Saturday, September 12, 2009

Domestic Sex Trafficking in the U.S.


A 15-year-old Orange County girl who ran away from home after an argument with her mother in 2007 was kidnapped and held captive in an underground world of drugs and forced prostitution.

Now, more than two years after the teen's harrowing, three-week ordeal, an Orange County husband and wife are charged in a child trafficking case, one that highlights a growing state problem, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.

Aleisea N. Smith, 22, and Timothy L. Smith, 39, are accused of kidnapping the teen at gunpoint and demanding she turn tricks for them. They remain at the Orange County Jail without bail.

The case came to light this week after Aleisea Smith's Aug. 7 arrest on numerous charges, including sex trafficking, forcing/coercing another person into prostitution and kidnapping.

Oakland police learned Smith's identity and discovered an outstanding warrant while investigating her for an unrelated incident. She was in court Thursday to face new charges of child neglect and providing false information to police in that other case.

Timothy L. Smith already was in jail in an unrelated child-support case when he was charged in the 2007 case, records show. He faces nine counts, including sex trafficking, kidnapping and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Investigators worked for several months with the State Attorney's Office to press charges against the Smiths, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

The teen's allegations against the couple illustrate a "huge problem" confronting teens in Florida, FDLE special-agent supervisor Lee Condon said.
"We're seeing it more and more," he said. "What a horrible life for a child to end up that way."

Earlier this year, the federal government documented more than 1,200 allegations of human trafficking that occurred between January 2007 and September.

Nearly 85 percent of the incidents involved sex trafficking, the Department of Justice said. Nearly one-third of the 1,229 alleged incidents involved sex trafficking of children.

U.S. citizens accounted for about 65 percent of sex-trafficking victims.

Police reports show the teen, whom the Orlando Sentinel is not identifying, was missing for 21 days, a tortuous period during which she was beaten, raped and forced to work as a prostitute.

On April 8, 2007, the girl ran away from home after an argument with her mother. The girl quickly agreed come back, reports show.

But as she walked near the Silver Oaks Apartments at Silver Star Road and Powers Drive, a man forced her into a van at gunpoint, reports show.

The man later was identified as Timothy Smith. Eventually, he picked up his wife, Aleisea Smith, at a strip club on Orange Blossom Trail.

Aleisea Smith put a towel over the girl's head and told her, "If you move, you are dead," according to an arrest affidavit. The teen later was told "she belonged to them now and would be making a lot of money."

Hours later, while the teen and Aleisea Smith waited at a hotel, Timothy Smith was arrested on a probation violation.

For the remaining 20 days, the teen told investigators, Aleisea Smith forced her to have sex with more than a dozen men at a trailer park and at a home in Minneola in exchange for money and rent, according to the affidavit.

Aleisea Smith often beat the teen, reports show. The girl's mother finally located her after receiving a call from Jatosha Battle, a woman with whom Smith and the teen were staying. The mother showed up at the house and called authorities. Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said the scenario of the alleged kidnapping is relatively rare.

"It's certainly not unheard of," he said. But, "It is far more likely that the kid would be tricked or seduced or lured into a situation like this."
Full Article

Just like the citizens in Thailand or a country in Eastern Europe, the U.S. citizens are not immune to becoming human trafficking victims. Too many teenagers in the United States run away from their own abusive homes and find themselves entrapped by the false affection and promises of the pimps. Pimps usually play roles of the victims' boyfriends or caregivers to the victims who are desperate for love and attention.

Once the pimps earn the loyalty and trust of the victims, they forcefully or deceitfully place the victims into the prostitution
. According to the research of Shared Hope International, these girls are not allowed to come home to the pimps until the daily quota is met. [i] Otherwise, they will inevitably face the consequences of verbal or even physical abuse by the pimps. [ii]

Indeed, sex trafficking of teenagers in the U.S. may sound so foreign to some of you. But, the statics shows that the domestic minor trafficking in the U.S. urges our serious attention. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2007 that 63% of the victims of human trafficking within the United States are U.S. citizens. [iii] If you would like to find out more about this issue, please visit Share Hope International.

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