MINNEAPOLIS- U.S. Attorney Greg Booker announced a new round of 21 new indictments against leaders within a Thai sex trafficking ring operating in Minneapolis.
This round of indictments follows indictments against the same criminal organization that occurred last October. When speaking on the case in a press conference last fall, then U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, Andrew Luger, said the following, “They promised women in Thailand a chance at the American dream, but instead exploited them, coerced them and forced them to live a nightmare. In short, the victims lived like modern day sex slaves.”
Through the course of the investigation it was determined that there existed seven houses within the Minneapolis area that were used for prostitution for the sex ring. The authorities were tipped off that Thai women were being flown to MSP and then shuttled between apartments.
The indictment also includes allegations of visa fraud; the use of fraudulent visas and travel documents in order to traffick the victims into the United States. This indicates that these women are being brought into the country illegally.
Among those prosecuted during the initial round of indictments were 12 Thai nationals and five U.S. nationals. Two of those prosecuted, John Zbaracki and Supapon Sonprasit, were both from Minnesota. Zbaracki (Lakeville) was a customer before joining the organization as a runner. The role of a runner is to force compliance and watch over the trafficking victims. Zbaracki agreed to forfeit $39,000 to $75,000 at his sentencing.
The case was pursued by a new interagency initiative to combat sex trafficking called the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam), which was established in 2012. Since its inception, the number of cases filed in areas with ACTeams present and the number of traffickers convicted has increased substantially.
In addition to the ACTeams, local law enforcement is always heavily involved in these kinds of cases and play an integral role in shutting down these criminal operations. In a press release, Booker had the following to say, “With the cooperation and coordination of our law enforcement partners and the various resources they all bring to bear, we were able to significantly disrupt and dismantle this criminal organization from all angles.”
In a recent Erik’s Correspondence Corner video, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen pointed to some of the recent legislation being enacted to combat human trafficking including the Safe Harbor provisions and tougher penalties for those who engage in trafficking. Paulsen also pointed to the greater allocations provided by Congress this year for the National Center for Missing Children, which plays a central role in providing help for the victims of trafficking.