Human trafficking is defined as using force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or engage in commercial sex acts. Human trafficking also encompasses the use of minors in commercial sex acts regardless of whether force, fraud or coercion was used. Often, traffickers make false promises of a job or pose as benefactors to lure their victims and force them into human trafficking. Although human trafficking is usually associated with commercial sex, labor trafficking is just as prominent. Forced labor is a category of human trafficking in which individuals are coerced into legitimate and illegitimate industries, including domestic service, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels, and manufacturing sweatshops. According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is now the second highest grossing criminal enterprise, with more than $150.2 billion per year earned from the use of forced labor.
Human trafficking has many faces. Victims can be of any age, race, gender, nationality, and come from any socioeconomic group. Human traffickers often target the most vulnerable, including individuals who suffer from disenfranchisement, social exclusion, or economic vulnerability (including individuals who have a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, reside in an unstable living situation, and youths in foster care or the juvenile justice system). Foreign-born individuals face unique challenges, such as language barriers and economic instability, leaving them at the mercy of their traffickers.
Maryland is not exempt from the horrors of human trafficking. The close proximity between areas of affluence and poverty, a substantial immigrant population, and other factors create favorable conditions for human traffickers (and their customers) to exploit the vulnerable—including children, recent immigrants, the drug-addicted, and those facing housing instability. Maryland’s central location on the Eastern Seaboard makes it both a pass-through state and a destination for human traffickers. The Interstate 95 corridor’s numerous hotels, rest stops, truck stops, and bus stations are prime locations for traffickers to exploit their victims. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 529 phone calls, text messages, webchat, online tip reports, or emails indicating human trafficking instances were reported in Maryland in 2020. Additionally, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 136 cases of human trafficking in Maryland for the year 2020. To view the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported cases for Maryland, visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/Maryland.
An effective way to combat human trafficking is to connect with fellow community members and look for key signals and indicators. Common indicators that a person could be a victim of human trafficking include (but are not limited to) a disconnection from social groups, dangerous or unsuitable living conditions, bruises in various stages of healing, and apparent coaching on what to say in response to questions. Other ways to combat human trafficking are by attacking the conditions that lead to trafficking, such as poverty, addiction, and homelessness; educating yourself and others on trafficking indicators; and reporting suspicious activity to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1(888)-373-7888. You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733. Visit the Department of Homeland Security and Investigation’s Blue Campaign for more indicators of human trafficking. For more information on human trafficking in Maryland, please visit the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force’s website.
Federal Prosecution of Human Trafficking Cases – Examples in 2021
United States v. Aaron Crawford: On October 6, 2021, Aaron Crawford, age 37, of Washington, D.C., pled guilty to two counts of sex trafficking of a minor. According to his plea agreement, from April 2019 to December 2019, Crawford recruited, harbored, and transported two minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts. Specifically, Crawford posted a juvenile victim (Victim 1) in online advertisements for commercial sex and provided lodging in two locations for Victim 1 where Victim 1 conducted sex “dates.” Victim 1 was 15-years-old and had been reported missing for two months at the time. Crawford instructed Victim 1 to send sexually explicit images to him for the online advertisements; these images constituted child pornography. Upon further investigation, law enforcement located numerous communications on Crawford’s phone between Crawford, Victim 1, and sex procurers between November 5, 2019 and December 6, 2019. Crawford sent “johns” the addresses where Victim 1 was kept on 182 occasions. The majority of the communications were related to facilitating prostitution in various locations in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Further, in January 2020, law enforcement officers were advised that a 16-year-old female (Victim 2) had been trafficked by an individual known as “Fly.” In an interview with law enforcement, Victim 2 positively identified Crawford as the individual she knew as “Fly.” Crawford first met Victim 2 in March 2017 when Victim 2 was 13-years-old. Later, after they met again in April 2019, Crawford introduced Victim 2 to an adult female who encouraged Victim 2 to work as a prostitute. After Victim 2 engaged in commercial sex dates, Crawford declined to share the profits with Victim 2. Victim 2 then left with the adult female. When they met again in August 2019, Victim 2 performed sex acts for customers at Crawford’s direction at an apartment complex and a parking lot. When Victim 2 declined to engage in further commercial sex dates, Crawford raped Victim 2 and threatened to kill her if she did not engage in more sex dates. Victim 2 escaped soon thereafter when Crawford left the apartment complex where he was keeping her.
