I previously posted about Eric Omuro and his former website MyRedbook. The TL;DR version is that MyRedbook was a San Francisco Bay area prostitution website in the vein of Backpage that was shut down by the feds and Mr. Omuro was charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering and pleaded guilty to those charges. In those posts I referred to MyRedbook, and in my opinion rightfully so, as a sex trafficking website.
More recently I posted an update to the story where Mr. Omuro was forced to forfeit a rather large sum of money as part of his plea deal. When I post a minor update like that, rather than making a an entire new post out of it I just add a snippet of text and a link to the previous post. Then what I do is send out the update on my social networking accounts. One of those accounts happens to be Tumblr. That update was reblogged on Tumblr by someone with the following…
MyRedBook was not a “sex trafficking website”, and its closure has made life significantly more dangerous for workers in the states in which it operated. Don’t spout ignorant shit.
First off one of the charges that Eric Omuro pleaded guilty to was facilitating prostitution. Where there is prostitution there is inevitably going to be women and girls who are being trafficked against their will, even in self-contained bubbles of counter-culture like San Francisco. Secondly that argument that websites like MyRedbook or Backpage make sex workers safer is specious at best. If anything it’s as dangerous or even more dangerous as the number of murders, rapes, and assaults that happen to sex workers who advertise on Backpage and Craigslist can attest to. Since sites like MyRedbook and Backpage make prostitution as easy and ubiquitous as ordering a pizza that increases not only the number of girls and women being trafficked but also the number of those that become victims to violent crimes committed by johns.
If you are in the sex industry I always recommend getting out before you get hurt. While I realize it’s not always easy there are resources for you, some of which can be found down the right hand column of this website under the heading of Sex Trafficking Resources.
It’s no secret that there is always an extreme uptick of sex trafficking at the time and location of major sporting events. Today’s Kentucky Derby is no different as Backpage traffic has increased in the days running up to the Derby.
I tend to not post those stories because it should be common sense. However I posted a link to this one because I wanted to share the story of a victim of sex trafficking that was quoted in the article…
Margeaux Gray knows the system all too well. She lived it for more than a decade.
“I was first exposed to trafficking, or sold into slavery, when I was 5-years-old,” she told WKYT’s Miranda Combs.
By the time Gray escaped, the trauma had left visible scars. She’s now legally blind, the effects of bulimia. She said she was sold for sex by someone she trusted, over and over again.
“By nine years old, I knew how to do things that no child should ever know how to do. No one. It’s unacceptable,” she said.
Gray doesn’t share details. She said the person who sold her for sex was never charged because prosecution was too painful for her.
“It’s all about control and controlling the victim so they can stay quiet. So I was brainwashed into believing a lot of things, and it worked.”
Yet people, and I use that term loosely, will use the myth of the ‘consenting adult’ to justify to themselves what they’re doing isn’t wrong when they order someone off of Backpage.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888: Call Specialists are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking. All reports are confidential and you may remain anonymous. Interpreters are available.
Human trafficking is nothing more than modern-day slavery and yet is probably one of the least known crimes among the American populace. Please help spread the word that it is an epidemic in our society.
Alvarez, Belizaire and Alexander
Back in January the Orlando, Florida, Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation arrested Rodney Alexander, Tiffany Belizaire and Jose Alvarez on human trafficking charges. The trio are accused of prostituting a woman on Backpage against her will.
Again for those of you who still believe the consenting adult myth…
“Immediately they took advantage of her addiction to cocaine and started posing her on Backpage and forcing her to prostitute,” MBI Lt. Mike Gibson said.
“It got so bad at one point, they actually tied her up with sheets and dog collars and dog chains and held her captive inside closets,” Gibson said.
According to investigators’ documents, the victim was forced to work as a prostitute every day, walking the streets and responding to online ads posted on Backpage. She said the alleged ringleader, Alexander, punched her, and threatened to torture her with power tools and a curling iron on days when she made only $50.
Yet Backpage insists they’re part of the solution. Much like I used to say about craigslist you can’t be both the problem and the solution. What was once the craigslist conundrum is now the Backpage Paradox.
