Human trafficking is modern day slavery in which people profit from exploiting others through force, fraud, coercion or deception. And it happens everywhere, even Nebraska.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS MODERN DAY SLAVERY
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery in which people profit from exploiting others through force, fraud, coercion or deception. The U.S. government has identified human trafficking as the fastest growing criminal industry globally, tied with illegal arms trade at second, with the drug trade in first place.
In 2000 the United States made human trafficking a federal crime with the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Nebraska also passed a law in 2006 that made human trafficking illegal, although there are many limitations in the law that make it hard to enforce and prosecute traffickers. This issue matters because of the injustice it causes to those who become victims of this monstrous crime.
In 2016, Nebraska substantially increased penalties for trafficking in the state. By increasing penalties, lawmakers hope to accomplish two things: 1) Empower law enforcement to go after the issue of human trafficking by motivating them to spend resources and pursue criminals engaged in trafficking, and 2) deter traffickers from coming to Nebraska. NFA is proud to have collaborated with lawmakers on this anti-trafficking legislation.
Human Trafficking in Nebraska?
Leonard Russell was convicted in Iowa of harboring, transporting and coercing two Nebraska girls ages 15 and 16 to perform commercial sex acts including performances at strip clubs. They ran away from a group home in Fremont and he picked them up and told them they had to earn money by “getting dates” in exchange for the food, shelter, transportation and clothing he provided them with. The 15 year old was eventually recovered by police in Washington, D.C.(Fox News)
Michelle Randall (35) of Upland, Nebraska was sentenced to up to 90 years in prison for felony conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual assault of a child and felony possession of child pornography. Randall was arrested after meeting with an undercover officer she believed to be a customer willing to pay $150 to $200 to have sex with her and a 14-year old girl. The ensuing investigation revealed Randall had pornographic pictures of 14- and 7-year-old children on her cell phone and had arranged numerous sexual acts with the two children in several counties. (Kearney Hub Article)
A Lincoln man and woman have been charged with human trafficking in Hall Country (Grand Island). Maruiece L. Johnson and Katie M. Brandt have been accused of enging in sex-trafficking of a woman between December 11-16 in three states, according to court documents. (Lincoln Journal Star)
Branden Felt, 19, Kylie Ray, 19, and Jesse Blum, 22, were arrested by Sarpy County investigators for sex-trafficking a 15-year-old Bellevue girl. The victim identified Felt as the one who helped her meet men through adds on a website and Blum would line up the clients. According to the victim’s mother, the activity had been happening for around two months prior to the police being alerted in July. (KETV)
State prosecutors have accused a Lincoln man of enticing a 15-year-old girl into prostitution, child sexual assault and possessing child pornography. Investigator Ed Sexton of the attorney general’s office said the Lincoln man first came under criminal suspicion after a 17-year-old girl reported to Seward police that he coerced her into having sex at a hotel last year by threatening to release nude photos of her to her friends and family. (Lincoln Journal Star)
Richard Costanzo, president of an escort company called Dream Girls Inc., was arrested for running a prostitution ring in NE & Iowa. He had underage girls working for him. He advertised his girls on several different escort websites claiming “Our girls are available 24 hours a day, and can be at your doorstep within one hour to accommodate any situation.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
The Lincoln Police Department accepted an invitation from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois to take part in a sex-trafficking sting along with 17 other states. In all, 1032 people were arrested. 16 men were arrested in Lincoln. (Lincoln Journal Star)
Jacqueline Stebbins, 33, and Kimberly Wheeler, 40, where charged with pandering after requesting that a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old girl send them nude photos, so these could be posted on a website in order to get men to pay them for sex. Posts on the website advertising the 17-year-old were traced back to the cellphone and email address of Stebbins, allowing authorities to apprehend her. The police are still investigating and suspect the operation involves more people. (Lincoln Journal Star)
During a nationwide sting, 41 people were arrested in Nebraska (26 men and 15 women) for prostitution or solicitation. This sting represented the 10th staging of Operation Cross Country, which focuses on recovering underage victims of prostitution and drawing attention to the sex trafficking issue on a local, national, and international level. (Lincoln Journal Star)
