Orlando unfunded human trafficking working group/task force had it’s first successful Domestic Trafficking prosecution using Florida Human Trafficking State Law. Currently they are working on other open investigations regarding sex trafficking and labor trafficking cases in Orlando.
Here is the highlights of the case:
MBI and the Osceola County Investigative Bureau conducted a joint prostitution/escort detail in Orlando. They called out an escort advertising on either craigslist or backpage and made a prostitution case on her. During the interview with her, she told them she had borrowed some money from a guy she met to help her fix her car. She was slowly paying him back, when she got arrested for shoplifting. She called the suspect to help bond her out and he did, but this time he told her she had to work for him to pay him back.
The suspect had a juvenile that was his bottom and they posted the victim on the internet and sent her to prostitution calls. The victim had a 5 month child and the suspects would make her drop the child off to them as collateral in order for her to go to the prostitution calls and at the end of the day, she had to bring the money to them and they would return the child to her.
The victim is college educated and caught in a financial hardship and felt compelled to comply with the suspects.
Once the victim told law enforcement her story and she showed the officers text messages confirming what she had said, they had a team set up at the hotel were the suspects were staying. As the units were setting up, the suspects noticed what was going on and texted the victim not to come to their hotel to pay them the money from the call she was just on-which was the call in which we made charges on the victim. The victim conducted controlled phone calls and text messages to the suspects and was able to convince them to meet at a Walmart parking lot to exchange the money for the child. Agents set up at the parking lot and was able to take the suspects down and rescue the child.
The victim was not arrested; however the charges were filed with the MBI’s general counsel, (two assistant state attorneys from the 9th Circuit are assigned to MBI as general counsel) and later nol prossed. This was done so the defense could not counter that the police showed any favoritism to the victim.
Both suspects were charged with sex trafficking. The juvenile suspect chose to make a plea deal for lesser charges and the adult male suspect chose to take his case to trial.
The jury found the suspect guilty of sex trafficking and the victim chose to speak at sentencing. Bob Welch, state prosecutor did an excellent job and due to the suspects past history, wanted to get at least 5 to 8 years DOC time for the crime. The judge was moved by the victim’s testimony at trial and sentencing and gave the suspect 12 years DOC time.
More Florida News!
Following a lead generated by FCAHT, the Department of Labor in Florida, ICE, VR Services,shut down a staffing agency exploiting H2B visa workers for labor exploitation and labor violations in Orlando. Florida Legal Services filed a civil law suit against VR Services.
Following another lead generated by FCAHT, the Department of Labor in Florida is currently working on 3 other cases regarding staffing agencies exploiting H2B workers in Florida and North Carolina.