A judge on Wednesday dismissed human trafficking and prostitution charges against a woman, formerly of South Carolina, after prosecutors determined she was actually a victim in the scheme to transport teen girls to Birmingham and force them into sexual servitude.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Stephen Wallace dismissed two counts of human trafficking and two counts of promoting prostitution against 20-year-old Veronica Melvin.
Melvin had been charged with a South Carolina man, Jermaine Williams, after their arrest in 2013. The arrests were part of the FBI’s nationwide crackdown – Operation Cross Country – on child sex trafficking. Three juveniles, ages 13 to 17, were rescued in the Birmingham area during the sweep. The girls were being advertised on Backpage.com as ‘Barbie Dolls’.
“It became very clear during the investigation of this case that Veronica Melvin was a sex trafficking victim of Jermaine Williams,” Kistler stated in an email to AL.com on Thursday. “Our office, along with the law enforcement agencies who worked this case, agreed that justice required dropping her charges.”
“This case exemplifies that human trafficking exists, and that it is happening right here in our own community,” Kistler. “Victims of these cases suffer from the deprivation of one of the most important human rights afforded to us: the right to freedom. Human trafficking victims already have so much to fear from the predators who abuse them and exploit them for profit – they should not have to fear prosecution as well.”
Melvin’s attorney, David Luker, said it was a very complicated case and that he and his client are very satisfied with the outcome. “It was as a result of the district attorneys good judgment and willingness to analyze case that we were able to reach a fair and reasonable outcome,” he said.
Jermaine Williams entered a guilty plea in July to two Human Trafficking charges and was sentenced, per an agreement with prosecutors, to a 20-year sentence. According to the department of corrections, he will serve at least 85 percent before he is even eligible for parole, Kistler said.
Every minute a child is taken against their will. In less than a minute, you can help. I’M not for sale im a child and youth. NO MORE SLAVERY
More than 30 million people live in slavery today. Men, women, and children around the world are trafficked and subjected to exploitation. The modern-day slave trade is a $32 billion-dollar-a-year business and one of the fastest growing industries.
ANGELS IN THE FIELD MISSION
ANGELS IN THE FIELD RESCUE MISSION IS TO ACT AGAINST INJUSTICE AND CREATED A WORLD WERE NO HUMAN IS FOR SALE FOR SEX TRAFFICKING & HUMAN TRAFFICKING, OR ANY FORM OF SLAVERY.
ANGELS IN THE FIELD fights modern-day slavery through business creation, supply chain evaluation, and aftercare aid. For more information.
In 3 international project locations, ANGELS IN THE FIELD RESCUE AND JUSTICE, provides safety and aftercare services to survivors while targeting the root causes of exploitation by empowering individuals with skills training, education, and job opportunities. From rescued children on the streets of Thailand to women escaping exploitation in the red-light district of Amsterdam, Not For Sale brings freedom and new opportunities to survivors and at-risk communities across the globe.
You have the power to take action. Support the movement to end slavery by donating to this fundraising campaign. Your contribution enables ANGELS IN THE FIELD RESCUE AND JUSTICE to combat human trafficking around the world.
Together, WE HUMANS ARE No MORE FOR SALE.
PLEDGE HERE TO WORK FREE FOR A DAY SO OTHERS CAN BE FREE FOREVER. Slavery isn’t over. Every minute a child is taken against their will. In less than a minute, you can help. slavery no more pledge
BACKPAGE.COM SELLING GIRLS FOR PROSTITUTION
Mass. AG supports human trafficking lawsuit against Backpage.com
Feb 20, 2015, 2:48pm EST
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Boston Business Journal
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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has filed an amicus brief in a federal lawsuit against website Backpage.com, urging the court to move forward a case alleging that the website assisted in human trafficking.
The amicus brief was filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.
Ropes & Gray filed Doe vs. Backpage.com LLC on behalf of three women who allege that they were sold for sex through the website. Some of them were minors at the time. The original complaint included just two women plaintiffs and a third woman was added in late 2014, said a spokesman for the law firm.
The amicus brief filed by the AG’s office comes in response to Backpage.com’s request that the court dismiss the case.
“Websites that actively facilitate human trafficking should be held liable for this serious and widespread problem in the commonwealth,” Healey said in a press release from the AG’s office. “Backpage is known for advertising commercial sex, and its recent growth and dominant position in the market call into question its supposed efforts to curb prostitution and child exploitation.”
