silent killer” of children and the numbers support the name.
The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reported in 2009 that of 2,569547 child protective service reports, 1,591,084 had enough foundation for investigation. Of these, 442,005 were substantiated and of those substantiated cases, 78.3% were founded for neglect. That is 1,245,818 children that suffered from neglect: more than eighty-three times the number of members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. In that same year, 1,770 children reportedly died from child abuse and neglect, with over half of that number being attributed to neglect.
Each of those children had a story. Each could have been someone known by each person reading these words. It could be your neighbor, your cousin, your child's schoolmate. It could even be your own child or grandchild. Each of the children that died during that period had no voice, had no champion to stand up for their rights, had no place where they were safe.
In accordance with NC General Statute 7B-301, any person or institution who has cause to suspect that any child is abuse or neglected, or has died as the result of maltreatment MUST report the case of that child to the proper authorities. In reporting, you are legally protected from criminal or civil prosecution for making a good faith report, even if nothing comes of it. All people working with children in ANY capacity are mandated by law to make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect.
Please report suspicions of child abuse to the Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center 497-7477 or the Child Victim Unit of the Cherokee Police Department 497-7401. Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center is located at 75 John Crowe Hill in Cherokee. The mailing address is P.O. Box 532, Cherokee, NC 28719.
Couple Admit to Their Roles in Kidnapping of 11-Year-Old
by JESSE McKINLEY
SAN FRANCISCO — Ending a sordid criminal ordeal that began two decades ago with a kidnapping on a South Lake Tahoe street, a convicted sex offender and his wife pleaded guilty on Thursday to the abduction, rape and imprisonment of Jaycee Lee Dugard .
Ms. Dugard, then 11 years old and now 30, was kidnapped in 1991 and subsequently held and sexually assaulted by Philip Garrido, now 60, and his wife, Nancy, 55, at their home outside Antioch, Calif., a Bay Area suburb. Mr. Garrido, who was on parole for a previous rape conviction, fathered two daughters by Ms. Dugard and built a secret backyard compound to hold her and the children.
That nightmare ended in 2009 when the authorities discovered Ms. Dugard and her children and arrested the Garridos, who had become increasingly open about bringing their captives into the world, sometimes passing them off as their own children and using Ms. Dugard to work in a family printing business.
A lengthy legal tussle followed the couple's arrest, with a trial tentatively planned for August. But on Thursday, both Mr. Garrido and his wife pleaded guilty, with Mr. Garrido facing a maximum sentence of 431 years in prison, and his wife 36 years to life. Both waived their right to appeal — sentencing is scheduled for June 2 — and are expected to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Vern Pierson, the district attorney in El Dorado County, which covers South Lake Tahoe, thanked Ms. Dugard for her help in the case, which included testifying to a grand jury in September, adding that the plea deal would spare her “the grief and trauma” of a trial.
“Were it not for Jaycee's strong cooperation with our office and the prosecution of the Garridos, we would not have been able to firmly stand by our position to take this case to jury trial,” Mr. Pierson said in a statement. “Jaycee's courage and willingness to confront her abductors in court directly led to the defendants' plea and life sentences.”
In a statement, Ms. Dugard said she was relieved that the Garridos had “finally acknowledged their guilt and confessed to their crimes against me and my family.”
Outside court, Stephen Tapson, Ms. Garrido's lawyer, said both defendants agreed to the plea after prosecutors dropped some charges against Ms. Garrido providing Mr. Garrido pleaded guilty to almost the full indictment, The Associated Press reported.
“She obviously committed a serious wrong,” Mr. Tapson said, “but in her view now, she's made peace with God and wants to get on with life, what's left of it.”
Susan Gellman, Mr. Garrido's lawyer, could not be reached for comment.
Missing 13-Month-Old Girl Found, AMBER Alert Dropped
The AMBER Alert for a missing 13-month-old girl has been dropped.
Crystal Seigler-Clark, 38, turned herself in to the U.S. Marshals for the murder of her estranged husband and abduction of her daughter.
Clark was last seen with her daughter, Chloe Clark, Monday. Her husband's body was found Tuesday at their home in Varney, Mingo County.
Seigler-Clark and Chloe were staying at a motel in Jackson Tennessee. The young girl was unharmed.
Seigler-Clark faces one count of murder, with the possibility of more charges to be filed. She will remain in Jackson, Tennessee pending an extradition hearing.
Four Members of Crestwood Family Missing
Illinois State Police issue "Endangered Missing Person Advisory"
by Jeff Goldblatt and BJ Lutz advertisement
In an "endangered missing person advisory," Illinois State Police said they're looking for four members of a southwest suburban Crestwood family.
Madison Owens, 11, and her 9-year-old twin sisters, Kristen and Nicole Owens, were last seen with their mother, Stephanie Owens, on Sunday at their Crestwood home. All four are missing.
The family has lived with Stephanie Owens' brother for about the last 18 months, he told authorities. He said he didn't think anything of not seeing his nieces on Monday because they had off of school and assumed they were with their mother.
He alerted authorities on Wednesday when the family still hadn't turned up, adding that his sister seemed depressed and distraught when he last saw her.
In their investigation, authorities started calling other family members. The grandmother of the girls reported receiving a text message from the young girls:
"Hi mom mom. We are not having Easter because God told mommy not to. Also, Happy Easter. But guess what if you don't do Easter you get to see God."
"I'm very scared for my grandchildren. [Stephanie Owens] is truly a wonderful person. She has a heart of gold, but I'm afraid of what she's going to do," the grandmother, Cheryl McKinney, tearfully told NBC Chicago via telephone. "I never in my wildest dreams imagined I'd see one of my children or my grandchildren on one of those [missing persons] flyers."
Investigators said they're also looking into email messages and Facebook messages that may have been traded between Stephanie Owens and a Facebook friend in California.
"The Facebook friend didn't put too much weight into these messages, the emails going back and forth, until now, now that she's missing. She talks about God, talks about the Devil and something big that's going to happen," said Theresa Neubauer, Crestwood's police chief.
The four are believed to be traveling in a 1996 silver Lexus four-door with Illinois license plates L321854.
The vehicle was last reported being seen by police in Abingdon, about 50 miles east of the Iowa/Illinois border. The vehicle was parked, unoccupied, in the American Legion parking lot at the time but is no longer there. It has also been seen this week in Streator and in Canton, near Peoria.
Cell phone records indicate the phones have been powered off since Monday.
Full descriptions for each are detailed on MissingKids.com .
The circumstances of the case do not fit the criteria of an AMBER Alert, authorities said. Anyone with information on the family's whereabouts should contact the Crestwood Police Department at 708-371-4800 .
Volunteers No Longer Needed in Search for Holly Bobo
The American media and those who find interest in mysteries have become somewhat obsessed with the disappearance of Holly Bobo. As far as missing persons cases go, the case of Holly Bobo is especially interesting because of the lack of suitable evidence being released by investigators and those associated with the case. Unfortunately, it seems like the case is going cold to people viewing it from the outside, and suspicions are on the rise.
Sources aren't reporting much about Bobo, but some of the following information have been released as of today by Kristin Helm of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation:
However, Kristin Helm did say that volunteers could be called upon at a later time if they are needed.
When asked about evidence regarding the investigation of Holly Bobo, Kristin had this to say:
"Two weeks into an investigation you begin to have questions answered that initially are a mystery, so the investigation begins to narrow when questions are answered and the results of forensic evidence are turned in to investigators."
This nearly cryptic response alludes to the possibility that the TBI and Decatur Co. investigators may be onto the trail of someone or something regarding Holly Bobo, but of course they refuse to get the public and the media involved. This could be a mistake, seeing as the public on a national level could help find Holly by giving clues if they just knew what kind of clues they are supposed to be looking for. Perhaps, then, there isn't a mysterious suspect hiding Holly. Maybe it's someone that people have suspected all along -- someone who hasn't left the scene of the crime perhaps?
Moline Firefighter Reported Missing
April 28, 2011
Moline Police are looking for a firefighter who has been reported missing. Police say no one has heard from Jacob Carter all week and his neighbors say they haven't seen him in days. Carter's family filed a missing persons report when he did not show up to work on Wednesday. The fire department says they are treating the case as a missing employee and the police are handling the entire investigation.
Police are also looking for Carter's car. It is described as a 2004 light blue Chrysler Town and Country van, the Illinois license plate number is 5-5-2-9-3-3-5. Police say no foul place is suspected.
If you have any information on where carter might be you asked to call the Moline Police Department at 309-797-0401 .
Justice Department: Most Human Trafficking Cases Involve Prostitution
Information just released by the U.S. Department of Justice says most suspected cases of human trafficking involve prostitution. Both children and adults are sex trafficking victims.
From January 2008 to june 2010, more than 2,500 cases were investigated. Nearly half involved adult sex trafficking. Forty percent of the cases alleged sexual exploitation of a child.
Federal investigators say the victims were picked up and forced to trade sex for shelter, transportation or work. Most of the sex trafficking victims were not immigrants. Rather, they were U.S. citizens.
Two men, woman held in human trafficking sex ring
by Gary Dimmock, Ottawa Citizen
April 29, 2011
Two Ottawa men and a woman have been arrested in a human-trafficking sex ring that forced girls as young as 14 into prostitution.
The prostitution ring, which used the Internet to pimp out teenage girls in Toronto suburbs, was busted this week by Peel Regional Police.
The five-week undercover probe rescued six women, aged 18 to 23, from the ring, police said.
Eight people have been charged in connection with the ring, which used fear and intimidation to recruit vulnerable women.
The accused from Ottawa are Rebekah Bloomfield, 23, Juteah Downey, 33, and Bethuel Maseruka, 34. Bloomfield and Downey are charged with one count of procuring and one count of exercising control, while Maseruka is charged with one count of exercising control.
The police probe, dubbed Rescue Innocence, had officers posing as "johns" who would meet the prostitutes in motel rooms and then ask if they were forced into the trade.
The police said they interviewed about 70 prostitutes during the investigation in February and March.
The investigation followed a $47,000 grant from Queen's Park to save victims from the sex trade.
Most of the women rescued from the ring came from troubled homes.
Doctors call for buying sex to be made illegal
by EITHNE DONNELLAN
DOCTORS HAVE urged the Government to introduce legislation which would make it illegal for men to buy sex.
Delegates attending the first day of the annual conference of the Irish Medical Organisation in Killarney, Co Kerry, said this would be an important step in tackling the trafficking of illegal immigrants for the sex trade.
Public health specialist Dr Fenton Howell said Ruhama, the Dublin based group that works with women involved in prostitution, had called earlier this year for Ireland to adopt the Swedish model whereby men are prosecuted for buying sex and he agreed with their stance.
“In Sweden where that has happened for the last 10 years it's reduced the level of prostitution and the illegal importation of women,” he said. Dr Howell said “something like 90 per cent of the indoor sex trade is being done by illegal immigrants” and it was “literally slave trade again” and it was very lucrative for those running it.
“One of the deterrents is if you can actually charge the men . . . if they know they're going to be charged then it's a deterrent right across the board.”
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly will address the conference today.
Caught On Tape: Prostitution Thrives In Springs
Target 13 Hidden Camera Investigation
by JAMES JARMAN
(Video on site)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Prostitution's clearly thriving in the Pikes Peak region. Here in our state's largest county it now looks like the illegal sex trade's out of control and no one's doing much about it. In a hidden camera investigation, a Target 13 Investigates went into 4 asian spas in the Colorado Springs area and in all 4 he was offered sex for money.
At Fuji Massage, the woman who gave our employee a massage left, and another woman came in identifying herself as Meagan.
"You're not a cop are you?" she asked. She then proceeded to offer him several different options of sex. When he came up with excuses not to, she said, "Come on, give me a $100 I give you a happy ending."
At Stress Away, across the street from Harrison High School, it's $60 for a massage, and to go all the way it'll cost $300. "It's $300," the woman who gave him a massage told him.
"Really 300?" he asked. "Everything will go on. Everything go ahh... mmm," she said while signaling toward the place he had covered with a small towel. It was a similar story at Bamboo Massage in Manitou Springs and Springs Oriental Massage near the entrance to Peterson Air Force Base. It also looks like prostitution could bring in a lot of money for some.
Public records show the owner of Stress Away also owns several other properties, including a $623,000 home near Cheyenne Mountain High School.
