Trenton teen pleads guilty to child endangerment in Rowan Towers rape case

Published: Friday, November 19, 2010, 2:00 AM
Lisa Coryell/The Times
TRENTON — The 15-year-old girl accused of selling her 7-year-old stepsister for sex at a party in Rowan Towers last spring has pleaded guilty to child endangerment and has been sentenced to a year in juvenile detention, prosecutors announced yesterday.

Charges of aggravated assault and promoting prostitution in connection with the alleged gang rape of the little girl have been dropped, prosecutors said.

“She pled guilty to physically endanger the welfare of a child, not the sexual component of the endangering charge,” said Casey DeBlasio, spokeswoman for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

The teen and six males — two of them adults — were charged with sexually assaulting the little girl at a party in a vacant apartment on March 28, 2010. The crime outraged city officials and local residents and attracted widespread media attention.

In a closed hearing in juvenile court on Wednesday, the teenager pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of endangering, DeBlasio said.

The teen has been held in a juvenile detention center since her arrest in March.

“The judge ordered her to truthfully testify and continue cooperating with the police in the prosecution of the co-defendants,” she said.

The males charged in the case range in age from 13 to 20 years old.

Gregory Leary, 20 of Jackson Street, and Timear Lewis, 19, of Division Street, the two adults, are free on bail and awaiting trial on charges of aggravated sexual assault and child endangering.

Earlier this week, Leary and Lewis were arraigned before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier. Lewis entered a plea of not guilty. Leary, who is no longer being represented by attorney Robin Lord, did not enter a plea because he did not have representation at the hearing, DeBlasio said.

The juveniles were offered plea deals in exchange for their testimony against the adults. Two of them are scheduled for juvenile court hearings at the end of the month.

According to police, the 15-year-old girl brought her stepsister to a party in the apartment building where several men and boys had gained illegal entry into a vacant unit. There, the teenager engaged in sex for money with some of the males and later sold her stepsister to them for sex, police said.

When the little girl returned home, police were already there because her parents had reported her and her stepsister as runaways.

From the outset, defense attorneys questioned the child’s report that she had been sexually assaulted. Lord said the child made up the story to avoid getting in trouble for running away. She pointed to the lack of DNA evidence in the case as proof.

Leary and Lewis were indicted last month.

In addition to charges connected with the alleged assault on the 7-year-old, Leary was also indicted on two counts of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child in relation to the 15-year-old, with whom he allegedly had sex at the party. According to prosecutors, Leary told police he thought the girl was 18.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Downing, chief of the Child Abuse/Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting the case.

Asian stories of trafficking find local meaning in Jacksonville

It was very brave of this young women to share the horrific nightmare she endured as a victim of sex trafficking. Please understand that what this young women suffered happens to young men and women here in the U.S. However victims of sex trafficking from other countries are treated much differently than victims of sex trafficking in the U.S. When people hear of stories such as this young woman’s people will cry and become angry at the fact that this is happening in our world. But when it comes to Americans that face this same abuse, our society will criminalize them, call them names such as hoes, crackheads and juvenile delinquents. Why does this happen? Why do we treat our victims so badly?

Our society needs to understand that many of our children are forced into prostitution. Many of our children do not have a choice in this matter. BUt we still treat these children as criminals. Granted that many of them are rude and defensive. But understand that this is part of their defense mechanism. This is a part of the trauma that they have suffered.
So please, the next time you hear of a story such as this one, remember that someone in your community has gone through the same thing.

Jacksonville has its own exploitation cases that mirror those of Cambodian women.
Posted: October 22, 2010 – 11:00pmPhotos Back Photo: 1 of 2 Next

Liya Chang
Back Photo: 2 of 2 Next

Transitions Global psychologist Sola Long (center) offers support to Srey Neth Chan (left), who along with Liya Chang, told their stories of being human trafficking victims in their native Cambodia Friday at the University of North Florida.

By Kate Howard
Liya Chang was 15 when she was manipulated into serving at a Cambodian brothel.

She was forced to serve 10 men a day, endured beatings and gang rapes and became addicted to drugs. She was treated, she said, as if she wasn’t human. She was a slave.

