Federal prosecutor speaks to local clubs about human trafficking
Published 9:20 am Thursday, May 12, 2016
During a special joint meeting of the Carter County Family and Consumer Education clubs, members heard a presentation on a crime trend that is growing across the nation and is beginning to show up in East Tennessee — human trafficking.
Corey Shipley, a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney through the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Greeneville, talked to the group about human trafficking, which he said can take different forms and is usually tied in with other criminal activities.
In human trafficking, humans, typically young girls, are sold for either forced labor or sexual purposes. While some of the victims of this crime have been kidnapped and forced into this life, other victims are drawn in through drugs and then submit to being trafficked in order to feed their addictions.
“You typically see that human trafficking is intertwined with drugs in some way,” Shipley said.
While many people think of human trafficking as something that occurs only in other countries, Shipley said that is simply not the case.
“Atlanta, Georgia, is a huge hub right now for human trafficking,” he said.
In major metropolitan areas these organizations will often times set up shop near airports and customers will fly in from all around the nation or even from other countries to take part in the crime and then return home.
The operations are also highly mobile, Shipley said. “To avoid detection they will pick these girls up and move the entire operation to another big city,” he said.
These type of crimes are occurring more frequently all across the nation, even in more rural areas like Northeast Tennessee, he said.
“Now it’s hitting in smaller communities,” Shipley said.
As an example, he cited a recent case that prosecuted in federal court where a Washington County father was convicted of “selling” his three daughters to other people for sexual purposes. The man would give his children alcohol and drugs and then send them to the other person’s house to perform sexual acts, Shipley said, adding the man did this in order to obtain money to fund his own alcohol and drug addictions.
“People addicted to drugs can do things that you or I would think are unconscionable,” Shipley said.
Shipley also cited the case of a Carter County woman who was convicted in federal court of using her own children to produce child pornography. “While child pornography and human trafficking are two different things, they aren’t mutually exclusive,” he said. “Often times it starts with enticing the child to pose for a photograph and then progresses to other things.”
Club members in attendance asked when a child is a victim of human trafficking how often are the parents involved as the person selling their child. Shipley said not even half the cases would involve the parents of the child. In smaller or rural communities he said they may see more parents or other relatives involved in the crime while in larger, more metropolitan areas it is predominantly a stranger or criminal organization behind the crime.
Shipley said he believes the crime is on the rise in the United States and also feels that more attention is being placed on it to help raise awareness of the crime.
Describing the crimes as “horrendous,” Shipley said the damage done to the victims can last well beyond the time they are victimized.
“The people running these things are making the money while these girls are stuck in sexual servitude,” he said. “They are making money off of destroying people’s lives.”