We tried to get her side of the story, along with all the owners and managers. Everyone denied that any offers of sex for money are made inside their businesses, despite Target 13 capturing the offers on digital recording devices. Next to one parlor, employees at a hair salon say the prostitution next door's no secret.
"Yeah we've known, since I've been here we've known about it and ever since the salon's been here," said Debbie Hutchins, a salon employee, "nobody seems to care." "I think they (law enforcement) should do something about it, definitely," Rita Baca, the owner of the salon, told us.
"They (law enforcement) need to crack down," said Julie Nava, a concerned citizen. However, we found even when police crack down, court records show most prostitutes get a $50 fine. "Penalize them further," she said, "$50 is nothing, that's less than a speeding ticket."
4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May and Metro Vice, which covers Teller and El Paso Counties, told us Vice had to cut it's Prostitution Task Force a couple years ago because of the budget.
So right now, unless there's a complaint filed with the authorities, prostitutes working behind closed doors are essentially in the clear.
That's one of many developments we're tracking on this, including the out of control online prostitution in our region, and human trafficking. We'll get you more as soon as we can.
Victory! National Tattoo Association Will Train Artists to Fight Sex Trafficking
There will soon be a new population trained and ready to fight human trafficking: tattoo artists. Tattoo artists are in a unique position to stop a disturbing trend -- pimps using the art of tattooing to abuse and control women and girls. But now, after being urged by more than 2,000 Change.org members, the National Tattoo Association has invited anti-trafficking organization Polaris Project to give a human trafficking training at their next conference. This training will mark the first ever national program to encourage tattoo artists to join the fight against trafficking.
Tattoos as a tool of branding and control of sex trafficking victims are becoming frequent in media reports of trafficking cases. For example, in one recent case in Brooklyn, a local pimp wanted to gain control over a 15-year-old girl he had just started to "break-in" as a child sex trafficking victim. So he took her to a tattoo studio, presented himself as her legal guardian, and forced her to get his nickname tattooed on her body. The tattoo was a permanent sign of ownership, making the pimp feel more powerful and the victim feel more helpless. And it's a scar that won't fade; even once victims are free from trafficking, a tattoo is often a permanent reminder of the trauma and abuse they suffered.
However, if tattoo artists know the signs of human trafficking, they can help prevent pimps from using tattoos to brand sex trafficking victims as property and report suspected cases of abuse to the police. Understanding the power tattoo artists have to fight trafficking, the National Tattoo Association has welcomed Polaris Project to conduct a training for artists at their next convention, hoping to help prevent the misuse of their art by human rights violators.
"The National Tattoo Association will always remain dedicated to promoting and protecting the art of tattooing through education and exposure." said Curt Keck, of the National Tattoo Association.
The Polaris Project is also looking forward to reaching out to and educating a new audience on the ins and outs of identifying human trafficking victims, with the hope of helping young women and girls before they are marked for life, physically or emotionally.
“We're always excited to engage new constituencies in the fight against human trafficking," said Andrea Austin, of Polaris Project. "We know that pimps often try to ‘brand' the women and girls under their control with tattoos. Training tattoo artists is an important point of intervention that can lead to increased victim identification.”
Congratulations to The National Tattoo Association, Polaris Project, and the thousands of Change.org members who helped make this partnership possible. With increased education and resources, we can help ensure no one uses an art form so symbolic of freedom as a tool for slavery.
Former U.S. Probation Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights and Sex Abuse Charges
WASHINGTON– Mark John Walker, 52, of Eugene, Ore., pleaded guilty today to charges related to his engaging in sexual contact or aggravated sexual abuse with female offenders who were under his direct supervision as a federal probation officer from 2006 to 2009. Sentencing is scheduled for July 18, 2011 before Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Beistline, who is a visiting judge from Alaska.
As a U.S. Probation Officer, Walker supervised offenders who were serving probation or supervised release terms imposed by a federal judge, including offenders with vulnerable backgrounds involving sexual abuse, mental illness and drug addiction. Walker had the power to recommend that offenders who violated their conditions of probation or supervised release be incarcerated or otherwise sanctioned. Under the U.S. Constitution and federal law, law enforcement officials cannot use their authority to willfully sexually assault individuals under their control.
While exercising his authority as a probation officer, Walker willfully violated the victims' civil rights by kissing them, touching their breasts, buttocks and inner thighs, and forcing one victim to have sexual intercourse with him when he visited her home as part of his official duties. At the time, he was wearing his badge and carrying his government-issued firearm, and the victim was not able to escape. The victims feared reporting the violations to authorities because they were afraid that no one would believe them and that Walker, as their probation officer, had the power to have them incarcerated or otherwise punished.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the parties have agreed to recommend that Walker be sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. The defendant will also have to register as a sex offender under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, and keep the registration current in any state in which he resides, is employed or is a student. Chief Judge Beistline has the authority to accept or reject the joint sentencing recommendation.
“ Law enforcement officials violate the public trust when they abuse the rights of individuals under their supervision,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who abuse their power in this way.
“ Federal Probation Officers are entrusted and empowered by law to serve others,” said U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton. “Our criminal justice system is enhanced every day by their dedicated and loyal service. Walker betrayed his fellow officers and abused his power by sexually abusing the vulnerable people he had sworn to help. These victims have been heard.”
“We have a very high standard when it comes to the actions of federal officers,” said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “This defendant's criminal actions did great harm to women who were already very vulnerable. That is intolerable.”
The case has been investigated by the FBI in Eugene, Ore. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pamala Holsinger, Hannah Horsley and Craig Gabriel are prosecuting the case with assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section.
Krista Dittmeyer's body found in N.H. pond, prosecutors say
(CBS/WBZ) CONWAY, N.H. - The body of missing Maine woman Krista Dittmeyer, whose car was abandoned at a ski area with her toddler unharmed inside has been recovered from a nearby pond, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The 20-year-old Portland, Maine, mother's body was found by divers in a retaining pond about a quarter-mile from where her car was found idling Saturday in the parking lot of Cranmore Mountain ski area in Conway, a town of 10,000 people.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said an autopsy would be done Thursday to determine the cause of Dittmeyer's death. She described the death as "suspicious," but she would not elaborate or comment on possible suspects.
A crime scene unit was seen at the pond earlier Wednesday, but police pushed media back from the area, reports CBS station WBZ.
Officers began draining ponds in the area Monday, but said at the time they had no reason to believe Dittmeyer was in one. They claimed they were removing the water to rule out any possibilities.
The father of Dittmeyer's child is serving time in prison on an unrelated matter.
According to CBS affiliate WBZ, police say Dittmeyer, who lives and works in Portland and has ties to Bridgton, Maine, last talked to family members at about 8 p.m. Friday by phone.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Conway police at 603-356-5715 .
Woman wanted for husband's murder, child's disappearance
by CHAD ABSHIRE
VARNEY — Local authorities are still investigating the shooting death of a former Williamson businessman who was slain at his home in a small community between Matewan and Delbarton. Police have also issued an Amber Alert for the victim's missing daughter.
David Matthew Clark was found shot to death in his home when police arrived on Tuesday. Deputies were alerted after a neighbor found David Clark's body. David Clark was shot twice, Chief Deputy James Smith of the Mingo County Sheriff's Department, said. He was still unable to reveal in what parts of Clark's body he was shot.
Police are on the lookout for his wife, Crystal Seigler Clark, 32, in connection with Clark's death the subsequent abduction of their 13-month-old daughter, Chloe Clark
“We now have felony warrants on Siegler,” Smith said.
David Clark owned the A-1 Computer store in downtown Williamson that recently closed.
Smith also confirmed an Amber Alert has been issued for Chloe Clark, saying that authorities don't know if the child is considered to be safe.
“That's why we are so concerned,” Smith said. “That's why we have the Amber Alert out.
According to Smith, Chloe Clark is believed to have been abducted by her mother. Chloe is 28 inches tall, has brown eyes and brown hair.
Electronic signs on West Virginia highways and ads on websites have the Amber Alert posted as well.
Smith also said that Siegler and her daughter might be headed to the Dandridge area in Eastern Tennessee or North Carolina. She has family in Tennessee and her father-in-law lives in North Carolina, though Smith said he did not know where at.
Siegler is 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighs 127 pounds, and has green eyes and brown hair. She was last seen driving a silver 2000 Plymouth Voyager minivan with North Carolina tags, which is registered in David Clark's name. The plate number is ABM2212.
Siegler was born and raised in West Virginia and hasn't lived anywhere else, said her grandfather, the Rev. Gary Starr.
Relatives have no idea of Siegler's whereabouts, Starr said. He also said that they were unaware of any family problems.
Starr said the family hasn't talked to Siegler since Sunday.
There's only a simple message from Starr to his granddaughter.
“Just to come on home.”
Police are still looking for Siegler and Chloe Clark. If you have any information, contact the Mingo County Sheriff's Department at (304) 235-0300 .
Peel police project helps sex-trade workers in region
(Video on site)
Peel police have made a major effort to help victims of human trafficking in a plan called "Project Innocence".
Dozens of women have been lured into a sex trade based in the Peel region, after making dates through online classified ads.
"When you have a 14-year-old involved in a sex trade in the region, it's quite disturbing to us in the police profession," said Peel's Deputy Chief Dan McDonald,
McDonald said six individuals came to police to rescue them from human trafficking. In total, police met with 71 sex workers over five weeks in various Mississauga hotel rooms.
One girl was only 14-years-old, and another 16-year-old girl was forced to hand a pimp most of her money. In another case, an 18-year-old mother from Eastern Europe was forced into prostitution to pay a debt.
Police say that one man met his date with a loaded handgun.
"Project Innocence" began with a $47,000 grant from the province, although police say they need more funds to continue.
"We'll do all we can for them," Det. Dave Van Allen said. "(We'll) put them in touch with social services, if they need housing, we'll see about housing, if they need more immediate needs to deal with their self esteem, counselling, whatever they need, we'll try to get it for them."
But authorities say they need to find the individuals first.
"There's not enough support for them out there," Const. Heather Richardson said. "We're doing the best that we can to go out there and get them off this track."
Fairfield Rotary & Police to register children in AMBER Alert ID Program
Fairfield, CT) — The Fairfield Rotary Club, in cooperation with the Fairfield Police Department, will be registering children in the AMBER Alert emergency response system on Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fairfield Museum and History Center located at 370 Beach Road in Fairfield.
Over the last few years, the Fairfield Rotary Club has registered over one thousand children at prior registration events. This event allows parents the opportunity to register their children up to the age of 18 in the database and obtain an identification card. During registration a picture is taken and a description of the child is logged into the nationwide confidential database. The AMBER Alert database is used and accessed by various local authorities in the event a child is missing. Only a photo, decription of the child and a date of birth are put on the ID. There is no name, address or phone number on the card.
The goal of the AMBER Alert System, named for 9-year old Amber Hagerman, is to instantly notify the entire state, so everyone may assist in the search for the safe return of the child. The public immediately becomes the ears and eyes of law enforcement and can assist in the search for the missing child. AMBER Alert programs have helped save the lives of over 350 children nationwide. Over 90 percent of those recoveries have occurred since October 2002.
The Rotary Clubs and Fairfield Police Department are being assisted by the Danbury Rotary Club which is providing the customized computer terminals and photography equipment.
Further support is being provided by sponsors of the event: David Schmidt and Fairfield County Bank. Their sponsorship will allow for registration to be free, though additional identification cards cost $2.
The registration is a first-come, first-served event; all are welcome and encouraged to participate. For further information please go to www.fairfieldrotary.org/ or contact Ben Williamson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Locator device can help protect people with dementia, autism
The Sacramento Police Department has announced an option for families seeking to protect loved ones who are in danger of becoming lost due to cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's, dementia or autism.
The department has partnered with EmFinders, which provides a service using the EmSeeQ wearable locator system to quickly locate individuals who are prone to wandering due to cognitive disorders. EmSeeQ can track the location of a missing person anywhere in the United States where cellular service coverage exists, according to a police department news release.
The wearable watch-like device uses the nationwide U-TDOA cellular technology to determine the location of the person wearing the device, enabling rescuers to quickly find the individual.
The special needs person wears the device around the clock or as needed, based on the situation. If the individual is missing or has wandered off, the caregiver can call 911 to report the person missing and then contact EmFinders to activate the device. The personal bracelet device places a call to 911 and provides its location to dispatchers, who can direct responders to the person's location.
