Editorial: Hospital screening, program should help in fight against human trafficking

Even Carroll County residents who are concerned about human trafficking, an issue which Gov. Larry Hogan has made combating a priority, probably don’t think it is a major problem in this area. Carroll Hospital does, however, see suspected victims of trafficking. So the hospital is taking some steps to try to ensure it doesn’t become a bigger issue locally.

Besides adding a screening for human trafficking victims to other assessments conducted in the emergency department, Carroll Hospital is hosting a program on human trafficking tonight. That program will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Shauck Auditorium in the hospital’s East Pavilion, and will feature Steven Hess, a victim-witness manager with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

“We’ve had only a few instances where we’ve had patients who we knew were victims of trafficking, but we feel that as a whole we are missing many opportunities to identify these folks,” Tracy Yingling, a forensic nurse and coordinator of the hospital’s Forensic Nurse Examiner program, told us. The hospital defines trafficking as “recruiting or obtaining a person by means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of labor, or services or sexual exploitation.” Yingling said that a few years ago the hospital started doing an assessment program to identify those at greatest risk of being injured or killed in an intimate partner relationship. The new hospital protocols follow a similar screening to determine if a person might be a victim of trafficking.

Continue reading at the link.

Howard County police charge New York woman with human trafficking, prostitution in Laurel

Howard County police arrested a woman from Brooklyn, New York, last week on suspicion of human trafficking after receiving a tip leading detectives to a Laurel hotel, county police said Tuesday.

Wenbo Wang, 46, was charged with human trafficking, prostitution, drug possession and related charges, according to police. She was arrested at a hotel in the 9700 block of Washington Blvd. in Laurel.

Howard police received a tip through the National Human Trafficking Tip Line earlier this month.

Wang arrived at the hotel with another woman as police were investigating on Jan. 25. Police said they learned that Wang had posted online prostitution ads for a number of women, arranged appointments and collected portions of payments.

Police made services available to the other woman, described by police as a “potential victim.” Investigators offer assistance to victims through housing, treatment, transportation and other help, police said.

Earlier this month, Howard police arrested eight men described alleged “would-be johns”in the county’s first undercover sting of the new year. The men were arrested at a hotel in the 10100 block of Washington Blvd. in Laurel.

In 2018, Howard police conducted four similar roundups, according to a police spokeswoman.

No attorney information was listed in court documents for Wang.

Wang is being held on a $500,000 bond at the Howard County Detention Center. She is scheduled to appear for a trial March 27.

Anyone who may have information or been a victim of Wang’s — or know her by another name — is asked to contact police at 410-313-STOP or HCPDcrimetips@howardcountymd.gov.

Former D.C. officer pleads guilty to sex trafficking teenage girls

A former D.C. police officer was convicted in federal court Tuesday on charges he solicited two underage teenage girls online and then paid them for sex, according to court records.

Chukwuemeka Ekwonna, 29, of Glenn Dale, Md., pleaded guilty to two counts of sex trafficking a minor, while eight other counts including illegal use of a firearm and robbery were dropped as part of a deal with prosecutors, court records show. Under the terms of the deal, Ekwonna faces between 10 and 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 10.

Ekwonna admitted to creating an account on the social media site Tagged in 2010 and then sending messages to many users, offering to pay them to engage in specific sex acts, according to court records.

Ekwonna exchanged dozens of messages with a 14-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl, before meeting both for sex in the back of his car or at motel rooms in the Annapolis area on multiple occasions, court records show. Both girls were in the 9th grade at the time.

When Ekwonna was initially charged, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Maryland alleged Ekwonna pointed a gun at the 15-year-old girl and demanded she return the money he had just paid her during one of their encounters in January 2017.

“Police officers are sworn to protect our communities, not prey on our youth,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “We will continue to work with our partners to bring traffickers to justice and protect our most vulnerable.”

Ekwonna had been on the force for roughly 14 months and was fired in April.

He applied for the job with the D.C. police while he was facing a lawsuit for allegedly beating an inmate at the D.C. jail, where he previously held a job. The lawsuit was eventually settled for $20,000.

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said last year the department was reviewing how Ekwonna was hired with the lawsuit pending. A D.C. police spokesman on Tuesday did not immediately know if that review has been completed.

