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January 23, 2017Washington, DC, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

ICE arrests nearly 2,000 human traffickers in 2016, identifies over 400 victims across the US

WASHINGTON — In Fiscal Year 2016, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 1,952 individuals for human trafficking – the illegal trade and exploitation of people for commercial gain, most commonly in the form of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. From those cases, over 400 trafficking victims were identified and offered critical services.

This year marks the seventh anniversary of January as National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention month. ICE participates in a variety of human trafficking awareness events in January and throughout the year.

“HSI special agents work tirelessly to disrupt criminal trafficking networks, and just as importantly, to assist the victims of this terrible crime,” said Acting ICE Director Daniel H. Ragsdale. “ICE will continue to work with our counterparts at home and abroad to educate the public to recognize signs of trafficking and provide the crucial services needed to aid in the recovery of those impacted by this heinous act.”

While human trafficking can occur in a variety of scenarios and industries, indicators of trafficking activities often look the same across cases. Educating the public to recognize the signs is crucial to identifying victims and bringing traffickers to justice.

Since 2010, HSI has arrested over 7,000 individuals for human trafficking offenses. Examples of HSI human trafficking cases include:

  • HSI San Antonio was contacted by the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) about two human trafficking victims. The victims said they came to the U.S. as domestic workers for an officer in a foreign military, but had not been paid for their services, and were not being provided sufficient food to eat. They added that their employer was in possession of their passports and refused to return them. The victims had also been refused medical care. The perpetrators were indicted on violations 18 USC 1589-Forced Labor- and pled guilty to Visa Fraud and Misprision of a Felony, agreed to pay restitution of $60,000 to each victim, and accepted Judicial Removal.
  • As part of Project Wire Watch, HSI New York and HSI Mexico City conducted an investigation into a sex trafficking organization after interviewing a Mexican female who was trafficked by a member of the organization. The victim provided information that she was smuggled into the United States from Mexico and forced into prostitution by a member of the organization. The victim identified several members of the organization and stated that their modus operandi was to recruit Mexican females, arrange for them to be smuggled across the United States border and subsequently forced them into prostitution. To date, this investigation has resulted in the rescue of 5 victims, 4 minor children reunited with their mothers, 5 criminal arrests, 10 administrative arrests, 4 indictments and 16 search warrants.
  • HSI Phoenix initiated a human trafficking investigation which identified a sex trafficking organization using Thai females posting as escorts in the Phoenix metropolitan area. HSI Agents and DPS Detectives executed search warrants at multiple brothel locations. Based on the information provided by the victims, it is estimated these traffickers earned a combined $1,248,000 a year. Victims were placed with an HSI-partnered non-governmental organization (NGO) to help facilitate recovery, housing and transitioning back into society.
  • HSI Columbus conducted an investigation into a father and son who together trafficked a 17-year old female victim, but separately and on different occasions also trafficked adult victims between Ohio, Kentucky, and Florida. The father often wore a military uniform when he traveled to gain the trust of new girls he was trying to recruit to work for him. The two were sentenced to a combined 282 months in prison.

ICE works with its law enforcement partners to dismantle the global criminal infrastructure engaged in human trafficking. ICE accomplishes this mission by making full use of its authorities and expertise, stripping away assets and profit incentive, collaborating with U.S. and foreign partners to attack networks worldwide and working in partnership with nongovernmental organizations to identify and provide assistance to trafficking victims.

If you notice suspicious activity, please contact ICE through its tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or For more information about the Department of Homeland Security’s overall efforts against human trafficking, please visit