Chang, now 19, is traveling the United States to tell her story with the organization to whom she credits her recovery. She and another young woman, Srey Neth Chan, 21, volunteered to speak about their experiences as child victims of human trafficking after finishing their own therapy programs. They were nervous when they arrived for their speech at the University of North Florida, they admitted, and they said it was still hard to speak about the details of what they endured. But they’re doing it for one reason: They want to be heard.

“I hope when you listen,” Chang said through a translator, “you will share with other people who were not here, and make sure your children understand the harmful experience of working in a brothel.”

The women went through a multi-year recovery and education program with Transitions Global, a small organization for victims of human trafficking in Cambodia run by an Ohio man. They will speak twice more in Jacksonville – at Jacksonville Life Church and at a yoga center – before moving on to other big cities. This trip is their first time outside of Cambodia. They will return home and to their jobs as yoga instructors in November.

“It’s hard to tell our story, but then I feel so relieved,” said Chan, who was sold into a brothel at the age of 14. She entered the Transitions Global program after being rescued by police. “There are a lot of people listening to us, and I know they’re going to help.”

More than 1.2 million children are trafficked every year, according to the United Nations, and it’s a problem not only in Southeast Asia. Criminal charges have been brought in three documented cases of human trafficking in Jacksonville in the past few years, most recently in August.

A 15-year-old girl who had run away from home met some men in Jacksonville and agreed to trade sex for cocaine. But she was held captive for a month and forced to prostitute herself before she could break free and call her mother.

In 2008, a man was arrested for forcing two girls, 15 and 16, into prostitution at various Jacksonville hotel rooms. He met them at a party in Virginia and promised them a better life in Jacksonville if they joined him. They were spotted by a motel security guard who saw a parade of men visiting the room.

Awareness of those types of signs is the purpose for the speaking tour, said James Pond, founder of Transitions Global. Many Americans have no idea these types of things happen here, he said.

“It takes more people knowing,” Pond said. “We as a nation love to hide our heads in the sand, because it’s difficult to face.”

In Jacksonville, several groups have formed to provide infrastructure to treat trafficking victims when they’re found. They have a special set of needs, said Crystal Freed, a lawyer who is a member of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Task Force. Trafficking goes deeper than prostitution or abuse: It creates a truly broken person, Freed said, and they could easily be living right under our noses.

The city’s advocates are developing a network of services and shelters so they’ll have a treatment plan and all the resources they need next time they’re called upon for help.

“When we have trafficking victims, we want to help rehab them right here in Jacksonville,” Freed said. “What that’s going to look like, we don’t know yet.”

She hopes people will pay attention to the signs: young women who aren’t allowed to go anywhere by themselves, are spoken for by others, are not allowed to keep their wages or are being forced to work to pay off a debt that never shrinks.

“We need to look at the people doing our nails, cutting our hair, serving us our food,” Freed said. “There could be victims among them, and we are missing them.”

What is human trafficking?
The United Nations defines human trafficking as the exploitation of human beings – be it for sexual exploitation, other forms of forced labor, slavery, servitude, or for the removal of human organs. Trafficking takes place by criminal means through the threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of positions of power or abuse of positions of vulnerability.
Trafficking is not just a transnational crime across international borders – the definition applies to internal domestic trafficking of human beings.
Source: The United Nations policy paper on human trafficking

California enacts law requiring many businesses to disclose efforts to eradicate forced labor in their supply chains

USA November 18 2010 The new California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (S.B. 657) will require retail sellers and manufacturers, doing business in California and having over $100 million in annual worldwide gross receipts, to publicly disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale. It is the first state law of its kind and will take effect on January 1, 2012.

Retail sellers and manufacturers will be required to post the disclosure on their internet web site with a conspicuous and easily understood link to the required information on the business’s homepage. If the business does not have a website, consumers shall be provided the written disclosure within 30 days of a written request from the consumer.

The disclosure must indicate to what extent, if any, the business does each of the following:

“Engages in verification of product supply chains to evaluate and address risks of human trafficking and slavery. The disclosure must specify if the verification was not conducted by a third party.
Conducts audits of suppliers to evaluate supplier compliance with company standards against trafficking and slavery in supply chains. The disclosure shall specify if the verification was not an independent, unannounced audit.
Requires direct suppliers to certify that materials incorporated into the product comply with the laws regarding slavery and human trafficking of the country or countries in which they are doing business.
Maintains internal accountability standards and procedures for employees or contractors failing to meet company standards regarding slavery and trafficking.
Provides company employees and management, who have direct responsibility for supply chain management, training on human trafficking and slavery, particularly with respect to mitigating risks within the supply chains of products.”
SB 657, Section 3(c)(1) to (5).

