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Stories you may have missed: Sex Trafficking Victims Being Punished; Sex Trafficker Admits to Recruiting a 14-Year-Old Minor; Nationwide Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Enterprise Indictments

We are so fortunate to have people send us stories of the day (and the past), and we want to have a place to feature them. This is our second edition of “Stories you may have missed:” Let us know what you think. Should we do more? 

 
Nine Members and Associates of Nationwide Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Enterprise Indicted on Racketeering and Related Charges
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
 
Queens-Based Criminal Enterprise Orchestrated Violent Assaults of Women Across the United States

Defendant Instructed Enforcer: “If She Dares Fight Back, Beat Her More Viciously. Get Some Results from the Beating.” 

Seal of the United States Department of Justice
Seal of the United States Department of Justice

A 20-count indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn variously charging Siyang Chen, Siyu Chen, also known as “Ban Ban,” Bo Jiang, Meizhen Song, also known as “Die Die,” Rong Rong Xu, also known as “Eleanor,” Jiarun Yan, also known as “Raymond Yan” and “Mike,” Jilong Yu, Carlos Cury and Zerong Tang with racketeering, sex trafficking, Hobbs Act robbery and violent assaults.  The operation was based in Queens, New York, but carried out crimes throughout the United States, including in Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oregon, Texas and Washington.  Eight defendants were arrested today and will be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann. 

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI) and Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the arrests and charges.

“As alleged, the defendants targeted vulnerable women for sex trafficking, and brutally assaulted the victims to enforce loyalty to the criminal enterprise.  Human beings are not property, and the victims in this case, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be from violence and coerced sexual activity.  It is our hope that today’s arrests will bring them some measure of justice for the horror that they have endured,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “This case is another example of our Office’s longstanding commitment to bringing to justice sex trafficking organizations that exploit and dehumanize victims for financial gain.” 

“The conduct alleged today spells out years of abuse inflicted upon vulnerable women on behalf of those who orchestrated this nationwide sex trafficking and prostitution enterprise,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge.  “Victims in this case should know the FBI’s Joint Asian Criminal Enterprise Task Force won’t tolerate the actions of those who offer the sexual activities of others in exchange for payment. If you’re a victim or have information to provide, we want to hear from you—regardless of your immigration status. Call us at 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip at tips.fbi.gov.”

“Our job is to ensure that anyone who would seek to profit through the abuse and exploitation of another human being be brought to justice swiftly and successfully,” stated NYPD Commissioner Sewell.  “Today’s charges also further affirm the NYPD’s unwavering commitment to protecting the survivors of sex trafficking. To that end, I thank and commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District and our partners at the FBI for their immeasurable support in building this critical case.”

As set forth in court filings, between April 2019 and September 2021, the defendants participated in a violent and organized racketeering enterprise, which operated a lucrative prostitution business throughout the United States.  The enterprise recruited women, most of whom were from China and lacked legal status in the United States, to engage in prostitution for the enterprise.  The victims were sometimes required to provide copies of their identification documents so that the defendants could maintain even more control over them.  The enterprise arranged for the women to travel from New York to locations throughout the country, stay in hotels and enterprise-operated apartments for weeks at a time and engage in commercial sex.  Members and associates of the organization collected money from the women and the organization then used those illicit proceeds to promote its sex trafficking and interstate prostitution activities — and enrich its members. 

As alleged, between January 8, 2020 and September 1, 2021, members and associates of the enterprise directed and conducted more than 15 violent assaults of women across five states.  The victims were Chinese women who the organization believed were providing commercial sex services on their own or for rival organizations.  By committing these violent assaults, members of the organization sought to enforce discipline and believed their conduct would not be prosecuted because the victims were not U.S. citizens and were engaged in commercial sex work.  Specifically, members and associates of the enterprise would direct individuals to pretend to be johns to gain access to their hotel rooms and, once inside, would restrain the women with zip-ties, beat them with hammers, bats and other blunt objects, and rob them.  Members of the organization often encouraged increasingly severe beatings of the victims if the initial attack did not sufficiently injure them.  In one phone message that was recovered by law enforcement, a member instructed the enforcer: “Beat [her] to death tomorrow.  If she dares fight back, beat her more viciously.  Get some results from the beating.  Can’t waste the money.”  In another recovered chat, a member advised, “One person choke her by her throat, the other person strike her four limbs to death.  Definitely don’t make a sound.  Beat her to the point where she can’t fight back.” 

