SIOUX FALLS - January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. To commemorate the month, U.S. Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell renewed the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s commitment to bringing traffickers to justice, assisting trafficked victims, and enhancing public awareness through community outreach.
Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of a person for labor, services, or commercial sex, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion that is physical and/or psychological. The exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion is used by the trafficker.
“Human trafficking does not adhere to social or educational boundaries—it can happen to anyone,” said U.S. Attorney Ramsdell. “That’s why my office is committed to working alongside our partners in law enforcement to prevent human trafficking and to bring offenders to justice.”
To enhance awareness and educate the community about human trafficking, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has released a public service announcement, available here, about how to identify potential trafficking situations and where to report suspected trafficking activity.
Recent Human Trafficking Prosecutions
In the last year alone, the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s anti-trafficking efforts resulted in notable prosecutions that have led to federal charges, convictions, and prison sentences against individual traffickers:
United States v. Daniel Kubica: On March 23, 2023, Daniel Kubica, 39, of Chicago, Illinois, was charged with multiple federal offenses relating to sex trafficking of women in the Black Hills and elsewhere. Kubica is charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion; benefitting from sex trafficking; and using a facility of interstate commerce in aid of a racketeering enterprise. Between August 31, 2022, and September 29, 2022, Kubica facilitated an illegal commercial sex operation, through which at least three females in the Black Hills area, and other women in the United States, engaged in commercial sexual activity through Kubica’s use of force, threats, and coercion. Kubica is currently scheduled for a federal jury trial on March 26, 2024.
United States v. Gordon Weston: On January 10, 2024, a federal jury in Rapid City, South Dakota, convicted Gordon Weston, 57, of Oglala, South Dakota, of Enticement of a Minor Using the Internet and Commercial Sex Trafficking. Weston was indicted by a federal grand jury in September of 2021. Weston was employed as the Activities Coordinator at the Emergency Youth Shelter in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, from 2009 to 2021. Weston commonly requested juvenile females who stayed at the shelter to be “friends” with him on Facebook after they had left the shelter. Weston contacted at least one juvenile female and offered her money and transportation in exchange for sexual encounters with him. Weston is awaiting sentencing.
United States v. John Ray Heath: In March of 2023, John Ray Heath, 52, of Rapid City, South Dakota, was indicted for using the internet to attempt to sexually exploit a minor. The charge related to Heath attempting to meet an individual he believed to be a 14-year-old female for sex. The individual was actually an undercover law enforcement officer engaged in proactive policing of sex offenders. During the investigation, the law enforcement officer discovered that Heath was sex trafficking a minor and sexually exploiting multiple other females in the Rapid City area. Heath was thereafter indicted for sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion; sexual exploitation of a minor; enticement of a minor using the internet, and other federal sex offenses. Heath pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor and is scheduled for sentencing on March 1, 2024.
United States v. Odarie Massiah: On August 2, 2023, Odarie Massiah, 33, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was charged with Commercial Sex Trafficking of an adult female by force, threats of force, fraud and coercion between July 1, 2020, and August 8, 2022. The defendant is alleged to have benefited financially from the commercial sex acts in which he caused his adult victim to engage. He is scheduled for trial on February 20, 2024.
United States v. Richard Alan Kucera & Ivy Rose Heron: On November 1, 2023, Richard Alan Kucera, 65, and Ivy Rose Heron, 35, both of Winner, South Dakota, were charged with three counts of Sex Trafficking of Minors between April 3, 2019, and July 31, 2021. Kucera was also charged with three additional counts of Producing Child Pornography. Both defendants are scheduled for trial on March 19, 2024.
United States v. Sheyenne Rodriguez: On August 17, 2023, Sheyenne Rodriguez, 41, of Wakpala, South Dakota, was indicted for sex trafficking of a child and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. In March of 2021, Rodriguez is alleged to have recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, and provided a minor to engage in a commercial sex act in the District of South Dakota and elsewhere. Rodriguez is currently scheduled for a federal jury trial on June 4, 2024.
United States v. Zeng Quiang Yang: On May 3, 2022, Zeng Quiang Yang, 46, of Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, was charged with Unlawful Employment of Aliens. He pleaded guilty to the charge. Between January of 2019 and May of 2020, Yang was the manager of a restaurant in Huron, South Dakota. During that time frame, Yang knowingly employed unauthorized aliens. On December 11, 2023, he was sentenced to one year of probation.
United States v. William Godoy: On December 6, 2022, a superseding indictment was filed, charging William Godoy, 33, of Guatemala, with Illegal Reentry After Deportation; two counts of Trafficking with Respect to Slavery; two counts of Harboring/Concealing Illegal Aliens; and two counts of Encouraging or Inducing an Alien to come to, enter, or reside in the US. Godoy is scheduled for trial on February 13, 2024.
Online Sex Trafficking Operations: In collaboration with several law enforcement partners, there were two joint online sex-trafficking operations in 2023, as part of Project Safe Childhood. The undercover sex trafficking operations target internet predators and illustrate proactive efforts by law enforcement to apprehend would-be exploiters. Via electronic devices and social apps, the perpetrators typically negotiate a time and place to meet the minor to engage in unlawful sex acts. When they arrive at the pre-determined location to meet the minor, they are instead met by law enforcement agents and placed under arrest.
The first operation ran from March 3, 2023, through March 8, 2023, and resulted in the arrest and indictment of six men from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. All six men were charged with Attempted Enticement of a Minor Using the Internet. The second sting operation ran August 4, 2023, through August 10, 2023, during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. As a result of this operation, four Rapid City, South Dakota, men and one Box Elder, South Dakota, man were arrested. Four were charged with Attempted Enticement of a Minor Using the Internet and one was charged with Attempted Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
If you believe you are the victim of human trafficking or have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or send a text to 233733. You can also submit a tip online, through the FBI Field Office at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or through your local law enforcement agency.