January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Baltimore, MD – January 23, 2020 – United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur announced today that the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs has awarded $1,178,492.00 in grant funding to the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), in partnership with the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF), Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP), and Maryland Departments of Human Services and Juvenile Services to support establishment of a comprehensive approach to improving outcomes for child and youth victims of human trafficking.

The award will support creation of a statewide labor trafficking multidisciplinary team that will formalize and institutionalize the management of cases in a victim-centered manner, development of a unified statewide training strategy for professionals that includes victim-centered and trauma-informed best practices for handling human trafficking cases involving children and youth, and establishment of a survivor-informed, coordinated service response for children and youth.

“The Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to dedicate significant resources to fighting human trafficking,” said United States Attorney Robert K. Hur.  “We urge the public to think of human trafficking victims and survivors during this month, Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  The Department of Justice is proud to support our partners and victims through financial grants and robust prosecutions that hold human traffickers accountable.  We will continue to work with our partners to prosecute those who commit human trafficking crimes, and to support the victims of these cruel and despicable crimes.”

In addition, in 2018, the Office of Justice Programs awarded $562,500 over a three-year period to the Prince George’s County Police Department and the University of Maryland Baltimore (on behalf of the University of Maryland Support, Advocacy, Freedom, and Empowerment (SAFE) Center) to support the Prince George’s County Human Trafficking Task Force.  This grant funds three caseworkers to assist with 24/7 crisis response and comprehensive services; additional investigative resources within the Prince George’s County Police Department focused on human trafficking; one full-time additional forensic investigator within the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office dedicated to human trafficking; and one additional Assistant State’s Attorney within the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office dedicated to prosecuting human trafficking.

For more information about OJP awards, visit the OJP Awards Data webpage.

Additional information about the USAO’s efforts to end human trafficking follows:

I. Human Trafficking Coordinator and Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF)

Since 2007, the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office has designated an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) to serve as Human Trafficking Coordinator for the district.  This AUSA is the point of contact for law enforcement agencies and state prosecutors for human trafficking cases, and serves as the chair of the MHTTF.  In addition, the Office’s Law Enforcement Coordinator, who has been involved in MHTTF since its inception, serves as a point of contact for outreach, training, and enforcement efforts through the MHTTF.

Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Task Force serves to coordinate activities, develop policy, and implement strategic plans to combat human trafficking in Maryland. The MHTTF maintains five active sub-committees: Law Enforcement, Victim Services, Training, Public Outreach and Legislative.

Since its inception in 2007, the MHTTF has sought to raise public awareness and implement best practices in investigations, prosecutions, victim identification, and victim service response. Members have customized practices for the unique circumstances that Maryland faces both as an originating point and as a throughway for human trafficking.  Law enforcement, prosecutors, and providers work together on the MHTTF to take a victim-centered approach: freeing the victim from oppression and rehabilitating the victim as a witness in order to bring traffickers to justice.

The Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking and Law Enforcement Coordinators also regularly consult with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies regarding their current activities in investigating human trafficking crimes.  In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in coordination with the MHTTF offers or arranges a wide variety of training to educate law enforcement and other human trafficking professionals. 

II. Local Partner Events to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking

Local partners also have events to increase awareness of and combat human trafficking.  Several of their upcoming events follow:

• The Eastern Shore Human Trafficking Task Force (ESHTTF):  The mission of the ESHTTF is to combat human trafficking by encouraging, supporting, and promoting awareness, prevention, and education throughout the Eastern Shore.  The next public awareness event will take place at the Kent Island Library, 200 Library Circle, Stevensville, MD beginning at 3:00 P.M. Saturday, February 8, 2020 featuring state legislators, a service provider, and a victim/survivor.  Links to the ESHTTF website and Facebook:  www.ESHTTF.org; www.fb.com/ESHTTFMaryland

• The Frederick County Human Trafficking Response Team:  The mission of the Frederick County Human Trafficking Response Team is to provide a victim-centered, collaborative response to human trafficking in Frederick County to assist in the identification of victims, prosecution of cases, and the availability and use of comprehensive services for victims.  Their website is at https://frederickcountymd.gov/7672/Human-Trafficking-Response-Team

• The Anne Arundel County Commission for Women (human trafficking working group):  The Anne Arundel County Commission for Women, through its combatting human trafficking working group, supports the eradication of human trafficking in Anne Arundel County through community awareness, education, advocacy, and efforts to support survivors.  Their website is: https://www.aacounty.org/boards-and-commissions/commission-for-women/index.html

Upcoming Events

What about the Children? Community Human Trafficking Awareness Presentation: Tuesday, January 28th 2020, 7 – 8:30pm (Doors open at 6:30pm); 8146 Quarterfield Road, Severn, MD 21144; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1495135760637504/

7th Annual Dash 4 Dignity 5K Dash, 1K Freedom Walk, and Community Resource Fair;  Saturday, April 25th 2020; 109 Burns Crossing Road, Severn, MD 21144; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/481052045877666/

The Montgomery County Commission for Women (Human Trafficking Prevention Committee):  Here is the link to the human trafficking prevention committee information in Montgomery County: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/cfw/ourwork.html#Human_trafficking

III. Prosecution of Human Trafficking Cases

Notable cases prosecuted in 2019 by the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office include the following:

United States v. Ryan Russell Parks:  On November 7, 2019, U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston sentenced Ryan Russell Parks, a/k/a Dinero, age 26, of Baltimore, Maryland, to 20 years in federal prison, for sex trafficking of a minor and for using the Internet to promote a business enterprise involving prostitution.  A federal jury convicted Parks late on July 18, 2019, after a four-day trial. 

