Monday, November 13, 2006

FBI frees Mexican child from forced prostitution in Nashville

Sex traffickers used border lure

The Tennessean reports in this story and the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports in this story that the FBI and other federal agencies have freed a Mexican child from forced prostitution in Nashville, an ordeal that began when sex traffickers promised her passage across the U.S. border to a "restaurant" job in Nashville. The investigation brought charges against 10 men for running brothels full of Latin American women and girls who were forced into prostitution after they were promised legitimate jobs in the U.S. Two of the people charged with luring these ordinary immigrants into prostitution were living in the Nashville.

"Once in Nashville, she met Mendez and was taken to an apartment at 5099 Linbar Drive."

"There, court documents allege, Mendez raped her and threatened to kill her family if she did not work as a prostitute. She was 14 at the time."

"The girl told investigators that she was a virgin when she arrived in Nashville and described the rape as very painful."

"Two weeks later, court documents say, Mendez took her to a Kentucky brothel and forced her to have sex with 14 people on the first day. Afterward she was sick with a headache and severe pelvic inflammation and had to be hospitalized for several days."

The Tennessean article says that federal officials claimed that this was "the first case to their knowledge involving children smuggled into the country to be forced into the sex trade" - which would be at odds with this statistic from Johns Hopkins University that sex slave traffickers bring 15,000 women into the United States every year, many of them young girls from Mexico; or this CIA report (found here) that the number is closer to 50,000.

A similar arrest was made in Nashville in 2005 (story here), after authorities arrested a woman in Nashville for forcing Honduran women and children into slavery in New Jersey.

One international relief organization has recently opened an office in Nashville to combat sex trafficking and will train Metro Police next year, according to the Tennessean.

"'It's very new for us to have on our radar in Tennessee, but' sex trafficking is 'not a new thing,' said Amber Beckham, coordinator for World Relief's Network of Emergency Trafficking Services."

Other stories on the same subject: New York Times, 2004, San Francisco Examiner, 1997

Update 11/14/2006: WKRN-Channel 2 filed this report and also interviewed residents of the apartment complex in this follow-up story.

Update 11/17/2006: Five indicted

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