EmFinders has provided the Sacramento Police Department with a quantity of EmSeeQ bracelets for free. Families selected by the department to receive the devices are responsible for registering with the EmFinders system and paying the $25 per month fee for location services. The devices also are available for purchase as a tool to help in the search and rescue of people who are prone to becoming lost and who may be unable to identify themselves or ask for help.
For more information about EmFinders' EmSeeQ emergency locator system, see the website at www.emfinders.com, or call the Sacramento Police Department's Missing Person's Unit at (916) 808-0560 .
Cold Cases: Missing on the Grand Strand
by Ian Anderson - For Weekly Surge
This week marks the two-year anniversary of 17-year-old vacationer Brittanee Drexel's disappearance from Myrtle Beach. Her disappearance has been picked up by national media outlets and has frequently been profiled by cable news lawyer-turned-talking-head Nancy Grace and was also featured in the Season 2 premier of "Disappeared" a program on the digital cable network Investigation Discovery.
Yet, if you listen to the news coverage you would think that this was the first person to ever disappear without a trace on the Grand Strand. This is not the case. Myrtle Beach is a pretty easy place to disappear from. We have a transient population, a beach that attracts many tourists, and a high number of homeless people that are difficult to track. There are plenty of cracks to fall into, whether you want to disappear or if someone makes you disappear. Presently, there are eight open, unsolved missing persons cases in Myrtle Beach and Horry County police jurisdictions.
The most famous case right now, of course, is the one of Drexel who went missing on April 25, 2009 from the Blue Water Motel in Myrtle Beach. Drexel, form Rochester, N.Y., came to the beach with her friends without the permission of her mother. They had a hotel room at the Bar Harbor resort in Myrtle Beach. The last known contact anyone had with her was a friend that she met at approximately 8 p.m. April 25, 2009. There is security footage of her walking out of the Blue Water Motel when she was supposed to be returning to the Bar Harbor. She never made it there and no one has heard from her since.
When your cellular phone runs out of battery power it gives off one last ping to help emergency services locate you. Drexel's cellular phone gave off its last ping in the area of the Santee River near the borders of Georgetown and Charleston counties. A pair of female sunglasses consistent with the type that Drexel had was also located in the area. Subsequently a massive hunt was launched in that area with cadaver-hunting dogs, but no substantial leads were found. Searches are still launched in that area to this day to look for leads but nothing has materialized.
The City of Myrtle Beach Police's Public Information Officer Captain David Knipes recently issued a press release in response to the media frenzy surrounding the two year anniversary of Drexel's disappearance:
"This case has been active since day one and we are still receiving tips and information on a routine basis. All tips are investigated to resolution. The latest tip came in this morning around 2:30 a.m., and is being followed up, as are all others. There is another search planned in the Myrtle Beach area this week. This location is not being released at this time. This search has been planned for a week and is not related to the tip that came in this morning, or any other tip. At this time we have nothing further to report and we appreciate your assistance in working with us on this case."
At press time, this case seems to have gone cold.
But as mentioned, Drexel is not the only unsolved missing person case in the Myrtle Beach area.
Rebecca Slavinsky, missing since 1979
The coldest case of all is that of Rebecca Slavinsky. She was last seen on July 28, 1979 in the area of 64 th Avenue N. In Myrtle Beach. According to reports, Slavinsky met up with a friend at the Driftwood Motel. She wanted the friend to take her swimming so they proceeded from there to 64 th Avenue N. Slavinsky took her friend's surfboard and went to the water. She did not know how to swim but it was a calm day and she used the surfboard to float herself in shallow water. Her friend told police that he went to his sister's house on 65 th Avenue N. but he was tired and he fell asleep. That was the last time anyone heard from Slavinsky. Her friend awoke the next morning and was unable to find her. All of her clothes, her beach towel, and the surfboard were found but she was not. Witnesses reported seeing Slavinsky in the area but no foul play was reported. No further leads were ever found and the case remains open.
Shanta Marie Johnson, missing since 1992
If Shanta Marie Johnson is still alive, she would have turned 22 this year. On July 19, 1992 she was just three-years-old. That was the last day that Shanta was ever seen. According to reports she and her adoptive mother went to the Briarcliffe Mall (now Myrtle Beach Mall) and were in K-Mart when Shanta disappeared near the toy section. Police reviewed the surveillance tapes and Shanta was not seen on the surveillance footage. Shanta's adoptive mother is on the videos, and she is seen entering K-Mart alone. Shanta tested positive for cocaine at birth and she was identified as a special needs child. Her biological mother was in prison at the time for drug charges. Her biological family was having a family reunion in Myrtle Beach at the time of her disappearence but they were all ruled out as suspects. Three years after Shanta went missing her adoptive mother was charged with child abuse. A nurse at Duke University Medical Center filed a police report stating that she believed that Shanta was being abused because of fearful behavior and injuries consistent with abuse. Shanta's babysitter reported Shanta having severe burns on her buttocks. Shanta told her babysitter that her adoptive mother was burning her with hot grease. Police believed that her adoptive mother was the prime suspect in a homicide. But to date her case remains open and unsolved.
Andrea Lynn Hayslette, missing since 1993
On April 24,1993 Andrea Lynn Hayslette, a devoted mother, disappeared without a trace. According to reports, she was last seen at her apartment at Deer Track Villas in Surfside Beach. Her van was found out in front of her apartment. Items from her apartment that she shared with her husband and two children were missing, such as her purse, a suitcase, toothbrush, and some personal items. But none of her clothing was determined to be missing from the apartment. Her parents reported her missing because she never got in touch with them after a vacation to Florida. Hayslette's credit card or bank card were never used after her disappearance. She was a straight A student at Coastal Carolina University and she missed her final exams. She also worked part time there and never picked up her final pay check. In 1995, Hayslette's husband was charged with the forging of his wife's signature on a vehicle title and he was sentenced to jail time for that. In 1996 Hayslette's husband was charged in the disappearance of his wife and with her murder. The murder charge was dropped due to lack of evidence. Her body has never been found. The case is still considered open and unsolved.
Woodrow Taylor, missing since 1997
On Dec. 13, 1997 Woodrow Taylor walked away from his Conway home off of Hucks Road and was never seen again. According to reports he left his house with a friend. Taylor is reported to have been carrying $1,100 at the time of his disappearance. His friend stated that he left Taylor at the intersection of U.S. 701 and S.C. 410 in Conway and that he never saw him again. His friends began to get worried after he missed church, which is something he would never do. Taylor's friend from church paged him repeatedly. After the friend's repeated pages the call was returned by the person who Taylor was last seen with. Police suspected foul play but no charges were ever filed. Taylor is still considered a missing person and the case is open and unsolved.
Lisa Neugent, missing since 1999
On Sept. 8, 1999 Lisa Neugent, from Rockingham County, N.C., called her parents on the way to Cherry Grove Beach to help her boyfriend with a construction project he was working on. She was never heard from again. According to reports, Neugent was looking to escape an abusive marriage she was in with another man. She married her first husband in 1997. Two years later she met a new boyfriend and moved with him almost immediately to his home in Conway. She found work as a courier in her new town. According to her friends, her new boyfriend was very possessive of her, but in spite of this they were very happy together for the next two years. In September of 1999 Neugent's parents came to visit. On the last night of her parents' visit Neugent's boyfriend did not return home. Neugent confided in her parents that he was using drugs and they persuaded her to come to Rockingham County with them and she agreed. Her boyfriend began calling her the next day. Then he came there looking for her. He told her parents that he had rented a nearby hotel room so that Lisa and he could discuss their relationship and that he would return her the next day. Instead he took her to Cherry Grove to work on a home improvement project. On Sept. 12, he phoned one of Neugent's friends and claimed that Lisa left the Sea Mist Resort in Cherry Grove where they were staying and took their dog and $1,200 out of his pockets while he was asleep. There was no sign of Neugent at their home in Conway. Management for the home stated that Neugent's boyfriend had moved out weeks before and there was no sign of Neugent at the home. Neugent's boyfriend was arrested one month later on narcotics and burglary charges in Georgia but he never appeared on his charges. He also is wanted in South Carolina for child support. Neugent is still considered a missing person as no evidence of foul play was ever uncovered. Her case remains unsolved and open.
Mae Cynthia Bullock, missing since 2009
On May 15, 2009 Mae Bullock, a homeless woman in Myrtle Beach, contacted her son in Hickory, N.C. telling her son that she was coming to visit him. She was never heard from again. According to reports, her son grew concerned that he had not heard from his mother in four months. The cellular phone that she had was also not reachable. Bullock's son did not know where to find her but he did know that she frequented the community kitchen for meals and the First Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach. On the same day she last contacted her son, May 15, 2009, Bullock filed a police report in regards to being a victim of credit card fraud but she did not leave any contact information to follow up on. None of the people that knew her in the area had seen her or knew her whereabouts. The case remains open and unsolved.
Glenn Howlett, missing since 2009
On June 23, 2009 Glenn Howlett, from Greensboro, N.C., made his last phone call to his family and he was never heard from again. According to reports, his last phone call was made from a McDonald's in Myrtle Beach. They became worried because Howlett phoned home on a consistent basis and they had not heard from him in five weeks. Howlett reportedly had trouble with alcohol and the law. And according to reports, he was also in a troubled marriage and his wife had made threats against him in the past. Searches for Howlett revealed nothing and his body was never found and he was never heard from again. The case remains open and unsolved.
Myrtle Beach is an easy place to disappear in/from. Every time Drexel is in the news there is the possiblity that one magic tip will come in that will break the case wide open. So far that tip has not come in. But for every Brittanee Drexel there is a Rebecca Slavinsky, a Shanta Johnson, an Andrea Hayslette, a Woodrow Taylor, a Lisa Neugent, a Mae Bullock, and a Glenn Howlett. They did not receive the national attention that Drexel's case has, but their families' pain is no less real. Their families want closure too. Maybe with some exposure that magic tip will come in that will lead to these cases being closed.
Girl, 14, among six rescued from sex trade
by Rob Lamberti
(Video on site)
TORONTO - One girl, from the east coast, was only 14. Another 16.
Both are among six rescued from Peel's sex trade during the five-week Project Rescue Innocence by the region's vice cops.
The investigators reached out to 71 women, including an 18-year-old single eastern European mom who was forced into the sex trade.
A loaded .357-calibre revolver was seized from a man hiding in a motel closet during the investigation, police said.
The primary objective was to find underage girls but police were also looking for those who wanted out of the sex trade, Det. Dave Van Allen said.
The project, funded with a $47,000 grant in February from the provincial government, focused on the exploitation of minors, Van Allen said.
One of the eight people arrested, a woman, was charged with pimping-related offences.
“We're starting to see (women involved) because the pimps want to remove themselves or protect themselves, so they're starting to trust one girl,” Van Allen said.
The 14-year-old, from eastern Canada, was given bus fare to get to Ontario, and was then driven to the Toronto area.
She was rescued on her first night before she had handed any money over to her pimps, Van Allen said.
The 16-year-old was found in a hotel being controlled by a 28-year-old man.
“She wasn't turning over all of her money, but she was turning over a percentage of her money to him,” Van Allen said.
Const. Heather Richardson said human anti-trafficking legislation adopted in 2005 was the first step in acknowledging women are victims, not the problem.
“We changed our focus: How can we help them? How can we get them out of this lifestyle?” she said. “We're now focusing on the persons who are forcing them to do it.”
Deputy Chief Dan McDonald said the objective was to find victims through online ads.
Three people were arrested in connection with the 14-year-old, who was returned home, and the eastern European mom was given “immediate protection”, McDonald said.
Charged in the case are: Raynard Bell, 28, and Brian Wright, 27, both of Toronto; Tori-Lynn McGruthers, 18; Gregory Salmon, 28, of Brampton; Juteah Downey, 33, of Kanata; and Pawel Michon, 42, of Mississauga, and Rebekah Bloomfield, 23, and Bethuel Maseruka, 34, both of Ottawa.
Local Soroptimists battle human trafficking
April 27, 2011
by CAROLYN DRYER, Editor The Glendale Star
Alice Wells and Virginia Corder are longtime members of Soroptimist International of the Kachinas. Wells is now well-known throughout the Soroptimist world and will serve as its international president beginning in June.
But there is a pressing problem on the local front that she and Corder want to bring to residents' attention: Human trafficking; more specifically, young teen and child sex trafficking in the Valley.
They made a presentation last week at a Rotary club titled "Tackling Trafficking Today."
Corder told club members one in five girls and one in 10 boys will be sexually exploited before adulthood. Vulnerable young girls fall into the trap of false promises made by predators. Unfortunately, reality sets in quickly.
