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Press Release

Justice Department Announces Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio
Department Strategy Supports National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking

U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the release of the Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

Rooted in the foundational pillars and priorities of the interagency National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which President Biden released on Dec. 3, 2021, the Justice Department's National Strategy is expansive in scope.  It aims to enhance the department's capacity to prevent human trafficking; to prosecute human trafficking cases and to support and protect human trafficking victims and survivors.

“Human trafficking is an insidious crime,” said Attorney General Garland.  “Traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm.  The Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking will bring the full force of the Department to this fight.”

“Addressing human trafficking in Northern Ohio remains a top priority for our office and our law enforcement partners,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler.  “As a united front, law enforcement in Northern Ohio continues to aggressively pursue traffickers and deliver critical aid to victims.  This new plan, combined with grant funding awarded last fiscal year, will help us continue and improve our fight against human trafficking.”

In 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio secured a number of notable convictions and sentences against human traffickers, including:

  • Manish Raj Gupta.  A former Toledo-area physician who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion and illegally dispensing a controlled substance.  Gupta was sentenced to 235 months in prison.
  • Larrien Brown-Austin.  A Canton man who pleaded guilty to participating in a sex trafficking conspiracy that forced multiple women to perform commercial sex acts for profit.  Brown-Austin is scheduled to be sentenced on May 11, 2022.
  • Reuben Rankin.  A Cleveland man who was convicted of assaulting a federal agent with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, sex trafficking of a minor, production of child pornography and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Rankin is scheduled to be sentenced on July 12, 2022.

In addition, to support the victims of human trafficking, various organizations in the Northern District of Ohio were awarded approximately $8.7 million in grant funding this fiscal year from the Department of Justice to provide services and aid, including:

  • $4.4 million awarded to the City of Cleveland and City of Akron to support the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
  • $1 million awarded to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center for services for minor victims of sex trafficking,
  • $600,000 awarded to Promedica Toledo Hospital to train sexual assault nurse examiners.

Among other things, the Justice Department’s multi-year strategy to combat all forms of human trafficking will:

  • Strengthen engagement, coordination and joint efforts to combat human trafficking by prosecutors in all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and by federal law enforcement agents nationwide.
  • Establish federally-funded, locally-led anti-human trafficking task forces that support sustained state law enforcement leadership and comprehensive victim assistance.
  • Step up departmental efforts to end forced labor by increasing attention, resources and coordination in labor trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
  • Enhance initiatives to reduce vulnerability of American Indians and Alaska Natives to violent crime, including human trafficking, and to locate missing children.
  • Develop and implement new victim screening protocols to identify potential human trafficking victims during law enforcement operations and encourage victims to share important information.
  • Increase capacity to provide victim-centered assistance to trafficking survivors, including by supporting efforts to deliver financial restoration to victims.
  • Expand dissemination of federal human trafficking training, guidance and expertise.
  • Advance innovative demand-reduction strategies.

The department’s strategy will be implemented under the direction of the National Human Trafficking Coordinator designated by the Attorney General in accordance with the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017.

If you believe that you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.

To read the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, click here.

Updated February 7, 2022

Human Trafficking