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Prosecuting Human Trafficking Cases: Issues & Special Considerations. Rachel Yasser, AUSA, USAO, Human Trafficking Coordinator Patrick Mays, ASA, Montgomery County. OVERVIEW. Charging Considerations in Sex Trafficking Cases: Applicable Statutes & Their Penalties

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Prosecuting Human Trafficking Cases: Issues & Special Considerations

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prosecuting human trafficking cases issues special considerations
Prosecuting Human Trafficking Cases: Issues & Special Considerations

Rachel Yasser, AUSA, USAO, Human Trafficking Coordinator

Patrick Mays, ASA, Montgomery County

  • Charging Considerations in Sex Trafficking Cases: Applicable Statutes & Their Penalties
  • Investigating Your Case: Making and Strengthening the Charges
  • Trial and Post-Charge Considerations
  • Case Study: Federal and State Coordination
charging considerations federal statutes
Charging Considerations: Federal Statutes
  • 3 Primary Statutes:
    • 1591 (Sex Trafficking of Minor)
    • 2422(b) (Coercion and Enticement of Minor)
    • 2423(a) (Transportation of Minors for Prostitution or Illegal Sexual Activity)
  • Other Statutes to Consider:
    • 2251-2252A (Child Pornography)
    • 2252A(g) (Child Exploitation Enterprises)
    • 2423(b)&(c) (Traveler Offenses/Sex Tourism)
charging considerations state statutes
Charging Considerations: State Statutes
  • Primary Statute: 11-303
    • 11-303(a) Pandering/human trafficking (misdemeanor; max 10 years)
    • 11-303(b) Trafficking of Children or by Force, Fraud, Coercion (felony; max 25 years)

Other Statutes to Consider:

    • Sex offenses, generally
    • Prostitution, Crim. Law § 11-306
    • Prostitution Business, Crim. Law § 11-304
    • Abduction of Child Under 16, Crim. Law § 11-305
    • House of Prostitution, Crim. Law § 11-306
    • Sexual Solicitation of a Minor, Crim. Law § 3-324
    • Child Pornography, Crim. Law § 11-207
18 usc 1591 sex trafficking of children or by force fraud or coercion
18 USC § 1591 – Sex Trafficking of Children or by Force, Fraud, or Coercion


(1)Knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide or obtain by any means a person, or to benefit from such activities;

(2) In or affecting interstate or foreign commerce;

(3) Knowing that the person will be caused to engage in commercial sex act;

(4) Knowing or in reckless disregard of fact that either:

(a) Person is a child under 18, or

(b) Force, fraud or coercion used.

* Statute does not require that either offender or victim actually travel. Does require interstate nexus (cell phone, computer, hotel).

* Have to prove Knowledge or Reckless Disregard of Age.


  • Under 14 or Force/Fraud/Coercion = 15 to life
  • Over 14 = 10 to life
18 usc 2422 b coercion and enticement of a minor
18 USC § 2422(b)– Coercion and Enticement of a Minor


(1) Using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce,

(2) To knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce,

(3) Any child under 18,

(4) To engage in prostitution or any illegal sexual activity, or attempt to do so.

*Have to prove Knowledge of Age.


  • Mandatory minimum of 10 years, maximum of life.
18 usc 2423 a transportation of minor for prostitution or illegal sex
18 USC § 2423(a) – Transportation of Minor for Prostitution or Illegal Sex


  • Knowingly transport
  • A child under 18
  • In interstate or foreign commerce
  • With the intent that the child engage in prostitution or illegal sexual activity.

*No knowledge of age necessary under law, unless illegal sexual activity requires showing.


  • Mandatory minimum of 10 years, maximum of life.
human trafficking crim law 11 303
Human Trafficking, Crim. Law § 11-303