Crawford faces a term of imprisonment between 10 and 23 years in federal prison. His sentencing is scheduled for February 2, 2022 at 2:00 pm.
United States v. Kamal Dorchy: On May 27, 2021, Kamal Dorchy, age 46, of Beltsville, Maryland, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. According to his plea agreement, from September 2016 to July 2017, Dorchy used Internet websites to post prostitution advertisements and recruit sex workers for his prostitution business through advertisements for massage work or prostitution. In his guilty plea, Dorchy admitted to recruiting a 17-year-old minor victim to work for him in his prostitution business in July 2017. Further, Dorchy arranged prostitution dates for the minor victim by posting ads on Internet websites, including for dates in Maryland. When Dorchy could not be present for the minor victim’s prostitution dates, he employed his cousin to act as “security.”
United States v. Xavier Lee: Xavier Lee, a/k/a “X,” age 41, of Elkton, Maryland, pleaded guilty to the federal charge of sex trafficking of a minor on February 25, 2021. According to his plea agreement, for the past decade Lee operated an illicit prostitution business for financial gain, including a website where Lee posted advertisements of women whom he made available for sexual acts with paying customers. That website was seized by the FBI, in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office and the Maryland State Police. Further, Lee admitted that he had sexual contact with Minor Victim 5. Minor Victim 5 was 14 years old when he first engaged in sexual acts with Minor Victim 5. Investigators recovered eight videos from Lee’s electronic devices, which were recorded by Lee and documented the sexual abuse of Minor Victim 5. Some videos depicted Minor Victim 5 engaged in sexual acts with Lee or with another adult man. Finally, Lee admitted that in 2013, Lee also instructed Minor Victim 4, who was sixteen to seventeen years old, to do prostitution dates. These prostitution dates were arranged through Lee’s website. Lee was aware of Minor Victim 4’s true age during the time because Minor Victim 4 advised Lee of her true age.
United States v. Charles Nabit: On September 27, 2021, Baltimore businessman Charles Nabit, age 66, of Baltimore, Maryland, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for transportation of an individual to engage in prostitution. U.S. District Judge George L. Russell also ordered Nabit to pay a fine of $55,000 and a special assessment of $5,100. Nabit, who owns residences and resides in Bethany Beach, Delaware and Deerfield Beach, Florida, is the owner of Westport Group, LLC. and previously owned Mountain Manor Treatment Center, a comprehensive drug treatment center in Baltimore. Nabit regularly paid money for commercial sex with women that he knew regularly used narcotics or were severely addicted to narcotics, including one victim who died from a drug overdose, and another victim that Nabit supplied with cocaine. As stated in his plea agreement, Nabit regularly paid for commercial sex with at least seven women who regularly used narcotics or suffered from serious substance abuse disorders. Additionally, Nabit regularly transported victims to and from his Baltimore office for commercial sex and, in one instance, paid a victim (Victim 6) to travel with him for commercial sex dates. Despite Victim 6 discussing her addiction struggles on several occasions, Nabit paid Victim 6 with monetary payment and cocaine.
United States v. Gerald Marshall: On May 4, 2021, Gerald Marshall, age 31, of Baltimore, Maryland was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor. Marshall admitted that he conspired to traffic two minor girls, ages 15 and 17, to engage in commercial sex acts. U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel ordered Marshall to pay $2,405 in restitution to each of the minor victims. According to Marshall’s plea agreement, beginning in or about January 2018, Marshall conspired with co-defendant Sean Dean, age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland to recruit, harbor, transport, and/or maintain three females, including two minors, to engage in commercial sex acts. In furtherance of the sex trafficking enterprise, Marshall rented hotel rooms in Timonium and Laurel, Maryland to be used by the victims to engage in commercial sex acts. Marshall and Sean Dean transported the victims to the various hotels where they would stay for multiple days. While in the hotel rooms, at Dean’s direction, the victims used a website to advertise themselves for commercial sex acts. The advertisements contained pictures of the victims in provocative poses and provided contact information for clients to use to secure a “date” with the victims. The victims were required to share a portion of the proceeds from any commercial sex acts with Dean.