The complaint alleges that one of the women was sold for sex in 2012 and 2013 when she was 15-and-16-years-old through the backpage.com website. Between June and September 2013 alone, she was was sold for sex more than 1,000 times at locations in Greater Boston and in Rhode Island, according to Ropes & Gray.
Another plaintiff alleges she was sold for sex when she was 15-years-old in Boston, Saugus, Cambridge and Somerville between 2010 and 2012, according to the complaint.
The women allege that, when they were sold for sex, pimps use Backpage.com to identify and communicate with customers.
The named defendants are Backpage.com, Camarillo Holdings LLC and New Times Media LLC. None could be immediately reached for comment.
Non-Profits, Philanthropy, Higher Education
Industries: Legal Services
Six alleged members of Jefferson County child prostitution ring arrested; one still at large
Jean-Claude Toviave may have done “horrendous” things to four west African children he pretended were his own, but it wasn’t child slavery.
That’s what U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow concluded today in sentencing the University of Michigan janitor to 21 months in prison – which he has already served – for sneaking four African children into the country in 2006 with fake documents and pretending they were his own.
Tarnow previously had sentenced Toviave to more than 11 years in prison after a federal jury convicted him of enslaving four children in his Ypsilanti home and subjecting them to years of abuse. The four children testified that Toviave regularly beat them with broomsticks, a toilet plunger, ice scraper, sticks and phone chargers if they failed to obey orders to do household chores, and deprived them of food and sleep as punishment.
But a federal appeals court in August harpooned the government’s human trafficking case when it threw out the forced labor conviction, concluding that while the children’s treatment was “reprehensible,” it was not slavery.
Tarnow said he had no choice but to punish Toviave according to that finding.
“This is a serious case of child abuse that should have been prosecuted in the state courts,” said Tarnow, who added a message for Toviave. “You got a huge break Mr. Toviave. I trust that you’ve learned your lesson as to your form of quote unquote, ‘discipline.’ ”
Tarnow gave Toviave a chance to speak in court, but the defendant declined.
Currently, immigration authorities have a hold on Toviave, who is expected to be deported to his native land of Togo. The federal government has 48 hours to take action. Washtenaw County authorities also still could file charges against him.
Meanwhile, if Togo refuses to take him back – Toviave was granted asylum here in 2001 – Toviave could find himself being “a man with no country,” noted his lawyer, Randall Roberts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mollie O’Rourke pleaded with Tarnow to consider the abuse suffered by the children and sentence Toviave to five years instead.
“What happened to the victims still happened. Nothing changes that,” O’Rourke said. “I urge the court to remember the testimony of the four children … They were children. They were abused. They were kept with false names. As children who could not speak the language, they were especially vulnerable.”
But Tarnow said the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the forced labor convictions, which means he can only sentence someone for a crime for which they’ve been convicted. In Toviave’s case, he pleaded guilty only to immigration charges and fraud.
During the sentencing hearing, Tarnow took a shot at Washtenaw County and the state attorney general’s office for letting the federal courts handle this case when, he said, the states should have. He also asked where Attorney General Bill Schuette was on the case, noting he’s “on my television every night” declaring war against human trafficking, yet no one from his office appeared in this case.
Joy Yearout, a spokesperson for Schuette’s office, said the AG’s office does not comment on pending federal litigation. But she defended Schuette’s record saying he has aggressively fought human trafficking problem on many fronts.
According to court documents, Toviave fled Togo in 2001 and was granted asylum status in the U.S. after spending two years in a Togo prison as a “dissident.” Five years later, he snuck four of his extended family’s children into the U.S. “to advance their education and help them achieve a better future.”
Toviave almost always had two jobs, including being a tennis instructor, paid his taxes and had a clean criminal record prior to this case, his lawyer wrote.
“While it certainly could be said that his ‘social/family experiment’ went horribly off the rails … he did bring them here, provided for them and enrolled them in school. That was to give them a better opportunity than they would have if they remained in Togo.”
According to court documents, the children are still in the U.S., living with foster families. The eldest girl is in college.
The victims detailed the years of abuse in journals, which police confiscated, and reported the abuse to counselors, triggering an investigation.
