20 People Rescued From a Possible Human Smuggling Racket From Phoenix Home

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
May 2, 2019 Updated: May 23, 2019

Around 20 people were rescued from a possible human smuggling racket in Phoenix on May 1.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative said that they don’t have any information about gender, age, or the country of origin of the rescued people.

Phoenix police informed federal agents on Wednesday evening about these people being at a stash house, reported ABC15.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” said ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, according to the media.

Missing Girl Rescued From Being Trafficked to Chicago

A regular traffic stop helped police rescue a missing girl who was being trafficked to Chicago by an older man.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Officer Mitch Ross had stopped a 2013 Nissan Sentra that had a failure-to-move-over violation on the Ohio Turnpike, according to WTOL.

Ross found a young girl riding with an older male inside the Sentra. The girl and the man had no identification on them and didn’t speak English.

Ariyl Onstott WTOL discussing OSHP’s rescue of a possible human trafficking victim:

اس پر ‏‎WTOL NEWS 11‎‏ نے شائع کیا بدھ، 17 اپریل، 2019

They were of El Salvadoran descent and a translator was called to the scene. The police found out that the girl was 15 years old and the man was 35 years old.

Police discovered from their databases that the girl was a missing juvenile from New Jersey. The man had forced her into sex acts and she was being taken to Chicago.

The police arrested the man and charged him with abduction. He’s currently at the Lucas County jail while the girl is at a hospital for medical care.

In another case of trafficking for sex, a man from Madison, Wisconsin, was found guilty by a federal jury—after a five-day trial—of seven counts of sex trafficking on the now-defunct Backpage.com, the Department of Justice announced on April 15.

Erin F. Graham Jr., 37, engaged in sex trafficking between 2015 and 2017 by “force, coercion, and fraud.” He transported individuals across state lines with the intent that they engage in prostitution.

Graham committed the crimes by posting advertisements on Backpage—the largest human-trafficking portal in the United States—and forced or coerced individuals who responded to the advertisements to commit commercial sex acts. Specifically, he transported two individuals between Wisconsin and Virginia with the intent they engage in prostitution.

The FBI shut down Backpage in April 2018. In the same month, President Donald Trump signed into law the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, or SESTA-FOSTA, that stopped the shielding of website operators from state criminal charges or civil liability if they facilitate sex ads or prostitution.

Graham’s scheme was uncovered by law enforcement officials in April 2017 when they found one of the victims at a Madison hotel. A hotel employee at the time called 911 after the victim ran from her room bleeding and hid behind the front desk. The victim was strangled to the point of unconsciousness by Graham when she told him she wanted to leave.

In their testimony, the victims said they were forced to engage in prostitution and to hand over the money they earned to Graham and his girlfriend, Patience Moore, 28, of Madison. The victims said they were the only source of income for Graham and his girlfriend. Moore pleaded guilty on March 14 for her role in the sex trafficking scheme.

“Through violence and coercion, Graham exploited vulnerable young women into committing commercial sex acts for his profit,” U.S. Attorney Scott C. Blader said in a statement. “In the process, the victims were often degraded and robbed of their human dignity. We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to bring human traffickers to justice.”

Graham’s sentencing is scheduled for July 1. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum of life in federal prison. Moore will be sentenced on June 5 and also faces a maximum of life in federal prison.

Epoch Times reporter Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.

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