On Tuesday, Raymond Rodio III, 48, pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking, a B violent felony; four counts of sex trafficking, a B felony; one count of third degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a B felony; one count of second degree promoting prostitution, a C felony; and one count of third degree promoting prostitution, a D felony, Sini said.
In August 2018, the Suffolk County Police Department identified a suspected case of human trafficking during a routine traffic stop, police said. An investigation by the police department’s human trafficking investigations unit revealed evidence that the woman had been forced into sex trafficking by Rodio in the spring of 2018, police said.
“The investigation began thanks to the expert training our police officers receive on recognizing victims of human trafficking and their vigilance on this issue,” Sini said. “This goes to show why education and public awareness are so critical to combating human trafficking.”
Further investigation revealed that Rodio had been conducting a human trafficking operation out of the basement of his parents’ residence, located on Lower Rocky Point Road in Sound Beach, since as early as 2014, Sini said. The investigation identified more than 20 indiviuals associated with Rodio’s sex trafficking operation, Sini said.
Rodio would post advertisements on websites, including Backpage and Craigslist, promoting prostitution, and would keep either a large percentage or all of the profits of the prostitution, Sini said.
The investigation also revealed evidence that Rodio would occasionally keep the women in the basement for extended periods of time and force them to use a bucket as a toilet because the basement did not have a bathroom, Sini said. The door to the basement had an exterior lock to which Rodio had the only key, Sini said. In addition to the house, Rodio also forced the individuals to perform prostitution at various motels throughout Suffolk County, Sini said.
Rodio coerced the women into performing acts of prostitution by providing them with heroin and crack cocaine to impair their judgment, as well as subjecting one to threats of physical violence, Sini said.
“This is an individual who clearly had no regard for the women he victimized, subjecting them to exploitation, fear and humiliation,” Sini said. “It is our hope that this guilty plea delivers justice for the many survivors of Rodio’s scheme. Let this also serve as a message to other offenders that my office will continue to aggressively target and prosecute human traffickers.”
The Suffolk County Police Department’s narcotics section, in conjunction with the human trafficking investigations unit, began a subsequent investigation that revealed Rodio was also engaged in selling drugs, Sini said.
Rodio is scheduled to be sentenced by Acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen on March 9. The court promised the defendant a sentence of nine and one-half years in prison with five years of post-release supervision on the top count, Sini said. Rodio will also be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison, Sini said.
The enhanced prosecution bureau case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Daniel Cronin with assistance from Assistant District Attorney Laura Sarowitz.
In 2019, Suffolk County announced a step to help victims of sex and human trafficking heal.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone joined with law enforcement officials and members of the Suffolk County Task Force to Prevent Family Violence to announce a partnership with Dr. Scott Blyer, a plastic surgeon with Cameo Surgical Center, to help human and sex trafficking victims removals tattoos for free, “to remove painful reminders of their past,” Bellone said.
The unveiling of the initiative came in Jan. 2019, on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 U.S. States — and, according a release from Bellone’s office, it is estimated that between 20 to 30 million men, women and children around the world are victims of human trafficking. Trafficking affects all communities and people, regardless of race, class, education, gender, age, or citizenship, Bellone said.
Sex and human trafficking is present on Long Island, Laura Ahern, founder and executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, told Patch.
The Crime Victims Center, she added, was one of the first organizations to help establish the human trafficking advocacy program in Suffolk County; advocates from the program go into the courts with other agencies and are assigned cases where individuals have been forced into the sex trade.
There have been successes, Ahern said, where advocates have worked closely with women who may have been struggling with drugs and been trafficked by pimps who kept them addicted “and forced them into prostitution.”
Many caught up in sex trafficking got involved “by no choice of their own,” Ahern said. “Maybe they were taken from another country, or they had a tough upbringing and got drug addicted and pushed into a life of prostitution. It’s absolutely horrible — the stories are heartbreaking. And no one should be the judge of another person until you’ve walked in their shoes.”
In order to combat human trafficking in Suffolk County the Suffolk County Police Department launched a human trafficking investigations unit, the first of its kind on Long Island that “has led to record levels of human trafficking and sex crimes arrests,” Bellone said.
Sini’s office has a companion unit that includes prosecutors assigned to the district attorney’s human trafficking team. Suffolk County’s human trafficking court also connects victims to counseling, drug treatment and job training.
Last year Minerva Perez, executive director of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, said support needs to starts before women become victims. “Those who are most vulnerable need to feel and see there is support, advocacy, therapy, safety and understanding in our community via the known and trusted avenues,” she said.
Perez added: “Those avenues need to address the very real ways trust breaks down, such as lack of communication with non-English proficient people . . . When we rupture trust, we widen the gap for vulnerable folks to fall prey. Let’s work on the gap and make sure our existing systems are strong and accountable.”
On the East End, the “hidden crime” of human trafficking was spotlighted in September, 2019 at a seminar in Southampton.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States. It is estimated that human trafficking generates many billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime,” a release announcing the event said.
In addition, organizers said, human trafficking is a “hidden crime,” as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers, and fear of law enforcement. Traffickers, organizer said, use force, fraud, or coercion to lure victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
Innovations HTC is a human rights organization working to eradicate sex and labor trafficking throughout the nation, with a goal of raising awareness to prevent human trafficking and ensuring that frontline professionals are trained to identify and effectively respond to trafficking victims.
There is a great need to address the issue in tribal communities, organizers said, with Native American women, girls, and boys all vulnerable.In addition, the issue is critical amongst the immigrant communities on the East End, organizers said.