One of them – a teenage male – appeared at Toviave’s last sentencing. He thanked Toviave for bringing him here and admonished him for the abuse.
“You had no respect for me. I wake up with nightmares. You said that you would kill me with your bare hands when I was only a child. I pray that one day you will be able to change your ways,” the boy, A.K., wrote in his statement. “You are an evil person. The only person you can be upset with is yourself.”
ANGELS IN THE FIELD RESCUE AND RESTORE IS KNOW ASKING ALL OF THE ACTIVIST WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS SITUATION . I BET THERE WILL NOT BE EVEN ONE THAT WILL HAVE THE GUTS TO STOP THIS SITUATION
This is Unreal how they are selling weman and police are around them and not stop this selling of woman. Selling humans as slaves is illegal all over the world however since Isis has taken over Human sale will become worst like never before.
This is in LONDON
This is supposly actors acting on what isis has been doing with their woman.
News Room » Recent Releases
OCTOBER 14, 2014BOGOTA, OTHER
HSI, Colombian authorities rescue 55 sex trafficking victims, all minors
Victims as young as 11 years old
HSI, Colombian authorities rescue 55 sex trafficking victims, all minors.HSI, Colombian authorities rescue 55 sex trafficking victims, all minors.
BOGOTA, Colombia — An international undercover law enforcement operation culminated Saturday with the arrests of 12 individuals involved in sex trafficking and the rescue of 55 sex trafficking victims, all minors.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Attaché Office in Colombia and the Colombian Attorney General’s Technical Investigative Corps Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (CTI TCIU) conducted the operation that was carried out simultaneously in Cartagena, Medellin and Armenia, all Colombian cities.
Eleven Colombian citizens face charges for human trafficking of minors, pimping and pandering. Details regarding the remaining individual are not being disclosed pending the completion of the investigation.
Individuals arrested in Armenia include: Erwin Rene Ordonez-Ortiz, Javier Giovanny Aguirre-Garcia and Lina Maria Gonzalez-Henao. Cartagena arrests include: Horacia Rebolledo Pacheco, Kelly Johana Suarez Moy, Eduardo Ortega, Juan Manuel Oquendo Sierra and Samuel David Olave Martinez. Four individuals – Veronica Builes-Bonet, Luisa Fernanda Velasquez, Alexander Alberto Villegas and a non-disclosed individual – were arrested in Medellin.
The Colombian Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the Colombian nationals. If convicted, the defendants face between five and 20 years imprisonment.
The rescued victims are all Colombian minors, some as young as 11 years old. They are in the care of Bienestar Familiar (Colombia’s Child Protective Services). Eighty-five percent of those rescued were females. Some of the victims were allegedly drugged with ecstasy and cocaine.
During the takedown, one 11-year-old girl broke down in tears thanking the officials who rescued her. She was allegedly sold for $1,000 in U.S. currency since she was a virgin.
“It’s unconscionable that people engage in the sexual trafficking of innocent children,” said HSI Colombia Attaché Luis Sierra. “Through this successful bilateral operation, the U.S. and Colombia are sending a clear message that we will go to any length to identify and catch the monsters that exploit our vulnerable children.”
Breaking Chains and Underground Railroad, both U.S. nonprofit organizations dedicated to eradicating the sexual exploitation of children, assisted with this case. The Colombian Navy and Coast Guard also participated.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
You may also visit us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, or access this news release on your mobile device.
Tracking the progress of the Modern Day Slave Trade and those Abolitionists who work against it.
MARCH 6, 2014
The Pimp Game: A De-structional Guide By DJ’s Angels In The Field
The quotes below are from a book titled The Pimp Game: An Instructional Guide, written by Mickey Royal in 1998.
A lot of reviews on The Pimp Game praise Royal’s honest representation of a dog eat dog world, and applaud his statement than every person must pimp or be pimped. Many express a belief that he’s speaking metaphorically. Royal’ s Machiavellian methods and mindset display openly how a ‘pimp’ and ‘ho’ are both slaves to a culture that has devalued human life and dehumanized sex. As Mickey encourages his reader to use sex, money, verbal and psychological abuse to dominate men and women in order to exploit them, he compares a pimp to a lion, a king, a vampire and an empty shell, and gives specific examples of words to say and actions to take to make sure a ‘ho’ never has the self-esteem or the means to live without the ‘pimp’.game
Not much more needs to be said. Read the quotes below and see what Mickey says for himself.
