BUFFALO, N.Y. — A Niagara Falls man was arrested Wednesday for allegedly sex trafficking a minor following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
HSI special agents arrested Marcellus Overton, 39, after he was charged federally with sex trafficking of a minor and transportation of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity. The charges carry a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life.
According to the investigation, between December 2012 and March 2013, Overton knowingly enticed a victim under 18 years old to engage in a commercial sex act. The investigation further alleges that in March 2013, Overton knowingly transported a minor under 18 years old between New York and Georgia to engage in prostitution.
The defendant made an initial appearance on Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott and is being detained.
"Sadly, many trafficking victims remain hidden in plain sight— going unnoticed or unreported, which is why it is critical that we continue to raise awareness so more victims are identified and rescued and more exploiters are brought to justice."
“Each year, thousands of women and men become the victims of human trafficking in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York William Hochul. “Whether forced into labor or commercial sexual exploitation, the lives of these victims are forever impacted. But our office, working side by side with our law enforcement partners, is aggressively prosecuting all forms of trafficking wherever they occur. The Human Trafficking Task Force also includes non-government agencies who partner with us to effectively address this serious criminal activity.”
The criminal complaint is the culmination of an investigation by HSI. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Every year, thousands of vulnerable persons, including women and children, are trafficked into the United States, threatened and beaten, and forced to perform services of a sexual nature against their will. Every year, thousands of workers and laborers are exploited and abused by employers. The exploitation of vulnerable individuals is an affront to fundamental human rights, and will not and cannot be tolerated. The Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Offices are committed to the prosecution of human trafficking cases, and will continue to hold traffickers accountable for these heinous crimes.
ICE is one of the primary federal agencies responsible for combating human trafficking. ICE works with its law enforcement partners to dismantle the global criminal infrastructure engaged in human smuggling and 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, rescue and provide assistance to trafficking victims.
If you notice suspicious activity, please contact HSI through its tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or www.ice.gov/tips