The new law does not require that any specific effort be undertaken, but requires the business to disclose to what extent, if any, it takes the above-identified actions. (Separate from this new California law, since 2000, companies with contracts with the State of California to provide to state agencies equipment, materials, supplies, or garments or apparel, have been required by California Public Contract Code Section 6108 to certify that no items have been produced with forced or sweatshop labor and that the contractor and its subcontractors are in compliance with all labor and employment laws of the countries where the facilities are located.) The new disclosure law applies to all retail sellers and manufacturers who do business in California, regardless of whether they sell anything to California state agencies.

The exclusive remedy for a violation of the disclosure requirements will be an action brought by the California Attorney General for injunctive relief for failure to make the required disclosure. However, the law states that it shall not limit remedies available for a violation of any other state or federal law. Based on tax returns filed, the California Franchise Tax Board will make available to the Attorney General each year a list of retail sellers and manufacturers required to disclose their efforts.

It is expected that interest groups will access and use a company’s disclosure to put public pressure on the company to modify its practices. Companies seeking to influence suppliers’ practices will also want to be mindful of the possibility of litigation asserting that the company’s efforts made it a “joint employer” with legal responsibility for suppliers’ treatment of workers. See 572 F.3d 677 (9th Cir. 2009) (rejecting joint employer claim on facts of that case).

Another article regarding Lee County Case

Human trafficking charges not filed against woman accused of prostituting daughter
By STEVEN BEARDSLEY
Naples Daily News
Posted November 23, 2010 at 4:03 p.m., updated November 23, 2010 at 8:51 p.m.
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Noemi Ramos
NAPLES — Prosecutors declined to pursue human trafficking charges against a Fort Myers woman accused of forcing her daughters to buy drugs and, in the case of one child, forcing her to prostitute herself.

Noemi Ramos, 40, now faces four counts of aggravated child abuse, a first-degree felony punishable by a maximum 30-year sentence in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Deputies from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office arrested Ramos in October on the child abuse counts, as well as four counts of forced labor through human trafficking.

Detectives claimed Ramos regularly beat her four children and forced them to buy pills from drug dealers. One of the girls was constantly put in the presence of older men and encouraged to have sex with them for money, the affidavit stated.

At the time, Sheriff’s Office detective Mike Zaleski described the case as one of enslavement.

During Ramos’ arraignment on Monday, prosecutors filed only the four child abuse charges.

“We couldn’t file under the human traffic charges because there was insufficient evidence under Florida law,” State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Samantha Syoen said. She declined to elaborate.

Ramos and her children were legal U.S. residents, detectives said.

Florida has seen only two prosecutions under its 2004 human trafficking law, both of them in Orlando in 2010, according to Giselle Rodriguez of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

“Every (prior) human trafficking case prosecuted in Florida has always been under federal law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act,” Rodriguez said.

Most of those cases are international trafficking cases. But U.S. citizens and legal residents alike can also become victims of human trafficking, Rodriguez said. Their cases would typically be prosecuted by a state attorney.

Homeless people and runaways are especially vulnerable. Each of the two cases prosecuted involved prostitution; one involved a 15-year-old runaway girl.

Defendant Aleisea Smith pleaded to a count of sex trafficking in the case and was sentenced to two years probation and time served in jail. Her husband, Timothy Smith, pleaded to a similar charge and received the same sentence.

Rodriguez said many human trafficking cases involve sex, and all involve forced exploitation of one party by another.

“Basically for human trafficking to occur there have to be elements of force, fraud and coercion,” she said.

Ramos remains in custody at the Lee County Jail. Her next hearing is a January case management conference.

Ohio nail salon owner arrested in human trafficking case

It is important for people who visit nail salons on a regular basis to learn more about human trafficking as there have been many victims found working in the nails salons. Most people believe that all women used in human trafficking are used in the sex industry. This is a misconception made by too many people. Women have been found in labor trafficking schemes such as this one as well as domestic servitude cases.

So for all of us who enjoy manicure s and pedicures, please take the time to learn more about the indicators for a potential victim of human trafficking. If you suspect that the person who is sitting across from you is potentially a victim og human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline, which is 888-373-7888.

