Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking

Every day, HSI agents around the globe work to uncover, dismantle and disrupt human trafficking. They come face to face with the worst of humanity – traffickers profiting off the forced labor and commercial sex of their victims using physical and sexual abuse, threats of harm and deportation, false promises, economic and psychological manipulation, and cruelty.

Human trafficking victims have been found in communities nationwide in the agriculture, hospitality, restaurant, domestic work and other industries, as well as in prostitution that is facilitated online, on the street, or in businesses fronting for prostitution such as massage parlors. Overseas forced labor can be used to produce the consumer goods that are in our homes and workplaces. The victims are men, women and children of all ages and may include U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Many of them may have thought they had found a good paying job or a better life, only to have their hopes and dreams dashed and placed into modern day slavery.

In fiscal year 2019, HSI initiated 1,024 investigations with a nexus to human trafficking and recorded 2,197 arrests,1,113 indictments, and 691 convictions; 428 victims were identified and assisted. HSI continues to make human trafficking cases a top investigative priority by connecting victims to resources to help restore their lives and bringing traffickers to justice.

Forced Labor, Domestic Servitude

The HSI Effort

HSI as an agency is first and foremost about the people it is here to protect and serve, therefore identifying and assisting victims is paramount. As a result, HSI employs a victim-centered approach, where equal value is placed on the identification, rescue, and stabilization of victims, as well as the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.

HSI has dedicated human trafficking investigative groups in each of the Special Agent in Charge field offices with subject matter experts in outlying offices as well. Our Special Agents proactively identify cross-border criminal trafficking organizations and prioritize investigations to minimize the risk they posed to national security and public safety.

An integral part of the HSI effort are the Victim Assistance Specialists. They ensure victims have access to the rights and services to which they are entitled by law, as well as the assistance they need so that they can participate actively and fully in the criminal justice system process. Additionally, Forensic Interview Specialists conduct victim-centered and legally defensible forensic interviews.

 

Also within HSI but serving the entire law enforcement community, the Parole and Law Enforcement Programs Unit manages all requests from law enforcement for Continued Presence, ensuring that foreign nationals identified as victims of human trafficking who are potential witnesses can remain lawfully in the United States and be authorized to work.

Overseas, HSI investigations are carried out through ICE Attaché offices in conjunction with host country law enforcement partners. HSI leads international trainings in order to build the capacity to conduct human trafficking investigations with host country authorities. Additionally, HSI investigates and works closely with CBP to share information regarding the possible entry into the United States of goods produced by prison labor, forced labor, or indentured labor under penal sanctions; any public information that could facilitate enforcement can be emailed to ICE.ForcedLabor@ice.dhs.gov.

Human Smuggling & Trafficking

Partners

Task Forces: HSI participates in more than 120 human trafficking task forces nationwide, alongside other federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement. HSI also works with other investigative authorities, such as code inspectors, labor officials, and child welfare investigators who are likely to come across trafficking in the course of their work. Essential partners in the task force effort are victim services organizations who provide case management and social services that help to stabilize victims. Furthermore, HSI participates in the federal Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams along with the Departments of Justice and Labor and FBI to proactively coordinate and plan significant federal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions.

Victim Service Providers and Community Based Organizations: Victim service providers offer comprehensive and culturally appropriate services to victims, including shelter, food, clothing, medical and mental health care, job training and employment placement, legal counsel, interpretation and more depending on the unique needs of the victim. HSI also works closely with community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, workers’ rights groups, migrant and refugee organizations and others to ensure the community is informed of trafficking indicators to provide tips and referrals for investigations.

The Blue Campaign: The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to combat human trafficking. Through the Blue Campaign, DHS raises public awareness about human trafficking, leveraging partnerships to educate the public to recognize human trafficking and report suspected instances. The Blue Campaign also offers training to law enforcement and others to increase detection and investigation of human trafficking, and to protect victims and bring suspected traffickers to justice. To view all available Blue Campaign resources, please visit their resources page.

Federal Government: Committed to a whole of government approach, multiple federal agencies are engaged in human trafficking prevention, prosecution and protection efforts. Specific to enforcement, HSI works closely with prosecutors at the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Offices as well as investigators at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Foreign Law Enforcement: The success of HSI's international human trafficking operations are dependent on support from foreign law enforcement partners. Some trafficking investigations begun in the United States will link to individuals and networks in other countries, oftentimes where the victims were originally recruited. HSI bolsters these relationships with human trafficking training to foreign law enforcement partners through the International Law Enforcement Academies worldwide.

