Imagine for a moment that you are a young woman who has come to the United States with the promise of a better life and the ability to support your family back home. But, once you arrive, everything you thought you knew begins to crumble. That job you were promised? It forces you to have sex with strangers who are oftentimes abusive. The money you earn? It’s turned over to the people who are holding you captive. Not only do you speak very little English, but you quickly find out that there is no way out of this sex trafficking circuit.
A trafficking ring has been discovered in the United States, and 21 people have been indicted on various charges including sex trafficking by use of force or threats, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
Law enforcement officials described the operation as “one of the most elaborate and extensive sex trafficking operations they had seen” and explained that “the operation had gone on for at least eight years, netted tens of millions of dollars, and involved hundreds of women who were shuttled among American cities, sometimes every few weeks.”
Ten of the accused are Thai nationals, but the rest are American citizens. An unsealed indictment in the Federal District Court in Minnesota said, “The women did not have freedom of movement and, until they paid off their bondage debts, were modern-day sex slaves.”
Gregory Brooker, a United States attorney in Minnesota, said, this was “a multi-million dollar, modern-day organized crime operation.” Brooker also mentioned that the “women were rotated through several prostitution houses around the US, forced to work long hours, and forced to have sex with strangers, even if the men were abusive.”
Not only were the women forced to have sex with strangers, they were also expected to turn over the money they earned, pay for their rent and personal items, and told to pursue and pay for their own plastic surgery.
The indictment also stated that, “the victims were isolated. They typically did not have the ability to choose who they have sex with, what sex transactions they would engage in, or when they would have sex.”
Various different agencies have stepped in to help these women find housing and get back on their feet even though their immigration status is still uncertain. Officials said, “One of the main reasons women had accepted such deals in the first place was the promise of a legitimate visa.”
There is no doubt that these arrests are a step in the right direction to combat sex trafficking. Thomas J. Dart, the sheriff of Cook County, Illinois said, “Is this going to stop sex trafficking from going on? No. There’s no naïveté here. The notion that we’re going to eradicate this sort of thing is never going to happen until our society decides it’s wrong.”
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