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Mr. Peace praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and the NYPD.  This investigation was aided by law enforcement agencies throughout the country.  Mr. Peace expressed his thanks to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Nebraska, as well as the Oklahoma City and Manchester field offices of United States Homeland Security Investigations and United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement.  In addition, local police departments across the United States provided invaluable assistance, including the Beaverton (Oregon) Police Department, Michigan State Police, Missouri Highway Patrol, Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) Police Department, Omaha (Nebraska) Police Department, Overland Park (Kansas) Police Department, Portland (Oregon) Police Department, Southfield (Michigan) Police Department, and Troy (Michigan) Police Department.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by the office’s Organized Crime and Gangs and Civil Rights Sections.  Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew R. Galeotti, Kayla C. Bensing and Sophia M. Suarez are in charge of the prosecution. 

The FBI’s New York Joint Asian Criminal Enterprise Task Force believes this enterprise may be responsible for the assaults of even more commercial sex workers throughout the country.  If you are a victim or have information to provide, there are several ways to contact the FBI: send a tip online at tips.fbi.gov or call 1-800-CALL-FBI.  They have people ready to work with you in your native language, regardless of your immigration status.  Please select English when prompted and ask the operator for a translator by stating your language of choice. Online tips may be submitted in any language.  In an emergency, always call 911 for the police.

The Defendants:

SIYANG CHEN
Age:  32
Queens, New York

SIYU CHEN, also known as “Ban Ban,”
Age:  24
Queens, New York

BO JIANG
Age:  26
Queens, New York

MEIZHEN SONG, also known as “Die Die,”
Age:  23
Dallas, Texas

RONG RONG XU, also known as “Eleanor,”
Age:  29
Queens, New York

JIARUN YAN, also known as “Raymond Yan” and “Mike,”
Age:  28
Queens, New York

JILONG YU
Age:  23
Dallas, Texas

CARLOS CURY
Age:  41
Queens, New York

ZERONG TANG
Age:  24
Queens, New York

Topic(s): 
Human Trafficking
Violent Crime
Contact: 
John Marzulli Danielle Blustein Hass United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6323

Sex Trafficking Victims Are Being Punished – A New Law Could Change That

Victims of sexual abuse are quietly criminalized. Sara’s Law protects kids that fight back.

Woman in orange jumpsuit behind bars
(Image credit: Getty)
 

Sara Kruzan was just 11 years old when she was trafficked. George Howard, whom she referred to as ‘GG,’ groomed Sara for the sex trade and coerced her into prostitution. For more than four years, between ages 11 and 16, Howard subjected Sara to the extreme psychological and physical violence and manipulation that is typical of the sex trade. Social welfare and governmental early warning systems—created to help children like Sara—failed her, leaving her hopeless and helpless. Unable to escape Howard’s grasp, Sara felt compelled to use force against her trafficker. She shot and killed Howard and, while still a minor, was convicted of first-degree murder. None of Howard’s abuse was permitted to be used as evidence in Sara’s defense at her trial; she was sentenced to life in prison without parole at the age of 16. 

Sara served almost 20 years in prison before her sentence was commuted by then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sara’s release was the result of tireless advocacy, countless hours of volunteer legal assistance, and seven years of litigation. Without all this hard work, Sara would still be incarcerated today. 

The media has recently paid more attention to survivors like Sara. The case of 16-year-old sex trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown, who received life imprisonment for the killing of a man who bought her for sex, raised public awareness and brought attention to the quiet criminalization of sex trafficking survivors. But unless this sympathy is accompanied by legal changes, the criminal justice system will continue to remain punitive for girls like Cyntoia and Sara. 

Today, Sara advocates for the passage of federal legislation: the Abolish Trafficking Reauthorization Act of 2022, which was introduced last week by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX). It will reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a bill that includes Sara’s Law and the Unfair Sentencing Act. This legislation would enable judges to take into consideration abuse or trauma a child sex trafficking victim has endured to ensure that they do not receive lengthy prison sentences. The polices were first introduced in the House by Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) in April 2021, though no movement has been made on them since. 

 

Sara’s Law aims to correct the insufficiency of federal self-defense statutes by allowing judges to take age and a history of abuse into consideration when evaluating a minor’s culpability for a crime. It would also allow judges to deviate from mandatory sentences, suspend the entirety of a sentence, and allow cases involving these minors to be adjudicated in juvenile or family court, instead of being sentenced as adults. 

According to James Dold, CEO of Human Rights for Kids, “Sara’s Law is really the first national effort to center trauma and child status when courts are deciding how to handle cases of child sex crime victims who have come into conflict with the law. This idea will revolutionize how we treat children in the legal system who have experienced unimaginable trauma.” 

While guilty verdicts against human traffickers are gratifying for those healing from abuse, they aren’t enough. Sara is only one of many minors who have retaliated against an abuser only to be criminalized by the justice system itself. It’s time to take action for survivors like Sara, and Chrystul, and so many others, by urging our lawmakers to co-sponsor the Abolish Trafficking Reauthorization Act of 2022 and Sara’s Law and to bring them to the House and Senate floors for a vote. 

