ANGELS IN THE FIELD The Trick Of The Trade
Virginia Gang Leader Sentenced to 40 Years for Leading Juvenile Sex Trafficking Ring
Gang Associate Also Sentenced to 10 Years for His Role in Enterprise
U.S. Attorney’s Office
September 14, 2012
District of Columbia
ALEXANDRIA, VA—Justin Strom, aka “Jae,” “Jae Dee,” or “J-Dirt,” 27, of Lorton, Virginia, was sentenced today to serve 40 years in prison for leading a gang-controlled prostitution business that recruited and trafficked high school girls over a five- to six-year period. One of Strom’s associates, Henock Ghile, 23, of Springfield, Virginia, also was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for serving as a driver in the sex trafficking enterprise. In total, five gang members or associates have been convicted of sex trafficking juveniles in connection with this case.
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II, Attorney General of Virginia; Colonel David Rohrer, Fairfax County Chief of Police; and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after Strom was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris. Ghile was sentenced separately by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
“Justin Strom was the undisputed leader of a juvenile sex trafficking ring that spanned nearly six years,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “He saw these young girls as commodities and used fraud, flattery, and force to lure them into the depraved world of child prostitution. Today’s sentence is both severe and appropriate. No sentence can undo the trauma endured by these girls, but we hope this sentence will help save others by driving would-be traffickers out of the child sex trafficking business.”
“Justin Strom created a waking nightmare for these girls. He exploited them through the sale of their bodies and robbed them of their childhood,” said Attorney General Cuccinelli. “Though nothing can erase the horror and hurt the girls and their families have suffered, it is our hope that today’s sentencing will help them find a sense of peace as they begin a difficult journey towards healing.”
“Cases such as this one bring to light the disturbing tactics used by gang members to intimidate and coerce young girls into prostitution,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Today’s sentences should send the message to all child predators that we will not rest until you are stopped and justice is served.”
According to court records, Strom was a leader of the Underground Gangster Crips (UGC), a Crips “set” based in Fairfax County, Virginia. From 2006 to March 2012, Strom masterminded a gang-controlled sex trafficking operation that prostituted at least eight girls aged 16 or 17, along with adult females, in northern Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. UGC’s recruitment efforts were multifaceted: UGC enticed juveniles and adults online through social media websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Datehookup; in person at Metro stations and bus stops; and in area high schools and a local juvenile detention center. When encountering potential victims, members of the enterprise told recruits that they looked pretty and could use their good looks to earn money. Once the victims were ensnared by the enterprise, UGC members and associates groomed new recruits into commercial prostitution, beginning with a “demo” or “tryout” in which the victim was persuaded or manipulated into engaging in sex with one or more members of the enterprise. Then, either Strom or an experienced female participant in the scheme (often referred to as the “Head B***h (expletive deleted) in Charge” or “HBIC”) would explain the gang’s rules and procedures, sometimes allowing the recruits to “watch and learn” as the HBIC or another female engaged in sex acts for money.
After the victims were initiated into the scheme, Strom and his associates would purchase condoms at local pharmacies and convenience stores, provide the victims with drugs and alcohol and drive them to neighborhoods in Alexandria, Springfield, and Arlington, Virginia. Once there, the victims were instructed to walk through apartment buildings and townhouse complexes, going door-to-door to solicit customers while accompanied by a male bodyguard from the gang, with Strom and others waiting in a car nearby. As part of the operation, the victims were instructed to find apartments with multiple males inside to minimize walking in the open and to maximize profit. Strom and members of the conspiracy also advertised their victims through online sites such as Craigslist.org and Backpage.com and solicited customers for “in-call” prostitution services that were provided in the basement of Strom’s townhome in Lorton. The going rate for sex with an underage girl typically was $30-$40 for 15 minutes of sex, and each victim often had sex with multiple men in one night—usually about 5-10 customers—and over the course of multiple weekdays or weekends, including as much as seven days a week.
The evidence also showed that methods of force, fraud, and coercion were pervasively used by Strom and his associates to recruit and maintain control over their victims, both in overt and subtle ways. Strom, for example, took the lead role in concocting fake profiles on Facebook.com in female names such as “Rain Smith,” “Mimi Jackson,” and “Aaliyah Marie,” using those profiles to send hundreds of messages recruiting potential victims. Some victims were told that they would only be involved in dancing, stripping, or escorting, rather than sex, and the co-conspirators further enhanced the bait-and-switch by sometimes providing only a fraction of the proceeds initially promised to victims. In addition, members of the enterprise invoked the gang to intimidate or coerce the victims into sexual activity, and they also regularly plied the victims with alcohol and drugs, including cocaine, PCP, ecstasy, and marijuana, in order to reward the victims and keep them sedated or compliant. Strom, moreover, personally enforced his will through a mix of manipulation, intimidation, and, where necessary, force—including chokings, beatings, and rape.