“The Lord gave us pimps, and hos for pimps to feed off of, the same as the Lord provides the world with predators and prey.”
“How to knock a bitch and transform her into a ho? It is an intricate process of psychological destruction and emotional construction.” “The pimp is evil personified. I’ve thought long and hard of a visual aid, a picture to give you of a pimp. When you think of a pimp, think of a vampire, Count Dracula. The pimp has no love in his heart for a ho. A pimp has no love in his heart for any but himself. When he establishes his game, he constructs paths so all roads lead to himself. The pimp wants your soul.”
“A pimp is a shell. He feeds off your soul, like a vampire. A pimp must be chosen by a ho. A ho must choose him, like a vampire must be invited in. The victim must invite him in.”
“Remember, the vampire has no family, no friends, and no peers. The vampire has subjects under his spell. The pimp has no soul except the souls he collects.”
“A pimp is the room to his ho (the renter) and a pimp becomes whatever she needs: a father, brother, friend, protector, child, lover or whatever. His identity depends on her need.”
“(A mack) sells his ho with the idea of team or family. A ho feels as though she’s making an investment with a Mack, as opposed to complete the servitude relationship with a pimp.” “(The ho) is the most exploited and abused member of the game. But without the ho, there would be no game. I used the pronoun ‘she’ when referring to a ho. But understand that hos are about 50/50 male/female. I use the feminine pronoun to show submissiveness. The ho is the only member/player in the game that doesn’t receive what she expects.”
“The ho actually schools the pimp or the mack in the proper ways to exploit her.” “A ho never leaves the game. The game ejects her. It’s the game and how it’s played, nothing personal. When she can no longer produce what’s needed of her, she is ejected from the game. The soul she sold to the pimp for entry into the game is never returned.” “A ho’s desire can’t be fed because she has a need that isn’t material- security, love, acceptance, confirmation of one’s self worth, etc. Just as a young men join gangs for the same reason, a ho exchanges something she can see for something she can’t. This leaves the door open for exploitation, abuse and misuse.”
“A mack sells a ho a dream like a manager promising her to Hollywood and make her a star. By the time she realizes she’s been had, she’s trapped.” “She can’t leave because tomorrow might be that day. That day when that dream or fantasy she’s chasing comes true.”
“A ho is never happy, never satisfied….She pays a pimp for entry into a fairy tale world. She pays in money, time, self-respect, and her very soul.” “Once you knock your bottom girl, she will go out and recruit for her pimp. He has absolute power over his bottom woman and has so absorbed her soul that he has an almost telepathic connection with her.” “Once she (the ho) chooses (the pimp), then eye contact begins. Eye contact is to acknowledge ownership. You now own your ho. You don’t look at, talk to, or show interest in any ho who does not choose you. “You take away everything she has then give her what she needs. You, the pimp, are the cause as well as the solutions to all her problems. You give her the poison, then sell her the cure.” “You must destroy her self-esteem. Start small. She is only to sit in the back seat of your car. She is not to touch you, kiss you, ask you questions. You don’t ever allow her to make eye contact.” “I had a ho over a partner’s house. He and I played dominoes while she was made to strip nude. While standing, still nude, people came and went. She stood still and cried while visitors came and went. She stood still and cried while visitors touched, poked, prodded and even verbally abused her. I could feel her pain; then I made the pain stop. This process is called ‘breaking a bitch down’ or ‘knocking’.” “If you and your victim are sexually active, then slow it down. Once a week is fine. After sex, take her shopping for one item. Hair and/or nails are fine. She will develop a feeling of accomplishment. The shopping after a month will be replaced with cash. The love making turns into raw sex. She’ll start to crave the intimacy and be willing to get back into your good graces. After you have broken her spirit she has no sense of self-value. Now pimp, put a price tag on the item you have manufactured.” “It costs nothing to produce. She will never run out of it. She has it, she sells it and she still has it.” “A pimp destroys a ho’s world and creates a world that caters to him. If she wishes to leave, you must let her go and forget about her. She’ll come back if you don’t chase her. But she must work her way back. “If the self-esteem isn’t low enough, you must lower it. Why? A ho is a piece of property. You’re selling real estate. You buy as low as you can and sell as high as the market allows.” “A mack talks to all his hos at once. Since he is a friend or brother (remember) he can do so. They’re a team and he comes across as if he’s going to work with them and that they are all working together. A pimp talks to his hos one at a time. Why? Because the ho may feel embarrassed by what the pimp has her do. If there are no witnesses, there is no embarrassment.” “The price to keep a ho down, is you have to stay down with her. To keep your foot on her neck means you can’t move either.”