Ekwonna’s attorney did not immediately return a call for comment.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam grants clemency for Cyntoia Brown

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has granted Cyntoia Brown clemency.

The decision comes just 11 days before Haslam leaves office on Jan. 18. Brown will now be released on parole supervision on August 7, 2019, after serving 15 years in prison.

Brown's case has garnered national attention following an outpouring of support from celebrities to Tennessee lawmakers.

Sentenced to life in prison, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in December Brown must serve 51 years of her life sentence for the 2004 murder of Johnny Allen. Then 16-years-old, advocates say Brown had been a victim of sex trafficking when the former Nashville realtor purchased her for sex.

Brown's case is a rarity as 98% of clemency applications never make it to the governor's desk. Back in May, a Tennessee prison parole board couldn’t come to a decision to recommend clemency for Brown. Hours of emotional pleas lead to a split decision – and therefore no clemency recommendation.

Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, Amy Schumer and other celebrities have supported Brown as she fought her life sentence. Thousands on social media used #FreeCyntoiaBrown to advocate for Brown.

FOX 17 News anchor Stacy Case has been investigating Brown's case for years, bringing nationwide awareness to the events surrounding Brown's plight for freedom.

 

In a statement release, Haslam called the case "tragic and complex." “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”

Brown issued the following statement in response to the governor's decision:

“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.

I want to thank those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging, especially Ms. Connie Seabrooks for allowing me to participate in the Lipscomb LIFE Program. It changed my life. I am also grateful to those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who will work with me over the next several months to help me in the transition from prison to the free world.

Thank you to Dr. Richard Goode and Dr. Kate Watkins and all of you at Lipscomb University for opening up a whole new world for me. I have one course left to finish my Bachelor’s degree, which I will complete in May 2019.

I am thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received. We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings. The Lord has held my hand this whole time and I would have never made it without Him. Let today be a testament to His Saving Grace.

Thank you to my family for being a backbone these past 14 years.

I am thankful to my lawyers and their staffs, and all the others who, for the last decade have freely given of their time and expertise to help me get to this day.

I love all of you and will be forever grateful.

With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.

Thank you.” -Cyntoia Brown

 

District Attorney General Glenn Funk issued the following statement on Governor Haslam's decision:

"The Governor’s decision to commute the sentence of Cyntoia Brown is an exercise of his authority under the Tennessee Constitution.

The District Attorney’s office remembers the victims in this case, who was killed as slept and whose death cannot be reversed.

The District Attorney’s office also recognizes that at the time of her offense, Ms. Brown was a juvenile and a victim of sex trafficking.

The Governor obviously arrived at his decision after careful consideration. He no doubt took into account the apparent rehabilitation of Ms.

Brown while in custody, including her graduation from college and her conduct while incarcerated."

 

Nashville Mayor David Briley commended Haslam on his decision:

"I am deeply grateful to Governor Haslam for his decision to commute the sentence of Cyntoia Brown today.

He has yet again demonstrated that mercy, redemption and forgiveness have an important place in our democracy and criminal justice system.

I also want to thank my former colleagues at Bone McAllester Norton and the advocates and organizations who fought so hard for Ms. Brown’s freedom.

This is a great day for social justice and our city."

Statement from Sen. Brenda Gilmore:

I want to sincerely thank Governor Bill Haslam for being courageous in the face of a serious decision. Governor Haslam reviewed the case and listened to thousands of voices resonating across Tennessee and around the country. Although Brown made a grave mistake when she was 16, her mistake should not result in the forfeiture of her entire life. Brown was raised in an environment saturated with physical and psychological abuse. She was later raped and trapped in a life of sex trafficking by an abusive pimp. These were the circumstances in which a man was tragically killed during his purchase of Cyntoia, a minor, for sex. Governor Haslam saw that life in prison was not justice for this abused teenager. I thank Governor Haslam for showing compassion for a black woman, which society often overlooks.

I congratulate Cyntoia Brown for making the best out of her life after this tragedy. The State of Tennessee and countless adults let her down during her childhood. But, since her incarceration, Cyntoia has done all that she can do to improve and empower herself. She has obtained a college degree and serves as a mentor to empower other female victims of sexual violence. Cyntoia is the number one reason that she is getting this second chance, because she has grown and embraced all the positivity and progress that we expect of upstanding people in our society. Considering her many obstacles, she has persevered and dedicated herself to personal growth. Cyntoia should be proud of herself, and people of good conscience should be proud as well.

I would also like to thank all the supporters of this great noble effort to bring justice for this young woman. No matter whether you marched, wrote to the governor, posted on social media, informed your neighbors, or prayed for this young woman, it took all of our combined energies to get our mission accomplished and we should all be very proud and hopeful this day.

MD Human Trafficking Task Force meets with Nigerian and Vietnamese Delegations

The World Trade Center Institute’s Professional Exchange Program introduced the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force to delegations from Nigeria and Vietnam. The delegations included high-ranking officials and foreign professionals that work on human trafficking issues in their respective countries. The delegations sought to enhance their knowledge of the task force’s work on prevention of human trafficking, protection of human trafficking survivors, and collaboration between law enforcement, prosecution, and NGO’s.

Human trafficking survivor describes forced labor ordeal in U.S.

Evelyn Chumbow of Cameroon says she was only nine years old when she was trafficked into forced labor in the Washington, D.C., area.

Chumbow, who's now in her mid-30s, says she was sold by her uncle to a woman from her home country of Cameroon who had a home and a business in the United States. She said she came to the United States with the expectation that a better life awaited her.

“The image that I had of the U.S. is completely from what I saw on television -- you know, '[The] Cosby Show' and '[The] Fresh Prince of Belair,' '[Beverly Hills], 90210' -- and so when I was told that I was going to come to the U.S. and be adopted and get a better education, I was excited,” Chumbow said in an interview with Hill.TV that aired Monday.

But she said that as soon as she arrived she was forced into domestic labor, working for eight years before she was able to escape with the help of Catholic groups. She said her captor is now in prison.

As many as 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, according to the U.S. State Department.

Human trafficking has become a rare bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) warned during a Sept. 26 congressional hearing that trafficking is even taking place in the U.S.

"We all need to wake up because human trafficking is happening right here in our backyard, and victims of traffic crime are often hidden in plain sight,” said McSally, who's running for Senate in Arizona this year.

Chumbow said she was held captive in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

“I came and I became a slave right here in Maryland, not far from the Capitol. I was working, cooking and cleaning,” Chumbow said, adding that she believes she would have been saved earlier if someone in the community had notified the authorities.

“If you see something, say something. 'Cause a lot of neighbors saw me, I would have probably been rescued when I was 13 or 14," she said. "But nobody said anything.”

— Alison Spann

Police: Md. man drugs, rapes woman on first date, turns her into sex trafficking victim

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WJLA) - What was meant to be a casual first date catapulted a 24-year-old woman into a nearly 24-hour-long hellhole of roofies, human trafficking and illegal drug deliveries, Montgomery County police allege in court documents obtained by ABC7.

The initial connection started like so many do nowadays -- on a dating app. The app, called SKOUT, pairs strangers based on their phones' GPS coordinates.

According to police, the female victim matched with Kyle Hilliard, 30, of Gaithersburg, on Aug. 1. After messaging one another throughout the day, Hilliard suggested the victim take a Lyft to a home located along the 900 block of Wild Forest Drive in Gaithersburg. The victim obliged.

Investigators said the two drank alcohol and smoked pot before having consensual sex. It was then that Hilliard reportedly revealed he had recently gotten out of jail and made money by selling drugs. That confession frightened the victim. When she asked to leave, Hilliard allegedly grabbed the woman by the neck and firmly stated he now "owned" her and would use her to "make some money."

Finish reading the story at https://wjla.com/news/local/maryland-man-drugs-rapes-woman-sex-trafficking-victim

Governor Larry Hogan Announces Statewide Anti-Human Trafficking Director

Baltimore Attorney Laurie Culkin to Assume Newly Created Position

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today announced that Laurie E. Culkin, an attorney and advocate on behalf of human trafficking victims, has been named as Maryland’s first Anti-Human Trafficking Director. This position, which will be housed within the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, will be responsible for coordinating supportive services for victims, as well as enforcement activities relating to human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is a despicable crime and we are determined to root it out wherever it occurs in our state,” said Governor Hogan. “One of our most important responsibilities is to protect Maryland citizens, and this position is vital to establishing statewide coordination to prevent human trafficking and provide support for its victims.”