Hodza and Sorensen
Aldair Hodza and Laura Evelene Sorensen, of Clive, Iowa, were arrested in New Kent County, Virginia early last week. They were arrested at a truck stop when a trucker notified police of suspicious activity in their RV. No, it wasn’t meth, instead police found a malnourished woman. When police separated her from Hodza and Sorenesen she told them that she was being held against her will and was being physically and sexually abused. They were allegedly at the truck stop because Hodza was turning out his victim on craigslist and was there to meet someone who was willing to pay. Hozda even allegedly branded his victim on her back probably marking her as his property. Not surprisingly Hodza is said to have swastika tattoos on his arms. That would probably explain why he thinks so little of other people. This story reminds me a lot of Edward Bagley who kept a woman hostage for years as his personal sex slave, even lending his victim out to friends. He got 20 years.
Special thanks need to go out to truckers who really can be and often are the eyes and ears needed to stop human trafficking.
Also it appears that sex trafficking is returning to craigslist with a vengeance, or maybe it never left. Heaven forfend if craigslist would actually keep their own yard clean by moderating.
Justin Robert Muoio
There’s been a story making the rounds in the ‘strange news’ websites. It’s been on FARK and I’ve heard it on several morning radio shows. It’s the story about how 32-year-old Justin Robert Muoio of the Miami area prostituted a pregnant woman on craigslist to ‘fetishists’.
Muoio is accused of turning out the woman since 2009 and once she became pregnant he didn’t allow that to interfere with his money-making. Police say that he also kept all of her money and would frequently keep her imprisoned and even had his mother keep watch on her.
Unfortunately stories like this are not as unusual or strange as you might expect. Women like this are frequently forced into prostitution every day on craigslist and Backpage and never make the news and yes sometimes they are pregnant.
At least hopefully this story can help shed light on the plight of all victims of sex trafficking and that it still exists on craigslist.
Lately the state of North Dakota has seen an increase in prostitution and human trafficking due to their recent oil boon. It’s gotten so bad that former victims of sex trafficking are speaking to middle school students to warn them of the dangers of predatory pimps.
In an article by the Forum News Service they reached out to Backpage attorney and spokesperson Liz McDougall about Backpage’s role in all of this and she had her usual response…
“Unless the Internet is wholly shut down, the end result of this strategy will be that our children are advertised through offshore websites who do not endeavor to prevent such activity, who do not report potential cases of exploitation to law enforcement, who do not expeditiously cooperate with law enforcement to rescue victims and arrest pimps — and who are outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement so they can thumb their noses at U.S. law enforcement requests, even pleas, for evidence to find a child or stop a perpetrator.”
First off from most reports I’ve seen from law enforcement Backpage isn’t as cooperative with law enforcement as they claim to be. Secondly, it seems like Backpage is making their own move overseas for the very reasons she claims other sites will do.
Like I said this is nothing new out of Backpage but what really surprised me was how deep in Backpage’s pocket is one Dr. Lois Lee, founder of Children of the Night, an organization that’s supposed to be getting children off the street and out of the hands of pimps and traffickers.
Talking by phone one November night from Lyon, France, where she and McDougall had just attended an INTERPOL conference on trafficking, Children of the Night’s Lee lauded Backpage’s cooperation with law enforcement, saying it’s better than any other social network.
Dr. Lee has even admitted on this very website that Backpage is responsible for 10% of Children of the Night’s budget. I’m not sure if that includes flights to France or not but I can’t understand how a foundation that’s supposed to help child victims of sex trafficking can take money from a website that is responsible for 82% of all online prostitution.
I used to have a link to Children of the Night on this website for people looking for trafficking resources. I didn’t even remove the link after Dr. Lee commented on this site about her dedication to Backpage. However I can no longer in good conscience link to them now knowing that they’ve been paid off by Backpage. One might even call it collusion.
May or may not be Backpage’s new logo
So far I’ve only seen this reported in the Dallas Business Journal but for now I’m going to assume that the sale of Backpage to an unnamed Dutch company for an undisclosed amount is true.
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer sounds like a Bond villain making the announcement at the expansion of his ‘legitimate business’…
“We launched in some markets internationally some years ago and we’re starting to get traction,” he added. “In fact, some of those markets are growing double and triple digits. Having a Dutch company own us gives us access to vendors, companies and experts, especially in Europe, where we’re having the most success.”
Since it’s going to be the same guy as CEO going forward I doubt very much that they’ll be dropping the ads for prostitution anytime soon. As a matter of fact I believe this move guarantees their increase. It’s not surprising that they sold to a Dutch company as The Netherlands are infamous for having legalized prostitution zones but they are also a top global destination for human trafficking. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that they want to be operating in a human trafficking friendly country.
