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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Chicago-area massage parlor operator convicted of human trafficking

CHICAGO – A suburban massage parlor owner was convicted in federal court on Monday of multiple crimes against four foreign women whom he mentally and physically abused while forcing them to work for him between July 2008 and January 2010. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led the investigation in coordination with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force.

The defendant, Alex Campbell, 45, was found guilty of three counts each of forced labor, harboring illegal aliens for financial gain, confiscating passports and other immigration documents to force the victims to work, and one count each of sex trafficking by force and extortion. The jury deliberated for nearly three hours last Thursday afternoon following a three-week trial in U.S. District Court. The trial showed that Campbell, who formerly operated the Day and Night Spa on Northwest Highway in Mt. Prospect, Ill., used violence and threats of violence to force three women from the Ukraine and one from Belarus to work for him without pay and, at times, for little to no subsistence.

Campbell, also known as "Dave" and "Daddy," formerly of Glenview, Ill., remains in federal custody without bond and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life on the sex-trafficking count alone, and prison terms ranging from a maximum of five to 20 years on each of the remaining counts.

A date for sentencing has not yet been set.

"Forced labor and sex trafficking prey upon vulnerable women and are tantamount to modern-day slavery," said Gary J. Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. "The jury has vindicated the rights of four women who suffered mental and physical abuse, sexual exploitation, extortion and threats of deportation, all so Alex Campbell could make a profit. HSI is at the forefront of the government's fight against human trafficking. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat this serious crime."

"I commend the prosecutors and investigators for their dedication and teamwork in working with the victims to bring this case to trial and achieve a successful result," said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

"The Civil Rights Division is committed to bringing human traffickers to justice and to protecting the victims of modern-day slavery," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. These crimes against the individual rights of the most vulnerable members of our society will not be tolerated in the United States."

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, whose sheriff's police initiated the investigation, said "I am extremely proud of the concerted effort and cooperation by both my office and those in the federal agencies that were involved in this case. Human traffickers are in our neighborhoods and harming our communities by using what appear to be legitimate businesses as fronts for their operations. I hope this conviction sends a strong message that these criminal acts will not be tolerated in Cook County.

All four victims testified as government witnesses at trial, as well as co-defendant, Danielle John, 25, who pleaded guilty before trial to two counts of harboring illegal aliens for financial gain and is also awaiting sentencing.

The testimony and evidence showed that Campbell recruited and groomed foreign women without legal status in the United States to become part of his "Family," which he claimed was an international organization that would provide them with support. He offered them jobs in his massage parlor, a place to live, assistance with immigration and lured each of them to enter into a romantic relationship with him. After gaining their trust, he forced the victims to get tattooed with his moniker, which he said made them his property and allowed him to stop paying them. The women were forced to work long hours every day and do as Campbell instructed them, and they were beaten and punished if they disobeyed him.

Trial testimony established that Campbell confiscated passports and identity documents from three of the victims, as well as harbored and transported them to ensure their continued labor. Campbell forced one victim to engage in commercial sex acts with customers at other massage parlors, but not at the Day and Night Spa, which testimony showed he operated "cleanly" to avoid problems with law enforcement. He extorted another victim to pay him more than $25,000 to leave the "Family" by threatening to send a sexually-explicit video recording to her parents in Belarus.

HSI's Victims Assistance Program helps to coordinate services in support of human trafficking victims. In April 2009, ICE was recognized for its commitment to assisting victims of crime with a Federal Service Award from the U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Victims' Service Awards program.

In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched the Blue Campaign. The Blue Campaign, named for "the thin blue line" of law enforcement, is an outreach effort to bring public awareness to the crime of human trafficking through education and reporting guidelines.

Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 or ICE's toll-free tip line at 866-DHS-2ICE. Individuals may also report information online by visiting www.ICE.gov/tips.