“I wrote Sara’s Law and the Unfair Sentencing Act after meeting with Sara Kruzan and hearing her story,” says Congressman Westerman. “It is unimaginable that children can be sentenced to life without the chance of parole for crimes against their abusers, and I am determined to correct this injustice. Harsh punishments on these children do not make the public safer, but only further their trauma and prevent rehabilitation efforts.” 

As Sara says: “It is time that we treat kids like kids and offer compassionate healing opportunities for the children who have endured such abuses.” 


The World Without Exploitation Youth Coalition has launched the #KidsArentCriminals campaign, advocating for Sara’s Law. Those wishing to get involved can join the campaign by attending webinars, lobbying their representatives by phone, and advertising the campaign on social media. 

The #KidsArentCriminals campaign is spearheaded by the Youth Coalition of World Without Exploitation, an organization dedicated to ending sexual violence and exploitation by advancing just policy and raising public awareness of key legal and cultural factors contributing to sexual abuse and the criminalization of survivors.

Dr. Devin J. Buckley and Erin Regan

Baltimore Sex Trafficker Admits to Recruiting a 14-Year-Old Minor Near a Group Home to Engage in Commercial Sex

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, April 7, 2022

 

Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maryland logo
Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland – Kyle David Robinson, age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland pleaded guilty today to sex trafficking of a minor.

The plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Chief Gregory J. Der of the Howard County Police Department; and Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department.

According to his plea agreement, Robinson knowingly recruited, enticed, transported, and advertised a 14-year-old female (Minor Victim 1) to engage in commercial sex acts for his own financial benefit.  Robinson admitted that he was aware that Minor Victim 1 was 14-years old prior to advertising her for commercial sex.

Robinson approached Minor Victim 1 in May 2021 in his vehicle while Minor Victim 1 was sitting on the steps of near a group home where she resided.  Robinson told Minor Victim 1 that he was a pimp and referred to himself as “Youngblood”.  Despite Minor Victim 1 informing Robinson that she was a minor, Robinson asked for Minor Victim 1’s phone number and sent her a text message.  The following day, Robinson picked up Minor Victim 1 from the group home and brought her to his residence.

As detailed in his plea, in May and June 2021, Robinson transported Minor Victim 1 to his residence on multiple occasions.  On at least one occasion, Robinson engaged in unprotected sex with Minor Victim 1.  After one interaction in which Robinson had intercourse with Minor Victim 1, Robinson told Minor Victim 1 that she had to “break herself” to him, took $50 from Minor Victim 1, and told Minor Victim 1 that she should call him “daddy”.

Robinson advised Minor Victim 1 to download a social media application for the purpose of communicating with potential commercial sex customers.  Robinson then scripted responses to potential customers on Minor Victim 1’s behalf.  Additionally, Robinson sent verbally hostile messages to Minor Victim 1 and instructed her to always keep her phone with her. 

On June 4, 2021, in a text message with Minor Victim 1, Robinson informed Minor Victim 1 that he had to physically assault Victim 2, a 19-year-old female, for having a boyfriend.  Robinson arranged for Victim 2 to reside at his residence and for Victim 2 to go on commercial sex dates.  Like Minor Victim 1, Robinson had unprotected sex with Victim 2, and required Victim 2 to pay him money to associate with him.

As stated in his plea agreement, after law enforcement received information that Robinson offered young females for commercial sex, investigators arranged for an undercover agent to arrange for commercial sex.  In a conversation with the undercover agent, Robinson told the undercover agent that he had young girls and that he had two teenagers available for an hour at the rate of $1,000.  The undercover agent offered to pay $500 for half an hour with a tentative date and Robinson agreed.  Later in the conversation, Robinson told the undercover agent that he had only one female available because of a conflicting school schedule.

On June 7, 2021, Robinson called the undercover agent to arrange for two victims, including Minor Victim 1, to have commercial sex with the agent at a hotel.  Surveillance cameras captured Robinson and Minor Victim 1 as they entered the hotel for the commercial sex date.  Within the hotel room, the undercover agent offered $750 to have sex with Minor Victim 1.  Robinson then accepted the money for the sex date.  Shortly after, law enforcement entered the room and apprehended Robinson and secured Victim 1.

Robinson faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison for sex trafficking of a minor.  U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow has scheduled sentencing for July 22, 2022, at 9:30 a.m.

This case was investigated by law enforcement agencies that are members of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders.  Members include federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members.  For more information about the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, please visit http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org/.

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron praised the HSI, the Howard County Police Department, and the Baltimore Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary W. Setzer and Colleen E. McGuinn, who are prosecuting the case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, information on the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, and resources available to report human trafficking, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/human-trafficking.