Human Trafficking - A Global Problem

Select Cases

Forced Labor – Ralph Colamussi, of East Northport, NY pleaded guilty to charges of forced labor of employees at the Thatched Cottage, a catering and wedding venue in Centerport, New York. When sentenced, Colamussi faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as restitution and a fine of up to $250,000. Colamussi formerly owned and operated the Thatched Cottage. At the plea proceeding, he admitted that workers were brought from the Philippines to the United States on H-2B visas that expired shortly after their arrival here. Once their H-2B visas expired, Colamussi coached workers how to apply for student visas by fraudulently representing that they intended to attend school full-time and had sufficient resources to support themselves during school. He admitted that at times, he deposited funds into the workers’ bank accounts to give the appearance of ample resources and then withdrew the funds once the student visas were approved. Colamussi further admitted that when workers objected to performing certain jobs, working consecutive shifts or not being paid promptly, he threatened to report them to immigration authorities.

Sex Trafficking – Blakemore — who goes by the street name “Macknificent” — may have trafficked hundreds of women across the United States between 2011 and 2018. To enforce the rules, Blakemore allegedly slapped, punched, choked, and kicked his victims, and occasionally burned them with cigarettes. After one victim expressed a desire to leave his organization and have a family, Blakemore allegedly body-slammed her into an air conditioning unit, leaving her bruised, bloodied, and with severe back injuries. The victim told agents she believed Blakemore wanted to “make an example” in front of the other victims so they’d be afraid to talk about a life outside his control. Blakemore allegedly appointed certain victims “group leaders” tasked with managing the trafficking organization’s business, including posting commercial sex ads online and booking women’s cross-country travel to engage in commercial sex as far away as New York and Hawaii. Blakemore even encouraged women to tattoo his street name on their bodies to signal their loyalty to him. If convicted, Blakemore faces a sentence of up to life in prison. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melanie Smith, Nicole Dana and Cara Foos Pierce, Northern District of Texas.

Domestic Servitude – Satish Kartan and his wife Sharmistha Barai hired workers from overseas to perform domestic labor in their home in Stockton, CA. In advertisements seeking workers on the internet and India-based newspapers, the defendants made false claims regarding the wages and the duties of employment. Then, once the workers arrived at the defendants’ Stockton residence, Kartan and Barai forced them to work 18 hours a day with limited rest and nourishment. Few of them were paid any wage. The defendants kept their domestic workers from leaving, and induced them to keep working for them, by threatening them, by creating an atmosphere of fear, control, and disempowerment, and at times by physically hitting or burning them. The defendants also threatened several other victims to coerce them to keep working, including by telling the victims they would report them to police or immigration authorities if they tried to leave. Throughout the victims’ time in the defendants’ home, they were deprived of sleep and food. Each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Human trafficking fugitive on ICE's top 10 list extradited to US from Mexico – Raul Granados-Rendon, 30, was extradited to the United States on Jan. 27 and was arraigned at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Granados-Rendon faces a 21-count indictment charging him with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy involving predicate acts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; sex trafficking of minors; interstate prostitution; alien smuggling and related offenses. As set forth in extradition affidavits and other court papers, between October 1998 and June 2011, members of the Granados sex trafficking organization, including Raul Granados-Rendon and others, illegally smuggled young women into the United States where they were forced to work as prostitutes in New York City and elsewhere in the United States. The organization collected profits from the victims’ activities. When victims refused to work or resisted members of the organization beat and sexually assaulted them, and threatened the victims’ family members in Mexico, including the victims’ children. HSI special agents have identified and rescued over 20 additional victims, all Mexican nationals, and arrested over a dozen additional traffickers or smugglers, all members or associates of the Granados family. Several victims were sexually assaulted by their traffickers, while others were physically assaulted.  All the victims said the traffickers threatened to harm their family members.

Other Cases

Resources

 

Brochure: Information for Victims of Crime

Brochure: Information for Victims of Human Trafficking

Immigration Relief for Victims of Human Trafficking and Other Crimes – This two-page fact sheet informs law enforcement officials and answers frequently asked questions on Continued Presence through HSI and U and T visas through USCIS.

U and T Visa Law Enforcement Certification Resource Guide – When immigrant crime victims apply to USCIS for a U or T Visa, USCIS requests that law enforcement provide information regarding the crime and victim’s cooperation with law enforcement. This resource guide encourages submission of the requisite form for each visa application, answers frequently asked questions, and gives guidance on how to complete the form.

Brochure: Continued Presence – Law enforcement may request Continued Presence for victims of human trafficking who are potential witnesses to remain in the U.S. temporarily with work authorization during the ongoing investigation into the human trafficking crimes committed against them.

DHS Blue Campaign Resources – Fact sheets, indicator cards, shoe cards, posters, and trainings.

 

Most Wanted

For full information about the individuals below, visit their respective profiles on the Most Wanted: Human Trafficking/Smuggling page. 

WARNING: Do not attempt to apprehend any subject. If you have information about the whereabouts of these fugitives, immediately contact your local ICE office (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or call the national hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (TTY for hearing impaired: 802-872-6196) as soon as possible!

Last Reviewed/Updated: 12/12/2019