Tag Archives: Sex trafficking

Two Queens men indicted on sex trafficking charges


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Two Queens men have been indicted in separate sex trafficking cases for allegedly forcing teen girls to work as prostitutes, District Attorney Richard Brown announced Tuesday.

Peter Gerardi, 28, of Forest Hills, and Christopher Stephensbush, 20, of Richmond Hill, have both been arraigned on kidnapping, prostitution, rape, sex trafficking and other charges, according to the district attorney.

“The defendants are both accused of enslaving three young girls, raping them and forcing them to work as prostitutes. They allegedly forced the girls to turn all of their money over to them,” said Brown.

Gerardi is accused of threatening his 13-year-old victim when she wanted to stop prostituting herself for him. He also allegedly had a 16-year-old work for him as a prostitute through threats of physical violence, according to Brown. Gerardi allegedly had sex with both his victims.

Stephensbush allegedly met his 15-year-old victim while she was taking the bus to school one morning. He is accused of bringing her back to his apartment and not letting her leave until she agreed to work as a prostitute, said Brown. He allegedly raped her several times before temporarily letting her go. He then allegedly made her earn money for him again as a prostitute on multiple occasions.

If convicted, both face up to 25 years to life in prison.

 

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Queens Village man pleads guilty to sex trafficking of teen


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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A Queens Village man has pleaded guilty to forcing a 15-year-old girl to be his sex slave, the district attorney’s office said.

Christopher Whitfield, 25, raped the teen twice and made her have sex with strangers for cash he pocketed, authorities said. The girl had run away from home when Whitfield found her last March.

“His guilty plea not only ensures that he is held accountable for his actions and allows the troubled young victim in the case to move on with her life,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown, “but sends a clear message that crimes such as these will not be tolerated in Queens County.”

Many men answered Whitfield’s prostitution ads online between March 2012 and April 2012, the district attorney said. The teen met them on a daily basis at hotels and other locations in Queens.

Whitfield beat and burned her several times on her breast, wrist and leg with cigarettes and a heated razor when she asked to stop, Brown said.

She eventually escaped when she was left alone.

Whitfield was arrested last April. He pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking and expects to be sentenced to three to nine years in prison, authorities said.

Brown said his office has convicted 12 people on sex trafficking charges so far.

 

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New campaign to fight sex trafficking in Queens


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

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When Angelina (not her real name) was 17, a man referred to as her “boyfriend” brought her from Honduras to the United States and forced her to work as a prostitute. The teenager endured beatings and abuse for nearly a year before she called the police. Through investigation, authorities discovered Angelina was a victim of sex trafficking.

Senator Jose Peralta, along with civil rights group Restore NYC, assembled a flyer-based campaign to increase awareness about human trafficking and attack the persistent problem in Queens’ immigrant neighborhoods.

Posters in the windows of hundreds of businesses throughout Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona depict a woman’s shadowed profile and harrowing lament in English and Spanish. “He promised me a place to stay. Then he forced me to work as a prostitute,” they read.

Roosevelt Avenue is a center of activity, said Peralta. The cleansing of Times Square at the end of the 20th century sent pimps and pushers to new quarters, setting up camp in hidden corners of the outer boroughs. According to Peralta, the dimly-lit stretch under the No. 7 train bred lowlifes who reveled in the area’s veiled corridors and easy access to Manhattan. The neighborhood echoed Las Vegas as men, stationed every four blocks, distributed business cards, emblazoned with images of nude women.

“Chica, chica,” they would say, advertising the young girls, as they slipped the cards into the palms of passers-by.

Adolescent boys scooped up the sinful swatches, trading them like baseball cards. Enraged parents, discovering piles of porn in their children’s bedrooms, informed Peralta of the card-dispensing creeps. Peralta informed the governor, who signed a law banning the cards in November 2011.

Now, instead of naked women, men give out cards with pictures of fruit on them, indicating they deliver between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. and provide the best “fruit.”

Jimmy Lee, executive director of Restore NYC, estimated 15,000 people are trafficked in the United States every year, several thousand of whom end up in the New York City area. While individuals are smuggled into the country for forced prostitution and labor, Restore NYC focuses on assisting victims of sex trafficking. According to Lee, the average age of a woman his organization assists is 23.

Most victims of sex trafficking in western Queens come from Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Some are from just a few states away, coming to New York with aspirations for life in the big city.

“The American Dream, the good life, the fast buck, the short cut — that’s the hook,” said Peralta.

Predators target women from their home countries, exploiting their shared cultural mindset and familiar background. If a woman expresses interest in fleeing, their captors threaten to kill them or their families.

Peralta hopes the posters spread a message of hope, letting victims know help is available and informing those who previously turned a blind eye to the plight of thousands.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| lguerre@queenscourier.com


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Small Mexican town of Tenancingo is major source of sex trafficking pipeline to New York

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Congressional hopefuls tout endorsements

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