News North America

Published on November 29th, 2012 | by Mark O'Brien

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Human Trafficking Rings Busted in New York, Call Attention to National Issue

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States — New York State Police announced on Thursday they arrested nine people connected to a sex trafficking operation in upstate New York involving a minor.

Colorado authorities fear Kara Nichols, 19, may have fallen to sex trafficking while attending a modeling gig in Denver last month. (Photo Courtesy of The Daily News)

After a nine-month investigation, Troopers charged Lynette Tilden of Utica, Edward Tilden of Orwell, and Alexandria Davall of Utica with felony trafficking.  Troopers said the Tildens—25- and 30-years-old, respectively—used an online classifieds website called Backpage.com to advertise in the Northeast for sex with the victim.  Police did not describe the role Davall, 23, played in the operation.

Troopers also charged two men from the Utica area with rape, two others with endangering the welfare of a child, and two others with a criminal sex act.  Investigators did not release the age of the victim.

The bust came a little more than a week after New York City Police and the New York Attorney General’s Office announced the break-up for a $7 million, three-state prostitution and money laundering ring.  On Nov. 20, authorities arrested more than a dozen people and rescued two human trafficking victims.

A 16-month investigation into Somad Enterprises Inc. revealed it operated a “one-stop shopping vehicle for prostitution rings,” authorities described.  The ad agency created listings for escort services on television and websites, including Backpage.com.

The 180-count indictment charged 19 people and one corporation with enterprise corruption, money laundering, and prostitution, among other crimes.  So far, only 17 of those indicted have been arrested, and each faces up to 25 years in prison.  Reuters reported three prostitution clients also were charged.

These arrests highlighted a growing concern about sex trafficking in other parts of the United States, as well.  In Colorado, investigators said an aspiring model who disappeared last month may have fallen victim to trafficking.

Kara Nichols, 19, was last seen on Oct. 9 when she went to a modeling gig in Denver.  But according to an El Paso County Sheriff’s Office bulletin obtained by KKTV, investigators feared she became trapped in a sort of front for a modeling business.

A search of modeling and fashion websites authorities believe Nichols visited involved drugs and prostitution, according to police.

“Someone that has big dreams with limited resources sometimes turn to the internet,” Lt. Jeff Kramer said in an interview with the Daily News.  He hoped someone who knows something might come forward to shed light on what happened to Nichols.

Dangers like those that may have befallen Nichols have prompted the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to pass a motion to investigate sex trafficking.

County officials said the majority of youths arrested on prostitution charges in LA County are from the foster care system. Supervisor Michael Antonovich cited FBI and U.S. Department of Justice data showing the average entry age into prostitution in 12-years-old, and that participation lasts seven years.

For further information, please see:

The Corning Leader — Police: Upstate NY Sex Trafficking Ring Broken Up — 29 November 2012

The Huffington Post — LA Teen Prostitutes Come from Foster Homes a Majority of the Time, County Says — 28 November 2012

The Daily News — Missing Model May Be Victim of Colorado Sex Traffickers: Authorities — 26 November 2012

The Chicago Tribune — Human Trafficking Victims Freed in U.S. Prostitution Bust — 20 November 2012


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