Wednesday, July 23, 2014

FBI Sting in Arizona Spotlights Human Trafficking

A sting featuring a fake sex-slave auction in Arizona has uncovered what authorities say is a little-known human-trafficking threat while also sparking criticism of increasingly elaborate undercover operations.
Four American men have been arrested and charged with federal trafficking offenses in recent months for attempting to buy slaves at a fictitious auction set up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a wealthy Phoenix suburb. Undercover agents reached out to the men after they had allegedly shown interest in buying sex slaves through a separate online Malaysian slave-trading organization the FBI was investigating, which turned out to be a scam.
The sting operation—run by the FBI and Phoenix police and outlined in court documents—comes amid a broader effort to tackle trafficking that has focused largely on children forced into the commercial sex trade.
George Steuer, supervisory special agent in the Phoenix FBI office, called it a landmark case.
"We came to realize that there was a portion of the human-trafficking threat that we were underappreciating," said Mr. Steuer. "We realized that there was this group of individuals in the U.S. who were interested in owning a human slave both for sexual exploitation and domestic labor."
Defense lawyers, however, say the investigation went too far by inducing the indicted men to attempt crimes they otherwise wouldn't have pursued.
"I thought I'd heard of everything until I got this case," said George Klink, a Phoenix attorney who represents one of the men. "It's an awful waste of resources." Mr. Klink's client, Steven Currence, and another defendant, Charles Bunnell II, have pleaded not guilty. Mr. Bunnell, who wants to represent himself, has a public-defender adviser who declined to comment. Edward Stevens pleaded guilty last month to attempted trafficking and could face as many as 10 years in prison. Mr. Stevens admitted in the plea agreement that he told an undercover agent that he wanted to buy "a slave for a combination of servitude and sexual purposes." His attorney declined to comment.
The case of Edward Kandl, 59 years old, a retired engineer who also has pleaded not guilty, illustrates how the sting worked. Investigators looking into the alleged slave-trading organization in 2012 discovered Mr. Kandl and a "network of individuals in the United States who [were] actually attempting to purchase nonconsenting slaves," federal prosecutor Krissa Lanham told a federal judge at a December 2013 hearing.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

If you like what you see, please "Like" us on Facebook either here or here. Please follow us on Twitter here.

No comments: