NEW YORK – A father and son who headed a domestic sex trafficking organization were among individuals charged and arrested for sex trafficking, money laundering and promoting prostitution. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assisted the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office Human Trafficking Program and Major Economic Crimes Bureau with the investigation.
The charges include a multi-count indictment against Vincent George Sr. (George Sr.), 55, and his son, Vincent George Jr. (George Jr.), 33, for sex trafficking, money laundering and promoting prostitution. On April 6, 2012, those defendants, along with Grip Entertainment, a company created by George Jr. in part to provide a seemingly legitimate business through which the organization laundered sex trafficking proceeds, were arraigned in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Six livery drivers were indicted on charges of promoting prostitution. Individuals who paid for the services of the prostituted women are expected to be charged in the coming days.
"Criminal organizations thrive on profit, and falsely believe they can hide their illicit capital in legitimate businesses," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. "HSI's Asset Identification and Removal Group is an effective tool to identify and seize money, vehicles, real estate and other assets that are the illegitimate gains of all criminal activity."
"This was not your typical father and son business. Vincent George Sr. and Vincent George Jr. exploited women, transporting them from Pennsylvania to johns in Midtown Manhattan," said Raymond W. Kelly, commissioner of the NYPD. "I commend the NYPD's Vice Enforcement Division, the Manhattan DA's Office and federal investigators for shutting down both the johns and the Georges."
"Prostitution is not a glamorous business, contrary to how it is depicted in the media and popular culture," said Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., district attorney of New York County. "Prostituted women, men and children are often physically abused, psychologically coerced and fearful of reporting their abuse to authorities. Similar to what we see in domestic violence cases, these victims are often emotionally and economically dependent upon their abusers, and remain silent as their worlds grow smaller and more dangerous. However, through the use of a variety of investigative tools, we have been able to pierce this silence and seek to hold accountable those who facilitated the success of this criminal operation. Along with our partners in law enforcement and the advocate community, we've made it easier for prostituted individuals to report crime and obtain services. It is part of an evolving approach that my office's Human Trafficking Program is bringing to this issue, and one that addresses the modern day realities in prostitution and trafficking cases."
According to court documents, the women who are alleged to have been prostituted by George Sr. and George Jr. have for years been coming into Manhattan from Queens and Allentown, Pa. The women solicited clients at various upscale hotel bars and outside of strip clubs, and distributed business cards under fake names offering their services as "professional masseuses."
As is typical in domestic sex trafficking cases, the trafficked victims were required to turn over all prostitution proceeds directly to their traffickers, who doled out only a few dollars a night to buy food and other necessities. As a result, the women had no control over their finances, making prostituted victims essentially helpless if they were to attempt to leave the operation.
The women performed sex acts for money in hotels, apartments and the backseats of cars; charging between $200 and $500 per customer. Livery cab drivers also arranged for and profited from the prostitution services between their passengers and the trafficking victims.
Both George Sr. and George Jr. employed other forms of psychological manipulation and domination in an effort to maintain their control over the prostituted victims. For example, they branded victims with tattoos depicting their street names, and at least one of the women was tattooed with a bar code as well. George Sr. and George Jr. are alleged to have psychologically abused their victims, by first demeaning them and later appearing to reward them with offers of love and affection.
George Sr. and George Jr. are charged with regularly threatening their victims with physical violence for infractions, such as being late or not bringing in enough money. The victims were given quotas of money they were required to earn, and berated if they fell short. The traffickers are accused of laundering the money the women earned for them by converting the cash into United States Postal Money Orders and by laundering it through Grip Entertainment, a corporate entity they controlled and used to disguise and conceal the illegal source of the criminal proceeds.
In coordination with the Pennsylvania State Police, George Sr. and George Jr. were arrested together in a vehicle while transporting a young woman to Pennsylvania from Upstate New York to work for their operation.
As part of this investigation, HSI, along with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, and the NYPD, seized 10 vehicles, three houses in Allentown, Pa., and more than $200,000 from bank accounts, all related to this operation. The district attorney's office is pursuing forfeiture of these and other assets in partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and HSI.