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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
02/04/2014

Indiana law enforcement task force announces first human trafficking federal charges

INDIANAPOLIS – A local man, who operated a prostitution ring in the Indianapolis area, faces charges of sex trafficking women and girls, including a 12-year-old, announced Joseph H. Hogsett, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.

These criminal charges resulted from an investigation conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), and the FBI.

Jerry Mitchell, aka "Tre da Great," 24, of Indianapolis, was charged in a nine-count federal indictment on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking a child, transporting a child to engage in prostitution, and producing child pornography. This indictment follows Mitchell’s arrest by Indianapolis law enforcement and the filing of charges by Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. The arrest and indictment resulted from a task force between federal and local authorities to combat human trafficking and child exploitation.

"The scourge of human trafficking is a global crisis, but the fight against modern day slavery begins right here at home," Hogsett said. "That is why we have teamed up with law enforcement partners across this state and around the country to combat the types of horrific abuse that are alleged in this case."

The Investigation and Allegations

According to the federal indictment and state probable-cause affidavit, an investigation into Mitchell’s alleged criminal activity began in July. IMPD officers were flagged down by a woman who said that her niece, a recent runaway, had returned home and reported she had been sexually assaulted. Further investigation identified a suspect named "Tre," an alleged alias of Mitchell. The investigation also uncovered information indicating that Mitchell was operating a prostitution operation in and around the near north side of Indianapolis.

The indictment alleges that from May through June 27, Mitchell engaged in sex trafficking by means of force, fraud or coercion. The allegations include female victims between the ages of 19 and 21, and minors 17, 16 and 12 years old.

It is further alleged that Mitchell transported the minors to facilitate their prostitution activities, and that on a number of occasions he sexually assaulted these female minors. The federal indictment alleges that on June 22, Mitchell also made a video recording of the sexual abuse of the 16-year-old female victim.

Mitchell had an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Indianapolis Feb. 4 and was ordered detained pending trial. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to life in federal prison. Under federal law, the defendant would be required to serve a minimum of 85 percent of his prison term within a correctional facility.

Joint Task Force on Human Trafficking

This case resulted from a collaborative investigation spearheaded by the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans (IPATH), one of 42 task forces nationwide funded by the Department of Justice to address the issue of human trafficking. IPATH was created in 2006 and is chaired by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana and the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. The group meets regularly to collaborate on cases and projects, provide additional training to law enforcement, and raise awareness in the community about human trafficking.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Gayle L. Helart, who is prosecuting the case for the government, this case would not have been possible without significant law enforcement assistance from HSI, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and the FBI.

In addition, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry has announced that he will continue to prosecute a pending felony child molestation case against Mitchell in Marion County Superior Court. In 2011, Curry’s office prosecuted Indiana’s first conviction under the state’s revamped human trafficking law.

Two law enforcement partners released statements in response to Tuesday’s announcement.

"The collaborative efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement partners to hold traffickers accountable and serve victims are essential," said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller in a statement. "Sex trafficking – especially when it involves children who are being trafficked on the Internet – requires all of our efforts and I applaud U.S. Attorney Hogsett's leadership in this case. Human trafficking isn’t just a problem elsewhere in the world, it happens right here in Indiana."

"Few crimes strike at the heart of a community the way human trafficking does," said Gary Woolf, resident agent in charge of HSI Indianapolis, in his statement. "Traffickers who prey on the emotional and physical vulnerability of their victims in the name of making a profit will be held accountable for their actions. HSI, along with our law enforcement partners in Indiana, will continue to aggressively investigate human trafficking to identify and rescue its innocent victims."

Information, indictments, and criminal complaints are only a charge and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.