U.S. Attorney Hosts Human Trafficking And Domestic Sex Trafficking Forum During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
Tampa, Florida — April 6 marks the beginning of National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. This year’s theme—30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice—presents a perfect opportunity to salute the Tampa Bay area law enforcement and victims’ services community in their long-term commitment to aid crime victims. As part of this week’s nationwide activities, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida today hosted a forum bringing together federal, state, and local law enforcement experts and victims’ services providers to educate members of the community on human trafficking and domestic sex trafficking. The half-day forum included a victim’s perspective, a law enforcement investigative and prosecutorial overview, an insight into the forensics interview process, and resources for assisting victims of human and sex trafficking. U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III opened the forum by discussing human and sex trafficking in Florida and highlighted ways in which federal, state, and local public safety agencies, along with the greater community can work together to raise awareness and help combat the issue.
“Human trafficking takes many forms,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III. “In order to tackle this problem, we must collaborate with our partners on all fronts – from education and prevention, to enforcement, prosecution and the recovery of victims.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi joined U.S. Attorney Bentley in addressing the need for greater collaboration among stakeholders. Since 2013, the Office of the Florida Attorney General has been engaged in a statewide initiative to educate Floridians on the dangers of child exploitation through its “From Instant Message to Instant Nightmare” campaign. The initiative is dedicated to making Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking and elicits the cooperation of parents, businesses, and citizens.
"I am grateful to U.S. Attorney Bentley for his leadership in bringing together everyone who has a role in assisting human trafficking victims,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I am dedicated to eradicating human trafficking in Florida, and by opening the lines of communication among federal, state and local agencies, we can enhance our efforts to end this horrific crime."
According to reports compiled by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), U.S. Department of Justice-led federal investigations and human trafficking charges have increased in recent years. Since 2008, the Middle District of Florida has prosecuted several notable cases, resulting in significant prison sentences for offenders involved in sex trafficking:
- United States vs. Weylin O. Rodriguez – Life imprisonment
- United States vs. Ian Sean Gordon – Life imprisonment
- United States vs. Marvin Madkins – 50 years
- United States vs. Eric Bell – 30 years
- United States vs. Andrew Fields - 34 years
- United States vs. Tyrone Townsend – 26 years and 8 months
- United States vs. Ruel Brown – 15 years and 8 months
Only 30 years ago, crime victims had virtually no rights and no assistance. Today, our nation has made dramatic progress in securing rights, protections, and services for victims. Every state has enacted victims’ rights laws and all have victim compensation programs. More than 10,000 victim service agencies now help people throughout the country. In 1984, Congress passed the bipartisan Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which created a national fund to ease victims’ suffering. Now, once-hidden crimes, like domestic and sexual violence, hate and bias crimes, bullying, and sex and labor trafficking, among others, are receiving greater attention and additional resources.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will be held April 6–12 in communities throughout the nation. OVC encourages widespread participation in the week’s events and in other victim-related observances throughout the year. For more ideas on how to volunteer to help crime victims, visit the Office for Victims of Crime website, www.ovc.gov.