FBI Nets Arrests in Oklahoma Child Sex Trafficking Sting

by OKCDefenseLaw on August 14, 2013

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A recent FBI investigation into child sex trafficking made headlines when Operation Cross Country VII netted 150 arrests and rescued 105 minors aged 13 to 17 in 76 cities across the United States. Locally, three juveniles were rescued from sex trafficking, but media reports differ widely on the number of arrests in Oklahoma City, with CNN reporting 13 arrests and local media reporting 60 arrests for pimping and related crimes.

Oklahoma’s human trafficking statute is delineated in 21 O.S. § 748 – 748.2. Under state law, human trafficking is defined as “modern-day slavery that includes, but is not limited to, extreme exploitation and the denial of freedom or liberty of an individual for purposes of deriving benefit from that individual’s commercial sex act or labor.” In other words, a person is forced or coerced into performing labor or sex acts, with the trafficker obtaining profit from the work or forced prostitution of the victim. According to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent re-authorizations, any minor under the age of 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking regardless of whether he or she has provided consent to perform such an act.To read more about Oklahoma sex crimes, click here.

Often, the victims of human trafficking are teens and young adults who do not have close family ties. These young people may be runaways who are forced into prostitution or they may be lured away from their homes with promises of love or wealth and then forced into labor or prostitution. Some reports show that teens and young adults working in door-to-door sales crews may be victims of human trafficking for labor.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Polaris Project, traveling sales crews recruit disenfranchised youth with promises that are “too good to be true”:

·        Get rich quick

·        Minimal hours

·        “Fun, Money, Travel!”

·        Stay in nice hotels

·        Make great friends

·        and more.

Teens are generally hired “on the spot” with no identification verification. This means that many of the young “employees” of these traveling sales crews are minors, and most are aged 16-23. Once they are “hired” by the traveling sales crews, they are often forced to live several to a hotel room and fed only once or twice a day.

Oklahoma’s human trafficking laws are separate and distinct from the state’s prostitution laws, which typically cover pimping and prostitution by consenting adults. State human trafficking laws do not penalize the victims of trafficking nor prosecute them for prostitution or solicitation. In fact, 21 O.S. § 748.2 outlines the services provided to victims of human trafficking upon rescue:

A. Human trafficking victims shall:

1. Be housed in an appropriate shelter as soon as practicable;

2. Not be detained in facilities inappropriate to their status as crime victims;

3. Not be jailed, fined, or otherwise penalized due to having been trafficked;

4. Receive prompt medical care, mental health care, food, and other assistance, as necessary;

5. Have access to legal assistance, information about their rights, and translation services, as necessary; and

6. Be provided protection if the safety of the victim is at risk or if there is a danger of additional harm by recapture of the victim by a trafficker, including:

a. taking measures to protect trafficked persons and their family members from intimidation and threats of reprisals, and

b. ensuring that the names and identifying information of trafficked persons and their family members are not disclosed to the public.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most sex trafficking victims in the United States are U.S. citizens (83%), but most labor trafficking victims are undocumented aliens (67%). Typically, the federal government has been more involved in prosecuting human trafficking for labor, but is becoming increasingly involved in prosecuting sex trafficking. Operation Cross Country, for example, is a multi-state sex trafficking sting in collaboration with the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and 230 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. It is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative. To find out more regarding Oklahoma’s sex crimes laws, contact a licensed Oklahoma attorney.

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