U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, FBI AND YALE LAW
SCHOOL HOST HUMAN TRAFFICKING SYMPOSIUM
New Haven, Conn. – More than 400 students, educators, law enforcement officers, victim service providers and community members gathered today at Yale Law School in New Haven to participate in Trade of Innocents: A Global Perspective on Human Trafficking. The two-day symposium, which was hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Yale Law School and the producers of the film Trade of Innocents, is focused on the efforts of law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organizations to detect, investigate and prosecute domestic and international human trafficking, and restore freedom and dignity to victims.
The symposium featured remarks by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut David B. Fein, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and a panel presentation titled “Expanding our Reach: Law Enforcement and NGO Partnerships.” Symposium participants also attended an exclusive, advance screening of Trade of Innocents, starring Dermot Mulroney and Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino.
The symposium continues tomorrow morning with a videotaped message from Secretary of State and Yale Law School alumna Hillary Rodham Clinton, a panel presentation by the producers and director of Trade of Innocents, and presentations titled “Domestic and Global Investigations: Strategies for Success,” and “AfterCare: Restoring Freedom and Dignity to Victims of Human Trafficking.
“It seems almost unfathomable that today in the 21st Century, we still live in a world where human trafficking persists,” said U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “The Department of Justice is resolutely committed to preventing and combating human trafficking in all its forms with our many partners around the world and here at home. The Department’s commitment transcends into real action on the ground – action that has saved lives, delivered on the promise of freedom, and restored dignity to women, children and men held in bondage.”
In the past year, the Department of Justice has charged nearly 120 defendants – a record number – in human trafficking cases, including an increase of more than 30 percent in the number of forced labor and adult sex trafficking prosecutions.
“Preventing human trafficking and protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse is an integral component of our mission at the Justice Department, and our commitment to this mission is unwavering,” said U.S. Attorney Fein. “In Connecticut, I have made the prosecution of these crimes a priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and I am proud of the great efforts by our office, our law enforcement partners and the critically important NGOs in bringing human traffickers to justice and restoring freedom and dignity to the victims.”
“It is an honor and privilege for the FBI to partner with the Yale Law School, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the producers of the Trade of Innocents to sponsor this unique conference,” said Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in New Haven. “The two-day symposium on human trafficking allows for a comprehensive discussion of law enforcement initiatives to bring to justice those who would exploit one of this nation’s most precious resources: our children. Since 2003, the FBI, the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have led the Innocence Lost National Initiative. Essential to the success of our efforts is collaboration with victim service resources and non-governmental organizations to establish support networks for the rescue of and transition services for these vulnerable victims of human trafficking.”
Recently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut has prosecuted human trafficking and child exploitation matters that have resulted in lengthy prison terms for defendants. These cases include:
U.S. v. Corey Davis: An investigation conducted by the FBI revealed that Corey Davis recruited women and girls as young as 12 years old, forced them to work as dancers and prostitutes, and took all the money that they earned. He controlled the girls through physical and psychological coercion, including beatings, rapes, confinement, threats of serious harm, intimidation and humiliation. On December 19, 2008, Davis was sentenced to 293 months of imprisonment. He also was ordered to forfeit assets including diamonds, a Mercedes automobile, a $100,000 watch and real estate. These forfeited assets were converted for use by a victim restitution fund for medical, psychological, job or school training and child care assistance for the victims.
U.S. v. Douglas Perlitz: Douglas Perlitz operated Project Pierre Toussaint (“PPT”), a school for boys in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. An ICE-HSI investigation revealed that Perlitz traveled from airports in the U.S. to Haiti to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors and did, in fact, engage in sexual conduct with minor boys who attended school at PPT. Perlitz enticed and persuaded the minors to comply with the sex acts by providing the promise of food and shelter and other benefits, including cash, cell phones, electronics, shoes, clothes, and other items. Between 1998 and 2008, Perlitz victimized at least 16 minor boys. Perlitz pleaded guilty to traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and, on December 21, 2010, he was sentenced to 235 months of imprisonment, followed by 10 years of supervised release. Six victims traveled from Haiti to offer courageous testimony at the sentencing.