In August 2018, as part of a series of initiatives to combat human trafficking in Maryland, Governor Hogan announced the Anti-Human Trafficking Director position. He also announced a new Crime Research and Innovation Center; strengthened data collection; an updated identification protocol; $5 million in funding for anti-human trafficking efforts; and legislation to categorize felony human trafficking as a violent crime.

“Governor Hogan made it very clear that he didn’t want a person whose job was overseeing human trafficking along with other related duties,” said V. Glenn Fueston, Jr., GOCCP Executive Director. “He wanted someone whose only job was to track human trafficking and support its victims. Ms. Culkin will be laser-focused on this issue.”

“I am honored to join the Hogan administration as the Anti-Human Trafficking Director,” said Ms. Culkin. “The governor has made fighting human trafficking a priority and one in which he has focused his attention and resources. It is my honor to be a part of this effort.”

Ms. Culkin comes to the position from the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service in Baltimore, where she served as Human Traffic Prevention Project Coordinator. In that capacity, she led the design, implementation, and administration of the first human trafficking pro bono program in Maryland. She previously worked for Maryland Legal Aid, where she represented clients on domestic violence and family law matters. Her legal work also includes research on human trafficking, authoring numerous papers on the subject.

Ms. Culkin is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law and an honors graduate from the State University of New York, University at Buffalo, where she studied Sociology and Health and Human Services. A native of New York, Ms. Culkin lives in Baltimore City.

West Virginia man charged with human trafficking for facilitating wife’s prostitution

Kate Scanlon Sep 11, 2017 7:10 pm

A West Virginia man was charged with human trafficking after allegedly taking his wife to a hotel to engage in prostitution, the Herald-Mail Media reported. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A West Virginia man was charged with human trafficking after allegedly taking his wife to a hotel to engage in prostitution, the Herald-Mail Media reported. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A West Virginia man was charged with human trafficking after allegedly taking his wife to a hotel to engage in prostitution, the Herald-Mail Media reported.

Jason Daniel Hicks, 35, of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, was charged with one count of human trafficking, one count of second-degree assault and two counts of neglect of a minor, according to the Herald-Mail Media. He faces up to 30 years in prison. His wife, Heather Hicks, was charged with prostitution.

According to the report, Hagerstown, Maryland, police conducted an investigation into human trafficking and solicitation of prostitution in October 2016. Police set up “dates” with women at an unidentified motel using the website backpage.com, which some use to solicit paid sex...

Shepherdstown man held without bail in prostitution sting

CJ Lovelace

Sep 1, 2017

A West Virginia man facing charges as a result of a prostitution sting in Hagerstown was ordered held without bail Friday in Washington County District Court.

Jason Daniel Hicks, 35, of Shepherdstown appeared via closed-circuit television before retired District Judge Robert Wilcox, who handed down the ruling during a bond-review hearing.

Wilcox said Hicks' status as a "frequent flyer" in the criminal-justice systems of several states, including a number of prior convictions, indicate that he is a danger to public safety.

Hicks faces one count of human trafficking, one count of second-degree assault and two counts of neglect of a minor, according to the statement of charges...

Human trafficking occurring in DC’s backyard

By Kate Ryan | @KateRyanWTOP

August 11, 2017 4:48 am

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Human trafficking is a global problem — with a local impact in Montgomery County.

And on Thursday, the county’s Human Trafficking Task Force and a State Department delegation discussed the challenges human trafficking raises.

Representatives from 19 countries — including Paraguay, India, Tanzania and the Czech Republic — heard from county leaders on the shared problems of dealing with human trafficking, including detecting trafficking operation rings and how to assist trafficking victims...

Baltimore Man Arrested At Laurel Hotel Connected To Latest Human Trafficking Case

Posted on August 4, 2017 by admin

Police arrested man in connection with a human trafficking case involving four women in Prince George’s and Howard counties. The arrest is part of a two-week investigation conducted by the Howard County Police Department.

Forty-three-year-old Kamal Germaine Dorchy faces multiple counts of human trafficking. He was arrested Wednesday and held without bond in the Howard County Jail, police announced.

In 2016, the department investigated 17 human trafficking cases and 16 in the past seven months...

