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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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.