A person may not knowingly

  • Take to any place for prostitution
  • Place or harbor another in a place for prostitution
  • Persuade, induce, entice, or encourage another to be taken in place for prostitution
  • Receive consideration to procure a person for a house of prostitution
  • Engage in a device, scheme, or continuing course of conduct intended to cause another to believe that if he/she did not take performance, would suffer physical restraint or serious harm
  • Destroy, confiscate immigration or government ID while attempting above
human trafficking 11 303 cont d
Human Trafficking § 11-303 Cont’d
  • Aggravating factors:
    • minor victim
    • knowingly detain a person with intent to use force, threat, coercion, or fraud to compel the other to marry them or a third party or perform a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal intercourse
  • Penalty
    • No aggravating factors: misdemeanor; imprisonment not exceeding 10 ears or $5,000 fine, or both
    • With aggravating factors (minor, force or threat, etc): felony; imprisonment not exceeding 25 years or $15,000 fine, or both
receiving earnings of a prostitute crim law 11 304
Receiving Earnings of a ProstituteCrim. Law § 11-304
  • Receive or acquire money or proceeds from earnings of a prostitute with intent to:
    • Promote a prostitution crime
    • Profit from a prostitution crime; or
    • Conceal or disguise nature, location, source, ownership, or control of proceeds of a prostitution crime
  • Penalty: misdemeanor: imprisonment up to 10 years, $10,000 fine, or both; no statute of limitations
abduction of a child under 16 crim law 11 305
Abduction of a Child under 16Crim. Law § 11-305
  • For purposes of prostitution or committing a rape or sexual offense, may not:
  • Persuade, entice an individual under age 16 from individual’s home or from custody of parent or guardian; or
  • Knowingly secrete, harbor, an individual under age 16 who has been persuaded or entice from the home or custody
  • Penalty: misdemeanor; up to 10 years, $5,000 fine, or both
  • No statute of limitations
house of prostitution crim law 11 306
House of ProstitutionCrim. Law § 11-306
  • May not knowingly
    • Engage in prostitution or assignation by any means
    • Keep, set up, occupy, maintain, or operate a building, structure, or conveyance for prostitution or assignation
    • Allow a building, structure, or conveyance owned or under person’s control to be used for prostitution or assignation
    • Allow or agree to allow a person into a building, structure, or conveyance for prostitution or assignation; or
    • Procure or offer to procure or solicit for prostitution or assignation
  • Penalty: misdemeanor; imprisonment up to 1 years, fine up to $500, or both
  • Pandering: arranging sexual partners for others
  • Assignation: making an appointment or engagement for prostitution, or any act in furtherance of the appointment
  • Prostitution: performance of a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal intercourse for hire
  • Solicit: urging, advising, inducing, encouraging, requesting, or commanding another
federal v state

Federal v. State

As easy as following the signs

federal intake guidelines
Federal Intake Guidelines
  • Are federal elements satisfied?
  • Is case appropriate for fed prosecution?

Some Factors:

-Nature of target- Criminal record? Sex offender? Multiple targets? Juvenile targets?

-Nature of offense- Presence of aggravating factors (i.e., drugs, guns, violence, gangs, force, CP, child abuse, large enterprise ($$), multi-jurisdictional)?

-Status of victim- Multiple victims? Age? Cooperative? Within this jurisdiction/accessible?

-State charges- Is there TIME to conduct investigation? Can state adequately handle?

3. Strength of Evidence, or Potential to Strengthen? Admissibility issues?

state and federal cooperation generally
State and Federal Cooperation, Generally
  • Flip letter
  • Soft Flip
  • Target Letter
evidentiary considerations managing your juvenile victim s
Evidentiary Considerations: ManagingYour Juvenile Victim(s)
  • STEP ONE: Get full, detailed account ONCE
    • Forensic recorded interview following recovery (no time lapse)
    • No follow up interviews without talking to prosecutor first (avoiding Jenks issues)
      • Discuss new areas to cover- consider whether real need
      • Crucial to have Agent consistency
  • STEP TWO: Secure juvenile
    • Housing
    • Counseling and Treatment, including SAFE exam [not just for evidence]
  • STEP THREE: Maintain security
    • Check in frequently


These cases rise and fall with the victims and other vulnerable witnesses!

evidentiary backbones
Evidentiary Backbones
  • Evidence of Prostitution/Commercial Sex (advertisements, documented UC operation, condoms, KY jelly, ledgers, prostitution clothing, consent calls, cash proceeds)
  • Evidence of Sex with Minor (SAFE exam, hotel sheets, DNA, + all of above)
  • Evidence of Interstate Transportation (search cars for presence of minor/minor belongings, GPS, bus & plane tickets or receipts)
  • Evidence of Use of Interstate Facilities (computers, phones, cameras, hotel records)
  • Evidence Related to Minor’s Age (identification, stuffed animals, school books, conversations with pimp, general appearance and demeanor)- Sponge Bob example.
other evidentiary considerations
Other Evidentiary Considerations
  • Guns or other weapons?
  • Violence?
  • Gangs?
  • Drugs?
  • Other victims?
  • $$$- Possibility of forfeiture?
  • Any and all corroboration of victim’s account
investigative tactics
Investigative Tactics
  • Consent calls
  • Search warrants: hotel rooms, homes, cars, computers, Facebook/Myspace accounts, email.
  • Seize phones incident to arrest or ask for consent if no arrest. Examine contemporaneously (if not, SW).
  • Subpoena or other online advertisements. Ask for all other posts by user, associated IP addresses, credit card info, etc.
  • Follow the money: Subpoena credit card & bank account records.
  • Other possibilities: mail covers, pole cams, trash pulls, pen registers, Title III wiretaps
a new leader in prostitution
A new leader in prostitution
  • When Craigslist shut down its erotic services section in early September 2010,, run by Village Voice Media, quickly became the new leader in online prostitution.
  • Between August 2010 and September 2010, Backpage’s monthly revenue from online prostitution in 23 cities increased 15.3%, to over $1.6 million.
  • Backpage makes more than $20 million a year from online prostitution advertisements.

Sources: The Washington Post,


Clicking on the “report suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking” link takes you to the website for the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children.


Adult Human Trafficking on

  • On any given day there are hundreds of ads posted on the escort page of the Washington, DC section of backpage.
  • For example, on Monday, April 4, 2011 more than 300 ads were posted in this section.
  • These ads included:


***COmE** GeT** A ** TaSTe** Of** ThIS** HoT**ToTTy** - 23

On your way home ** get N. A. U. G. H. T. Y. - 18

h u n g r y b o n apetite chick 40 special 18 report ad posted april 4 2011 01 13 am
H. U. N. G. R. Y. B.O.N.apetite CHICK (40) special - 18 report adposted: April 4, 2011, 01:13 AM

Reply: click here

Enlarge Picture

5'2 120lbs Honey BBq flavored, and taste so good .Call me 202704x1553 and BON`A~petite chick

Poster's age: 18

• Location: oxon hill

• Post ID: 4810594 southernmaryland


Child Human Trafficking on

  • Two women were arrested at a Days Inn Motel for the procurement and solicitation of prostitution of the minor shown in this ad.
  • The female featured in this ad was 17, although her advertised age was 20.
evidentiary considerations proving knowledge reckless disregard of age
Evidentiary Considerations: Proving Knowledge/Reckless Disregard of Age

-Highly likely she never told him

-ID- real or fake?

-What did she discuss about home life? Siblings? School? Friends?

-Directed to lie about age or state a certain age when confronted by police or john?

-Online- did she ever show pimp FB page? Email?

-Her appearance: Braces? Pigtails? HS or Church CLOTHING? Picture of her at scene or shortly thereafter

-Her appearance on Advertisement (backpage, etc), and any other indicators of age (“young,” “fresh,” “innocent…”)

the trial empower your victim
The Trial: Empower Your Victim
  • Before trial:
    • Initial meeting should not be substantive
    • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
    • Trip to Courtroom
    • Explain rules
    • Commend her, again and again
  • On the stand:
    • Guide her testimony through use of physical evidence and photos
    • Use the victim to educate the jury on the rules of

“the game”

At every stage, have someone she feels safe with there (victim advocate, sister, an agent…).

the trial protect your victim
The Trial: Protect Your Victim
  • 18 U.S.C. § 3509 (Child victims’ and child witness’ rights)
    • § 3509(b) (alternatives to live in-court testimony- 2-way closed circuit, videotaped deposition)
    • § 3509(d) (privacy protections)
    • § 3509(e) (closing the courtroom)
    • § 3509 (i) (adult attendant during testimony)
  • F.R.E. 412 (Relevance of alleged victim’s past sexual behavior or alleged sexual predisposition)
  • Md. Rape Shield Law: Crim. Law § 3-319
    • Evidence relating to victim’s chastity, abstinence, or opinion evidence relating to above inadmissible in sexual abuse of minor or vulnerable adult cases
    • Specific instances only admissible if:
      • past sexual conduct with defendant
      • specific instance of sexual trauma showing source of semen, pregnancy, disease, or trauma
      • supports motive to lie, or impeachment
    • Closed hearing must first be held to determine admissibility of evidence
non cooperating victims
Non-cooperating victims
  • Title 18 § 3144: Material Arrest Warrants
  • Victim is assigned counsel at initial appearance
    • What happens next?
  • Judge can order that victim remain in custody until trial…OR
  • Judge can order victim held until victim is deposed
  • OR
  • Judge could release that day
to arrest or not arrest
To arrest or not arrest…
  • Advantages
    • Victim will be at trial and will testify.
    • If your victim is prostituting again, it may get her out of the game long enough to keep her out.
    • Your victim/witness coordinator can work on finding her assistance
  • Disadvantages
    • Your victim may become a hostile witness
    • Your victim may deny everything or state she was lying*

*why Grand Jury may be a good idea.

use of experts to dispel common misconceptions
Use of Experts to Dispel Common Misconceptions
    • Psychologist or Victim Specialist or Social Worker Expert
      • Cycle of Violence
      • Delayed Reporting
      • Recanting
      • Stockholm Syndrome (why she didn’t leave)
  • Law Enforcement Officer Expert
    • Grooming and recruiting techniques
    • Operation on Backpage.comor other internet sites
    • Pimp-control
    • Lingo
    • Rules of “the game” potentially
Case Study: State and Federal CoordinationUnited States v. Duane Mason and James Davis; State of Maryland v. Mera Fraley
md human trafficking task force sub committees
MD Human Trafficking Task Force Sub-Committees
  • Law Enforcement – Rachel Yasser, U.S. Attorney’s Office – 410-209-4800; David Snyder, H.S.I - 410-962-3608
  • Victim Services – Melissa Snow, Turnaround – 410-377-8111 or 410-837-7000
  • Public Awareness/Outreach – Lisa Carrasco – 443-415-7501
  • Legislative – Nancy Winston, Shared Hope International – 443-994-7607
  • Training- Adrian Sanders, H.S.I. 410-962-3608