2014 News -> bit.ly/1o7ruRr
Child molester sentenced to 500 years in prison for crimes – WPEC-TV CBS12 News :: News – Top Stories: http://www.cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_18249.shtml?wap=0#.U-IdDYoXj2U.twitter
U.S. CRIME Cops Arrest 500 Johns in Sex Trade Crackdown
Cops Arrest 500 Johns in Sex Trade Crackdown
Charlotte Alter @charlottealter Aug. 5, 2014
111 prostitution victims recovered
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Law enforcement agencies across the country collaborated in a recent series of sex stings that netted the arrests of almost 500 men seeking to buy sex and 14 pimps and traffickers, officials will announce Wednesday.
The police crackdown, part of an annual “National Day of Johns Arrests,” led to more arrests than any previous sex sting of its kind, officials said. Law enforcement agencies in 14 different states collaborated on the sting, which is part of an ongoing national pivot toward fighting the sex trade by punishing johns instead of prostitutes.
“If there was no demand, there would be no prostitution,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose Chicago office has taken a lead role in organizing the crackdown, told TIME Tuesday ahead of its announcement. “It makes them understand that there are some consequences here. The public still perceives prostitution as a victimless crime, so we’re going about it this way to address the problem and raise awareness.”
Officials said 111 prostitutes were recovered during the operation, including 13 juveniles. The crackdown, which ran from July 17 to Aug. 3, led police to multiple cases of abuse. Seattle police recovered a 15-year old girl whose mother was attempting to sell her for sex. Texas law enforcement officials arrested a federal border patrol agent who was trying to buy sex while in full uniform, as well as a man who tried to pick up a prostitute with his infant child in the backseat. Of the 150 johns arrested in the greater Phoenix area, 91 were trying to buy sex off the website Backpage.com
Dart said the “National Day of Johns Arrests” only lasts for 18 days in order to show the scope of the problem, but also because there are practical constraints on resource allocation in different jurisdictions. “Law enforcement agencies have issues that are pulling them in a million different directions,” he said. “This shows what we can do in a narrow window of time, and speaks to the bigger issue of what’s happening the rest of the year.”
Dart said 53% of the arrested johns were married and 47% were college graduates. “The idea that these are a bunch of ne’er-do-wells could not be further from the truth,” he said.
The National Day of Johns is part of a national trend toward punishing men who buy sex instead of prostitutes who are sometimes forced to sell it. New York has already announced some measures to punish pimps more than trafficking victims, and to rehabilitate women who have been in the sex trade rather than imprison them. The shift has also gained traction internationally, with Sweden’s ban on purchasing sex instead of on selling it has becoming a model across Europe
News 10 /KXTV 2014
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has been investigating a company named Pure Forest that hires migrants for work in Sierra forests. The federal prosecutor accuses Pure Forest of worker abuse, including wage theft and threats. News10/KXTV
Thousands of miles from home, stained with toxic chemicals and threatened with guns, workers say they couldn’t leave even if they wanted to. The migrant workers, all from Mexico, were in a foreign country and they say their passports had been confiscated by company supervisors.
That’s part of a story told to federal investigators from the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by a group of migrant workers employed by a forestry company called Pure Forest.
News10 began investigating Idaho-based Pure Forest, which is in the business of tree planting and tree thinning for Sierra Pacific Industries throughout Northern California, after workers alleged they were forced to endure horrendous conditions while working in the Sierra under temporary work visas.
The Department of Justice calls it forced labor trafficking. It’s another side of human trafficking, a more hidden side, said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner. The victims are often out of sight, held captive in family homes, restaurants, or remote work sites like the forests that cover the Sierra Nevada. Although Pure Forest denies the allegations against them, federal agents have served search warrants at multiple locations in California and Idaho and arrested one of their employees.