Howard police arrest Baltimore man at Laurel motel in latest human trafficking case

By Andrew Michaels

Howard County Times

AUGUST 2, 2017, 4:40 PM

Howard police arrest Baltimore man at Laurel motel in latest human trafficking case

A Baltimore man was charged Wednesday with the human trafficking of four women in Howard and Prince George's counties following a nearly two-week investigation by Howard County police.

Kamal Germaine Dorchy, 43, faces multiple counts of human trafficking, the police announced. He is being held without bond at the Howard County jail.

This investigation is part of Howard County's ongoing efforts to stop prostitution and human trafficking. There have been almost as many human trafficking cases this year as there were in all of 2016...

Md. man charged with human trafficking via Backpage; 4 victims freed

by ABC7

Wednesday, August 2nd 2017

HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — A Baltimore man has been charged by Howard County Police with forcing multiple females into prostitution using the website Backpage.

Kamal Dorchy (Howard County Police Department)

Kamal Dorchy (Howard County Police Department)

Kamal Germaine Dorchy, 43, was charged with multiple counts of human trafficking after he was arrested in a motel room in Prince George’s County with three women believed to be victims, according to a statement from Howard County Police.

Police believe Dorchy controlled the females with physical assault, threats with a handgun, supplying them with drugs, and dictating when they could sleep and eat. He took their phones and had any calls and texts to them forwarded to his phone, police say...

Law Students In Maryland Help Human Trafficking Survivors Forget Their Past

Posted on July 9, 2017 by admin

A Prince George’s County woman tells about her experience as a human trafficking victim. She met up with a man who said he was a modeling agent, when she was just 19. He took her out of state, where they lived in a motel and she worked as a prostitute.

She eventually got into contact with a guardian who lived in Maryland. The guardian contacted a local police department and she was able to escape, but a prostitution conviction continued to plague her as she sought a new life...

University of Baltimore law students help trafficking victims escape their past

By Lorraine Mirabella

JULY 8, 2017, 8:29 AM

The Prince George's County woman still remembers the night a man in a black SUV stopped as she and a high school friend waited for a ride to a party. He told them he was a modeling agent, gave them his cell number and drove off.

A chronic runaway, the then 19-year-old soon met up with him, only to be cut off from family and later whisked to a hotel out of state where she was forced to work as a prostitute...

Third person charged with human trafficking of teen in Jessup

By Staff report

Howard County Times

JULY 7, 2017, 1:43 PM

Howard County police have charged a third person in connection to the alleged human trafficking of a 16-year-old girl, saying the woman helped two other people force the teen into prostitution at Jessup motels.

Jessica Lynn Smitherman, 31, of Laurel, was charged with human trafficking of a minor on June 30 and is being held at the county jail on $35,000 bond...

Howard County’s Message To Human Traffickers: ‘Prepare To Go To Jail’

July 7, 2017 11:15 PM By George Solis

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Police in Howard County say there has been an increase in human sex trafficking activity that seems to be expanding nationwide.

In an effort to get ahead of the crime, the county is finding new ways to tackle the problem at its source.

From funding, to new laws, Howard County officials say they are using every resource at their disposal to warn criminals that human trafficking will not be tolerated...

State police fight human trafficking

JUNE 8, 2017, 3:11 PM

In their commentary regarding human trafficking ("Transportation officials have a role in human trafficking battle," June 7), the authors stated the "Maryland State Police should reach out to transportation authorities to include them in ongoing training conferences and coordination." Please be assured the Maryland State Police is already doing that and much more to combat human trafficking in our state.

Just today, our Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division (CVED) used FedEx Field to conduct surprise inspections of hundreds of commercial vehicles. During the operation, Maryland state troopers were handing out training DVDs and other materials to commercial drivers about how to identity human trafficking and where to report it...

Transportation officials have a role in human trafficking battle

By Madeleine Gleave, Alexandra Miller, Caitlin Sellers

JUNE 7, 2017, 12:30 PM

Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery that exists in every corner of the world — even along our own highways in Maryland. Every day, thousands of people are forced by fear, fraud or coercion to work in commercial sex and labor markets with little hope of escape. According to the Polaris Project, a non-profit that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were more than 7,500 human trafficking cases reported in the United States in 2016, including 602 in Maryland, making it the eighth highest state for trafficking in the nation. The majority of these were for sex trafficking. Countless more cases go unreported...