What to Know
- Patriots owner Robert Kraft faces two charges of soliciting prostitution in Jupiter, Florida, authorities announced Friday.
- The charges are connected to a wider human trafficking ring bust involving hundreds of men accused of contributing to sex trafficking.
- Experts say human trafficking warning signs are often missed at hotels, bus and train stations, and at airports.
Florida law enforcement officials say New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is one of hundreds of men accused of allegedly soliciting prostitution as a result of a recent sting they say contributes to the world of sex trafficking.
The major bust in the Sunshine State spans three counties, and police confirmed it had ties to New York and China.
Todd McGhee, a retired Massachusetts State Police trooper who is now a private security consultant, says human and sex trafficking, which happens when someone is abducted or promised false employment, then exploited and prevented from leaving, is prevalent everywhere in the United States.
"We are really talking about an international problem that feeds the U.S. market and make no bones about it, this is literally the magnitude of organized crime," McGhee said.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, authorities handled nearly 2,000 cases of human trafficking in 2015. DOJ numbers say most of those responsible were white males, and nearly all of them were U.S. citizens.
McGhee says the men paying for sex, commonly called johns, contribute to keeping the billion dollar business thriving.
"The johns will most likely get a slap on the wrist," McGhee said. "With that being said, it is a massive, massive money-making business."
In 2010, the National Institute of Justice funded a study to measure sex trafficking in eight major cities in the United States. They estimated the illegal activity ranged from $40 million in Denver to $290 million in Atlanta.
"Those controlling the ring have control of how the money comes in and goes out and it is absolutely an underground controlled process," McGhee said.
The retired trooper also said there are signs of human trafficking that are missed all of the time, considering that a ring leader may be the only person who knows where a woman is hidden so they can be forced into prostitution, holding them in a hotel, or in the Florida cases, a massage parlor.
At least 45 human trafficking suspects were referred to U.S. attorneys in Massachusetts in 2015, according to the DOJ.
McGhee said the trafficking is happening in hotels, in a bus or transit station and in airports.
"Often times there will be a handler who will do all the speaking," he said. "They may say there is a language barrier and that's why the others are not speaking for themselves."
At an airport, a handler will keep control of the victims' passports, speaking on their behalf, again claiming a language barrier.
My Life My Choice, a Boston-based group that works to help sex trafficking victims, say they helped 204 victims in just six months.