"There is no Prince Charming to sweep you away," Corder said.
The statistics are alarming
Every minute, two children are trafficked.
At least 100,000 American children are used for pornography or prostitution each year.
Child pornography is a $3 billion annually business.
Human trafficking is the third-largest organized crime in the world, behind gun-running and drugs.
Twenty-five percent of all child sex tourists around the world are U.S. citizens.
Ninety-three percent of all women trapped in prostitution are desperate to get out.
A human rights investigation determined minors are sold 10 to 15 times a day, six days a week.
Each victim is "used" 9,360 to 14,040 times a year.
Technology has made the situation easier for predators as well. The investigation revealed that 20 percent of 13- to 19-year-olds send nude or semi-nude photos by text or online to someone, and 71 percent send the photos to a boyfriend.
Fifteen percent send to someone known only online.
Twenty-five percent indicate they have nude images (meant for someone else) shared with them.
Taking all that into account, ponder this: Today's teenagers spend an average eight hours a day online.
Wells asked her audience to consider what life is like today for teens. They look like adults, but they think like children.
"All children and teens are at risk," Wells said. "Traffickers aggressively recruit at malls, at schools and other places where ‘kids hang out.'"
The trafficking now crosses socio-economic lines. And, there is a high correlation between sexual abuse at home and prostitution.
What are predators looking for? Wells said it is known as "The Rule of 3."
1. Not the prettiest
2. Not the most popular
3. Not the one that's different
Predators work at getting the young girl isolated from family and friends.
Sobering statistic: Ninety minutes is the average time it takes from the first meeting to the first time of selling oneself. It is called the time to recruit.
They promise big money, everlasting love, movie or modeling careers, pocket money for luxuries, necessities of life - food and shelter.
The realities of this "life" are:
- Rape (which can lead to murder)
- Drug addiction (which can lead to abortion)
- Physical beatings
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Pornography model
Wells said one victim of human trafficking said, "People are products. I was one of them."
It's all about the money with young victims performing 10 to 15 sex acts a night.
Wells and Corder said they talked with Phoenix Police Department investigators about the human trafficking problem in the Valley. In October 2010, Phoenix PD had 40 investigations in progress and more than 30 warrants served, with 115 pimps identified and 43 pimps being actively investigated and 83 in custody. More than 100 victims were rescued.
And who are the buyers of these victims' services?
"Most of the buyers of girls' services are regular businessmen," Wells said.
So what can parents do to ensure their child is not a victim?
Monitor trips to the mall.
Monitor Internet usage.
Establish firm social boundaries.
Insist on meeting friends and boyfriends.
Know who, what, where.
Ask questions, keep the communication lines open.
Watch for any change in behavior.
To learn more, visit www.sikachinas.org.
Former Dallas high school teacher sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on child pornography convictions
DALLAS - A former local high school teacher was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in September 2010 to three counts of receiving child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
In addition, U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade ordered that Jon Leslie Lyons, 45, will not be given credit for time served. After Lyons completes his prison sentence, he must register as a sex offender, and must serve a lifetime of supervised release. Lyons has been in custody since his arrest in June 2010.
According to documents filed in the case, in May 2010, a Dallas Independent School District (DISD) employee notified ICE HSI possible child pornography was discovered on a DISD computer assigned to Lyons. At the time, Lyons was an English teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas.
Soon thereafter, an ICE HSI special agent met with the DISD employee who made the referral and viewed images of prepubescent females posing in lewd and lascivious manners that had been recently forensically recovered from Lyon's work computer. Several ICE HSI special agents then met Lyons at his apartment in Dallas, near the school, and conducted a consensual interview. In that interview Lyons admitted he had images of 13- to 16-year-old nude teens, as well as images of prepubescent females, engaged in sexually explicit conduct on his home desktop computer and Apple iPhone. He also stated that he had downloaded child pornography from the Internet to his iPhone as recently as the previous day.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa J. Miller, Northern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE . This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
Neighbors saw and heard, but tiny boy's torment went on and on
by John Woodrow Cox
April 27, 2011
HOMOSASSA — They watched the frail child, wearing nothing but underwear in 30-degree weather, stand on the porch screaming and begging to be let back inside the mobile home.
Over the course of several months, they saw bruises and black eyes.
At least a half-dozen houses in the rural neighborhood sit within earshot of his house. But beyond a handful of anonymous calls to an abuse hotline giving scant details about a beaten boy, no one tried to help.
Because, neighbors said, they feared retribution from the adults in the house. Because they couldn't prove anything. Because surely, they thought, deputies would eventually take care of it.
But because no one had told law enforcement all that they saw, deputies couldn't help.
So, neighbors and investigators said, the abuse continued for nearly two years.
"I had adults who witnessed this stuff and didn't call," said Citrus County sheriff's Detective Kat Liotta, who later investigated and helped place the child, now 5, and his four brothers in homes.
"I'm here to tell you, if we had not sheltered this kid, he would have ended up dead," she said Tuesday. "There's no doubt in my mind. He was hated so much."
In that home on Lima Avenue, authorities say, the boy's mother and her live-in boyfriend locked him in a 4- by 4-foot closet for hours at a time. They forced him, Liotta said, to eat his own feces, drink his own urine and, once, to lick his own vomit from the kitchen floor.
Crystal Jean Ciampa and Joshua Louis Heater, both 26, were arrested Thursday and charged with aggravated child abuse, child neglect and tampering with a witness. She denied it all, but investigators said Heater implicated Ciampa and confessed to nearly everything.
Four times since February 2009, investigators with Citrus County's child protective team had responded to calls that the boy was covered with bruises.
But each time authorities went to the house, the boy either wouldn't speak at all or whispered that his now 9-year-old brother had hit him. His bruises alone, Liotta said, were never bad enough to file criminal charges or take the five boys away.
But in mid February, during an unrelated Sheriff's Office investigation into Heater, someone approached a deputy with pictures on her cell phone.
The photographs showed the 5-year-old's nose bloodied and both of his eyes blackened. The woman told authorities about the closet and what he was forced to eat. An investigator questioned and inspected the boy, who again blamed his older brother and denied everything else.
That day, the investigator found about 20 bruises on him. The next day authorities questioned him again at Jessie's Place, a child advocacy center in Citrus named after Jessica Lunsford, who was killed in 2005 only a few streets away from Lima Avenue. They counted 42 bruises.
The 5-year-old is the only child the 5-foot-11, 232-pound Ciampa is accused of abusing. Authorities said she did it because he reminded her of his father, her ex-husband.
From then until last week, Liotta built her case. She interviewed 12 people who said they witnessed abuse.
"I'm just looking at them in horror," she recalled, "and I say, 'And you called us?' "
"Well … "
Most of them, Liotta said, offered little explanation.
Eventually, though, she compiled the testimonies.
Even the boy told her what Ciampa and Heater had done to him, she said.
The detective, hardened by 26 years in law enforcement, was consumed with the case. Soon after she entered the mobile home, Liotta walked in the closet where she said the boy was kept. She shut the door and turned off the lights. The stench of urine was overwhelming. She wanted to know what the boy had felt in his prison.
When she noticed the closet doorknob had been removed, she rifled through the couple's garbage until she found it.
After Liotta made the arrests last week, she interviewed Ciampa and Heater. Liotta told Ciampa she needed to cooperate. She said the woman's response was: "What good is that going to do me?"
Heater, the detective said, insisted he was so addicted to prescription pills that he rarely took part in the abuse. Liotta said he admitted shutting the boy in the closet, but noted the door wasn't always locked.
"If the door wasn't always locked, the kid knew what happened to him if he came out," the detective said. "They didn't need a lock on that door to keep him there. Heater pretty much agreed with me on that."
Liotta said the amount of time it took authorities to stop the abuse still haunts her. She wonders if she did anything wrong. How the system might have failed. Why neighbors and relatives did almost nothing to stop the torture.
The last time she saw the boy, his body showed no bruises. He smiled and was proud of that.
North Minneapolis congregation turns over church to victims of sex trade
by Cynthia Boyd, MinnPost
April 26, 2011
Perhaps the seed of the idea for Alika Galloway's church in North Minneapolis to minister to those in the sex trade was planted years ago in California.
At a church there, Galloway, a Presbyterian pastor, met a homeless woman. "She would come to church and cry and cry and cry and say, 'Forgive me.''' It wasn't until later that Galloway realized that the woman was using her body to make a living and was, she says, a victim of the sex trade.
Galloway's sympathy and her desire to help those engaged in prostitution grew, particularly when she learned that some of the women in her new church neighborhood in North Minneapolis off West Broadway, were, as she says, trapped in prostitution.
"The women are caught; they are the victims of the sex trade. There are systems in place where women have nothing else to trade except their bodies. That's the issue,'' she told me, a woman exuding both warmth and strong convictions.
Still, it wasn't until a couple of years ago that she met Lauren Martin, a University of Minnesota research associate collecting data on sex trafficking in North Minneapolis, and found a kindred soul.
Martin's vision, which we first told you about in February 2010, was to open a safe and welcoming place where women and teen girls in the sex trade could get off the street, find a place to sit and drink a cup of coffee or eat a sandwich, to wash up or use a phone, to wash their clothes and eventually connect to better lives. Plans include offering health services, emotional and spiritual counseling and job-search support.
At first, the drop-in center was going to be small scale: a lounge area, a bathroom and laundry room at Kwanzaa Community Church, PCUSA, where Galloway is co-pastor with her husband, Ralph. Church leaders, steeped in caring rather than judgment, the pastor says, signed on to their new mission. "But we thought and talked and prayed about it more,'' she told me, preacher and storyteller building to a high point.
Instead, the 200 or so members of Kwanzaa, people Galloway calls "some of the best human beings I've ever met in my life,'' decided to loan out their entire 10,000 square-foot building to the program, stained glass windows and all.
As of now, Kwanzaa members have donated more than $15,000 in labor, in-kind supplies and money toward the project, according to Kathleen Janasz, volunteer media contact for the church.
This week, nearly a year after they'd first hoped to start, Northside Women's Space begins operations at 2100 Emerson Ave. N., in that donated 100-year-old facility. There's an open house from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. today, April 26, with remarks by Galloway and Martin at 6:30 p.m. at the site.
Kwanzaa's congregation, meanwhile, has moved to their other facility at 3700 Bryant Ave. N.
The Presbyterian church cares about what's going on in society, Galloway says, both talking their walk and walking their talk. "So many people see the sex trade as a moral issue. It isn't, it's an issue of generational poverty,'' she preaches.
Women, girls and boys are reduced to the level of commodities by selling their bodies, she says. "If Suzie Q doesn't have the means to feed her family, to keep clothes on her body, have a house for her family what is she going to do?"
Martin's research seems to bear that out. In 2005 and 2007 Martin, a PhD., surveyed 155 people living or working in North Minneapolis trading or selling sex and found: 87 percent were female, 90 percent were unemployed and living in poverty, 82 percent were African-Americans, fewer than half had a high school diploma or equivalency; and 80 percent had experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence.
Those engaged in prostitution won't be knocking at the center's doors quite yet. Outreach is the first step toward full implementation of the program, begun with a small "trust-building" group of women going out to talk about the center to those in the sex trade, Martin says, serious and focused. "People aren't going to trust immediately.''
Since a meeting in early 2010 to introduce the idea to community agencies and leaders, Martin, Galloway and others have been fundraising and gathering support. Count among those supporters nine local Presbyterian churches and the National Black Presbyterian Caucus as well as Breaking Free and PRIDE, two organizations with established histories of working to help women and girls escape prostitution. Further, groups of volunteers have helped renovate and decorate the former sanctuary space.
"We are trying to be the church, not look like the church,'' Galloway says. These women and girls need a comfortable and welcome place to share their stories, she said. She wants them to know, she says, "Even if you don't want to hear anything about Jesus, I'm going to love you anyhow.''
What, then, about those colorful glass church windows? For the right price, they could be sold with the proceeds going to Northside Women's Space. As an elderly church leader told her, Galloway says, "Jesus would rather be walking with those women than in those windows.''
Students taking moped mission across country
April 26, 2011
Two college students from Minnesota and Michigan will set out next month on a two-month moped excursion across the U.S., with the mission of spreading awareness about worldwide human trafficking.
University of Minnesota student Jonathan Stockeland and Brady Mulder of Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, Mich., will travel the back roads of about 30 states at a top speed of 37 mph. They'll speak with people about the need to fight child labor and sex trafficking.