In addition to Strom’s sentencing, Henock Ghile was sentenced today for his role in the prostitution enterprise. Ghile was an associate of UGC and served as a driver in the operation, transporting two 17-year-old girls to engage in commercial sex acts between May and September 2011.
As a result of this investigation and prosecution, a total of five UGC members or associates have been convicted of sex trafficking juveniles in connection with this case. Michael Tavon Jefferies, aka “Loc,” was sentenced on July 6, 2012, to 120 months in prison for serving as a bodyguard and driver in the enterprise. Donyel Dove, aka “Bleek,” was sentenced on Aug. 10, 2012, to 276 months in prison for his role in the prostitution enterprise and on other charges. Christopher Sylvia was sentenced on Aug. 17, 2012, to 120 months in prison for his role in the enterprise.
This case was investigated by the Fairfax County Police Department and the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which participate in the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. Virginia Assistant Attorney General and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc J. Birnbaum and Assistant U.S. Attorney Inayat Delawala are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies—along with nongovernmental organizations—dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes. From fiscal year 2011 to the present, 36 defendants have been prosecuted in 20 cases in the Eastern District of Virginia for human trafficking and trafficking-related conduct involving at least 28 victims. Eleven of those defendants were gang members or associates prosecuted for sex trafficking juveniles in northern Virginia, with sentences imposed ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.
Angels In The Field
india rape epidemic.jpg
May 31, 2014: Onlookers stand at the site where two teenage girls, who were raped, were hanged from a tree in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.Reuters
WASHINGTON – When the news of a young Indian woman brutally beaten and gang-raped on a moving bus in New Delhi went viral, vows to change the system and strip the stigma attached to victims came quickly.
Politicians across the country, responding to public pressure and global outrage in the wake of the 2012 attack on the 23-year-old female student and her male friend, promised they would modernize outdated policies on women and violence.
Collectively, it looked like the country was moving toward change and working hard to repair its global image. And for a while, it seemed to work.
But in late May, the bodies of two teenage girls were found hanging limply from a mango tree in their village in Uttar Pradesh. The girls, 14 and 15 years old, had been gang-raped. A week later, another case surfaced. Like the others, the girl had been raped and asphyxiated. She was found dead, hanging from a tree.
As the grisly cases start to emerge again, many are hoping the United States and others will apply pressure to their Asian ally to renew the fight against what is by any standard an epidemic of rape.
But it won’t be easy.
In recent years, U.S. officials have faced significant obstacles with India, ranging from disagreements over economic conditions which include grudges over limits on temporary work visas to polarizing political figures like the country’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Some say applying more pressure, even on an issue like rape, could strain the fragile U.S.-India relationship even more.
Others, like Shamila Chaudhary, a senior South Asia fellow at the New America Foundation, see it differently.
Chaudhary told FoxNews.com the U.S. government now has a chance to re-frame its relationship with India into one that would be beneficial to both countries and one that draws more attention to the epidemic ripping through the country.
The number of rapes reported in India from 1953 to 2011 has shot up 873 percent, according to statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau. In 2011, 24,206 rape cases were reported in India. (This increase could reflect, in part, a greater willingness by victims to come forward.)
Of those, 6,227 were in northern India, covering New Delhi where the bus rape took place.
Ruth Manorama, president of the National Alliance for Women, recently told The Wall Street Journal, “It is not a north India phenomena, it is an all India phenomena.”
A victim’s rights advocate based in the northern part of the country, who wished to remain anonymous, echoed the sentiment and told FoxNews.com that “the problem is not going away.”
She added that the data from the National Crime Records Bureau carries the caveat that the actual number of rapes still is much greater than the number being reported. Victims have long stayed silent in the face of societal pressures as well as reluctance by authorities to register reports of abuse.
“This type of terrible sexual violence, though horrific, is not unique to India,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told FoxNews.com. “We continue to urge improved protections and rights for women and girls and accountability for perpetrators of such violence in countries around the world, including India.”
The State Department has, broadly, been speaking out more on the issue of sexual violence. In June, Secretary of State John Kerry vowed to “banish sexual violence to the dark ages and the history books.”
“We will not tolerate rape as a tactic of war and intimidation,” Kerry said during his keynote address at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The four-day meeting – the first of its kind – was held in London last month. The U.S. was among 155 countries there that signed a declaration of commitment to end sexual violence in developing countries and regions.
From a political standpoint, how America responds to the rape crisis in India could have a ripple effect on ties with the country, which has been a key ally for the U.S. in the region.
The U.S. relationship with India has hit a few rough patches lately.
This year’s elections put the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in power – a party that typically advocates conservative social policies, free market capitalistic principles and foreign policy driven by a nationalist agenda.
