The D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in 2004 to increase the prosecution of traffickers while identifying and serving the victims of this horrific crime. In 2004, the Task Force became one of 42 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) trafficking grant recipients. Link to grant announcement:
The Four Main Task Force Goals
- To facilitate a more coordinated anti-trafficking effort in the D.C. area through protocol development, extensive community outreach, proactive investigations, law enforcement training, intelligence sharing, and more formalized partnerships between law enforcement organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
- To identify citizen, resident and transnational victims of both sex and labor trafficking.
- To provide comprehensive services to trafficking victims.
- To increase the prosecution of traffickers.
The use of force, threat of force, fraud or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport, provide or obtain any person for labor or commercial sex or to cause a person under 18 to engage in a commercial sex act.
Task Force Membership
Membership is open to any D.C. metropolitan area law enforcement agency or non-governmental organization involved in anti-trafficking activities. Below is a list of active members with a link to their website:
D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, Special Liaison Unit (SLU) - The SLU is comprised of the Asian Liaison, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Liaison, Gay and Lesbian Liaison and the Latino Liaison Units
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit
Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243)
Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force- Contact Jessica Johnson
Representative D.C. Prosecutions
United States v. Linwood Barnill
In October 2014, Linwood Barnhill was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of pandering a minor and one count of possession of child pornography. MPD officers investigating a missing 16 year-old girl located her at the defendant’s residence in Washington D.C. During the investigation, law enforcement learned that the defendant had recruited the juvenile, as well as additional juvenile girls, to engage in prostitution. The defendant often recruited the juveniles in public places including bus stops and malls, asking if they were interested in modeling. The defendant then took the juveniles to his apartment, where he took photographs of them. The defendant then attempted to arrange for “dates” in which the plan was for the juveniles to engage in commercial sex for money. At the time of the offenses but unbeknownst to the victims, the defendant was a sworn officer with the Metropolitan Police Department.
United States v. Jason Whren
In September 2014, Jason Whren was sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing and prostituting a 15 year-old girl he had lured from the Pacific Northwest for purposes of prostitution. The defendant met the victim on Facebook and enticed her to travel to D.C. Upon her arrival, the defendant immediately began sexually abusing the victim and forcing her to engage in prostitution. Whren’s crimes were ultimately discovered by undercover officers with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Narcotics and Special Investigation Division, Human Trafficking Unit, who were conducting an operation to locate child trafficking victims in the District of Columbia. The defendant pleaded guilty to first degree sexual abuse of a child and pandering of a minor.
United States v. John Burrell Crist
In June 2014, John Burrell Crist was sentenced to 16 months in prison for after pleading guilty to two felony counts of pandering. The defendant had posted ads on Backpage.com, soliciting for his alleged escort business. The victim travelled to D.C. to meet the defendant, who ended up turning violent against her, taking her identification and possessions, and taking all of her money while forcing her to prostitute. The defendant came to the attention of the Metropolitan Police Department after beating the victim in a parking lot in April 2014.
United States v. Dominque Bell et al.
In October, 2012, defendants Dominque Bell and Candice Ponder were sentenced to seven and four years in prison, respectively, after pleading guilty to one count each of pandering, inducing, or compelling a minor to engage in prostitution. On June 22, 2012, members of the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes members of the FBI and MPD, had conducted a proactive child sexual exploitation investigation at a location in Northwest Washington. This operation was part of a national initiative, called Operation Cross Country VI, in which law enforcement officers contacted individuals advertised on predicated prostitution related websites in an effort to recover sexually exploited minors. The task force identified a website that appeared to advertise sexual services by a very young female. They contacted the number on the ad and negotiated a price with Ponder for the minor and another female prostitute to come to the Northwest Washington location. A few hours later, two teenagers knocked on the door to the hotel room. They were recovered and interviewed by law enforcement. The task force members learned that the teenagers, who were 16 and 19, were victims of human trafficking orchestrated by Bell and Ponder. During the period of time that the teenagers were being trafficked by Bell and Ponder, they traveled with them to multiple jurisdictions throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area providing sexual services to male clients in exchange for money. The proceeds of these sexual acts would be turned over to Bell and Ponder.
Bell and Ponder had provided strict instructions to the victims to lie to law enforcement regarding their names and ages if caught, and threatened to harm them if they cooperated with law enforcement against them. In addition, the defendants provided the teenagers with marijuana and ecstasy pills between “dates”. Bell was always present in the vehicle during the “dates,” and carried both a handgun and a semi-automatic firearm with a scope attached to use for protection or intimidation during the course of the incidents.
United States v. Robert Braithwaite et al.
In December 2011, Robert Braithwaite was sentenced to 10 years in prison on federal charges of sex trafficking of children and other offenses. The defendant had encountered the victim, a 14 year-old girl who had run away from home, in Washington D.C. Braithwaite, along with Tavia Crudup, his co-defendant and the “bottom” in his trafficking operation, transported the victim to numerous places in D.C. and Maryland for purposes of prostitution, instructed her how to engage in prostitution, told her how much to charge for certain sexual acts, and required her to hand over the proceeds from each “trick” after each transaction
On May 31, 2011, the victim was picked up by astute Metropolitan Police officers for truancy when the officers identified the victim as too young to be walking the streets late at night. An investigation then led police to Brathwaite, who was located along with Crudup in a Lexus sport utility vehicle close to where the child was out walking. Law enforcement officers later executed a search warrant and found a fully loaded semi-automatic firearm in the vehicle. In the weeks that followed, Crudup destroyed evidence and talked with Brathwaite about ways to obstruct evidence in the case. Both plead guilty, and Crudup was sentenced to one year of incarceration.
If you have any questions about the Task Force, please contact Coordinator, Assistant United States Attorney Amy Zubrensky. (Amy.Zubrensky@usdoj.gov)
DC HTTF Web Site Disclaimer Statement
Links to Other Sites
The DC HTTF provides links to other websites as a convenience to its visitors. The inclusion of a link on this website does not constitute an official endorsement, guarantee or approval by the DC HTTF.
The DC HTTF neither endorses, has any responsibility for, nor exercises any control over the member organizations' views or the accuracy of the information on other websites.
Trafficking Victims and Witnesses please contact:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation:
601 4th Street NW
Washington, DC 20535
Phone: (202) 278-2000
Fax: (202) 278-2478
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
SAC Washington, DC
2675 Prosperity Ave
Fairfax, VA 22031
Main (703) 285-6700
Fax (703) 285-6709
Non-Governmental Organization Hotlines:
National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Multi-Lingual Hotline, Operated by Polaris Project