Attorney General Ashley Moody, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement today announced the arrests of nine individuals on charges related to human trafficking. [Read more…] about Nine Arrested on Human Trafficking Charges
The first-term representative says House Bill 219’s mandatory minimum sentence for traffickers will help reduce trafficking and protect its victims.
State Representative Toby Overdorf has filed legislation that will toughen penalties for human trafficking in Florida. House Bill 219 would require a minimum term of incarceration for solicitation of prostitution offenses involving victims of human trafficking. [Read more…] about Overdorf Sponsors Bill to Toughen Human Trafficking Penalties
January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and today Attorney General Ashley Moody is raising awareness to fight human trafficking. Attorney General Moody encourages all Floridians to take an active role to help combat this modern-day slavery.
[Read more…] about Attorney General Moody Recognizes Human Trafficking Prevention Month
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution today secured a prison sentence for a man convicted of human trafficking and branding a victim. Friday, a Marion County Judge sentenced Ryan Gemelle Poole, 33, to 30 years in state prison. The sentence comes after the jury found Poole guilty of human trafficking, deriving support from prostitution, unlawful use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a felony, sexual battery and branding. This is Florida’s first conviction under the state’s branding statute.
“This disgusting human trafficker branded his victim, raped and forced her to perform sex acts. We will not allow this evil to persist in Florida, and today’s sentencing serves as a strong warning to anyone trying to enslave and traffic people in our state,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I want to thank my Statewide Prosecutors Julie Sercus and Rita Peters for their resolve and determination to ensure this monster did not escape justice.”
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Poole in 2016. The investigation revealed that Poole met the victim on a dating website and started a romantic relationship. Poole then began grooming the victim for prostitution by giving the victim cocaine and coercing the victim to work as a stripper. Soon Poole began selling the victim for sex, advertising on the now defunct Backpage.com website.
Poole forced the victim to travel from Marion County to Alachua, Charlotte, Hillsborough and Orange counties for the purposes of prostitution for personal financial gain. In addition, Poole forced the victim to have his initials tattooed on the victim’s body—to signify the victim as property. In August 2016, the victim tried to escape and Poole raped the victim as punishment.
The trial commenced on April 23, before the Honorable Anthony Tatti in Marion County. After four days of testimony, including that of the victim and Poole, the jury found the defendant guilty on all charges.
The president today signed a bipartisan bill aimed at curbing online sex trafficking by cracking down on websites that knowingly host ads posted by sex traffickers.
The legislation, cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), increases penalties for traffickers and gives law enforcement new tools to prosecute the websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking online.
“This should serve as a wake-up call for anyone operating one of these websites,” Nelson said after today’s bill signing. “We’re coming for you.”
The bill signing comes just days after federal authorities shut down a website known as Backpage.com and charged its executives with facilitating prostitution.
According to the human trafficking hotline, Florida ranked third in the country for the highest number of sex trafficking cases reported in 2016 and 2017.
Attorney General Pam Bondi and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, both leaders in the fight against human trafficking, today issued the following joint statement commending the U.S. Senate passage of H.R. 1865:
“Today, we applaud the U.S. Senate for making the right decision and overwhelmingly passing H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, in a 97 to 2 vote. This legislation will significantly support all state attorneys general and state prosecutors in their effort to hold online sites accountable for supporting the sale of sex trafficking victims.
“We thank President Trump and his Administration for working closely and proactively with Members of Congress, including our dedicated Florida and Utah federal delegations, industry experts and human trafficking survivors in the fight to eradicate sex trafficking across the country and around the world.”
On the heels of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and the introduction of the Anti-Trafficking Trade Act at the federal level, former state Sen. Maria Sachs, former U.S Attorney Pam Marsh, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump threw their support behind proposed anti-trafficking legislation that would provide ongoing public education and a Florida reporting hotline. Sachs leads the Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
Bill sponsors Sen. Perry E. Thurston Jr. (D-Broward), Rep. Barry Russell (D-Broward), and Rep. Robert Asencio (D-Miami-Dade) led the event in support of their legislation to bring attention to the growing human trafficking epidemic in Florida.
House Bill 159 and its companion, Senate Bill 596, would require the Attorney General’s Office to establish a toll-free human trafficking reporting hotline and develop public education campaigns that would identify warning signs of trafficking and promote increased overall awareness of the issue. January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
According to data on the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s website, every year since 2012, Florida has generated the third-highest number of calls to the hotline.
“This is a glaring reflection of the magnitude of the problem in Florida, and shows why the state needs its own hotline, one that is capable of focusing specifically on the unique challenges experienced here,” said Sachs, who during her time in state government served on a gubernatorial Human Trafficking Task Force and helped pass bills that combated the issue. “Human trafficking prevention requires awareness, so I am in support of these bills because they also ensure that the long-term fight against human trafficking will continue through public education.”
Marsh fought against human trafficking while serving as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida from 2010-2015.
“Florida is ground zero in the fight against human trafficking. Our state ranks third for number of total calls of tips to the national hotline from all sources,” she said. “We must draw human trafficking out of the shadows, and expose it to the full light of day. Only then can we eradicate it.”
Crump cited a Bureau of Justice Statistics report that showed 77 percent of victims in alleged human trafficking incidents reported in the U.S. were people of color. Research conducted by the Polaris Project, a leader in the global fight to eradicate human trafficking, revealed that those most at risk of being trafficked are people who are oppressed or part of marginalized groups such as undocumented migrants – largely people of color.
“Enslaving and exploiting human beings for profit did not end with the passage of the 13th amendment,” Crump said. “The business of using and abusing people – even children – to satisfy the sick needs and demands of those with means but no morals is endemic in our society, and people of color are still the most vulnerable victims of this kind of exploitation.”
Beyond education and reporting, Crump called on the Legislature to address the roles that poverty, lack of educational and economic opportunities, and growing up in high-risk neighborhoods also play in making marginalized Floridians vulnerable to human trafficking.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force today announced the arrest of Robert Atlee Miner V for human trafficking multiple victims. According to the investigation, Miner, 27, recruited and exploited young women since January 2015 through sex trafficking for personal profit.
“The defendant is charged with preying on women and, in some cases, using violence to force them into sex trafficking; all while depositing large amounts of cash into his bank account,” said Attorney General Bondi. “The facts of this case are appalling—that anyone is charged with forcing another human being into the sex trade.”
Miner allegedly recruited victims using online advertisements seeking to hire young women to work as dancers or companions. Victims then answered the ads seeking to be dancers, and Miner forced them with threats or physical harm to perform sex acts for money instead. In addition to using the Internet to recruit victims, Miner also used websites such as Backpage.com to advertise the women and services. At one point, Miner arranged for one of the victims to fly to and work in Las Vegas.
There is no record of Miner having any legitimate source of income, yet bank account records reveal Miner consistently making large cash deposits, totaling more than $225,000 since January 2015. Financial records also show, in multiple situations, that Miner paid for hotel rooms on the same night, but in different cities.
Miner faces multiple counts of human trafficking, deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution, money laundering and structuring transactions. Miner also faces charges for branding, armed sexual battery, unlawful use of a two-way device and renting a room for prostitution. If convicted, Miner faces up to life in prison. Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Danielle Dudai with Attorney General Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution is prosecuting this case with the assistance of the State Attorney’s Office for the 15th Judicial Circuit.
Attorney General Pam Bondi today presented a resolution recognizing January 2017 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month at a meeting of the Governor and State Cabinet in Tallahassee.
“I am dedicated to making Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking and this Human Trafficking Awareness Month I am asking all Floridians to take an active role in the fight to end this form of modern-day slavery. Floridians should know how to spot a trafficking victim and who to contact to report the crime. I encourage everyone to take an active role and visit YouCanStopHT.com to learn how to identify a victim and report it,” said Attorney General Bondi.
To view the resolution, click here.
At today’s Cabinet meeting Attorney General Bondi also awarded Floridians dedicated to making Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking and helping victims recover.
The award recipients honored today are as follows:
- Dr. Brook Bello, founder and CEO of More Too Life, Survivor Advocate of the Year;
- Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Brenda Mezick, Prosecutor of the Year;
- The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Community Advocate of the Year, represented by CEO Clara Reynolds; and
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Jeffrey Vash, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
In addition to the Attorney General’s efforts through her Office of Statewide Prosecution to prosecute human trafficking crimes, Attorney General Bondi also chairs the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. The Council builds on existing state and local partnerships working to combat human trafficking and serve victims. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, legislators and experts in the fields of health, education and social services sit on the council.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and its community-based care providers recognize January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Florida received 1,892 reports of human trafficking – a 54 percent increase from the previous year. The increase in reported allegations of human trafficking was due in large part to increased training and the recently launched Human Trafficking Screening Tool (HTST) developed as a collaborative effort between DCF, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.
“The increase in reports of human trafficking is evidence that the coordinated effort across state agencies to train professionals is increasing awareness and bringing more of these cases to light,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. “Florida must continue to create and implement a continuum of services that addresses all aspects of a survivor’s life including physical, social, emotional and spiritual health.”
More Floridians are recognizing the signs of human trafficking and reporting it to authorities. In addition to improved reporting tools, the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking – Secretary Mike Carroll is the Vice-Chair – has implemented specialized training for first responders and other child welfare professionals to recognize the signs of human trafficking and report it.
In March 2015, DCF and DJJ launched the human trafficking screening tool used by DJJ Juvenile Assessment Center Assessors, DCF and sheriff’s offices’ child protective investigators, and community-based care lead agencies to report incidents of suspected human trafficking. In the first year of implementation, 3,500 screenings were completed with 1,289 (37 percent) of screenings resulting in calls to the Florida Abuse Hotline. The top five counties to generate potentially trafficked youth under this screening process included Broward, Miami-Dade, Duval, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.
Local, statewide and national partnerships, including state agencies, service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, the judicial system and concerned citizens, are driving the fight against human trafficking in Florida.
“Florida must continue the hard work begun on behalf of those who are often the state’s most vulnerable citizens. We cannot falter in our fight of this heinous crime,” said DJJ Secretary Christina K. Daly. “Every day that we work to increase awareness of human trafficking is another potential victim saved through our combined efforts.”
DCF tracks human trafficking by three primary categories: sexual exploitation by a non-caregiver, such as an adult entertainment club or escort service; sexual exploitation by a parent, guardian or caregiver; and labor trafficking, also referred to as slavery or servitude.
Human Trafficking Awareness Month is recognized every January. For more information on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, as well as how to report it, visit: www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/human-trafficking.