For more information on the indicators, please call the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking or our closest Anti Human Trafficking Agency.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010 12:36 PM
By Alan Johnson

The Columbus Dispatch
The State Highway Patrol today made an arrest in Solon, Ohio, in an investigation of immigrants, mostly from Southeast Asia, who were forced to obtain fraudulent cosmetology licenses so they could work as “indentured servants” in nail salons.

Officials said it is part of what could be a statewide human-trafficking scheme.

Byron Duc Ngo, owner of a salon called Lovely Nails, was arrested and charged with complicity to commit fraud, a third-degree felony, according to Kevin L. Miller, executive director of the Ohio Board of Cosmetology. He said Ngo allegedly paid employees to fraudulently obtain licenses from the state.

While the arrests today focused on one operator, investigators are also looking into New Beginnings Hair & Barber, a salon and cosmetology college on the east side of Cleveland. The school reportedly gave out hundreds of degrees to students who never attended classes.

The issue came up this summer at the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, convened by Attorney General Richard Cordray

Miller said previously he expected there would eventually be “indictments and arrests” on human trafficking, illegal immigration, identify theft, fraudulent license testing and other charges.

The cosmetology board annually licenses 145,000 people to work in nail shops, hair salons and tanning parlors.

Miller said immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries, often brought illegally to the U.S. for a price, are given “laundered” false identities, including fake high-school diplomas, driver’s licenses, immigration papers and other documents.

The employee then becomes an “indentured servant, working for the employer for two years for little or sometimes no money to pay off their debt. Often, the employees are required to live on the premises. The agency documented one case where 16 licensees lived at the same address.

Female Pimps? Myth or Reality?

As I have mentioned time and time again, a trafficker or pimp can be anyone. Too many people in the field of human trafficking have turned this issue into a women’s issue. Too many people believe that the men are the victimizers and the women and children are the victims. Understand that this is not true! There are female victims as well as female victimizers. There are male victims as well as male victimizers. And the most shocking is that fact that not only are we finding children who have been victimized but now we are finding cases in where children are also the victimizers. I can tell you that this year, we have noted an increase in women being arrested for victimizing vulnerable people and enslaving them as well.
Understand that human trafficking is not a women’s issue. This is a human rights issue.

Woman charged with human trafficking
Suspect accused of running a brothel in Little Village and forcing underage girls into prostitution
November 24, 2010|By Matthew Walberg and Annie Sweeney, Tribune reporters
An alleged madam regularly picked up a 16-year-old girl from her high school and drove her to a basement brothel to work until 8 or 9 p.m. a couple of days a week, authorities charged Wednesday.

Rubicela Montero forced the underage girls and other victims into prostitution and threatened them or their families with death if they quit, authorities said.

One girl called an anonymous hotline and tipped off Chicago police about the brothel in a Little Village basement apartment. Police set up a sting operation, sending in an undercover officer to pose as a client willing to pay for sex. Montero advertised in a Spanish-language newspaper, authorities said.

Montero’s eyes teared up and she put her hand over her mouth after she was ordered held on $400,000 bail Wednesday at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building. She is charged with three counts of involuntary servitude, human trafficking and pandering and faces up to 30 years if convicted.

Anuradha Koirala Wins 2010 CNN Hero of the Year Award

Congratulations to Anuradha Koirala!!

Anuradha Koirala received a CNN Hero award for her work in “protecting the powerless” and advancing the cause of human and equal rights at an awards ceremony at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium.

Koirala and her group, Maiti Nepal, have worked to rescue more than 12,000 Nepalese girls and women from human trafficking and sexual exploitation, according to CNN.

“I ask everyone to join me to create a society free of trafficking. We need to do this for all our daughters,” Koirala said at the CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute which aired Thanksgiving night and will continue to air worldwide on CNN International through Saturday.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper announced the Top 10 results from their online poll at the conclusion of the award show. The show was taped before an audience of 5,000 on Nov. 20.

According to the Maiti Nepal website, it was founded in 1993 by a group of teachers, journalists and social workers. Its focus has always been on preventing human trafficking for forced prostitution, rescuing victims, and providing rehabilitation for them.

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This social organization also actively works to find justice for the victims against their abusers through legal means.

Koirala and her group will receive an additional $100,000 award along with the $25,000 Hero award, which will be used in their work in Nepal and its borders