A man sentenced to 5-8 years in prison for pimping women who police believe are human traffic victims. An undercover police officer answered a Backpage.com ad arranging to have sex with two women for $360. A man drove the two women to the drop-off and was arrested. Later, a Lancaster County judge scolded the man for minimizing his involvement stating “In reality, you were taking advantage of vulnerable people and were doing (it) solely for your own financial gain.” (Lincoln Journal Star)
Mary Crane Horton (32) and Nate Horton (35) were sentenced to 17.5 and 14.5 years in prison in February for human trafficking 6 women. They coerced a 15-year-old girl to perform commercial sex acts. The 15-year-old met another prostitute who worked for them through friends at high school. They used violence & threats on girls to keep them in line. (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
A national initiative spearheaded by the FBI, in conjunction with state and local law enforcement, led to the arrests of 21 people connected with human trafficking in the Omaha area. Three pimps were arrested and two victims were rescued over the course of the operation. The strategic partnership between the FBI and the Child Exploitation Task Force was instrumental in the arrests, sources say. (Omaha World Herald)
The Lincoln police department conducted an undercover prostitution detail at an undisclosed location in August. This led to the arrests of 12 people for prostitution, solicitation, and pandering as a part of the National Johns Suppression initiative aimed at reducing sex trafficking. In total across 18 states, more than 1,300 sex buyers were arrested during the operation.(KETV)
In response to new information provided by a former trafficking victim, police have arrested Darrell White, 57, and Amber Brecks, 24, for pandering a minor, and aiding and abetting first degree sexual assault of a child. In 2016, Jacqueline Stebbins was arrested in connection to other sex trafficking charges and, although she was already in jail, received additional citations from police based on the new information. Police suspect the possibility that more suspects are involved and are requesting that more victims come forward. (1011 News)
What is Sex Trafficking?
Sex trafficking is a category of human trafficking in which people are sexually exploited by means of force, fraud or coercion. By law, sex trafficking includes commercial sexual exploitation of children, meaning that anyone under the age of 18 who is working in the sex industry is a trafficking victim.
Sex-trafficking can occur in: residential brothels, street prostitution, escort services (usually online), strip clubs, or brothels disguised as legitimate businesses (i.e. massage parlors, spas, etc.).
Victims of sex-trafficking can include: U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, adults, minors, and men or women.
Domestic victims are usually recruited through false promises of love and support, and sometimes through kidnapping or abduction. Foreign nationals are often-times recruited through false promises of legitimate employment, marriage or other opportunities.
If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 or visit www.polarisproject.org for more information and resources.
Human Trafficking By the Numbers
Trafficking in Nebraska
- 47 Nebraska school girls are known to be trafficked each year, but the true number is likely higher. –Governor Task Force on Human Trafficking
40 Million People Trafficked Worldwide
- 5 million people are currently victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation. –Alliance 8.7
- 20 million people in the world are kept in forced labor. –Alliance 8.7
- 15 million people are living in a forced marriage. –Alliance 8.7
- 25% of human trafficking victims are children. –Free the Slaves
- 71% of human trafficking victims are female. –Free the Slaves
- $150 billion is the estimated annual profits made from the exploitation of trafficked persons. –Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking
- $90 is the average price of a slave today. By comparison, the average price of a slave in the American South in 1850 is $40,000 in today’s money. –Free the Slaves
Why Does Human Trafficking Exist?
Human trafficking is highly profitable business driven by the demand for cheap/free labor and the demand for commercial sex. The International Labor Organization estimates the annual profit from the exploitation of all trafficked forced labor is at $31.6 billion.
There are two main reasons why the market for human trafficking is expanding:
- Low criminal risk/deterrence — traffickers perceive little risk to affect their criminal operations largely because of the lack of strong penalties for their crimes, low chance of arrest, limited training of government agencies, and the lack of public awareness.
- High Profits — humans can be sold multiple times a day, seven days a week for several years, while drugs and weapons can only be sold once.
Like any business, legal or illegal, the demand drives the supply. Human traffickers victimize vulnerable people out of their desires to profit from the demand. The number of vulnerable humans around the world and in the U.S. also makes it easy for traffickers to keep a fresh supply of victims for both labor and sex trafficking.
Human Trafficking Resources