The Minnesota Daily reports the students estimate the trip will cost less than $1,000 for food and fuel. They'll sleep in ditches, yards, forests and perhaps churches or homes. Stockeland and Mulder sold their cars to finance the trip, and are bringing only tents and sleeping bags.
Deputy booked on suspicion of having sex with girl in San Bernardino County
April 26, 2011
A San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy who was booked on suspicion of having sex with an underage girl has been placed on leave, authorities said Tuesday.
Nathan Gastineau was released on $25,000 bail and was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, the department said.
A 10-year veteran deputy, Gastineau had been assigned to the Highland station.
He was booked Friday on suspicion of lewd acts with a minor after the department received a report that a deputy may have had sexual relations with a girl, according to authorities.
Tacoma sergeant who slept through Amber Alert call won't be disciplined
by MEG COYLE
TACOMA -- For the first time we're hearing from Tacoma city leaders on the heels of troubling revelations over how the Tacoma Police Department handled the Zina Linnik case, with allegations of a police cover-up.
Last week, it was revealed that a Tacoma Police sergeant slept through a call to issue an Amber Alert the night Zina Linnik disappeared, July 4, 2007, resulting in a six-hour delay.
City leaders have decided to take no action against Sergeant Mark Fulghum or Police Chief Don Ramsdell.
But the Linnik family has filed a lawsuit against the city. The city manager and the mayor acknowledge mistakes were made. But after meeting in executive session with the full city council, they decided not to discipline anyone.
"We have to make damn sure our performance re-establishes the public's trust," said City Manager Eric Anderson.
Trust broken by accusations the police chief tried to cover it up.
"I believe that in a stressful situation some information was not released that should have been released," said Anderson. "The Chief agrees with that and has apologized for not doing that."
Linnik, 12-years-old at the time, was abducted on July 4, 2007. Her body was found three days later. Her confessed killer, Terapon Adhahn, is now in prison.
Also for the first time, we're hearing Adhahn's version of events. He told investigators he was upset over not being able to see his son that night.
“If I ain't gonna have my kid neither will anyone else, the hell with them,” he said.
He says that night he'd gone to see his son but he wasn't home. Angry, seeing red, he said, “I wanted to destroy a human...cause pain make them feel that.” Why Zina, he was asked, “She was just there,” he said, “I can grab her and do what I want.”
Adhahn says he accidentally killed her by pulling a zip-tie around her throat within minutes after she was taken. Zina's family disputes that timeline, and blames sloppy and sleepy police work.
"But for the comedy of errors we discussed, Zina would still be alive today," said Linnik family attorney, Tyler Firkins.
Mayor Marilyn Strickland disagrees. She stands by Terapon Adhahn's version of events.
"I mean anything's possible but he made a confession and he's behind bars and that's what happened," said Strickland.
Strickland says the city and the police department have taken steps to improve the process for issuing Amber Alerts in the future.
"There was no redundancy in place. So at the time there was only one responsible for issuing the Amber Alert. We fixed that so now there are multiple people who could issue an alert if we decide to take that route," said Strickland.
Russia sentences Israeli to 18 years for sex trafficking
According to the court, from 1999 to 2007, Avi Yanai and his accomplices sold hundreds of women for prostitution to Israel, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.
by Eli Shvidler
An Israeli citizen was sentenced yesterday to 18 years in prison by the Moscow military court, for organizing a vast network of sex trafficking. According to the court, from 1999 to 2007, when most of the network's agents were arrested, Avi Yanai and his accomplices sold hundreds of women for prostitution to Israel, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. The minimal official estimate stands at 129 women, but some of the states still investigating the network put the number at several hundred. The women were lured from Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Uzbekistan.
Aside from Yanai, 83 people were arrested across Europe, 14 of them in Russia. The network is suspected to have produced tens of millions of dollars in profits for its operators, and some of the women trafficked may have been murdered by the Albanian mafia.
"Some people, using false documents, registered fictitious companies in Russia promising people legal work abroad, mostly in Western Europe," a senior Russian Federal Security Service investigator, Vitaliy Danilov, told the Izvestia newspaper. "They put out advertisements and people came in, bringing documents and pictures. By the time they came back to pick up their documents, work permits and Schengen-zone visas, the companies would be gone. Nobody, including the police, had any clue about why these documents were stolen."
Some 2,500 passports were stolen in all. The man in charge of the passports and visas for the network was an officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dmitri Strikanov, who was sentenced by the same military court to 12 years in prison, after prosecution did not manage to prove he knew the forged documents would be used for women trafficking.
The network then recruited women with promises of legitimate work as dancers or waitresses. The women paid 3 to 5 thousand Euros, and received the passports stolen earlier with their pictures. In some cases, fake stamps were used.
"Once they got abroad, the women would end up in real slavery," Danilov said. "Sexual slavery. They didn't get any money, their passports were usually taken and there was no way home. The Albanian pimps were particularly cruel, beating them bloody for any attempted escape. From what we've heard they may have killed at least one woman."
Russian media reported Yanai was the brains behind most of the operation. Yanai, who moved to Russia in 2001, was arrested in May 2007, over a month after the rest of the group. His attorney, Karen Nersisyan, insists that his client was completely engrossed in running a legitimate business - a small filters factory - and had not broken any law.
The court refused Yanai's request to be released on a million dollar bail. The Russian media coverage was not without anti-Semitic undertones: "The Israeli Avi Yanai marched down the hall, concealing the face of a Jewish patriarch and clutching a Torah," website vesti.ru reported at one stage. The Israeli has previously been arrested in Israel on suspicions of trafficking in women. He was released under bail and had his passport confiscated, but in May 2001 managed to get the passport back under a bail of 30,000 shekels. In the six months since his arrest the Israeli prosecutors did not produce an indictment or even an indictment deadline.
His lawyer and family, however, protest his innocence. Nersisyan said that if Yanay was an organized crime boss he would have vanished in the month and a half that elapsed between the arrests of the other operatives and his own. Yanai's daughter, Limor Yanai, alleged "absurd" behavior on the part of the prosecution and accused the court of censorship. The Russian prosecutors said that Yanay would frequently accompany the women he sold to Israel, to personally present them to local mobsters. They said he would use a foreign passport on these trips.
FBI joins search for missing Maine mom
CONWAY, N.H. (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - The FBI is taking over the search for a missing Maine mother. They are now using cell phone records, hoping to find Krista Dittmeyer.
The 20-year-old's car was found running in a Conway, N.H., ski area parking lot Saturday morning with her 14-month-old daughter inside.
There have been reports that blood was discovered in the car, but the FBI has not confirmed that.
Police say the baby's father has not been ruled out as a suspect. However he was not in the area when she disappeared.
Police say the father of the baby is currently in a Maine prison on a drug conviction, but won't say whether they believe Dittmeyer's disappearance is drug related. Her family is now offering a $3,000 reward for information on her whereabouts.
A candlelight vigil for Krista is planned for tomorrow night in Maine.
W.Va. police say child abducted, mom sought
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a 13-month-old girl who was abducted from her home in southern West Virginia.
An Amber Alert issued Tuesday night says the woman suspected of abducting the child also is wanted for questioning in a homicide investigation. Police told media outlets that the woman is the child's mother and the victim is her husband.
According to the alert, 32-year-old Crystal Seigler Clark is accused of taking Chloe Clark from her home in Varney. They are believed to be traveling in a silver 2000 Plymouth Voyager with North Carolina tags and may be headed to North Carolina or Tennessee.
Media outlets report that Mingo County deputies discovered the man's body at the residence Tuesday afternoon.
1987 Missing Teen Cold Case Reopened In Indiana County
1987 Missing Teen Cold Case Reopened In Indiana Count INDIANA, Pa. -- State Police in Indiana County are asking people to help them solve a missing persons case from 1987.
Police said on April 26, 1987, Alicia Markovich, 15, disappeared after visiting her dad John Markovich at his Blairsville home.
Police said the two had an argument and the teen was last seen walking down the street. The investigation led police all along the east coast but their leads turned out to be nothing.
Markovich's mother, Marcie Smith said, "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about her."
Police and family are asking anyone previously involved in the case and anyone who has answers to call the state police barracks in Indiana at 724-357-1960.
Police said they don't believe Markovich is alive but they want closure for her family.
Sex trafficking of teens is topic of Mukilteo forum
Experts will detail the often unseen problems with underage girls being exploited as prostitutes in the region.
by Eric Stevick , Herald Writer
MUKILTEO -- Dusty Olson can't offer a headline-grabbing number to describe the magnitude of the problem, but she knows it lingers in our midst.
She knows this because she talks with detectives and social workers and the very people who are its unwitting victims: teenage girls trapped in a life of prostitution.
"It is absolutely going on," Olson said. "To what extent is largely anecdotal."
The victim advocate for the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse comes into frequent contact with exploited teen girls who are involved in sex trafficking around Puget Sound and beyond.
Some she encounters are homegrown. Others were brought to Snohomish County as part of a regional circuit, staying a month or so before moving on with their pimps.
In the computer age, they aren't likely to be walking the streets. Meetings with customers typically happen in area hotels, and are arranged online.
The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County wants to bring attention to the issue. It has scheduled for Olson to discuss the topic along with a county deputy prosecutor and an Everett detective.
The presentation is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Vancouver Room of Rosehill Community Center, 304 Lincoln Ave., in Mukilteo. The league is calling the event: "Our Kids Are Not for Sale!" The discussion is open to anyone.
Dorothy Jones, a member of the county chapter, said the issue needs attention.
"The lack of awareness is so astounding," she said.
Olson is glad to have a forum.
"We need community awareness," she said. "These kids aren't speaking up. These kids aren't coming in and saying, 'Help me.' "
That resistance to say anything is a part of the challenge experts have in determining how big the problem is, Olson said. Also, many social workers were not trained how to ask the right questions to identify who is involved in the sex trafficking industry.
Local police and federal law enforcement officers have been working together. In recent years, the FBI has orchestrated nationwide child prostitution crackdowns and in those sweeps, it has tracked down girls in Seattle and Everett.
Sex trafficking cases against pimps now often end up in federal court because of stiffer sentences.
That might be changing, however.
Lisa Paul, head of the special assault unit for the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, said the Legislature has toughened punishments for crimes involving sex with minors.
In, 2007, new state laws went into effect, prohibiting commercial sexual abuse of a minor and promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor.
The standard punishment for someone with no criminal history paying for sex with a minor used to be up to three months in jail. As of June 10, 2010, the offense now means roughly two years in prison.
The standard sentence for promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor is now up to 10 years in prison.
The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County wants to bring attention to the issue of child sex trafficking.
It has scheduled three local experts to discuss the topic at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Vancouver Room of Rosehill Community Center, 304 Lincoln Ave., in Mukilteo.
The discussion is open to anyone. Co-sponsors are the Edmonds chapter of the American Association of University Women and The Herald.
Senator Charles Schumer urges better tracking of missing
by Gary McLendon
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is cosponsoring legislation to help coordinate national missing people systems.
The Help Find the Missing Act, also called "Billy's Law," would authorize the National Missing Persons and Unidentified Persons System to provide a database that the public could access. It would also connect the existing database with the FBI's National Crime Information Center.
The law also contains a provision for a grant program that would help states and local law enforcement to report missing people and unidentified remains to the national missing people and crime databases.
Billy's Law is named for Billy Smolinski of Waterbury, Conn., who disappeared on Aug. 24, 2004, at the age of 31.
Although federal law mandates police agencies to report missing children, there are no such requirements for adults or unidentified remains.
Rochester Institute of Technology professor Paloma Capanna wrote to Schumer in support of Billy's Law, after the recent search for student George Delany, who vanished on March 12. RIT faculty and students joined the search effort. Delany's remains were found April 17 in Cohocton, Steuben County.
"At least two college students go missing every week," Capanna wrote. "And, nationwide, more than 20,000 persons are reported missing each year. The federal government should intervene to ensure that any barriers to participation in and access to all available databases are eliminated, including supplements for any fees that may be prohibitive within county budgets."
Schumer said Monday that Billy's Law will provide law enforcement officials with the tools and resources to better search for missing adults by creating a central resource for officials and families.
"Just as we provide law enforcement with tools like the Amber alert and access to missing person databases when children are missing, we should not tolerate delays and lapses in information when people over the age of 18, like George Delany, are missing," Schumer said.