“It is in the national interest of both India and the U.S. to move beyond the current plateau in relations and build a durable and strategic partnership,” said Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
Modi has been a controversial figure in Indian politics. His critics claim he did little to stop Hindu-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat, where violence in 2002 led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people. For a time, the U.S. denied Modi a visa to enter the country – something that was reversed following the recent election.
But how the U.S. handles relations during Modi’s time in office has yet to be seen. The India-U.S. relationship has been tested and strained during the past several years, with one of the hardest hits coming last December when the U.S. arrested Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade on charges she lied about how much she paid her housekeeper as well as allegations of mistreatment.
Experts like Curtis say the U.S. must now reframe its relationship with India, striking a balance between tough messages on terrorism and women’s rights, as well as capitalizing on economic opportunities.
Back in Washington, senators sat down last week to discuss how to reduce violence against women and discrimination around the world.
The hearing came as lawmakers tried for the fourth time since 2007 to pass the International Violence Against Women Act, which would make stopping violence against women a diplomatic priority for the U.S.
Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., were among the lawmakers who took up the thorny topic at the Senate Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues hearing.
But despite some bipartisan support, the bill has never been voted out of the subcommittee.
“I struggle to understand why the United States has failed to pass the convention, but I understand politics,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. “We need to acknowledge our responsibility and our leadership on issues.”
Gang Involvement with Human Trafficking
Posted on November 18, 2013 by Michelle Lillie
gangsSex trafficking has traditionally been propagated by small-time local opportunists looking to make a large profit with little work. While these small-time traffickers still exist, sex trafficking rings run by gangs and other large criminal enterprises are increasingly becoming the norm. Human trafficking is now the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, second only to drug trafficking and as profitable as the illegal arms trade. Sex trafficking is enormously profitable due to the ability to sell a person for sex many times as compared to drugs or guns which can only be sold once. Due to expansive criminal networks as well as the ease of technology, sex trafficking will only continue to grow.
A Growing Problem
For the past ten years the number of gangs in the US has steadily increased to an estimated 25,000. As gang membership has grown, so has gang involvement with human trafficking. Global Centurion has identified over 200 cases of human trafficking in the US in which gang members have been involved. The FBI reported that The Bloods, MS-13, Sureños, and Somali gangs are involved in human trafficking. Twenty-four members of The Bloods were recently arrested in Northern Virginia for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha are also located in the Washington DC metro area and have the distinction of being the first street gang to be declared a transnational criminal organization by the US government. Earlier this year an MS-13 member was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement with a sex trafficking ring in Northern Virginia. The Sureños, a group of imprisoned gang members who pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia, are heavily engaged in human trafficking. The Somali gangs are made up of Somali refugees and immigrants located mainly in the Minneapolis / Saint Paul area of Minnesota. In 2012, six Somali gang members were tried and three convicted of sex trafficking minors through three states.
Ease of Technology
Due to the ease of technology, street gangs are able to meet the high demand for sex with young girls and women. Gangs commonly use websites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Instagram to lure young girls into commercial sexual exploitation. Andrea Powell, the advocate who runs Fair Girls, says she’s seen girls recruited from almost every social network that exists. Facebook and Tagged are two of the most common, she says, but even more limited sites like Twitter and Instagram get used for solicitation. Traffickers are becoming more tech-savvy and with the Internet so accessible in the US, it is not difficult for a lonely, young girl looking for love and attention to be tricked or coerced into becoming a victim of sex trafficking. Gang members then commonly use websites like Craigslist.org or Backpage.com to sell their victims. Backpage.com produces about 70 percent of all online prostitution ads in the US. While federal and local law enforcement are aware and monitor these websites, it is not sufficient to stop the growing demand and ease of access for sex with young women.
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Sold for Sex: The Link Between Street Gangs and Human Trafficking
by Laura J. Lederer
within Culture, Politics
In order to curtail human sex trafficking successfully, we must take seriously that street gangs are a large part of the problem.
In April of this year, in Oceanside, California, thirty-eight Crips gang members, their alleged associates, and two hotel owners were arrested for engaging in a sex trafficking enterprise that involved the prostitution of minors and adult females. After raping their victims and threatening to kill them if they tried to escape, the gang members sold the girls online. The girls were trapped in a hotel for twelve hours a day, as men who had purchased their bodies from the gang members had sex with them. Though these commercial sex acts brought in between $1,000 to $3,000 dollars a day, the young women and children never saw a penny of the money. Their only payment was food, avoiding beatings, and staying alive.
