Human Trafficking Awareness
Targeting Traffickers, Helping Victims
During fiscal year 2012, we opened 306 human trafficking investigations involving forced labor or forced household service as well as sex trafficking.
Last month, a Kentucky cardiologist and his ex-wife pled guilty to recruiting a Bolivian woman to work as their domestic servant and holding her unlawfully for nearly 15 years. The couple took her passport, threatened her with deportation, and falsely promised that her wages were being put in a bank account.
Trafficking in persons is a widespread form of modern-day slavery, and as we observe National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we’d like to update you on what the FBI—with its partners—is doing to go after the traffickers and help the victims.
Human trafficking is a top investigative priority of the Bureau’s civil rights program. During fiscal year 2012, we opened 306 human trafficking investigations around the nation involving forced labor or forced household service as well as sex trafficking of international victims (young and old) and adult U.S. citizen victims.
Along the same lines, the sex trafficking of U.S. children is also a priority within our Violent Crimes Against Children program. During fiscal year 2012, we opened 363 investigations into the commercial sexploitation of domestic minors. Fortunately, we were also able to locate more than 500 young victims of sex traffickers.
We participate in 88 human trafficking task forces and working groups around the country. Our efforts include not only investigating cases where we find them but also proactively using intelligence to drive and support these cases, looking at known areas of human trafficking activities, and developing liaison relationships within communities to promote awareness of these crimes.
Case Example: Human Trafficking at Its Worst
In December 2012, Terrence Yarbrough, aka “T-Rex,” was convicted in federal court on 10 counts of sex trafficking. Witnesses at his Memphis trial testified how he lured vulnerable women as young as 15 into prostitution with false promises of love, family, and money. Anytime a victim refused, Yarbrough countered with threats, intimidation, and violence. The jury heard from victims who recounted that they were beaten with belts, wooden coat hangers, crowbars, padlocks, and dog chains. They also testified to being thrown down stairs, having their heads smashed into car doors, having their legs burned with irons, and being scalded with boiling water.
Yarbrough, who reportedly had “T-Rex” tattooed on four of his victims and claimed they were his property, also confiscated the women’s identification documentation and any money they had to make it difficult for them to escape.
Playing critical roles during the investigative and prosecutive phases of the case were FBI agents and a victim specialist from our Memphis office. The agents worked tirelessly to track down all the victims, while they and the victim specialist were able to gain the victims’ trust and cooperation, making sure they were kept informed of the legal proceedings every step of the way and that they were available and prepared to testify against Yarbrough at his trial. More details
Help for victims. The Bureau also has a robust assistance program in place for victims of human trafficking and other federal crimes investigated by the FBI. Our Office for Victim Assistance (OVA) oversees the work of victim specialists located throughout our 56 field offices.
These specialists—experienced in crisis intervention, social services, and victim assistance—work closely with agents to ensure that potential victims of trafficking are rescued, transferred to safe locations, and provided with referrals for medical, mental health, housing, legal, and other necessary services. And this past year, representatives from OVA and our civil rights program developed a protocol for human trafficking investigations that was implemented in all FBI field offices. The protocol highlights a victim-centered approach and the need for collaboration between the investigating agent, the local victim specialist, non-governmental agencies, and other law enforcement partners.
OVA oversees our child/adolescent forensic interviewers who work with Violent Crimes Against Children task forces and provide training for agents and task force officers working human trafficking cases. These interviewers also collaborated with partner agencies to develop an interview protocol for minor victims of sexploitation for use by professionals working against human trafficking.
Our training and awareness efforts were significant. During fiscal year 2012, we conducted training around the country focused on defining, detecting, and investigating human trafficking cases. The audiences included law enforcement (both U.S. and international) along with government employees, religious and civic organizations, ethnic advocacy groups, schools, social service agencies, medical personnel, legal aid agencies, domestic violence services, etc.—in short, anyone in a position to make a difference in the life of a trafficking victim.
Multi-agency investigations, intelligence, victim assistance, training—we’re putting our tools and capabilities to work to help combat the scourge of human trafficking.