Rocklin coffeehouse serves up sex-trafficking awareness with its lattes
Apr. 26, 2011
The gourmet latte – with all its variations – may be one of the most self-indulgent purchases of modern society.
Coming to the karmic rescue is a Rocklin coffeehouse that promises to use your $4.75 nonfat triple-shot vanilla caramel latte to combat sex trafficking.
The idea started with Mark South, a Christian pastor, who along with Chad Salstrom yearned to do more than just raise awareness about human trafficking.
The result, two years later, is Origin Coffee & Tea.
After opening in January, the shop – with nearly an all-volunteer workforce – is wrapping up its first quarter of operations. The owners are now grappling with how much to give to various nonprofits combating sex trafficking and how much to sock away to grow the business.
"If we give everything right off the top, we won't be able to sustain the highs and lows of business," Salstrom said. "And if we give too far out, then it's not tangible."
Sex trafficking can include anything from thugs in foreign lands shipping young girls for prostitution around the globe to domestic pimps tricking troubled teens into selling their bodies.
While some rescue groups say Sacramento is a significant hub for international human trafficking, members of a local law enforcement task force dealing with sex trafficking say their arrests are exclusively local.
Since the FBI-led local task force was created in 2006, it has taken more than 200 juvenile prostitutes off the streets of Sacramento, said Steve Dupree, a spokesman for the FBI. He said the primary goal is to arrest pimps putting minors on the streets, but they'd like to see more places that can effectively rehabilitate the girls.
Mercy Ministries is one of the organizations that Origin could be supporting in time. Based in Tennessee, the group has a facility in Lincoln that aims to get troubled girls back on their feet.
"Our goal is to end sex trafficking one girl at a time," said spokeswoman Eve Annunziato.
She was pleased to hear about the Rocklin coffee shop's unusual way of raising awareness and money.
But with uncertainty about how much Origin will be able to donate, there are more direct ways for people to help the cause, said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy.
"People who want to give to a charity, might be better off giving to the charity," he said.
Borochoff said Origin's philanthropic model is "like a continuous bake sale," but it's also a business endeavor fraught with competition.
Origin does have a significant business advantage since all employees, except Salstrom, work for free. Employees are asked to commit to working four hours a week for three months. So far, the group has had no problem finding volunteers, with 279 applications to date. The coffeehouse employs about 100 people at a time.
On a recent afternoon, Origin's strip mall establishment hardly looked different than a typical multinational coffeehouse. Soft rock music played over the speakers. Three older women caught up before making their orders. A young couple sat across from each other while looking at their laptops.
But there were some differences, such as the number of people working. One worked the iPad register, one served as the barista and another washed up. Salstrom also was on the scene, as was Jordan Andlovec, event coordinator.
The point isn't just to send money, but to also gently raise awareness in the community.
A few pictures of forlorn children adorn the walls. Leaflets sit at the counter. Workers are also expected to know the issue and be prepared to speak about it, should the moment arise.
"We train all of our volunteers that they are not just workers but they are abolitionists," Salstrom said.
The glass-walled shop doesn't feature religious icons or imagery, but the coffeehouse is intrinsically intertwined with a church that South founded.
A veteran pastor of what he called a Southern California "mega church," South said he wanted something different when he moved to Rocklin, so he founded his own church in his living room.
Origins Community Church grew into meeting at a now defunct coffee shop. Now members meet at their coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard and Park Drive.
The same board that runs the church also runs the coffee shop, and the coffee shop operates under the church's 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, but the two men say the two entities are separate.
If things work out, South would like to see Origin coffee all over the place.
"Our hope would be in the next five years, we would be able to start 10 more of these in large cities and begin to change the face of how commerce works – starting with downtown Sac," South said.
"The goal would be that we would be able to raise as much money as we can to send overseas to save and rescue these girls," he said.
New clue reignites hunt for missing Tennessee student
(CNN) -- Tennessee's top investigator said Monday that searchers have found an item that officials believe belonged to the 20-year-old nursing student who disappeared earlier this month.
Authorities have been looking for Holly Bobo since she vanished on April 14. Her brother told authorities he saw a man in camouflage leading her away from their home in the small town of Darden. The young woman was heading to nursing classes at the Tennessee Technology Center's Parsons campus at the time.
Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said the item in question was being analyzed at a crime lab. He declined to say what exactly was found.
"Not only has it given the family hope, it's given the investigators hope. Anytime you find what you believe to be evidence from someone that's missing, it revives the search and the investigation," he said. "Hopefully this item will give us a huge piece of that puzzle."
An $80,000 reward -- which includes money from the state, local community and the Tennessee Sheriffs' Association -- has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the young woman's disappearance.
Authorities have yet to name any suspects in the case, although they have said they believe she was abducted. Officials have not released a description of the suspected kidnapper.
The Bobo case has rocked this largely rural swath of central Tennessee, from those who knew the young woman to others who have rallied behind the effort to find her.
Hundreds of volunteers -- some on horseback and foot, others on all-terrain vehicles -- have turned out to hunt for clues in Decatur, Henderson, Henry, Carroll and Benton counties. Many more have attended memorial services or offered supportive thoughts online via several groups on Facebook.
"I've never seen the outpouring of volunteers as we've had in this particular incident," Gwyn said. "We would not be at this point without them."
Police Searching For Maine Woman Whose Car Was Abandoned
(Video on site)
BOSTON -- Investigators searching for clues in the disappearance of a Maine mother whose car was discovered abandoned in New Hampshire over the weekend with her toddler inside have found traces of blood inside the vehicle, police said.
A major search is under way in Conway, N.H., where the car belonging to Krista Dittmeyer, 20, was found in a parking lot near Cranmore Ski Resort about 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
The engine was running, a door was open and her baby girl was found alive and unharmed inside. Dittmeyer's family last heard from her on Friday. Dittmeyer's relatives said she would never have left her baby daughter alone.
"We knew she would never leave her daughter to begin with. She would never abandon her. So, we knew someone had taken my sister," said Kayla Dittmeyer. "She would never, ever, ever leave her in a car by herself. Ever," said Krista's mother.
Police were draining a pond located a few feet from where the car was discovered. They were also examining cellphone records as well as combing Krista's car and another vehicle they found in Conway.
Meanwhile, the Dittmeyer family was offering a $3,000 reward for information that will help police find Krista.
Alert issued for girl missing 3 weeks
April 25, 2011
Chicago police today issued a missing persons alert for a 17-year-old South Side girl who hasn't been seen since March 31.
Tierra Tolentino was last seen in the area of 5000 South Michigan Avenue, but police said she also frequents the south suburbs, including Dolton, South Holland, Calumet City, Burnham, Harvey and Lansing.
She is African American, 5 feet tall and 130 pounds, with brown eyes. She had dyed her hair blonde.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Wentworth Area Special Victims Unit at 312-747-8385.
Child sex trafficking, 'epidemic' in US
(Video on site)
April 26, 2011
A recent FBI law enforcement bulletin says child sex trafficking is a “problem of epidemic proportion” that threatens 300,000 American children.
The report said victims are often forced to travel far from home and their lives revolve around “violence, forced drug use and constant threats.”
According to the Washington-based FAIR Fund international nonprofit organization, most of the child victims come from poor neighborhoods and broken families.
“Most of the girls that we work with come from a broken home, maybe a single-headed household, [where] there is a lot of poverty,” said Andrea Powell, executive director of FAIR Fund that works to prevent human trafficking and sexual violence in the lives of youth, especially girls, around the world.
Powell says in the majority of cases there have been records of previous abuse by a family member or a parent in the form of verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and witnessing domestic violence.
“We are talking about something that has been called an epidemic by the FBI,” she told Press TV adding “we need a culture shift. We need people to understand this is not only a dirty 14-year-old girl who has made some bad choices. This is a child. Somebody out there is taking advantage of her selling her body.”
Child sex victims are often transported around the US and are often provided counterfeit identification to use in case they are arrested.
The average age a child gets involved into the sex trafficking industry in the US is between 12 and 14 years old.
“No matter where we would pull in different truck stops, there were always other truckers talking on their CBs to let other truckers know that I was available,” said Kristy Childs who became a victim at the age of 12 and was prostituted out in different cities and truck stops for six years.
Experts say it is more difficult to track and arrest offenders because traffickers' are now widely communicating to customers on the internet.
“The majority of the girls that we work with here at Fair Fund are in fact girls who are being exploited online,” said Powell.
Russian spy, 10 accomplices jailed for sex trafficking
A Moscow court jailed a Russian military intelligence officer and 10 Russian, Moldovan and Israeli accomplices for up to 19 years yesterday for trafficking women from former Soviet republics.
“Eleven members of an inter-national crime syndicate were convicted by a military tribunal in Moscow, an unprecedented judgment in the history of Russia” since the fall of the Soviet Union, Vitali Danilov, who led the probe, told journalists.
Military intelligence officer Dmitry Strykanov, a key member of the syndicate, was sentenced to 12 years in jail and was stripped of his military rank. Investigators said the group had operated between 1999 and 2007.
It had sold nearly 130 women from Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Belarus and Russia into prostitution in Israel, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates between 1999 and 2007.
In the course of a two-year probe, the investigators uncovered workshops for manufacturing false travel documents.
Prostitution is tolerated in Russia, but in recent years the authorities have beefed up legislation against human trafficking and sexual slavery.
Raid too late to rescue 100 sex slaves
Durban - The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) is keeping tight-lipped about its investigations into a possible human trafficking syndicate that is allegedly recruiting women and girls from other parts of Africa and putting them to work in the sex trade.
Police raided a farm at Paulpietersburg - believed to be used by the syndicate as a base - and a brothel on Friday, but found the place empty, leading them to believe that somehow the syndicate had been tipped off.
Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela said on Monday the police would not release more information to the media. A Durban newspaper on Monday quoted police spokesperson Vincent Mdunge as saying the police narrowly missed rescuing about 100 women and girls during the raid.
He said their investigations showed that this was the most serious case of human trafficking they have come across. It is thought the syndicate recruits women in Mozambique and Zimbabwe and sends them abroad, even to countries like the Netherlands, to work in the sex trade.
Mdunge said they are also following up on information that some children are being held in other parts of the country.
The police are worried about what might happen to the children as long as they remain in the hands of their captors. That is why they are working with SADC and Interpol to make sure the girls are not smuggled across borders.
Five young women trapped in the world of sex trafficking escaped and, in interviews with The Washington Times, tell how they got caught and how they got out.
by Chuck Neubauer
Tysheena, 21, was 13 and in New York when she met at a bus stop the 27-year-old man who would become her pimp. At first they talked on the phone, and then he started buying her gifts. They began what she thought was "a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship." She started cutting classes at 14 to be with him.
Molested at 12 by a relative of her stepfather, she fought repeatedly with her mother and, after one beating, began running away. On one of those occasions, the man took her to Atlantic City and showed her the street where prostitutes worked.
"He explained to me he was a pimp," she said, adding that he told her that working for him as a prostitute was "the only way to survive without going back to my mother." She said she decided to do it because "he was the only person who loved me."
She worked for him for three years, during which she was beaten if she disobeyed him and threatened with death if she left. She got out of the life when she was 17 and ended up living with an uncle in Maryland, where she finished high school and then went to Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) in New York, where she now works with other girls as an outreach coordinator.
Sheila, 24, has been away from the life for five years, a victim of sex trafficking from ages 15 to 19. At 15, she tried to escape her dysfunctional home, where there was domestic violence and alcoholism, by moving in with a friend. Instead, she was raped by her friend's stepfather and ended up in foster care, where she was abused.
"I felt that no one really cared about me," she said, until a girl in the foster care home introduced her to a 30-year-old man she described as "real sweet." She said, "For the first time I had someone listening to me." She did not know he was a pimp and the girl from the home was his recruiter.
"He got me into the life. This was not my choice," she said, adding that he threatened her with a hot iron and once beat her in front of others. "No one asked if I was all right," she said.
When she was 17, she was arrested and sent to GEMS, but she soon was back on the street with her pimp, where she remained for another two years. She got out at 19 and now also works at GEMS with other young women as an outreach coordinator.
Katrina, 31, was 16 and in Atlanta when she met a 31-year-old-man who would be her pimp for three years. "He drove a nice car and offered to spend a lot of money on me," she said, but she was forced instead into prostitution. She said she was expected to make him $800 a night.
"When I wanted to leave, I couldn't leave," she said. "He isolated me from my family."