In a similar case this past June, an MS-13 gang member was indicted for trafficking girls at a Super 8 motel just outside of Washington, D.C. At least one of the girls was only fifteen when she was sold. He advertised her as a “high school girl” and “fresh out of the box.” A year earlier, in Brooklyn, New York, eight members of the Bloods street gang were also charged with sex trafficking of minors. They solicited customers using online websites. The victims, recruited from local junior high and high schools, were trafficked into prostitution. The traffickers made $500 a day.
The facts from hundreds of criminal cases show a clear link between dangerous street gangs and the scourge of human trafficking. Over the last decade, the United States has passed numerous laws to address criminal gang activity. Similarly, in 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to curtail trafficking in persons. But the enforcement of each law has developed independently of the others, with little, if any, integration. This is unfortunate and represents a missed opportunity not only to save the victims of a terrible crime, but also to add another prosecution weapon against the dangerous street gangs that endanger our communities and our nation.
With state and national crackdowns on drug trafficking, gangs have turned to sex trafficking for financial gain. Unlike drugs, girls can be used more than once, and it is the girls, not the traffickers, who run the greatest risk of being caught and prosecuted. Case records show that gangs still utilize traditional methods of recruiting, employing the modern equivalent of wining and dining a young girl (“skip parties” and “love showers”), winning her heart and then slowly “seasoning” her for the street by sharing her with other gang members. One young woman described her trafficker’s request for a “love donation”: sex she had to provide to other men to win her place in the gang.
But women and children also describe being coerced into a life of prostitution after being subjected to severe beatings and gang rapes, and being deprived of food and water. The victims of trafficking are made to feel both afraid of and dependent on the traffickers for their very lives.
New technological advances give gang traffickers the ability to market the services of their victims discreetly. In several high-profile prosecutions of sex trafficking in Seattle, San Diego, and New York, street gangs used online advertisements on websites such as Craigslist and Backpage to traffic women and girls as young as thirteen. Once arrangements are made over the internet and by cell phone, the victimization that takes place behind closed doors is the same as in other trafficking cases: women and children are delivered to customers and forced to perform sex acts for money that is paid to and pocketed by their traffickers.
The U.S. government has prosecuted several hundred cases against street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs in which commercial sex acts, prostitution, or human trafficking were mentioned; the gang members, however, were charged with drug and weapons trafficking, armed robbery, auto theft, extortion, home invasions, and other felony offenses—not human trafficking. Human trafficking charges are rarely the primary basis for prosecution; though, since late 2010, there have been a few such cases.
One reason that street gangs have not been prosecuted for human trafficking is that too many prosecutors and law enforcement officials assume that human trafficking in America is primarily an international problem. A recent Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics report, however, found that 83% of victims in confirmed sex trafficking incidents are actually U.S. citizens.
The vigorous prosecution of human trafficking can help bring down street gangs that also engage in murder, robbery, and drug trafficking. Before that can happen, however, state and local government officials must learn how to combat the human trafficking that is occurring in their own backyards. The Department of State’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report found that less than 10 percent of state and local law enforcement agencies have any kind of protocol or policy on human trafficking. While great strides have been made in addressing international human trafficking and local street gang activity, little has been done to link the two.
In order to combat street gang involvement in human trafficking more effectively, new approaches must be undertaken: (1) State and local governments must add human trafficking to the list of suspect activities for criminal gangs; (2) gang and human trafficking task forces must coordinate and plan joint prosecutions; (3) gang investigations should include specific tactics for actively spotting human trafficking; (4) gangs involved in human trafficking should be charged under the TVPA or state trafficking-in-persons laws in addition to other criminal charges; (5) communities should develop specialized outreach, education, and training programs to address gang-related trafficking; (6) asset forfeiture laws should be utilized more extensively in gang-related human trafficking cases; and (7) new and creative approaches to prosecution (such as using the child soldiers provision in the TVPA) should be explored and established.
Street gangs are increasingly turning to human trafficking as a way to generate the funds that are necessary for their existence and operations. Little is known about the dynamics involved in this trafficking, and additional research on the methods of recruiting, transporting, harboring, marketing, buying, and selling involved in gang-related human trafficking is important.
We do know, however, that street gangs engage in human trafficking because the risk is low and the profit is high. We must draft and pass new laws targeting gang-related human trafficking. In addition, diligent law enforcement tactics that help identify street gangs involved in human trafficking must be developed. Federal and local law enforcement authorities should encourage collaboration between the current efforts to address human trafficking and prosecute street gangs. Finally, education about street gangs and human trafficking that is tailored for parents, teachers, and community leaders is critical to strengthening community resistance to human trafficking and other criminal gang activities.
Laura Lederer is President of Global Centurion Foundation, an NGO that combats human trafficking by focusing on the demand-side economics of trafficking. She is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C. A longer version of this article on street gangs and human trafficking will be available November 1, 2011, in the Johns Hopkins University Journal of Human Rights.