Tag Archive: Department of Justice

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Announces Justice Department Strategy To Combat Human Trafficking

March 16, 2022

ATLANTA – U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today released the Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

“Human trafficking is an insidious crime,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.  “Traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm. The Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking will bring the full force of the Department to this fight.”

“Our team is proud to work alongside our many committed law enforcement and community partners – including federal and state law enforcement agencies, non-profit organizations, and community leaders – to combat the scourge of human trafficking,” said U.S Attorney Kurt R. Erskine.  “We continue to draw on these critical resources to vigorously prosecute those who commit these crimes, as well as to mobilize resources to aid, support, and help trafficking victims in our district.”

Rooted in the foundational pillars and priorities of the interagency National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which President Biden released on Dec. 3, 2021, the Justice Department’s National Strategy is expansive in scope.  It aims to enhance the department’s capacity to prevent human trafficking; to prosecute human trafficking cases; and to support and protect human trafficking victims and survivors.

Among other things, the Justice Department’s multi-year strategy to combat all forms of human trafficking will:

  • Strengthen engagement, coordination and joint efforts to combat human trafficking by prosecutors in all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and by federal law enforcement agents nationwide.
  • Establish federally-funded, locally-led anti-human trafficking task forces that support sustained state law enforcement leadership and comprehensive victim assistance.
  • Step up departmental efforts to end forced labor by increasing attention, resources and coordination in labor trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
  • Enhance initiatives to reduce vulnerability of American Indians and Alaska Natives to violent crime, including human trafficking, and to locate missing children.
  • Develop and implement new victim screening protocols to identify potential human trafficking victims during law enforcement operations and encourage victims to share important information.
  • Increase capacity to provide victim-centered assistance to trafficking survivors, including by supporting efforts to deliver financial restoration to victims.
  • Expand dissemination of federal human trafficking training, guidance and expertise.
  • Advance innovative demand-reduction strategies.

The department’s strategy will be implemented under the direction of the National Human Trafficking Coordinator designated by the Attorney General in accordance with the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017.

If you believe that you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at   1-888-373-7888, or Text 233733.

To read the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking click here.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

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Press release originally found on United States Department of Justice.

Omaha Woman Sentenced for Role in Sex Trafficking of Minors

October 1, 2021

Acting United States Attorney Jan Sharp announced that Lauryn Besta, 22, of Omaha, Nebraska, was sentenced today in federal court in Omaha for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor. Chief United States District Judge Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. sentenced Besta to 142 months’ imprisonment. There is no parole in the federal system. After her release from prison, Besta will begin a five-year term of supervised release.

An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office determined that from January 2016 and continuing through January 2019, in the District of Nebraska and elsewhere, Besta (also known as “Lola”) and a co-defendant, Darien Brewer, conspired and agreed to recruit, transport, and entice four minor females, under the age of 18 years old, to engage in commercial sex.  The victims were introduced into the lifestyle of prostitution through the use of drugs and alcohol provided by Besta and Brewer.  Besta and Brewer often referred to the minors as “the Bunny Gang.”

Investigators determined that Besta and Brewer would instruct the minors how to advertise, solicit, and charge for commercial sex acts in the District of Nebraska and elsewhere.  They obtained commercial sex customers for the minors by purchasing and posting advertisements on internet sites such as www.backpage.com. Sex customers responded to the advertisements via telephone and text message and commercial sex acts were coordinated to occur at various hotels, motels, and other locations.  Besta and Brewer used vehicles and public highways to drive the minors to various hotels, motels, and other locations for commercial sex acts, including Omaha, Nebraska; Lincoln, Nebraska; Iowa; and Houston, Texas.  The minors paid a portion or all of the payments received for commercial sex acts to Besta and Brewer.

On August 27, 2021, Chief Judge Rossiter sentenced Brewer to 180 months’ imprisonment and a five-year term of supervised release.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office.

Read this press release on the Department of Justice website.

Colonie Man Charged with Human Trafficking Offenses

September 30, 2021

ALBANY, NEW YORK – A grand jury yesterday returned a superseding indictment charging Christopher Thomas, age 38, of Colonie, New York, with crimes related to the sex trafficking of children and adults.

The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon, Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and New York State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen.

The indictment charges Thomas with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children, sex trafficking of a child, transportation of minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, conspiracy to transport an individual to engage in prostitution, and coercion and enticement.

Thomas is alleged to have recruited girls and women to engage in commercial sex at his direction and then provide him with the proceeds.  Thomas is alleged to have used a website to advertise the girls and women for commercial sex in the Capital Region, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.

The charges in the superseding indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Thomas has been in custody since his arrest on May 12, 2020.

If convicted of all offenses, Thomas faces at least 10 years and up to life in prison.  A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.

This case is being investigated by the FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, and the New York State Police Troop G Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, with assistance from the Colonie Police Department, Vermont State Police, Burlington, Vermont Police Department, Albany Police Department, Albany County Sheriff’s Office, Town of Bethlehem Police Department, Capital Region Crime Analysis Center, and the New York State Intelligence Center. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shira Hoffman and Katherine Kopita.

Read this press release on the Department of Justice webpage.

Health System Gets $1.5 Million to Combat Human Trafficking

December 6, 2018

Dignity Health, one of the country’s largest health systems, has been granted $1.5 million by the U.S. Department of Justice to shore up its efforts to combat human trafficking and evaluate the effectiveness of its initiatives.

Research indicates a large share of sex and labor trafficking victims interact with a health care provider at some point while they are being exploited, and much of the progress around treating such patients in recent years has come from small clinics with strong community ties.

Dignity Health – with more than three dozen hospitals across Arizona, California and Nevada – will seek to bring its best practices to more patients, funded by the pair of Justice Department grants announced Thursday.

The two grants will fund training on how to provide trauma-informed care for human trafficking survivors, evaluate Dignity’s processes and expand its “safe haven” model – which integrates physical and mental health care into long-term support for survivors – to three sites from one.

While the health care field has boosted its efforts to identify trafficking survivors in recent years, Dignity’s model provides both immediate care and referrals to community services, as well as long-term follow-up care, a component that often doesn’t account for survivors’ complex mental health needs or is missing altogether in other models.

“Most health care systems promote a patient-centered approach, but I think what’s lacking is concrete education on trauma,” says Holly Gibbs, a sex trafficking survivor and director of Dignity Health’s Human Trafficking Response Program. “If you’re educated on trauma … you’re better able to understand your patient’s wishes, and respect your patient.”

Through the response program, Dignity identified at least 31 patients who exhibited “high or moderate indicators of sex or labor trafficking victimization” in fiscal 2016, Gibbs says. They are still finalizing fiscal 2017 and 2018 totals, but Gibbs says the preliminary figures have risen with each year. Combined, these patients have visited the health system’s initial safe haven clinic in Sacramento hundreds of times for primary and follow-up care, according to Dignity.

All three safe haven sites will be in clinics staffed by medical residents, which is one key to spreading the model beyond Dignity itself, says Dr. Ron Chambers, director of the family medicine residency program at Methodist Hospital of Sacramento.

To read the full story by Gaby Galvin on U.S. News & World Report: Click Here