He also moved her to New York, where there were regular beatings. She said she still has marks on her legs from where he had his dog bite her. Although threatened with more physical violence if she tried to leave, she escaped when she was 19, taking her baby son and sleeping in a car — eventually returning to Atlanta, where she is using her experience to work as a peer-support specialist for the Georgia Care Connection, helping young girls who have been trafficked.
She said her background makes it easier for the girls to talk to her. "There is not much they have done that I haven't done," she said.
Brandy, 31, another peer-support specialist at Georgia Care, was forced by her mother to have sex with the mother's friend in exchange for goods, which she called "material things." "I was exploited by my mom between the ages of 2 and 6," she said.
At 18 she also began to barter for money, goods and meals. "I went out and exploited myself," she said, pointing out that, given her background, "it was normal to be exploited for sex."
She said she changed her life around in her mid-20s and now is trying to help other girls. "It is rewarding to even get a smile out of a kid," she said.
Anna, 27, was bought to the United States from Mexico under false pretenses and forced into prostitution. She was almost 16 when she came to New York to work in a factory. Instead, the man who brought her forced her to work in a Brooklyn brothel.
"I was working every day from 9 a.m. to midnight," she said through a translator. "I saw 50 to 60 men daily."
She said the man who brought her to this country beat her and burned her with cigarettes if she refused to work. She said he told her he could make one call to Mexico and have her family harmed. With the help of another woman, she escaped to Atlanta in 2000.
"I still have a lot of problems sleeping," she said, but she is getting help from an Atlanta-based nonprofit, Tapestri Inc., which works with foreign-born victims of sex trafficking, many of whom fear beatings from traffickers or arrest and deportation by authorities if they try to escape. "I get scared going outside," she said.
The travesty of American teenagers who work as sex workers. How we came to loathe them.
by Megan McDonough
Do you support sex trafficking? Chances are, you don't; at least you don't think you do. It's common for people to feel sympathetic towards young girls who move to America and are forced into a life of prostitution and violence. When it comes to American teens in the same situation, condemnation usually outweighs any amount of sympathy one might give.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times discusses why trafficked American girls are viewed as criminals rather than underage victims. He argues that many of these girls are runaways and very often captive victims of their controlling pimps and circumstances even if they don't happen to be locked in cages like their foreign counterparts. According to Kristof, trafficking in America and Cambodia is much more similar than it is different, never mind if we the public think that young teens are ‘free' to come and go as they please. So often they are not…
nytimes: The problem is that these girls aren't locked in cages. Rather, they're often runaways out on the street wearing short skirts or busting out of low-cut tops, and many Americans perceive them not as trafficking victims but as miscreants who have chosen their way of life. So even when they're 14 years old, we often arrest and prosecute them — even as the trafficker goes free.
In theory, American girls, may not be directly pushed into sexual trafficking, but that doesn't necessarily stop them from so often fall into it and seeing it as their only route of escape. They may suffer from sexual abuse at home or physical violence from an alcoholic parent or boyfriend. Just because they live in the land of the free, doesn't mean they are immune to struggle and the occasional beating or sexual molestation that drives many of them onto the streets.
Mentioned in Kristof's article is British author Rachel Lloyd's new book Girls Like Us . Dropping out of school as a young teen, Lloyd wound up working as a stripper and prostitute with misdirected romantic feelings toward her physically abusive pimp. Lloyd finally escaped her pimp, moved to the United States and started Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) where she now counsels trafficked girls.
In her book, Lloyd struggles to answer the commonly asked question of why she didn't escape from her pimp sooner. Accrediting it to a lack of self-esteem, lack of alternatives, a deep fear of the pimp, and a misplaced love for him. These reasons are common among women in the same situation as Lloyd. It may be hard for a confident American middle-class teen of the same age to understand this reasoning because it is a completely opposing reality.The inability to identify with female prostitutes usually translates into condemnation rather than sympathy.
Assembly backs clearing the records of certain sex offenders
April, 25 2011
The Assembly on Monday gave unanimous approval to a bill that would let victims of sex trafficking clear prostitution convictions from their records.
Nevada Appeal, Capitol Bureau
Assemblyman John Hambrick R-Las Vegas, said Assembly Bill 6 was designed to give those individuals who are the real victims a break by freeing them from having to admit they have a criminal history in situations such as applying for a job.
“It gives them a break, gives them a leg up on starting a new life,” he told the body.
Hambrick said the measure is just one more thing lawmakers can do to address “the scourge of human trafficking.”
AB6 goes to the Senate.
Giving Underage Sex Workers A Chance To Change
by Kristian Foden-Vencil
April 25, 2011
Sex trafficking of underage girls is serious a problem in Oregon, but law enforcement officials say it's often difficult to help girls who have few places to turn.
Now policy makers say they may have found a way to break the intense relationship that often exists between a pimp and the girl who works for him.
No fewer than nine pieces of legislation have come up in Salem this session. And several other state and local efforts are also underway.
When police chief Mike Reese spoke at the Portland City Club earlier this month, he was asked what was being done about underage prostitutes.
His answer was candid, "The juvenile system isn't really set up to handle that type of victim. We don't want to arrest them, we want to help them."
Sexually trafficked girls are arrested. But the problem is holding them for any length of time.
Mike Reese: "When we would take them into custody, try and interview them. They're really connected to their pimps. That makes it nearly impossible for us to prosecute that person on that crime because without that young girl's testimony we don't have a case."
The solution that Reese and others are calling for is the creation of safe shelters, where girls who are picked-up on the street can stay for a while.
While they're in the shelters, social workers have a little time to explain the exploitative nature of the pimp/sex worker relationship.
But safe shelters are expensive. Each one would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build -- and more to staff.
On the federal level, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden tried to get money for shelters from the last Congress, but failed.
He's introduced the idea again this session.
Ron Wyden: "Our legislation is designed to get shelters out across the country because we know young women have got to be in a position to get ready to testify against the criminals. Very often, that requires some pretty sensitive and thoughtful work."
But social service agencies aren't just waiting to see if Congress will help.
The Janus Youth Program in Portland has opened some of its beds to sexually-trafficked girl.
Executive Director, Dennis Morrow says the progam sees an average of about 10 girls a month. Some stay for a few days, others a few weeks. But there have been no fairy tale success stories.
Dennis Morrow: "So you're not going to have a girl that comes into a shelter and then stays for the next six months get better, go to high school, graduate, have a job and be out of here in a year. What we're going to see more typically is girls who are going to be in and out 10, 15, 20 times. At some point they're going to lock in. At some point they're going to make a commitment. The commitment is going to be based on the fact that when they've been here before there's two things they've always found. An open door which is always safe and a caring adult."
That caring adult is essential, because time after time that adult will be there when the girl needs them, each time showing her a way out.
The legislature has toyed with the idea of detaining the girls -- so social workers have more time to sever that pimp-prostitute relationship. But Morrow says, that's a bad idea.
Dennis Morrow: "If you lock up a kid like this, they're probably going to get out and when they get out they're going to run right back to the pimp because we basically will be reinforcing what the pimp culture has told them, which is don't trust those guys, they're going to put you in jail."
In fact a bill in Salem that pushed for detention, has failed to make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But several other bills that take a different approach look like they have momentum.
For example, House Bill 2714 increases the fines for the men who buy sex -- up to $20,000 and 30 days in jail.
Milwaukie Democrat, Carolyn Tomei, says the bill also gets rid of the defense that the John or pimp didn't know the girl was under age.
Carolyn Tomei: "Because in the past, these guys have said: Oh, she told me she was 18 or 19. Even though she might have been 12. And sometimes that has been a defense. But we're making sure that is no longer a defense. That's a very important part of the bill."
It's unclear how many of the nine bills that started in the legislature will eventually become law -- or whether Senator Wyden will come up with money for a shelter program.
But Portland Police Chief, Mike Reese, says something needs to change within the juvenile justice system.
Mike Reese: "They're set up to put kids back into homes or foster care. And these young girls, if you put them into foster care they run. They run right back to that person who was compelling them into prostitution."
That's the cycle that more and more policy makers and law enforcement agents are focusing on, as the critical place to make a change.
Amber Alert issued for missing Sault Ste. Marie three-year-old
An Amber Alert has been issued for an abducted three-year-old girl in the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. area, police said.
Police are searching for Leila Elizabeth May, who is described as white with blue eyes and long blond hair. She is approximately three feet tall and weighs about 40 pounds.
She was last seen wearing a green sweatshirt, with a pink rain jacket and pink rain boots with rabbit faces, as well as Spider-man underwear and socks.
The child is believed to be in the company of her mother, 21-year-old Kristi Ann Barsanti. Barsanti stands approximately five-foot-two and weighs 115 pounds. She has above the shoulder dark brown hair with a red streak and green eyes (although she has blue contact lenses), police said.
The girl was dropped off for a visit with her mother on Sunday, and was not returned to her guardian at the scheduled time.
The public is asked to contact Sault Ste. Marie Police at 705-949-6300 immediately if they have any information.
Family hopes someone can help
April 25, 2011
by Mike LaBella mlabella
HAVERHILL — Charles and Ann Allen hope that a television program about missing persons will lead to finding their oldest son, who has been missing for nearly four years.
Tonight at 10 p.m., the Discovery Channel's program "Disappeared," will turn its spotlight on the search for Charles Allen Jr. of Haverhill, who was last seen Oct. 12, 2007.
"We can only hope that somebody recognizes Charlie and that he shows up," Charles Allen Sr. said. "I would say this will be the most exposure this story has received so far, as it will be national and international."
Charles Allen Jr., whose 26th birthday is tomorrow, was in his senior year at UMass Dartmouth at the time of his disappearance. About a month before he disappeared, he had legally changed his name to Neo Babson Maximus. His family said the only name they've ever used is "Charlie," although Neo Babson Maximus is the name used in past news and television programs about his disappearance, as well as on a social networking site a friend created as one effort in the search.
Charles Allen Sr. said he, his wife, Ann, their daughter Brittany, 24, and their son Brendan, 19, hope that someone watching the Discovery program will recognize him.
"Somehow they heard about Charlie's case and contacted the investigator, Dartmouth Police, and eventually us," Charles Allen Sr. said about the show's producers. "It began with phone interviews over the winter, then a visit with us for more than 10 hours where they spoke with me, my wife and our daughter separately. They wanted to know from the beginning what happened, how it happened, and our feelings, and they spent a solid week in the area interviewing other people and filming."
Charles Allen Jr. (Neo Babson Maximus) is a 2003 graduate of Haverhill High School. He disappeared shortly after his sister Brittany called him on his cell phone on the night of Oct. 11, 2007. She had asked him why he had deleted his Facebook account and he told her he had not, and that people were after him.
"He said he didn't feel safe and that he should probably move back home," Brittany Allen said about her brother. "I hope to God he's alive.''
Extensive land and aerial searches had failed to find him. Another search conducted on the one-year anniversary of his disappearance also failed to turn up any clues.
But one reported sighting at the time of his disappearance had raised his family's hopes. A woman in Dartmouth told police that a man wearing only pants and sneakers entered her house through a second-story window around 3 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2007 — the day after Charles Allen Jr. disappeared. She said the intruder seemed confused and that he was looking for one of his college friends, who he thought lived there. Police found Charles' sneakers not far from there a few days later. They also found his backpack filled with school supplies in the woods near the college.
Charles Allen Sr. said his son had struggled with bipolar disorder which caused him to become manic at times, and which often made family life difficult. He said things seemed to be going well at the start of his son's senior year at UMass Dartmouth, then something went wrong. He said his son had stopped taking his medication and that it may have caused his thoughts to become confused.
In messages left on his parents' cell phones he talked about heading south to Florida or Texas.
"Somewhere warm is what he said," Charles Allen Sr. said. "Our hope is he decided to take off and start a new life and that he will eventually decide to come back. We don't want to consider the alternatives."
Ann Allen said a television program called "Psychic Kids,'' which aired more than a year ago, also focused on her son's disappearance.
"It got his face on TV, along with his name and story, although nothing came of it," Ann Allen said. "But it was a way of keeping the story out there."
She hopes that tonight's show will reach an even greater audience.
"We really have no reason to give up hope," she said.
Anthony Costanzo of Haverhill, a close high school friend of Charles Allen Jr., maintains a MySpace page dedicated to finding him. On it, Costanzo says that prior to the disappearance, Charles Allen Jr. had become obsessed with tennis, that he believed he would become a professional tennis player and wanted to have a unique name.
