The recent headlines about the bust of an alleged human trafficking ring operating in Georgia, Florida and both North and South Carolina certainly claimed plenty of national attention. Twelve men were indicted on charges related to a human trafficking and prostitution ring following an investigation, dubbed “Operation Dark Night,” that began last spring.
According to the indictment, the men are accused of luring young women from Mexico and Nicaragua to the U.S. with promises of a better life. However, that dream was quickly shattered when these women were forced into prostitution where they would have sex with up to 30 men per day.
The heinous crime of human trafficking is certainly not new. But today’s globalization and sophisticated communications systems are making it that much easier to commit. Human trafficking involves recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining an individual (or attempting to do so) without the consent of the individual for the purpose of a commercial sex act or labor or services.
The perpetrators carry out their twisted objectives by many different means including causing or threatening to cause bodily or financial harm; restraining or threatening to restrain an individual; extortion, fraud, deception or debt bondage or using any scheme or pattern to make the victim think that they would suffer bodily harm, financial harm, restraint or other harm.
Amidst this seedy backdrop lies the emerging and ever-growing crime of child solicitation and enticement via the Internet. A seemingly harmless chat quickly devolves into activities such as the exchange of pornographic photos and/or reaching out to actually meet and have a sexual encounter with an underage victim.
Regrettably, there are people out there who attempt to chat online or somehow be in contact with underage individuals with the sole purpose of having sexual encounters.
Obviously, law enforcement has come to acknowledge this and on a regular basis can set up sting operations by posing as underage individuals. Police want to get these individuals to come out and follow through on attempting such a sexual encounter.
So what is a parent or guardian to do to protect their loved ones from such danger? What should they be looking for and what kinds of actions should they take? Any time you suspect that your child might be talking to people they shouldn’t be, especially innocent “chat” that moves on to flirtation and inappropriate comments or pictures, contact law enforcement immediately.
I can assure you that law enforcement, especially law enforcement in Waukesha County, will pounce on this kind of information immediately in an attempt to stop it. This activity is so damaging from so many different perspectives.
For example, last October there was the case of 15 year-old Amanda Todd of British Columbia who took her own life after being sexually exploited by an online stalker and being bullied by her peers. These kinds of stories are tragic but, unfortunately, they are real. There are predators out there that are more than willing to commit this type of crime. We live in a day and age where pictures and video are very easily obtained and are then disseminated literally all over the world.
Parents must have a keen eye to watch what is going on with their children especially as it relates to computers and the social media. To the best of your ability, find out who they are talking to and what they are doing. While law enforcement has become very good at setting up the sting operations mentioned earlier, their efforts are also lean very heavily on the support and input they get from parents who take the time to see what their kids are doing and then alerting the authorities before the situation gets out of hand.
About Attorney Mark Powers
Attorney Mark Powers is a partner at the criminal defense law firm of Huppertz & Powers, S.C. in Waukesha. Previously, Powers served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Waukesha County District Attorney's office and is currently serving as a municipal judge in North Prairie. He focuses in the area of criminal defense, and has handled many cases involving operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, domestic disputes, and drug offenses.
Powers attended Valparaiso University School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Prior to law school, Mark attended the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse where he received his bachelor of science in Political Science.
For more information, please call 262.549.5979 or visit www.waukeshacriminalattorneys.com.