Man Using False Identity Convicted of International Sex Trafficking
First time recently enacted extraterritorial jurisdiction provision of our anti-trafficking laws is used to charge sex trafficking occurring in another country
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, and Wendy A. Bashnan, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), Miami Field Office, announce the conviction of Damion St. Patrick Baston, 37, of Jamaica. Baston was convicted after a ten day jury trial of the twenty-one counts with which he was charged.
Specifically, Baston was convicted of three counts of sex trafficking a victim by means of force, fraud, and coercion, both in the Southern District of Florida and in multiple countries around the world, including Australia, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1591(a)(1) and 1596. Title 18, United States Code, Section 1596 provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction in human trafficking cases; one count of forcible sex trafficking of a victim in the Southern District of Florida; five counts of transporting multiple individuals for prostitution, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2421; one count of importation of an alien for prostitution, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1328; one count of use of a passport secured by false statement, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1542; one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A; and nine counts of money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956. Baston, who is a Jamaican national, was also convicted of illegal reentry of an alien previously ordered removed, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1326.
Baston is scheduled to be sentenced on September 5, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, who presided over the trial. Baston faces a mandatory minimum penalty of fifteen years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.
According to the indictment, other documents filed in federal court and statements made, Baston victimized seven women in the Middle East, Australia, and the United States. Six victims bravely testified at trial that they had been trafficked for sex beginning in 2011 in various cities including Miami. Baston had been ordered removed from the United States in the late 1990s but stole the identity of an American citizen, which he used to obtain a Florida ID card and U.S. passport in that person’s name. Baston used this false identity for international travel as he continued to recruit and victimize women.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The bravery of the victims in this case is commendable. Their testimony demonstrated that despite the terrible abuse that they suffered from this defendant they are truly survivors. We can never forget that human trafficking is a heinous crime that exploits people; it simply cannot be tolerated. This case was the result of the hard work and coordination of the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force in Miami, including our federal prosecutors, as well as that of law enforcement officers and non-governmental organizations in Australia and the Dubai Police Department. It is also the first time we have used the recently enacted extraterritorial jurisdiction provision of our anti-trafficking laws to charge someone for sex trafficking that occurred in another country. Working with our dedicated law enforcement partners here and abroad we have ensured that Baston will be unable to continue to exploit more women.”
“This case brought us halfway around the world to ensure justice for the victims,” said Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Miami. “HSI along with our federal and international law enforcement partners will continue to work diligently to ensure international boundaries do not hinder the enforcement of justice.”
Special Agent in Charge Wendy Bashnan of Diplomatic Security Service’s Miami Field Office noted that “The U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service is committed to advocating justice for the victims and survivors of human trafficking. This case, and its successful prosecution, points out all the more that the cooperative efforts of, and collaboration between, numerous law enforcement agencies, both internationally and domestically, are significant factors in the purpose of the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force to dismantle criminal organizations involved in the victimization of individuals in both sexual and labor trafficking.”
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI and DS, as well as the Australian Federal Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Olivia S. Choe and Roy K. Altman.
Human trafficking must stop. To report suspected human trafficking occurring in South Florida, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.