Costanzo says on his site that his friend used Neo for his first name, as it is the name of the main character in "The Matrix," as well as his trademark name in the online first-person shooter games Half-Life. He said his friend used Maximus for his last name, as it is the name of the main character in "Gladiator."
Charles Allen Sr. said the name "Babson" was his mother's maiden name.
Volunteer heroes rush to the rescue
SG1 is ready to answer the call when a child goes missing or a hunter fails to return, Kelly Patterson reports
by Kelly Patterson
Take a deep breath, and picture this: Your child goes on a school camping trip in mid-April. Overnight the temperature plunges, and a lashing rain sets in. Then, at 7 a.m., the shock: Your son is gone, his tent empty. No one has a clue where he went.
Teachers mount a frantic search, but still no sign, just the rustle of trees all around, as a bone-chilling wind drives against them.
That's the scenario the members of Search and Rescue Global 1 are up against this weekend, in the woods outside Wakefield.
Never heard of them? That's because the volunteers at SG1 are too busy for the spotlight.
Unsung heroes of more than 100 missions, they have been helping police in the region find missing people for 15 years. Housewives, retired firefighters, nurses, policy analysts; most are just ordinary citizens who want to make a difference.
They will drop everything -even on Christmas Day, or, like today, a Saturday morning on Easter weekend -to help save a child lost in the woods, or a senior who has wandered from home.
As it happens, today's call is just a training exercise, but even so, some 45 people are expected to turn out, clustered in fluorescent yellow jackets around the team's "mobile command post," an emergency truck fitted with stretchers, radio equipment and other essentials.
"If you like the outdoors, it's a great way of giving back, and giving back to community," says Catherine Dumouchel. A policy manager at Parks Canada, she says there's "a great team spirit, and you're always learning new things."
New members undergo a 60-hour training course, and must upgrade their skills throughout the year.
Today, somewhere in the bush, three actors have been waiting to be found since 6: 30 a.m. The scenario: Two teens slipped out in the night to do drugs, and got lost. Searchers also have to find a 52-yearold teacher who went looking for them, got lost and tripped over a rock, breaking his jaw.
SG1 members will fan out into the woods in groups of three. Kitted out with maps, radios and GPS devices, they usually go in three-hour shifts, but carry a day's worth of supplies, just in case.
Beforehand, planners consult a book of "lost person profiles" that helps them figure out what to look for. Young children, for example, tend to hide and not respond if their names are called.
"It's like a suspense novel," says Nicolas deBreyne, SGI president. "You have to figure out why the person is missing and where they might have gone."
Many of the group's leaders are retired or off-duty police, firefighters or military personnel, including deBreyne, who co-ordinates the Ottawa police's search team as part of his day job.
Urban forces such as his rarely need the volunteers, he says, but smaller ones, such as MRC des Collines, whose territory includes most of Gatineau Park, often rely on SG1.
He says the group gets about 10 to 12 missions a year, but the number varies. Last year was exceptional, with 18 calls, although that includes cases where the person was found before the group deployed.
Hunters, hikers, ATV riders, dementia sufferers -deBreyne has seen them all. Sadly, many are suicidal people: Five of last year's searches were for "despondent people," he says.
Often such missions are to recover the person's remains, says Gerry Godsoe, who has been with SG1 since 1997.
"Sometimes bringing closure to the family is the best we can do," he says.
"It is a significant relief for them."
But nothing can rival the joy of rescuing a lost person. Godsoe remembers a case where a hunter went missing near Val des Monts.
"We got the call around 10 p.m., and I was out with a team. At about 3 a.m., we were literally about to turn back when we heard his voice. . When you reach out your arm and touch them at three in the morning, that makes it all worthwhile."
That's what keeps members going, despite the hours -and the expense. Except for a few basics, they pay for all their gear as well as their training.
"We don't get funding from any government," says deBreyne. The group relies on donations and fundraising, such as its annual Winterman Marathon. By contrast, British Columbia, Alberta and many American states offer funds or tax breaks to volunteer searchers, he says.
A single father of a six-and a seven-year-old, deBreyne admits it isn't easy to volunteer: "There is sacrifice. I've been called out at Christmas, on birthdays."
Is it worth it? Has he saved many lost souls?
"I think there are maybe 10 or 12 people alive this day because of my actions." He pauses and adds quietly, "It's a nice thing when you're lying in bed and you think, 'Have I made a difference?' Yes, I have."
New law to battle Pierce and King County child sex trafficking
CRIME: The child sex trade thrives in our area, but that might soon change
April 24th, 2011
The ugly world of child sex trafficking is thriving in the Puget Sound region.
Girls as young as 11 are being prostituted at the hands of men who promised to take care of them. Gangs are switching from selling drugs to selling sex to support their enterprises.
For the last three years, the Everett-Seattle-Tacoma area has led the country in the number of juveniles recovered during the FBI's Operation Cross Country sting, which targets child sex exploitation.
Of 69 girls rescued nationwide last year, 23 were found in the Puget Sound area. Nine of the 99 pimps taken into custody during the annual sweep were local.
Numbers for Pierce County are hard to come by, but officials say there are 300 to 500 prostituted young girls in King County.
“It's very troublesome,” said Lakewood police detective Ryan Larson, who works on Innocence Lost, a federal task force focused on saving victims and taking pimps and johns off the streets. “There are more cases than we can work.”
As common as human trafficking may be, there has been only one conviction in the state since the practice was outlawed in 2003. Washington was the first state to pass a law criminalizing human trafficking.
Federal and state officials attribute the lack of convictions to ambiguous legal terms in the statute.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Monday a bill expanding the criminal definition of human trafficking to add forced labor, involuntary servitude, commercial sexual abuse of a minor and criminal sex acts.
“I think this will make it a much more practical statute that police and prosecutors will use,” said King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sean O'Donnell, who handled the state's only human trafficking conviction case in 2009 and helped write the legislation.
“The human trafficking statute was too esoteric,” he said. “People were scratching their heads wondering what it meant.”
O'Donnell and Matthew Thomas, an assistant United States attorney, spoke to the Soroptimist International of Tacoma club Tuesday about the challenges and importance of prosecuting human trafficking cases.
“We're hoping by prosecuting pimps with minors, word will get around town” that punishments are strict, Thomas said, adding that he just finished a case in which a pimp was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Shared Hope International, a Vancouver, Wash.-based advocacy group, recently began reviewing state laws related to child sex trafficking and issuing grades under its Protected Innocence Initiative.
Washington received a “C” in January because of its confusing definition of human trafficking, a lack of “protective provisions” for the victims and not enough tools for law enforcement officers to build cases.
Attorney General Rob McKenna said the grade was not satisfactory and pledged to do better.
Shared Hope spokesman Loren Wohlgemuth Jr. said state officials have made inroads, but law enforcement officers need investigative resources such as wire tapping and access to cellphone records to build cases against suspected pimps.
He also said victims need financial restitution, shelter, counseling and medical care and deserve to have their records expunged.
“Let's remove the stigma that these girls are criminals,” Wohlgemuth said. “They're victims.”
Police said it's in the girls' best interest to be arrested for prostituting because it temporarily takes them off the streets and gives officials a chance to offer resources.
Most victims have been manipulated and trained on what to say if caught, and because Washington has no secure shelters to house the victims, officials can't get girls the services they need unless they cooperate.
“Sometimes we arrest a girl three to five times before we finally get through to her,” said Larson, the Lakewood police detective. “We need secure housing for these girls.”
The Innocence Lost Task Force has plenty to keep them busy. The seven-member team finds most of its cases online but still sees young girls walking the streets.
In the last three years, Larson has built cases against seven pimps just in Lakewood who were each controlling one to five girls, not including grown women.
His focus recently has been on arresting johns, or customers.
In the last month, Larson has arrested two men accused of paying for sex with pre-adolescent girls. A third man fled the country before police could arrest him.
Because the human trafficking statute was undefined, prosecutors typically brought charges of promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor. The penalties are the same.
A first-time offender pimping a young girl faces 93 to 123 months in prison. A first-time offender pimping an adult faces 21 to 27 months in prison.
Now, in light of the new bill, prosecutors hope to charge them with human trafficking.
“When you sell someone's body, you are trafficking in people,” O'Donnell said. “Don't mince words about it.”
By the numbers
• 100,000 to 300,000 adolescents are sold for sex each year in the United States.
• The average price tag for an underage girl sold on the streets is $400 per hour.
• Children are sold an estimated 10 to 15 times a day.
Rape for Profit
The commercial sexual exploitation of children in our backyard
by Erin Levin
The facts about sex trafficking are beyond startling. They are eye-opening, gut-wrenching and heart-breaking.
Let's start with the big picture and context of modern-day slavery.
A slave in Atlanta in 1850 cost around the equivalent of $40,000 today; now, the average price for a slave is $901.
Millions of people all over the world are bought and sold as slaves every day.
There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today2. The worldwide sex trade is currently exploiting one million children. The total yearly profit of this black-market trade in human beings is $32 billion. Sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century5. Our country has a war on drugs.
What about these innocent little girls?
The U.S. State Department estimates that 244,000 American children and youth are at risk of sexual exploitation. The average age of children exploited is 14; however, children as young as 10 and 11 have been reported as victims.
For me, this is personal.
I am an abolitionist of the modern slave trade of little children in our city. In Atlanta, approximately 400 young children are bought and sold for sex each month. An estimated 7,200 men pay for sex with adolescent girls each month in our state, according to one study.
A separate study by the Atlanta Mayor's Office found “there is a strong spatial correlation between areas of adult prostitution activities and juvenile prostitution-related activities.”
The report said sex trafficking is a major issue in several areas in metro Atlanta including Moreland Avenue, Metropolitan Parkway, Vine Street, Peachtree Street and North Avenue, and Pharr Road.
In short, child sex slavery is actively happening in our backyard!
“These girls, these victims need to know there is hope. They are valued and can have a safe, bright future,” East Atlanta resident and Wellspring Living public relations director Kelley Swann told me.
Wellspring Living, based in Tyrone, Ga., helps victims of sexual abuse and exploitation through advocacy, education, therapy and other services.
Where is the problem and who actually purchases sex from minors?
The Schapiro Group is a data-driven strategic consulting firm based in Atlanta. Its study showed:
- the largest group of men — 42% — purchase sex with young girls are in the north metro Atlanta area, outside I-285
- followed by 26 percent in the core city
- some 23 percent of buyers from the south metro area and
- about 9 percent come from the airport area.
So, child sex trafficking is just as big of a problem in the affluent northern suburbs as it is in the inner city.
Any young girl is at risk for being enslaved for sex. Factors such as childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence at home, poverty and running away lead to a much greater threat.
An estimated 1.6 million children run away from home each year in the US. The average time it takes before a trafficker or a solicitor approaches a runaway is only 48 hours.
Roughly 90 percent of runaway girls in Atlanta become part of the city's sex trade and 70 to 90 percent of commercially sexually exploited children have a history of childhood sexual abuse.
Girls are lured in by recruiters and pimps; other children are also used as recruiters. At times, a girl's own family may be the sellers.
A glimpse of hope
Based on seven years of experience with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Wellspring Living was approached by several leaders in 2007 to address the issue of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in Georgia. In 2008 they formed a partnership to provide a place for education, therapy and a safe refuge to the young victims.
Through their phased approach in therapy and education, the girls progress at their own rate and they become prepared to reintegrate into society as successful citizens. The curriculum is very individualized. To date, 45 girls have been through the program. Nine now have their high school diplomas, one is in college, three are in tech school and the others are on grade level back in school. Only two of the girls are back in a dangerous lifestyle. People across the nation look at Wellspring as a model to create similar programs in their communities.
Wellspring founder and director Mary Frances Bowley says “we look at the whole person and what's best for her. That approach has proven a huge successful impact.”
With only 14 beds for victims of CSEC, Wellspring is one of the largest treatment facilities and the only comprehensive care center in the country. Their greatest struggle is the desire to do more and to help more of the at least 200 girls currently in need in Georgia; however, Wellspring is privately funded and doesn't have the financial capacity to grow right now.
“I think we're all responsible for our community and if there's someone hurting and oppressed that's a part of what we're created to do – to be a part of restoration. These girls are just little girls who have not had the chance to be a little girl," Bowley said. "We just want to be able to provide the opportunity for young girls and women who want their life to be different. We're excited about it.
"We see something that's really working. We believe this model is from God."