Department of Justice announces update on combating human trafficking; Montana task force aiding in investigations, prosecutions
BILLINGS -- Montana, through a multi-agency task force on human trafficking, supports Department of Justice efforts to raise awareness about the activity and to fight this violent crime, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said today.
The Department of Justice dedicated January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, as proclaimed by President Trump in December 2018.
In 2018, the Department of Justice fought human trafficking by investigating and prosecuting traffickers, dismantling transnational human trafficking networks, enhancing victim identification and protection of victims of trafficking and funding and providing domestic and international anti-trafficking programs.
“Human trafficking is a horrible crime against the human dignity of the victims, and it can have no place in our society,” Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker said. “But the Department of Justice is taking action against the traffickers. In fiscal year 2018, the Department of Justice secured over 500 human trafficking convictions—an increase from the previous year,” Whitaker said.
“Human trafficking, which exploits and enslaves both adults and juvenile victims, is happening in Montana,” U.S. Attorney Alme said. “However, the collaborative work of the Montana task force in sharing and discussing leads, trends and operations is key to bringing human traffickers to justice and to aiding victims. If anyone in Montana sees any evidence of human trafficking they should bring it to the attention of law enforcement right away,” he said.
In 2018, the Montana Human Trafficking Task Force assisted in the prosecution and convictions of four human trafficking related cases. The cases included Terrance Edwards, who was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for convictions on sex trafficking and other charges; co-defendant Francine Granados, who was sentenced to two years in federal prison for witness tampering in the Edwards case; and Christina Jackson, who was sentenced to five years of federal probation for conviction of transportation of adults. In Missoula County, Walter Hill is awaiting trial in state district court on charges of promoting prostitution. In 2015, Hill was revoked on violations for a previous conviction for promoting prostitution.
The Montana Human Trafficking Task Force is composed of federal, state and other law enforcement agencies that meet quarterly to discuss trends in human trafficking in the state, operations, tactics and active cases. There are about 20 members, representing the US Attorney’s Office, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Indian Affairs, IRS, the Montana Department of Justice, representatives from the Fort Peck, Ft. Belknap and Blackfeet tribes and the Missoula Police Department. The task force works in collaboration with numerous private-public task forces throughout the state. The task force was created in 2012 and its membership has evolved.
Montana communities with regional task forces include Yellowstone, Missoula, Flathead, Gallatin and Cascade counties. Anyone interested in working on community strategies or assisting victims of human trafficking should reach out to their regional task force, U.S. Attorney Alme said.