“On the labor side, it’s hard to say how widespread trafficking is because it’s not a crime that has really bright lines around it – easy to find, easy to see,” Wagner said. “But anecdotally, the evidence suggests that it is pretty widespread. The problem from the enforcement perspective is, unlike sex trafficking, it is often very difficult to find.”
As an advocate for migrant workers, Cynthia Rice, a staff attorney for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, says she hears stories like this far too often. The guest worker program, she said, leaves migrant workers at the mercy of their employers, who can treat their workers as indentured servants.
“We’ve interviewed several workers who said they would never use this program again,” Rice said. “They really did feel that it was as close to slavery as you could get in a modern country.”
The alleged abuse occurred during the 2012-2013 forestry season, according to a search warrant application filed by federal agents. The workers came from Hidalgo, Mexico, brought here by a Texas-based labor contractor under the guest worker program with H-2B visas. They were flown or driven to Northern California by Pure Forest owners Jeff and Owen Wadsworth, according to court documents, and were split into four groups. Each group was led into remote parts of the forest under the supervision of a Pure Forest supervisor.
Workers told special agents for the DOL their passports were taken as soon as they arrived at their first work site, just outside Gerber, California. The supervisors promised they would be returned when their work was complete, which was supposed to take eight months. Wagner said it’s a common practice in labor trafficking.
“A common thing throughout labor trafficking is retention of passports or travel documents or identity documents which restricts the mobility of the laborer. So they are at the mercy of the people who are exploiting them,” Wagner said.
When the workers arrived at their campsite, they said they found a cluster of tents for them to sleep in, not the sturdy trailers they had been promised by recruiters. Each morning, the workers reported, they were driven to a work site where they performed exhausting labor for up to 13 hours a day, six days a week. That work included spraying chemicals, which their recruiters had promised they would not be doing. A pair of gloves and blue overalls, they said, was the only protective clothing provided.
“It’s really difficult to even think about guys doing this kind of work 10 to 12 hours a day and then coming home to sleep on the dirt in a tent with the little bit of food that they get from the camp fire,” Rice said. “It harkens back to conditions that none of us would want anyone in the United States to have to work under.”
The workers say the overalls and gloves provided little protection against the chemicals that stained them purple and caused vomiting, skin peeling and burning in their eyes. Sometimes they sprayed into trees, causing the chemicals to rain down on their faces. The chemical containers strapped to their backs sometimes leaked, causing chemical burns, according to the statements they gave to investigators.
On Sundays, the workers said, they went to town to wash their clothes under the watchful eye of a supervisor, who made sure they didn’t talk to anyone. But workers say the laundromat owner eventually told them not to come back – the chemicals on their clothes were staining the machines. The workers had to buy a used washing machine with the little money they had, according to a civil suit filed by some of the workers against Pure Forest.
They were also forced to pay for their food, they say. They said the salty pieces of meat often appeared spoiled. The food was served by the father of a Pure Forest supervisor, to whom workers had to pay up to $240 every two weeks. According to the Department of Labor, the rules of the H-2B visa program state workers must be provided nutritious meals by their employer, free of charge.
Drinking water was also pumped straight from a nearby river without any kind of sterilization, according to the DOL. A Butte County environmental health specialist told investigators the river was “absolutely not acceptable” as a source for drinking water, even with filtering, chlorination, or UV treatment. Pure Forest supervisor Jose Amador also confirmed this during an interview with DOL agents, according to court documents.
Threats of violence by Pure Forest supervisors made the situation even worse, according to the workers. Two Pure Forest foremen, Pedro and Arturo Carbajal, reportedly carried guns and threatened to shoot workers in the head if they didn’t work hard enough. Sometimes they would fire their weapons without warning in a display of intimidation, workers said. Pedro Carbajal allegedly told workers he would send them back to Mexico, or worse, take them to prison if they couldn’t handle the workload.
Pedro Carbajal is the only Pure Forest employee who has been arrested up to this point, charged with being an “illegal alien in possession of a firearm”, but Wagner says the investigation continues. Search warrants were served at Pure Forest business locations in California and Idaho, as well as the homes of some employees. Computers and other records were seized, according to court documents.
In a jailhouse interview with News10, Carbajal vehemently denied the allegations against him.
“I never forced anybody to work,” Carbajal said. “When we worked together, we worked freely. Everyone worked at their own pace.”
