Law Enforcement Officials Complete Trafficking in Persons Seminar

By Lindsay Thompson
Feb 18, 2011 – 5:58:02 PM
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 Nassau, The Bahamas – Personnel in law enforcement and related areas completed a two-day training seminar on how to fight the threat of human trafficking to and from The Bahamas and the region.

Coordinated by the Organisation of American States, the seminar on ‘Strengthening Capacity of Law Enforcement Officials, Judges and Prosecutors in the Caribbean to identify and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children’, was held at SuperClub Breezes on February 15 – 16, 2011.

Minister of National Security the Hon. Tommy Turnquest in his Keynote Address said that such seminars set the tone for the extraordinary cooperation between regional and international governments in what has been recognised as the fastest growing transnational criminal activity in the world.

Participants were members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Immigration and Customs department, the Office of the Attorney General and related agencies. The seminar provided a forum for strengthening the capacity of law enforcement officials and prosecutors in identifying and combating trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

The government implemented the Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act in December 2008, which makes all forms of trafficking of human beings illegal. Penalties range from three years to life imprisonment.

“The government is committed to preventing, detecting and successfully prosecuting this evil perpetrated on unsuspecting women and children while in The Bahamas,” he said.

Because The Bahamas is an archipelago of islands scattered over 100,000 square miles of water, he said policing its borders is a daunting task.

Human Trafficking is defined by Article 3 (a) of the United Nations Protocol as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”.

 Although trafficking has existed for centuries, it is said that the effects of globalisation have contributed to an environment in which it makes human trafficking a highly profitable and generally low risk criminal business.

“While there is little evidence of the same here, regrettably there exists the potential of the participation of The Bahamas,” Mr. Turnquest said.

Research has shown that human traffickers rarely use direct force and abduction; most traffickers use subtle means of force and deception. However, the situation becomes more complicated when victims themselves become recruiters in trying to save themselves from further exploitation.

“While trafficking of men, women and children for forced labour and prostitution may not be an issue in The Bahamas presently, The Bahamas takes the issue of human trafficking very seriously by having implemented strategies to effectively address this scourge on humanity,” Mr. Turnquest said.

Research also suggests that The Bahamas’ borders make it an ideal target for the facilitation of human trafficking.

“However, for the most part, persons who find themselves in The Bahamas illegally come voluntarily for mostly economic purposes,” Mr. Turnquest said.

Meanwhile, The Bahamas encourages trafficked victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of persons culpable of trafficking.

The seminar was also addressed by Senator the Hon. John Delaney, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs; Mrs. Juliet Mallet Phillip, OAS Representative in The Bahamas; and Fernando Garcia-Robles, Anti-TIP Coordinator, OAS. Presenters from the region and the UK were: Ana Rodriquez, Peter Bryant, Guillermo Galarza, Olga Gutierrez, Franklyn Williams, and Floy Turner.



United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill
Middle District of Florida
Tampa Orlando Jacksonville Ocala Fort Myers

Thursday, February 17, 2011
PHONE: (813) 274-6388


Townsend forcibly removed her personal property (including her passport, cell phone, and laptop computer) from her belongings at the residence of Townsend’s brother in

Thomasville, North Carolina as a means of preventing her from leaving. Investigators
actually recovered the woman’s hidden passport from inside a stereo speaker at the
brother’s residence. Evidence also included a Myspace message to one of the victims in
which Townsend acknowledged that the victim would be beaten for not making “her
number,” a reference to a nightly quota of $1,000.00. Townsend transported the women
from Norfolk,Virginia,toThomasville, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, Kingsland, Georgia,
and Jacksonville, Florida. Townsend and the women were in Jacksonville from September
9, 2009, until September 16, 2009. Townsend caused the women to engage in commercial
sex acts from an abandoned apartment on Edenfield Road and also from the locations of
customers, including local homes and hotels. On September 16, 2009, the Canadian
woman was apprehended by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as part of an undercover
prostitution sting. At that time, the woman became hysterical and advised officers about
what had happened to her. The investigation into Townsend’s sex trafficking activities then
commenced. Investigators amassed a large amount of evidence including hotel records,
phone records, bank records, and 28 internet ads in which Townsend advertised the
victim’s availability for commercial sex acts. Investigators also seized a Garmin GPS from


Townsend’s vehicle and were able to establish locations of various customers in Jacksonville from the data contained in the Garmin.

In commenting on the prosecution: U.S. Attorney O’Neill said, “We are committed to prosecuting those who seek to
harm and exploit persons by fraud, violence, or force. Sex trafficking is a serious offense
and must be treated as such. This case represents a major step towards restoring the
victims of these terrible crimes.”
Special Agent in Charge James Casey, FBI, stated, “Sex trafficking takes place
outside public view, but as we’ve seen in this case, it is nothing less than modern-day
slavery. We at the FBI will continue to work hard with our law enforcement partners and
prosecutors to expose these activities and bring the offenders to justice.”
“The conviction of Tyrone Townsend is good news. The issue of human trafficking
remains an important focus for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. I applaud the work of our
Special Investigations Unit, as they continue to dig beyond the seemingly “typical”
prostitution activity we see, and develop these human trafficking cases,” said Jacksonville,
FL Sheriff John Rutherford. “As always, our partnership with the US Attorney and the FBI
ensures that these heinous crimes come to light and those exploiting others are brought
to justice in the federal system. I am also proud of the work of the JSO as we participate
with the local task force and work to educate the public on the issue of human trafficking.”
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. It was
prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mac D. Heavener, III.

Jacksonville, Florida – U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announces that a federal jury
on February 16, 2011, found Tyrone Townsend (age 45, of New York City) guilty of sex
trafficking by force, threats of force and fraud; transporting women across state lines for
prostitution; enticing, inducing and coercing a woman to travel across state lines for
prostitution; and conspiracy to transport a woman across state lines for prostitution.
Townsend faces minimum mandatory sentences of 30 years and a maximum penalty of
two consecutive life sentences plus 35 years in federal prison for his crimes. His
sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 6, 2011. Townsend was indicted on April 20,
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Townsend met the first
victim, an eighteen-year-old runaway, in April 2009 after she traveled by Greyhound bus
to New York City. He met the second victim, a Canadian citizen, after she responded to
an internet advertisement and met up with Townsend and the first victiminNorfolk, Virginia.
Both victims testified that Townsend beat them (including beating one victim with a belt)
and sexually assaulted them as a means of causing them to engage in commercial sex


acts. Both victims testified that Townsend required them to call him “Daddy,” and that