News and Press Releases

human trafficking rescue project

local task force selected to launch national
human trafficking initiative

July 25, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the district’s Human Trafficking Rescue Project has been selected as one of six locations nationwide to launch a new human trafficking initiative. As a part of this initiative, the Western District of Missouri’s task force will also now lead a new partnership with the District of Kansas and the Eastern District of Missouri to combat human trafficking.

The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor announced today the selection of Pilot Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams (ACTeams) as part of a nationwide Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative designed to streamline federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking offenses. The local ACTeam is unique among the new ACTeams because it also includes the Western District of Missouri’s leadership to coordinate efforts with the Eastern District of Missouri and the District of Kansas.

“It’s an honor to be selected for this new initiative,” Phillips said. “The Human Trafficking Rescue Project has been in the forefront of efforts nationwide to combat human trafficking. Thanks to the diligent work of our task force members, the Western District of Missouri has one of the most successful human trafficking task forces in the country. We are committed to build on that success and to take aggressive steps now to advance the work of the task force.”

The new initiative will involve dedicating additional resources to investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases. Additional prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office as well as additional agents from the FBI and Homeland Security will be assigned to those cases. Investigations and prosecutions will be expanded to include the district’s offices in Springfield and Jefferson City, as well as a new partnership with the neighboring districts of Kansas and the Eastern District of Missouri.

The Phase I Pilot ACTeams will be based in Kansas City, Mo.; Atlanta, Ga.; El Paso, Texas; Memphis, Tenn.; Los Angeles; and Miami, under the leadership of the local U.S. Attorney and the highest-ranking federal investigative agents from the relevant regional FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Labor field offices.

Each ACTeam, which is comprised of federal prosecutors and federal agents from multiple federal enforcement agencies, will implement a law enforcement strategic action plan to combat identified human trafficking threats. The Western District of Missouri’s ACTeam is comprised of all the task force agencies and highlights the federal partnership with the FBI, the Office of Homeland Security Investigations; and the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General and Wage and Hour Division. The ACTeams will focus on developing federal criminal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions to vindicate the rights of human trafficking victims, bring traffickers to justice and dismantle human trafficking networks.

The announcement today follows the conclusion of a competitive, interagency selection process led by the Federal Enforcement Working Group, a collaboration of the Justice Department’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, and FBI; the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit; and the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division and Office of the Inspector General.

On Feb. 1, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis jointly announced the launch of the ACTeam Initiative and the commencement of the competitive interagency selection process.

Human Trafficking Rescue Project

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri launched the Human Trafficking Rescue Project (HTRP) in 2006 to combat human trafficking. The federal task force is comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The task force has also partnered with non-government organizations to provide necessary services for victims of human trafficking.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri has prosecuted more trafficking cases than any other District in the United States. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was the first to utilize the TVPA to address the demand side of human trafficking by also prosecuting the customers of sex trafficking victims. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also broke new ground by being the first to prosecute a parent for trafficking their own child; to charge the act of advertising trafficking victims online; and to utilize the TVPA to prosecute intra-state sex trafficking of children. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was also the first to combine the TVPA with the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and to utilize the newly enacted fraud in foreign labor contracting statute to charge an international trafficking enterprise.

If you have questions about the Human Trafficking Rescue Project, please contact the district’s human trafficking coordinator, Cynthia Cordes, at 816-426-3122. If you have a tip regarding possible human trafficking, please call the toll-free hotline: 1-888-428-7581.

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