Cleveland One of Six Cities Selected for Federal Team to Combat Human Trafficking
U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach today announced the selection of the Northern District of Ohio as one of only six federal districts designated to participate in the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) Initiative, an interagency federal law enforcement initiative aimed at streamlining the investigation and prosecution of federal human trafficking offenses.
“This designation will allow us to build on our success here in Northern Ohio by devoting more resources to investigating and prosecuting human trafficking,” Dettelbach said. “The cases we have prosecuted remind us time and again that labor trafficking and sex trafficking hide in plain sight.”
“Human trafficking violates the rights of the most vulnerable in our community,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office. “The FBI aggressively pursues justice for these victims and this initiative will help us investigate these cases.”
Dettelbach’s announcement follows the joint announcement of Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez earlier today designating the following cities as Phase II ACTeam sites: Cleveland, Ohio; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Newark, New Jersey; Portland, Maine; Portland, Oregon; and Sacramento, California.
The sites were selected by unanimous interagency consensus of the Federal Enforcement Working Group, comprised of national anti-trafficking experts of the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and Office of the Inspector General.
ACTeams are aimed at developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking, and sex trafficking of adults by force, fraud, and coercion, complementing Project Safe Childhood and related efforts aimed at combating child sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking. ACTeams bring together federal prosecutors and federal agents from multiple federal investigative agencies to develop and implement proactive anti-trafficking case identification, investigation, and prosecution strategies in close coordination with one another and with national anti-trafficking subject matter experts.
Nearly 50 people have been indicted in federal court in the Northern District of Ohio for human trafficking and related offenses since 2010. Among them:
U.S. v. Callahan, et al.: Jessica Hunt is serving 32 years in prison and Jordie Callahan is serving 30 years in prison after a jury convicted them of abusing a developmentally impaired woman in Ashland. The adult victim and her toddler were forced to live in a squalid basement without a bathroom or running water. They were only permitted to come upstairs when the adult victim was ordered to clean and do chores around the home.
U.S. v. Mack, et al.: Jeremy Mack is serving life in prison for forcing—through violence, threats and coercion—girls to engage in commercial sex acts for his benefit. Mack would not permit the girls to leave the house unescorted (with few exceptions) and terrorized them with firearms.
U.S. v. Robinson, et al.: Brandon Robinson was sentenced to eight years in prison after forcing a 14 year-old runaway to provide sexual services at truck stops along I-75 in Ohio.
U.S. v. Tutstone: Eric Tutstone was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for attempting to sell a 16-year-old girl for $300 to a woman he believed was a “madam.” Tutstone arranged for the “sale” to take place at a Starbucks in downtown Cleveland.
During Phase I of the ACTeam Initiative, Phase I Pilot ACTeams were convened in Atlanta, Georgia; El Paso, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and Miami, Florida. Phase I proved highly successful, with ACTeam Districts collectively increasing prosecutions by 119 percent, compared to 35 percent nationwide during the same two-year period.
Based on the outstanding results of Phase I, Attorney General Lynch, Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson, and Secretary of Labor Perez launched Phase II on June 25, 2015 by soliciting joint applications from United States Attorneys’ Offices and their federal law enforcement partners nationwide.
“Human trafficking robs victims of their liberty, exploits them for labor and for sex, and infringes not only on their rights, but on their essential humanity,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “Through the ACTeam Initiative, we are harnessing resources across the federal government to ensure that our multi-agency fight against human trafficking is as comprehensive and effective as possible. In the days and months ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work alongside our federal partners to prosecute wrongdoing, support survivors, and bring this devastating crime to an end.”
“The Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) Initiative is an important tool in our collective ability to combat sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude here in the United States,” said Secretary Jeh C. Johnson of Homeland Security. “It highlights our commitment to increase capacity to rescue victims and bring perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice. Our collective efforts are amplified when we work together in furtherance of shared missions like this. And, through DHS’s Blue Campaign, we will remain focused on ending human trafficking in the United States.”
“A trafficking victim shouldn’t have to spend time trying to determine whether they have a Department of Labor issue or a Department of Justice issue,” said Secretary Thomas Perez of the Department of Labor. “Their basic rights are being violated, and we can accomplish so much more to redress those crimes when we work together. The Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative, by bringing our respective departments’ collective resources and expertise to bear, is helping us build a whole even greater than the sum of our individual parts.”
“Human trafficking is a modern day form of slavery that destroys lives and exploits the most vulnerable in our society,” said FBI Director James B. Comey. “These Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams are the most effective way to investigate human trafficking by allowing us to work in a collaborative, victim-oriented manner.”
The Attorney General has declared efforts to bring human traffickers to justice and to restore the lives of human trafficking survivors be among the highest priorities of the Department of Justice.