According to the evidence presented at his trial, Parks trafficked two vulnerable minor victims—a 16-year-old girl (Girl 1) and a 15-year-old girl (Girl 2)—for commercial sex.  According to trial testimony, Parks met both girls online.  During communications with Girl 1, Parks learned that she was hungry and had no real place to live, and he offered Girl 1 a place to stay.  In his conversations with Girl 2, Parks learned that she had run away from her foster home.  Parks sent a car to pick up Girl 1 and to bring her to a motel in Woodlawn, Maryland, and within a day, he caused advertisements offering Girl 1 for commercial sex acts, with photos and descriptions of Girl 1, to be posted on a website that marketed commercial sex workers.  Parks stayed with Girl 1 at a motel in Baltimore, along with another woman he was advertising on the Internet for commercial sex.  Parks would leave the room when men would come to the room to have sex with Girl 1, and he would return to the room shortly after the men left the room.  One of Girl 1’s customers returned to the room the next day to rescue her, and took her to live in a different city with his sister.

On November 16, 2017, Parks paid a driver to pick up Girl 2 and bring her to his home.  He talked to her about making money through prostitution, and he took her to the same motel in Baltimore where Parks had harbored Girl 1.  Parks took photographs of Girl 2 and paid for an online advertisement offering Girl 2 for commercial sex.  While law enforcement was investigating the trafficking of the two minor victims, they discovered evidence regarding the extent of Parks’ prostitution business.  Evidence at trial proved that Parks advertised approximately 27 different women and girls for commercial sex.  Parks also paid over $6,000 for hotel rooms in Baltimore County and Baltimore City during the course of his prostitution enterprise.

United States v. Sean Dean:  On October 30, 2019, Sean Dean, age 26, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor.  Dean admitted that he conspired to traffic four minor girls to engage in commercial sex acts for his financial benefit.  Dean entered his guilty plea on October 29, 2019.

According to Dean’s plea agreement, from December 2017 until January 2018, Dean recruited, harbored, transported, and/or maintained five females, including four minors ranging from 15 to 17 years old, to engage in commercial sex acts.  Dean utilized social media and cellular telephones to recruit, monitor, direct, and communicate with the four girls and the woman.

In furtherance of the sex trafficking enterprise, Dean and/or a co-conspirator rented hotel rooms in Timonium and Laurel, Maryland to be used by the victims to engage in commercial sex acts.  Dean and his co-conspirator transported the victims to the various hotels where they would stay for multiple days. While in the hotel rooms, at Dean’s direction the victims used a website to advertise themselves for commercial sex acts.  The advertisements contained pictures of the victims in provocative poses and provided contact information for clients to use to secure a “date” with the victims.  The victims were required to share a portion of the proceeds from any commercial sex acts with Dean and his co-conspirator. 

On January 11, 2018, Dean and his co-conspirator transported all five victims to a hotel in Laurel, where Dean had rented rooms for the victims to use for commercial sex acts.  In response to a complaint, law enforcement responded to two different rooms rented by Dean.  Law enforcement located three minor girls and the woman in the two rooms.  The fourth minor girl had already left the hotel.  Dean and the co-conspirator fled to avoid detection by law enforcement.  After leaving the area, Dean exchanged messages with the woman indicating that he had left to avoid law enforcement because he knew one of the victims was under age.  Dean also directed the woman to delete their messages.

United States v. De’Angelo Johnson:  On October 22, 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging De’Angelo Johnson, a/k/a “Cowboy” or “D,” age 31, of Maryland, with sex trafficking and distribution of heroin and cocaine.  According to the indictment, Johnson induced five Maryland victims, all over the age of 18, to engage in commercial sex acts for his own financial benefit, by means of force, fraud, and coercion from August 2018 through May 21, 2019.  The indictment also alleges that all of the sex trafficking victims suffered from serious substance abuse disorders, including addictions to heroin and crack cocaine, and that that Johnson sold the narcotics to the victims.  The indictment further alleges that Johnson posted sex work advertisements of the victims and communicated with potential sex customers often pretending to be the victims.  Johnson faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison, a maximum sentence of life in federal prison for each of five counts of sex trafficking and a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for distribution of controlled substances if convicted.

United States v. Lakeya N. Aldridge, Joshua Lankford and Kevonne L. Murphy: On August 1, 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Lakeya N. Aldridge, Joshua Lankford and Kevonne L. Murphy with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and kidnapping, for allegedly forcing a woman to engage in commercial sex acts for the financial benefit of the defendants. 

According to the four-count indictment, from approximately October 1 to October 30, 2018, the defendants conspired to, and engaged in the business of recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, advertising, and maintaining the victim, K.A., an adult female, to engage in commercial sex acts for their financial benefit.  Specifically, the indictment alleges that Aldridge, Lankford, and Murphy rented hotel rooms for the victim to engage in commercial sex acts, as well as transporting the victim to “out calls” to hotel rooms and other locations to engage in commercial sex acts, including transporting her across state lines.  Aldridge allegedly provided narcotics, including heroin, to the victim to recruit, entice, and maintain the victim throughout the course of her engaging in commercial sex acts.  On August 28, 2019, Murphy pled guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy and sentencing currently set for February 28, 2020. 

The Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office deploys many resources in the fight against human trafficking, aimed at investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases; providing support and services for victims; engaging in outreach to law enforcement, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations, and other partners; and educating the community.  We will continue to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases to end this devastating crime.