U.S. v. Theodore Briggs, et al: This ICE-HSI investigation revealed that Theodore Briggs and others knowingly prostituted two minor girls, ages 14 and 17, as part of an enterprise he ran out of his apartment in Norwalk. Briggs posted photographs of the 14-year-old girl on a website known as Backpage.com, and transported the girl from Connecticut to New York and Atlantic City, N.J., to engage in prostitution. Briggs kept the proceeds that the victim earned for engaging in sex acts with men. Briggs pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment on January 27, 2012.
U.S. v. Edgardo Sensi: This ICE-HSI investigation revealed that, while he was a resident of Connecticut, Edgardo Sensi conspired with a woman to coerce a minor victim girl, who was eight-years-old at the time, to engage in sexually explicit conduct. Sensi encouraged the victim girl to be filmed while Sensi and the woman engaged her in sexually explicit conduct, engaged in a lengthy grooming process that involved trickery and desensitizing the victim to accept the sexual abuse that she was subjected to, and enticed the victim girl to engage in sado-masochistic sex acts. In addition, Sensi traveled to Nicaragua where he befriended a young woman who was working as a maid. Sensi persuaded the young woman to permit him to have access to her four-year-old daughter by providing her with benefits such as cash, a gold ring and perfume. Sensi also utilized luxury hotel rooms in Managua to engage in sex acts with the young woman, and also discussed with her family his intention to marry her and provide financially for her. Through this coercion, Sensi had illicit sexual contact with the woman’s four-year-old daughter. Sensi also videotaped sex sessions that included both the 23-year-old woman and her victim daughter. On January 31, 2012, Sensi was sentenced to 85 years of imprisonment.
U.S. v. William Oehne: From 2004 to 2006, when he was a Connecticut resident, William Oehne photographed himself engaging in sexually explicit conduct with a girl who was eight years old when the abuse began. The FBI investigation revealed that Oehne engaged the victim in a lengthy grooming process involving trickery and threats, and enticed her to engage in sex acts by promising her gifts of clothes and electronics. Oehne then distributed the sexually explicit photographs over the Internet, and they are now among the most-viewed images in the world. Oehne pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 years of imprisonment on May 31, 2011.
U.S. v. Jarell Sanderson and Hassanah Delia: This FBI investigation revealed that Jarell Sanderson and Hassanah Delia recruited two 14-year-old girls to work as Hartford-area prostitutes. In July 2009, Sanderson and Delia transported the girls to hotels in Hartford and East Hartford where the girls engaged in sexual conduct with men in exchange for money that was paid to Sanderson and Delia. In 2011, Sanderson and Delia pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms of 310 months and 110 months, respectively.
“We know that cases involving human trafficking and child exploitation are under-reported, difficult to detect and persist throughout the world,” said U.S. Attorney Fein. “The minor victims are denied basic rights to dignity and security, and the abuse has a permanent impact on their lives. By bringing to justice and securing long prison sentences for those who exploit children, we are able to begin to restore a sense of dignity and security to those who have been victimized.”
In Connecticut, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has adopted a multi-disciplinary approach to combat child exploitation by having non-governmental agencies involved, as appropriate, during the investigative phase. An immediate goal in these cases is to stabilize victims, and these organizations are able to provide much needed care and support for the victims. Whenever possible, the Office utilizes trained forensic interviewers with expertise in child abuse to conduct the interviews of the victims to lessen the trauma of the interviewing experience and increase its fact-finding mission. Prosecutors and investigators also try to videotape the interviews so that the tapes can be utilized throughout much of the criminal process, thus minimizing the exposure of the child victim to the criminal justice system.
“Despite these and other achievements, we know that in the fight against child exploitation and human trafficking, we have more to do,” said U.S. Attorney Fein. “We continue to seek opportunities to engage in training and dialogue within our community, such as today’s symposium, to determine best practices so that we can combat trafficking with increased vigor while vigilantly protecting and restoring the dignity of the victims.”
The United States Attorney’s Office is charged with enforcing federal criminal laws in Connecticut, and with representing the federal government in civil litigation in the District. For more information, please visit the Office’s web site at www.justice.gov/usao/ct.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS CONTACT:
U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE