Sex traffickers are on many websites. Why is police action so rare?

HADLEY MA Jan 17 2018 — Prosecutors painted a squalid picture of what went on inside the little house on busy Russell Street: The Asian women were kept there night and day, providing sexual services for a fee, sleeping where they worked, and rarely venturing outside except to take out the trash.

The customers themselves led law enforcement to the address in 2016, by writing detailed reviews of the services they received at Hadley Massage Therapy — services that went far beyond massage. On a controversial website called Rubmaps.com, they described their sexual experiences in detail, including how much they paid, what services they received, and their level of satisfaction with the women’s performance.

“These are reviews on victims of human trafficking,’’ said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, whose office led the investigation into the alleged sex traffickers who ran centers in Hadley, East Longmeadow, and Framingham. “It’s terrible, their depiction of women. . . . It’s just truly appalling.”

The now-closed Hadley Massage Therapy is one of hundreds of erotic massage centers described on Rubmaps.com in Massachusetts alone — and there are some 7,000 nationwide.

But even though law enforcement officials can easily find other suspected sex-trafficking operations on Rubmaps.com and other so-called John boards, listings on these sites seldom lead to prosecution.

That’s because of the sheer number of businesses and the legal resources needed to take each one down. Shutting them down is not as simple as rounding up the men and women in the massage parlor. State and local officials say they don’t want simply to arrest women workers — who are increasingly considered victims — but to take down the business operators who often run multiple storefronts.

Healey said her office will continue to go after the massage businesses described on the review boards. But even when law enforcement moves against erotic massage parlors, conviction of alleged traffickers is no slam dunk. The women, many of them fearful of deportation and unable to speak English, often make reluctant and poor witnesses. After being questioned, they often leave the state. The New England Center’s efforts to reach alleged victims from recent busts proved unsuccessful.

Donna Gavin, head of the human trafficking unit for the Boston Police Department, said police scrutinize review boards during investigations when they get tips about problematic addresses. But they have to be selective because investigations can be labor intensive, she said.

Read More

Restricted banking access spell a boom for security business

Industry reaction has been mixed since Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidelines on enforcing marijuana laws Jan. 4. Some entrepreneurs express concern and fear, while others carry on with business as usual.

But one thing insiders agree on is the move will make it more difficult for cannabis companies to find and secure banking relationships, without which businesses are left with a ton of cash on hand.

Despite being legal for recreational or medicinal use in more than half the country, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug and therefore illegal at the federal level. In 2013, Barack Obama’s administration issued the Cole Memorandum, which essentially directed federal law enforcement to allow businesses that are legal under state laws to operate. The memo also signaled banks could do business with these companies so long as they were in compliance with federal guidelines, although many have been hesitant.

In rescinding this policy, Sessions said future prosecutions of businesses and individuals who sell pot in states where it has been legalized will be left up to individual U.S. attorneys.

“The real sticking point here will be banking. Before, banks were very reluctant to do business based on the loosely defined Cole Memo,” said Matt Karnes, founder of industry analyst firm GreenWave Advisors. “This raises more uncertainty, and I think there is going to be a pullback.”

In a November 2017 report, GreenWave found that about 5 percent, or 368, of all financial institutions in the U.S. are on record with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), but only 1 percent are actually servicing these businesses. Many are credit unions and local and community banks. Karnes also said many marijuana businesses conceal the true nature of their business when establishing relationships, and once they are found out, the account is shut down.

“In the last report from FinCEN, 3,800 accounts were opened, but 3,700 were shut down. It’s very short-lived,” he said.

A report from Reuters Wednesday also indicated the action taken by Sessions came as a surprise to FinCEN, which was flooded with calls from banks on how to proceed. CNBC reached out to both the Department of Justice and FinCEN for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Read More

Violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), results in lawsuits

Chicago IL Jan 12 2018 A wave of class action lawsuits has been filed alleging violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), a statute aimed at regulating how companies use information based on “biometric identifiers” such as fingerprints and retina scans. Violating BIPA can be costly, so employers operating within Illinois should review their business practices to determine whether they are using “biometric information” and plan accordingly.

Although many of the early lawsuits filed under BIPA targeted technology companies for their use of facial recognition software, recent litigation has focused on employers that use fingerprint-scanning technology to allow employees to clock in and clock out. BIPA regulates a private entity’s ability to collect, store and disclose biometric information. The statute defines biometric information as that based on individual identifiers such as fingerprints, retina scans or voiceprints. As the statute explains, these cannot be changed, unlike other unique identifiers such as Social Security numbers.

Citing the public’s concern with the use of biometrics for business transactions and the “heightened risk of identity theft” biometric information entails, the Illinois legislature sought to protect individual privacy and encourage private entities to bolster information security by passing BIPA in 2008. The statute flew under the radar until the first surge of class action lawsuits in 2015. These private actions picked up steam in the latter half of 2017, with dozens of new class action suits filed since July. And it’s easy to see why the plaintiffs’ bar has taken notice: The penalties associated with BIPA range from $1,000 to $5,000 per violation and include attorneys’ fees.

Fortunately for employers, compliance with BIPA is fairly straightforward. At minimum, entities that use biometric information must:

Adopt a written policy with a retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying the information, and make this policy available to the public.

Obtain informed, written consent from any employee whose biometric information is obtained.

Read More

Feds crack down on birth tourism at ‘maternity hotels’

Federal Homeland Security agents raided 20 alleged “maternity hotels” in Southern California where pregnant Chinese women pay tens of thousands of dollars to live to ensure a “made in America” baby, reports said.

The feds raided locations in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties on Tuesday, targeting three competing birth-tourism schemes, officials told NBC News, which was on the scene of one of the raids.

One of the properties was the ultra-deluxe Carlyle building in Irvine, California, which housed pregnant women and new moms for fees ranging between $40,000 and $80,000 to ensure their children would have American citizenship, the outlet reported.

“I am doing this for the education of the next generation,” one of the women told NBC News.

None of the moms or moms-to-be were arrested. Police treated them as material witnesses and paramedics were standing by during the raids in case any of the women went into labor.

It’s not illegal to have a child in the US while in the country with a tourist visa, but lying to obtain the visa is illegal.

“If you lie about your reasons for coming here, that’s visa fraud,” Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations for Los Angeles, told NBC News.

Cops focused their efforts on the ringleaders behind the scheme. Court papers allege the fraudsters pocketed hundreds of thousands of tax-free dollars to help Chinese nationals get visas and a pampered life once they arrived, up until their delivery date in an American hospital.

The organizers allegedly used a website to attract customers, drawing in expecting mothers with the attractive benefits of a child with US citizenship: 13 years of free education, low-cost college financial aid, less pollution and a path for the entire family to emigrate when the child turns 18.

The women were advised on what lies to tell to obtain a tourist visa; how to fly through Hawaii, Las Vegas or Korea to avoid the suspicions of immigration officers at Los Angeles International Airport; and how to disguise their pregnancy during their trip, court documents allege.

The women’s handlers escorted them to doctors’ visits and trips to restaurants and shops, the court papers say. One agent followed one of the suspects to Target and Babies R Us.

While birth-tourism schemes are nothing new, investigators believe the practice is growing, NBC reported. Court papers cited a study that found 40,000 children are born to women in the US on a travel visa each year.

Read More

24 people arrested at Port Canaveral on drug charges before EDM cruise

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. Jan 9 2018 - A cruise set sail from at Port Canaveral this weekend but with two dozen fewer people.

Two dozen people were arrested on drug possession charges during security checks before boarding the ship for the Holy Ship! 2018 event.

Holy Ship denied a comment but on its website states that there is a zero-tolerance policy:

“Holy Ship! has a strict zero tolerance policy. You will be embarking Holy Ship! in Port Canaveral and passing through security run by Customs and Border Protection, a division of Homeland Security. Your person and your luggage can and will be searched. Forget about your right to privacy, you are passing through a port where all local and federal laws apply and are strictly enforced.

Every person and each piece of luggage will be inspected by dogs trained to detect explosives and contraband. Anyone found to be violating the law and/or in possession of illegal substances or prohibited items (weapons, illegal controlled substances, etc) will be arrested and banned from all future events. For more information on what to expect at embarkation, visit TSA.”

Twenty-four people didn’t heed that statement Saturday, deputies said.

“It ranges from marijuana to cocaine, MDMA or ecstasy. A lot of the drugs are used in a rave scene. A lot of people with paraphernalia,” Brevard County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Tod Goodyear said.

Goodyear told News 6 the port added security this weekend knowing the cruise would set sail Saturday.

“I think that based on some of the things that occurred during previous events and some of the activities that were there, there was some concern that the people that would be traveling would be trying to conceal drugs and bring them on the ships,” Goodyear said.

Among those arrested was DJ Gina Turner.

She has hired a lawyer and said she couldn’t say much about the arrest but did issue a statement.

“I had a medical marijuana card for both of the charges that I’ve been charged with. Though the report says without a prescription, and I had NO cocaine on me at all, false positive result,” Turner said.

She said she plans to fight the charges.

Norwegian is the chosen cruise line for the event. When asked for a comment, officials referred News 6 to law enforcement officials.

Steve Linden, director of communications and public affairs for Port Canaveral, released a statement about the series of arrests.

Read More

Two men charged in $1.3 million Houston armored truck robbery

Houston TX Jan 4 2018 Two men have been charged with aggravated robbery after taking part in the theft of more than $1.3 million from a courier carrying money to a Garda armored truck from a southwest Houston Frost Bank, according to court records.

The robbery occurred the day after Christmas in the 9300 block of Kirby Drive, when two masked men armed with guns took bags filled with cash from the courier. Denzel Miles, 25, a former Garda courier, and Davione Owens, 20 have been identified as two of the robbers and both face charges of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon charges, according to charging documents.

Owens is being held in the Harris County Jail with no bond. Miles is currently out on a $40,000 bond.

Miles has identified a Ronald Freeman as an accomplice in the robbery and the co-registered owner of the getaway car, a 2013 Lincoln MKZ, court records show.

Authorities have said the burned body of a man with the same name was found a day after the robbery in the woods near 5700 block of Wenda. But they have not said if that Freeman was connected to the robbery and it remains unclear to authorities how he ended up dead.

The case began when the Garda courier, who was conducting a drop off and pick up of the money, was exiting the Frost Bank with two plastic currency bags and returning to the armored truck. At that point, the two robbers approached him from a Lincoln MKZ, according to court records.

The robbers ordered the man to get on the ground, took the money and fled the Frost Bank parking lot.

According to court records, a Garda employee apparently told her manager on Dec. 24 that Miles was planning to rob an armored bank truck “he was formerly assigned” and said he knew the driver of the route would be an “easy target,” court documents stated.

The employee said that Miles drove a silver Lincoln MKZ vehicle and showed authorities a photo of the man standing in front of the car.

The Garda employee called Miles, but he denied knowing anything about the armored truck robbery and said he was out of town in Louisiana.

A Garda security manager told authorities that Miles had been terminated in October after “failing to cooperate with an internal theft investigation,” at the company, according to court records. The manager also said that Miles knew where the money was picked-up and dropped off at the Frost Bank “was not in a secure location,” according to court records.

Miles was found on Dec. 28–two days after the robbery– in the 3500 block of Woodchase Drive and arrested. A black Glock and a little over $14,000 was found inside the Blue Kia Soul Miles was driving before he was arrested.

After he was arrested, Miles told police that another person called “Poppa” participated in the robbery and his car was used as the getaway vehicle. He gave authorities “Poppa’s” phone number. Authorities identified the user of the phone as Ronald Freeman.

Miles said that he met up with Freeman and another person, before the three men conducted the robbery. The three men then drove to another location after the robbery where they split the money.

Read More

Alert nurses, hospital security leads to drug arrest

ABINGDON, Va. Dec 30 2017 — A woman was arrested after Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies found illegal drugs and a large amount of money in a Johnston Memorial Hospital patient’s room.

Willie Mae Jane Berry, 40, of Pennington Gap, Virginia, was arrested after deputies recovered crystal methamphetamine, numerous pills and approximately $3,000 from an unnamed patient’s room, according to a written statement.

The Sheriff’s Office had received a call from the hospital in reference to illegal drugs being present in the room at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Upon arrival, hospital security and nurses showed the deputies a powdery substance on the sink in the room. The substance was found to be cocaine from a field test, according to the statement.

Berry was charged with six felonies and a misdemeanor, including possession of cocaine, possession of dilaudid, possession of clonazepam and two counts possession of hydrocodone. Berry was also charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute clonazepam, according to the statement.

Berry was transported to the Abingdon Facility of the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail. She is being held without bond.

Charges against the patient of the room are pending.

View Source

Serial Salem burglar captured with alert security officer’ help

Salem OR Dec 27 2017 A man suspected of breaking into at least 18 local businesses, churches and non-profits was arrested Christmas Eve by Salem police.

Roberto Baney-Mateos, 26, was wanted by Salem police in connection with a series of burglaries, including a break-in at La Bonita Bakery on Portland Road, where thousands of dollars were stolen on Nov. 25.

On Dec. 1, investigators asked for the public’s help with locating Baney-Mateos, a transient with a warrant out for his arrest for violating his probation for a methamphetamine possession conviction.

Security guards spotted Baney-Mateos inside a business complex yard around 8:20 p.m. Sunday. Salem police spokesman Lt. Dave Okada said officers quickly responded and spotted Baney-Mateos in front of one business in the 3100 block of Kantz Court NE.

As officers closed in on him, Baney-Mateos fled into an adjoining business yard. A Salem police K-9 dog found him hiding in the back of a utility truck.
He was taken into custody without further incident.

Okada said as the investigation continued, officers determined Baney-Mateos also burglarized Garten Services three times and was possibly connected to several other break-ins. Baney-Mateos was eventually charged with 22 counts of burglary dating back to Nov. 20.

The break-in at La Bonita Bakery was just one of many break-ins to hit the Salem area in recent months.

According to restaurant owners and police, at least 10 restaurants reported burglaries in the Salem-Keizer area since August.

Romano’s Mexican Restaurant closed for business after a burglar stole thousands of dollars from the company safe.

Salem police spokesman Okada told the Statesman Journal he believed a small number of prolific offenders were behind the break-ins.

Bentley’s Coffee and a Keizer Dutch Bros. also experienced multiple burglaries. After Keizer police released a photo of the suspected burglar, John Herriges, 40, of Salem, was arrested and charged with breaking into the coffee shops.

Following his arrest, Baney-Mateos was taken to Marion County jail. He is scheduled to appear for arraignment on Tuesday.

Read More

Two charged with attempted robbery

Two people face attempted armed robbery and drug distribution charges after police said they followed a man from the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore to the Annapolis Police Department and attempted to hold him up at gunpoint with a BB gun.

Annapolis police said a man drove into the parking lot of the department on Taylor Avenue around 4:40 p.m. after he noticed he was being followed by another vehicle.

According to charging documents, the victim was at the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore on line waiting to cash out chips when he was approached by Breiya Evans, 23 of Owings Mills.

After he declined an invitation for a drink, charging documents state that he noticed Evans and another man continued to follow him to the elevator and out of the casino.

 The man then got two security guards to escort him out of the building, police wrote, but he soon found himself being followed in his car by Evans and the man.
Charging documents state the man pulled “several evasive maneuvers” to try to elude the two, but to no avail. He drove from the casino to Annapolis with them following closely behind the whole way, police said.

When he pulled into the police department’s parking lot, police said the other vehicle pulled up behind him and Evans pointed what looked like a handgun at him.

Fearing he was being robbed, he ran into the police department and attracted the attention of an officer, police said.

When confronted, police said the woman was wielding a BB gun designed to look like a real handgun. Police added when they searched her car they found “13 individual baggies of marijuana.”

Evans and the passenger, Patrick Palmer, 25, of Baltimore, were arrested and charged with armed robbery, felony assault and drug distribution charges along with eight other misdemeanor offenses.

View Source

Slidell Police arrest 4 following fight in Walmart

The Slidell Police Department has arrested four women following a large fight inside of a Walmart.

Police say the fight happened around 1 p.m. Saturday at the Walmart located at 39142 Natchez Drive.

According to police, they received several calls about the large fight in the produce section. Callers also told police that some of the people were using pepper spray.

The fight involved more than 10 people and two of the people involved in the fight were taken to a nearby hospital for minor injuries.

Police later arrested four women in connection with the fight. Police have charged 19-year-old Alexis Neal of Slidell, 38-year-old Majara Walker of Slidell, 17-year-old Seanice Warren of St. Louis, MO and 22-year-old Morgan Walker of Slidell with disturbing the peace by fighting.

Investigators say the fight began due to a previous conflict between two different families. By chance, the two groups encountered each other in Walmart.

Videos of the fight quickly went viral Saturday afternoon following the incident.

Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal released a statement saying, “This type of behavior is disgusting and unacceptable. This does not portray the character of the majority of our citizens here in Slidell. These women should be ashamed of themselves for doing this in the middle of one of the busiest retail stores in our city. Let this be a clear message that this will not be tolerated.”

View Source