The District of Minnesota is unique. The Twin Cities—the largest metropolitan area in the Upper Midwest—lies at its heart with a major international airport, a popular tourist destination in the Mall of America, headquarters for more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, and multiple major league sports teams and convention venues. In addition, a national border with Canada, an international shipping port in Duluth, and major interstates provide for the rapid transportation of goods and people. Greater Minnesota includes small farms and major agribusiness, seasonal resorts, meat-processing plants and other manufacturing and industry. The District boasts vast Indian reservations, and Minnesota has been a magnet for refugee settlement and relocation of sizable Hmong, Somali, Ethiopian, Liberian, and other communities. As a result of the District’s unique geography, diverse population, and mix of agribusiness and other industry, there are multiple human trafficking vulnerabilities.
In response to these threats, our Office, in partnership with the St. Paul Police Department, leads the Vick Task Force. Together, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and NGOs work collaboratively to identify victims of sex trafficking, provide victim-centered services, and disrupt such trafficking through the aggressive prosecution of traffickers and those who drive demand by purchasing commercial sex.
Some of the cases we have successfully prosecuted include:
- Tieu Tran pleaded guilty in March 2015 to forced labor trafficking. Tran owned a nail salon in Mankato, to which she recruited a woman from Vietnam using the false promises of legal immigration and a high-paying job. In reality, Tran smuggled the victim and two other Vietnamese nationals across the southern U.S.-Mexico border, imposed a significant debt upon the victim and forced the victim to pay down the smuggling debt by working at Tran’s son’s Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Saigon, in Mankato.
- Ming Guo and Bijian Weng pleaded guilty in March, 2015 to hiring and employing unlawful aliens, who are often vulnerable to exploitation. Guo and Weng employed at least 17 individuals who were not lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States. The defendants did not ask the employees to fill out paperwork, including I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms, and they paid the employees in cash “off the books.”
Commercial Sex Trafficking
- Dontre McHenry pleaded guilty in October 2014 to recruiting and sex trafficking teenage girls in Minnesota. Throughout 2013 and early 2014, McHenry recruited at least three teenage girls and forced them to engage in commercial sex for his own financial benefit. When McHenry was arrested, police discovered handwritten notes and a book entitled “Pimpology: The 48 Laws of the Game.” The handwritten notes included references to trafficking and prostitution, as well as questions that referred to recruiting and coercing minors.
- Markeace Canty prostituted a young child throughout Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Though his exploitation caused immeasurable physical and psychological harm to the victim, Canty callously spent the profits on jewelry and a flat-screen T.V. He was sentenced in August 2014 to 25 years in federal prison.
- Napoleon Long transported a 17-year-old girl from Minnesota to Colorado with the intent of profiting from forcing a minor into prostitution. United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger articulated that defendants who profit by using underage girls in commercial sexual activity will be prosecuted aggressively. Long was sentenced in June 2014 to 180 months in federal prison.