Wagner says he hopes these prosecutions will compel victims of labor trafficking to come forward with their stories. All too often, he said, cultural barriers or fear of deportation prevents workers from reporting abuse.
“They’re entitled to rights like other people are, in terms of federal minimum wage, safe and sanitary working conditions, living conditions, drinkable water, certain guarantees with respect to hours, humane treatment, and so forth,” he said.
Visa fraud, wage theft and bribery
Seized emails, paper records and interviews with Pure Forest employees show Pure Forest illegally took money from their migrant workers, engaged in bribery and possibly committed visa fraud, according to the DOL.
When Pure Forest wanted to hire 25 guest workers in 2012 to work on the Sierra Pacific contract, they had to offer the open positions to U.S. workers first. That’s a rule under the guest worker program to ensure American workers get first crack at potential jobs. The DOL says Pure Forest received applications from 10 American workers, but told the Department of Labor they only had five. None of those workers were hired for the contract, according to documents obtained by the DOL.
The workers were often left with as little as $100 for two weeks of work after illegal deductions were made from their paychecks, they told investigators. They said the Wadsworths made workers pay $2,000 out of their paychecks to cover the cost of their visas. That cost is supposed to be covered by the employer, not the employee, according to the rules of the guest worker program. Migrant workers have little recourse in these situations, Rice said, even if the employer is clearly violating the law.
“The employer has such great levels of control over the worker that they can pretty much do what they want,” Rice said. “So unless you have someone who by virtue of their own good nature or their desire to be a good business person, to be a good employer, the ability to exploit a worker is largely unfettered.”
Pure Forest supervisor Jose Amador confirmed the $2,000 visa deductions in an interview with DOL investigators. Amador also told investigators the Wadsworths had a history of using undocumented workers. Emails between Jeff and Owen Wadsworth that were seized by the DOL allegedly discussed obtaining possibly fraudulent immigration documents.
The Wadsworths would not do an interview with News10 for this story, but they did provide a statement through their attorneys saying the lawsuit was a money grab by a group of disgruntled employees.
The statement reads:
Pure Forest LLC is a family run company that provides reforestation and other related services to several clients on the West Coast. Recently, Jeff Wadsworth and Owen Wadsworth, the managers and operators of the company, were served with a law suit filed by a few disgruntled former employees. The civil suit alleges several acts of mistreatment and abuse. As a result of these allegations, a federal investigation was initiated.
The allegations came after the disgruntled employees’ failed attempt at obtaining money from the company by filing frivolous injury and unemployment benefit claims. Interviews of company employees and client foresters, who supervised the foresting operation during the time of the alleged abuse, reveal that none of the allegations are true.
Jeff Wadsworth and Owen Wadsworth pride themselves on the well-treatment of all their employees and are surprised and saddened that a group of former employees have chosen to bring such allegations. While we do not know whether the claims were brought in order to extort money or to obtain victim immigration benefits, we are confident that the truth will prevail.
We have been fully cooperative with the federal investigation and are confident that Jeff Wadsworth, Owen Wadsworth and Pure Forest LLC will soon be cleared of any and all wrongdoing.
Out of the shadows
Encouraging victims of labor trafficking to tell their stories is a challenge for law enforcement, but Wagner says his office and others are dedicating resources to change that.
“If people realize that you can’t exploit laborers in an illegal way and that there will be enforcement, it will change the culture for the better,” Wagner said. “And really, what we’re aiming for is prevention, deterring the behavior in the first place. We realize it’s going to take some cases to do that, but hopefully in the long term that’ll happen.”
Wagner said there are already avenues for victims to report exploitation. Victims can report abuse to the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor or the FBI. The number for the FBI hotline in the Sacramento area is (916) 481-9110.
Victims not comfortable with law enforcement can report abuse to the people at the Polaris Project. They have a tip line victims can call at 1 (800) 3730-7888. They can also text the word “help” to “BeFree”/233-733.
Rice is pleased the Department of Justice is prosecuting this case, but says there is a long way to go toward fixing the greater problem of abuse in the guest worker program. Workers who have gone through the program, she said, are not coming back because they rarely make the money they were promised.
“That ability to indenture someone to your service creates such a control, that it’s not slavery, but it’s only one step removed,” she said.
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Sex Slaves, human trafficking… in America?
Need help? Know someone who does?
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 or 360-463-7912