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Brian Luke Community Blogger, WGRZ-TV

Saturday, September 1, 2012

New York man charged with sex trafficking of minors



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BUFFALO, N.Y. — A New York man was arrested Thursday and charged with sex trafficking of minors. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and local law enforcement in western New York.
Kenneth Graham, 24, of Amherst, N.Y., has been charged. According to the criminal complaint, between 2010 and August 2012, Graham recruited, promoted and profited from the prostitution activities of two minor girls knowing — or in reckless disregard of the fact — that the girls were under the age of 18. Graham also recruited, promoted and profited from a third victim, a woman in her 20s.
The complaint further alleges that the defendant placed advertisements on the web site backpage.com. One ad cited in the complaint read, "Amazingly Sexy Sweet Petite Companion 20 working out of the airport area." The acts took place in various hotels in the towns of Amherst, N.Y., and Cheektowaga, N.Y. The complaint further states that customers were charged $100 per half hour and $150 per hour.
Also according to the complaint, one of the minor female victims claims that Graham kidnaped her for a week and physically assaulted her.
"Human trafficking, in particular the sex trafficking of minors, is something that our office takes very seriously," said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., Western District of New York. "This defendant used physical threats to try and control these victims and now he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any individual who considers similar behavior will also be prosecuted and faces a potential life sentence if convicted."
"This arrest is the result of the great partnership HSI has with our law enforcement partners in western New York in our unyielding resolve to bring human traffickers to justice," said James C. Spero, special agent in charge of HSI Buffalo. "Sordid tales of human trafficking come to light every day. But because human trafficking is so widespread, no one entity can adequately address the problems it presents. Law enforcement throughout New York is committed to giving victims the help they need to come forward and help us end human trafficking. We remind the general public to be vigilant, and report any signs of human trafficking to law enforcement."
The arrest was the result of an investigation by HSI, Amherst Police Department, Cheektowaga Police Department and Buffalo Police Department.
About human trafficking
Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes that HSI investigates. In its worst manifestation, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. Victims pay to be illegally transported into the United States only to find themselves in the thrall of traffickers. They are forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude to repay debts — often entry in the United States. In certain cases, the victims are mere children. They find themselves surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and language without identification documents, fearing for their lives and the lives of their families.
Trafficking in persons is defined as:
  • Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
  • The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
HSI is serious about ending human trafficking and relies on tips from the public to dismantle these organizations. HSI encourages the general public to keep their eyes and ears open to suspicious activity. Trafficking victims are often hidden in plain sight, voiceless and scared.
If you notice suspicious activity in your community, call HSI's Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or report tips online.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Moscati, Western District of New York, is prosecuting this case on behalf of the U.S. government.

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