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March 17, 2017Baltimore, MD, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

ICE HSI agents in Maryland fight human trafficking

Photos courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor

BALTIMORE, Md. – Two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were recognized by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for their efforts in preventing human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals are forced to provide labor or services, at a ceremony yesterday held at the Maryland State House.

Special Agent Vaughn Harper and Special Agent Cara Rose, both reporting to the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) regional office in Baltimore, Maryland, were presented with citations after providing key human trafficking prevention training to thousands of individuals in Maryland representing federal, state and local law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, faith-based groups and governmental and non-governmental organizations.

“Human trafficking is a particularly horrific crime where low-income individuals, defenseless children and the most vulnerable of our society are subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation,” said Andre R. Watson, special agent in charge of HSI Baltimore. “Maryland-based HSI agents have developed strategies to crackdown on criminal organizations involved in these crimes in order to protect communities; the recognition of both Agent Harper and Agent Rose is well deserved.”

The HSI Baltimore Human Trafficking Group, of which Harper is affiliated, has produced approximately 70 criminal arrests, 68 indictments and 19 convictions. HSI Baltimore is credited with 58 arrests specifically linked to human trafficking, and the group is responsible for the recovery of 62 suspected human trafficking victims. Harper conducted 22 unique human trafficking-related training events last year, and previously provided similar training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the International Law Enforcement Academies.

Rose, primarily operating out of Ocean City, Maryland, has helped contribute to the 25 arrests, 7 indictments and 10 convictions related to human trafficking in that area. She conducted an investigation into a sex trafficking ring in which members of the criminal organization were forcibly injecting victims with heroin in order to control them through addiction. The main conspirator of that trafficking scheme as sentenced to 145 years in prison, and 13 victims were rescued.

"Making Maryland safer begins with making sure that we have a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and the harm they cause, while also including victims and the community in the process of healing," said Gov. Larry Hogan. "I am very proud of these two agents for the work they are doing to prevent human trafficking in our state, and hope that their actions provide a model for others in Maryland and across the country."

ICE investigations into human trafficking, and the resulting arrests and convictions, have skyrocketed since 2010 by nearly seven times, and HSI collaborates with domestic agencies and foreign countries to identify and provide services to trafficking victims and to coordinate investigations. According to the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Person Report from 2012-2014, primary countries of origin for foreign victims certified by the U.S. government were Thailand, Mexico, Philippines, Haiti, India, Guatemala, China, Korea and the Dominican Republic.

Fifty-five percent of foreign adult victims were labor trafficking victims, of which 70 percent were men and 30 percent were women; 12 percent were adult sex trafficking victims, all of whom were women; and 10 percent were victims of both sex and labor trafficking. Sixty-two percent of foreign child victims were labor trafficking victims, of which half were boys and half were girls; 29 percent were sex trafficking victims, of which 30 percent were boys; and nine percent were victims of both labor and sex trafficking.

If you suspect someone may be the victim of human trafficking or involved in criminal activity related to the crime, then immediately contact the ICE hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or local law enforcement in your area.

Updated: 03/17/2017