United States v. Sean Dean: On July 9, 2021, Sean Dean, age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor. According to Dean’s plea agreement, from December 2017 until January 2018, Dean recruited, harbored, transported, and/or maintained five females, including four minors ranging from 15 to 17 years old, to engage in commercial sex acts. Dean utilized social media and cellular telephones to recruit, monitor, direct, and communicate with the four girls and the woman. In furtherance of his sex trafficking enterprise, Dean and Gerald Marshall rented hotel rooms for victims to engage in commercial sex acts and transported the victims to various hotels for commercial sex acts. Dean and Marshall transported three of the minor girls and the woman to a hotel in Timonium. The victims were at the hotel for approximately one week and met with multiple customers per day to engage in commercial sex acts. The victims shared a portion of the proceeds earned from their commercial sex acts with Dean and Marshall.
United States v. Adolph J. Scott: In August 2021, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Adolph J. Scott, age 36, of Spring Lake, North Carolina, for the federal charges of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion; interstate transportation of an individual to engage in prostitution; and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. According to the three-count indictment, from at least January 2020 to February 2021, in the District of Maryland, the Eastern District of North Carolina, and elsewhere, Scott recruited, enticed, transported, advertised, and solicited Victim 1 to conduct sexual acts for his financial benefit. Specifically, the indictment alleges from January 23, 2021 to January 24, 2021 that Scott transported Victim 1 from Maryland to North Carlina with the intent that Victim 1 would engage in prostitution and sexual activity. The indictment further alleges that Scott also possessed controlled substances with intent to distribute including: a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin, and a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine. An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States v. Feliciano De-Jesus Diaz-Martinez: On November 18, 2021, a federal trial jury convicted Feliciano de Jesus Diaz-Martinez, a/k/a Alex, age 43, of Owings Mills, Maryland, of sex trafficking of a child, enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution, sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and distribution of a controlled substance. According to the evidence presented at his nine-day trial, from 2016 through May 2019, Diaz-Martinez, a Guatemalan national in the United States illegally, caused more than eight individuals, including minors, to engage in commercial sex acts for his own financial benefit by means of force, fraud, and coercion. Trial testimony confirmed that Diaz-Martinez knew that Victim 1 was 16 years old when he first caused her to engage in commercial sex acts. Victim 1 continued to work for Diaz-Martinez until she was approximately 18 years old. The evidence proved that nearly all of the victims that Diaz-Martinez caused to engage in commercial sex acts suffered from serious substance abuse disorders, including addictions to heroin, crack cocaine, and Xanax. Diaz-Martinez took half or all of the money earned by the victims working for him, and sold some of the victims narcotics, often at prices significantly higher than he paid to purchase the drugs. Several victims testified that Diaz-Martinez frequently demanded that they engage in sex acts with him, free of charge, and that he retaliated against the victims if he was not personally satisfied with the sexual encounter.
Federal Grant Funding
In December 2021, the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs and its component, the Office of Victims of Crime, gave $600,000 to the University of Baltimore School of Law and Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), the largest provider of pro bono civil legal services in Maryland. The MVLS will use funds over the course of three years to extend the reach of their Human Trafficking Prevention Project in Baltimore City and into more rural areas of Maryland, as well as to increase the number of staff who will deliver free legal services and full representation to survivors.
In 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners conducted 14 training events for law enforcement and other professionals fighting human trafficking, training a total of 725 individuals including through the Human Trafficking Investigators Seminar and the Human Trafficking Professionals Seminar, both of which occurred in October 2021.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland has deployed many resources in the fight against human trafficking and we will continue to make the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases a priority.
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