Another reason I think they sold to an overseas company is to flummox US lawmakers. Backpage attorney Liz McDougall is always saying how prostitution websites would move offshore if Backpage closed down. Instead of waiting for the US Government to catch up with them, like they did to MyRedbook operator Eric Omuro, they’re going to shift operations overseas even though they’re claiming to keep operations in Dallas.
So id the U.S. Attorney’s office or any State Attorney General has an ace up their sleeve now may be the time to play it before Backpage leaves the table a winner.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is one of the few journalists who has taken a stance against Backpage. He has been penning columns about them for years. In his latest column about Backpage he talks about the lawsuit against Backpage filed by two Massachusetts women who were underage at the time they were trafficked for sex on Backpage. I can’t do his column justice so I’ll post some relevant selections.
About the so-called freedom of speech argument…
Some readers may scoff that this is about censorship of free speech. No, it’s about human rights — because one of the most searing rights abuses in America is the sexual exploitation of children.
On Backpage’s screening process…
Backpage also makes it hard to search for missing girls by allowing scrambled phone numbers in sex ads. If you sell a dog on Backpage in the pet section, you must post a numeric phone number; sell sex with a girl, and you can use a nonsearchable version — such as zero12-345-six78nine — that makes it more difficult for police or family members to locate a missing child with a simple Internet search.
Likewise, Backpage allows ads to be paid for with untraceable credit cards or even with Bitcoin. It doesn’t require any age verification or real names.
And Backpage’s obvious hypocrisy…
Liz McDougall, the lawyer for Backpage, declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuits, but she told me: “We remain committed to effective measures of prevention and successful prosecution of this heinous crime.”
That’s absurd. Backpage claims to report possible sex-trafficking cases, but Yiota Souras, the general counsel of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says that “Backpage’s reporting is not conducted in good faith.”
Yet even people who work to get trafficking victims off the street continue to believe that Backpage actually wants to solve a problem that they themselves are not only perpetuating but making millions of dollars from. Without the ads that traffic women in children in sexual slavery Backpage would wither and die, they know that and any thing they say or do is only done with the objective of continuing to make money at the cost of their victims.
Last week the Allentown Morning Call posted a four page article about the issues local police have been having with prostitution and Backpage. I’ve seen the article ridiculed online with people saying “You can’t blame a website for prostitution.” They’re wrong, you sure as hell can.
Think about it. Do you think that the people, and I use that term loosely, that run Backpage think that all the ads on the adult section of the site are for legal services? Of course not. Any idiot cab see that the ads are for prostitution. Yet they still collect money from these ads while saying they’re doing all they can to stop sex trafficking. Obviously they’re not doing all they can or they’d stop taking the money.
Our favorite spokesweasel, Liz McDougall, was even quoted for the article…
Backpage.com removes or blocks about a million ads per month, notably those that appear to involve minors or sex for money, said Liz McDougall, the site’s general counsel. And it has cooperated with police.
I’d like to see the ads they block since the ones they allow are obviously for sex for money and minors are still being trafficked on their website. Yet they’re still collecting the money. How many of those ads are there for Backpage to collect the millions of dollars they make in profit every year?
So can a website be blamed for prostitution? As long as they’re collecting the money and turning an obviously blind eye to the women and children that are being trafficked on their site then they damn well can be blamed.
If the alleged charged against Kevin Cornish are true the man is not only a dangerous predator but he’s a world-class scumbag too.
The 42-year-old man from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, has been not only charged in the alleged craigslist rape of an 18-year-old victim but he may be behind a massive human trafficking scheme as well.
Police say that Cornish posted an ad on craigslist advertising for a home health care aide job. Cornish is said to have rapes the victim at his home after a fake interview and telling her he had the job. He is also said to have made her fill out and sign an additional ‘application’ for her to work for him as a prostitute. In my opinion it sounds like he was trying to convince her that she was legally his property now. I have heard of this trick being used before by traffickers.
After the victim escaped and contacted police they found fifty more of these applications which means he could possibly have other rape victims as well.
When dealing with any ad on craigslist Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood said it best.
“There are a lot of sickos out there. You really have to be careful.”
My advice, don’t use craigslist at all for anything.