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District Reports

U.S. Attorney's Report to the District

January 2024

Issue # 13

Preventing Human Trafficking

January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness in our community about a devastating crime that denies people the most basic of human rights:  freedom, dignity, and the equal protection of the law.  This month, we in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Department of Justice of which we are a part, reaffirm that vindicating the rights of human trafficking victims and other vulnerable persons is one of our highest priorities. 

To prevent human trafficking, we must first understand what it is—and what it is not.  Human trafficking is a crime of exploitation for labor, services, or commercial sex.  It is distinct from human smuggling and does not require that the victim be moved or transported across a border.  Most human trafficking does not involve forcible abduction or physical restraints such as handcuffs, chains, or blindfolds.  Instead, victims are often lured and compelled through deception, debts, threats, psychological coercion, and addictive drugs.  Some are also physically and sexually assaulted.  And, human trafficking victims include both men and women, boys and girls, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.

As Attorney General Merrick Garland has said, we are bringing the full force of the Department of Justice to the fight against human trafficking.  In the Eastern District of California, our office has a long history of investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases.  Recognizing this, in 2015, the U.S. Departments of Justice, Labor, and Homeland Security named Sacramento as one of six cities across the country to form a new federal task force on all types of human trafficking as part of the national Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam).

For many years our office has prosecuted offenders who traffic children for commercial sex and those who use coercion or force to traffic adult victims for commercial sex, both of which are federal crimes.  Examples of some of these prosecutions in the last ten years include:

  • In 2015, Lonnell McCarter was sentenced to 13 years and one month in prison for trafficking a 13-year-old in Sacramento and Reno, advertising the child for commercial sex and purchasing bus tickets for the minor to travel across state lines.
  • Also in 2015, Shanntaye Ebony Hicks was sentenced to 24 years and four months in prison for recruiting at least four children aged 13 to 17 years old to engage in commercial sex in California and Nevada, targeting vulnerable minors including runaways, providing them with drugs and alcohol, and using threats of violence to prevent them from fleeing.
  • In 2016, Percy Love III was sentenced to 35 years in prison for sex trafficking multiple young adult victims by force and one minor victim, using brutality and intimidation.
  • In 2017, Michael Anthony Holmes was sentenced to 15 years and 8 months in prison for sex trafficking a 15-year-old runaway, transporting her to multiple locations and using threats to have her continue working for him even after he was in jail on other charges.
  • In 2018, Tion Makeise Foster was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison for sex trafficking a 16-year-old he and his co-defendant met online on a social media website.
  • In 2019, Abdul Basier Hashimi was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison for trafficking a 14-year-old he met online on a social media website.
  • In 2020, Christopher Ramonaguilar Lawrence was sentenced to 14 years in prison for sex trafficking a 17-year-old to whom he gave methamphetamine.
  • Also in 2020, Jaquorey Rashawn Carter was sentenced to 14 years in prison for sex trafficking a minor starting when she was only 14 years old.
  • In 2021, Lucious James Roy was sentenced to 17 years and 7 months in prison for conspiring with another person to traffic a 16-year-old he recruited on social media and a 17-year-old he recruited outside a high school.
  • Also in 2021, Angel Jesus Sanchez-Manriquez was sentenced to 11 years and 3 months in prison for sex trafficking a 16-year-old in motels in and around Stockton.
  • In 2022, Robert Pierre Duncan was sentenced to 30 years in prison for conspiring to traffic a 17-year-old in Oakland and San Francisco, including trafficking her after police had rescued her once and authorities had placed her in a group home.

We continue to investigate and prosecute these types of sex trafficking cases involving children and/or coercion.  Additionally, starting in 2014, to combat forced labor trafficking, we joined with the California Attorney General’s Office to put on trainings for federal, state, and local government workers who, as part of their jobs, visit work sites and may be in a position to see signs of forced labor and be able to report it.  Although not as numerous as our sex trafficking cases, the labor trafficking cases we have prosecuted have been impactful and have included the following:

  • In 2020, husband Satish Kartan and wife Sharmistha Barai were each sentenced to 15 years and 8 months in prison for forcing labor from domestic workers they recruited from overseas to work in their home in Stockton.  Kartan and Barai compelled the victims to work up to 18 hours a day with little rest or nourishment, paid them low or no wages after luring them to the U.S. with false promises, and kept them from leaving by threats and physical abuse.  As part of the sentence, the court ordered the couple to pay $15,657 in restitution to three victims, in part to cover back wages and other losses.
  • In 2022, husband Nery Martinez Vasquez and wife Maura Martinez were sentenced to 6 and a half years and three years in prison, respectively, for conspiring to force labor from a total of seven victims at their restaurant and janitorial business in Shasta Lake.  The defendants used coercion to force the victims into working long hours at physically demanding work seven days a week for low to no pay.  They recruited a mother and her two minor daughters to come from Guatemala to work for them, then threatened them with telling immigration authorities they had overstayed their visas and beat the children, all to coerce them to stay and continue working at the businesses.  The defendants also housed the victims in a dilapidated, unheated trailer with no running water.  As part of the sentence, the court ordered the couple to pay $300,000 in restitution to the seven victims.

This month, as part of Human Trafficking Prevention Month, our office filmed a short public service announcement video about how we can all work together to prevent human trafficking.  We placed the video on our office’s website and are distributing it to community leaders and contacts throughout the Eastern District of California.  Human trafficking victims are often reluctant to come forward out of fear or coercion, and others are in isolating circumstances that hamper their ability to reach out for help.  It is critical that we in the community look for signs that someone is being victimized and that we offer encouragement and help. 

If you are a victim of human trafficking or suspect you know someone who is, please call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI, your local police department or sheriff’s office, or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or you can text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.  We can only address a human trafficking situation if we know about it.  Together we can stop human trafficking.

If you would like to communicate with our office, please contact the main number in Sacramento or submit a suggestion by clicking on the button below.  Thank you.


                                                                                    Phillip A. Talbert
                                                                                    United States Attorney


Link to Prior District Reports

Updated February 6, 2024