The guilty pleas, which were accepted by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith, were announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island Peter F. Neronha; Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Boston; and Warwick Police Chief Colonel Stephen McCartney.
"Many people are unaware that this form of modern day slavery still occurs in the United States," said Special Agent Foucart. Foucart oversees ICE HSI throughout New England. "While we can't erase the suffering these two women experienced, by aggressively investigating and prosecuting these cases, ICE HSI and our law enforcement partners are sending a powerful warning about the consequences facing those responsible for such heinous acts."
At Pope's change of plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly told the court that in December 2009, Pope drove the women from Indianapolis to a hotel in Warwick, R.I., and checked in with the intent to solicit customers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The next day, Pope left one of the women at the hotel after assaulting her, prompting her to contact Warwick Police. That evening, Pope was located at a hotel in Windsor Locks, Conn., near Bradley Airport, and arrested by ICE HSI special agents on a federal arrest warrant.
Wales, who remained in Indianapolis, scheduled appointments for the women and relayed the information to Pope in Rhode Island via text messages. She was arrested in Arizona in February.
U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented, "As unbelievable as it may seem, in the shadows of modern society, there are still those who traffic in the lives of others for profit. This office, together with our federal, state and local partners, stands committed to protecting and seeking justice for the victims of these human trafficking crimes, typically women and children."
Pope is scheduled to be sentenced on April 29, 2011.
Earlier this month, President Obama announced that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. "Human trafficking is a global travesty that takes many forms. Whether forced labor or sexual trafficking, child soldiering or involuntary domestic servitude, these abuses are an affront to our national conscience, and to our values as Americans and human beings," said President Obama. "There is no one type of victim -- men and women, adults and children are all vulnerable. From every corner of our Nation to every part of the globe, we must stand firm in defense of freedom and bear witness for those exploited by modern slavery."
ICE is attacking these types of crimes on several fronts. The agency encourages the public to recognize and report human trafficking crimes through its Hidden in Plain Sight public outreach campaign. The campaign included widespread distribution of posters, billboards and transit shelter signs. ICE is taking a global strategy, working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international partners hosting meetings, coordinating efforts and sharing information to dismantle human trafficking organizations that bring such desperation to the people they ensnare.
ICE'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.
Last summer, 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.