Human Trafficking

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Criminal Charges Against Senior Corporate Officers of Backpage.com for Profiting from Prostitution and Arrest of Carl Ferrer, CEO

October 6, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of Carl Ferrer, the Chief Executive Officer of online advertising website Backpage.com, on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping.  Michael Lacey and James Larkin, controlling shareholders of Backpage, have also been criminally charged with conspiracy to commit pimping, a felony. Backpage hosts ads for “escort services”, essentially operating as an online brothel and generating millions of dollars off the illegal sex trade.  

“Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,” said Attorney General Harris.  “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel. Thank you to the California Department of Justice Special Agents, investigators, attorneys, and our partners in law enforcement who have worked tirelessly to bring the operators of this online brothel to justice and protect thousands of victims of trafficking.”

While Backpage hosts ads for sales of a range of items and services, the arrest warrant alleges that the vast majority of Backpage’s revenue is generated through prostitution-related ads in its “adult services” section.  Backpage collects fees from users who post “escort” ads, offering sex for money using coded language and nearly nude photos. The California Department of Justice’s investigation found that many of the ads for prostitution services involved victims of sex trafficking, including children under the age of 18. 

Since 2010, Backpage has been expanding operations, creating sites in hundreds of cities throughout the world, including over 30 cities in California.  Backpage’s internal revenue reports show that from January 2013 to March 2015, 99% of Backpage’s worldwide income was directly attributable to the “adult” section. During this 29-month period, Backpage’s self-reporting demonstrates that gross monthly income from California rose to $2.5 million per month, with over $51 million in revenue derived from California in that period.

In addition to making millions of dollars off the sale of “adult” ads on Backpage, the arrest warrant alleges that Ferrer devised a way to promote Backpage by creating other prostitution-related sites that essentially serve as an escort directory comprised entirely of Backpage users.  Ferrer took data from Backpage users and created content for Backpage-affiliated sites like EvilEmpire.com and BigCity.com. The investigation found that Evilempire.com featured photos and contact information from Backpage and offered no apparent way for users to submit content directly.  These schemes enabled Ferrer and his co-conspirators to expand Backpage’s share of the online sex advertising market. 

The California Department of Justice conducted a three-year investigation, including undercover operations posting “escort” ads and arranging meetings with people who had advertised in the “escort” section, confirming that commercial sex was the only purpose for both buyers and sellers. The investigation was sparked by reports from media, law enforcement agencies, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). In the last five years, NCMEC has reported an over 800% increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking, much of it the result of online child sex trafficking. Since 2012, the NCMEC has reported 2,900 instances to California law enforcement where suspected child sex trafficking occurred via Backpage.

In addition to NCMEC, other agencies assisting in the investigation include the Texas Attorney General’s office, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Human Trafficking Taskforce, the Long Beach Police Department, the Mesa Police Department, the Rocklin Police Department, the Napa Police Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Justice. The CEO and founder of Runaway Girl, Carissa Phelps, also collaborated with the California Department of Justice to reach out to and support victims.  

Anyone who was a victim of trafficking via Backpage is encouraged to file a report with the California Department of Justice by emailing backpage@doj.ca.gov.

Attorney General Harris has made fighting human trafficking a priority for the California Department of Justice, and has advocated for increased collaboration among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies during the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.  

The Office of the Attorney General is actively investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases across California.  Most recently, the office secured a felony conviction against Andrew Jordan, 37, of Long Beach, on charges of human trafficking, pimping, pandering, domestic violence, and assault. Jordan forced women to commit commercial sex acts and kept the proceeds, severely punishing the victims if they violated his strict rules.

Last year, the Office of the Attorney General released a resource guide to help companies comply with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. The law requires large retailers and manufacturers doing business in California to disclose on their websites their “efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from [their] direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale.”

In 2012, Attorney General Harris created a Human Trafficking Work Group and released a report, The State of Human Trafficking in California, which discussed the growth of human trafficking crimes statewide and the challenges with combatting them effectively.

Please note that an arrest warrant contains only allegations against a person and, as with all defendants, Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

Copies of the arrest warrant and complaint are attached to the online version of this news release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Arrest in San Diego Human Trafficking Case

June 20, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN DIEGO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of three individuals as part of an ongoing investigation into a sex trafficking case in San Diego.  The joint investigation and operation, “Operation Hotel Tango,” was conducted by the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, which includes the California Department of Justice and 18 local and federal law enforcement agencies.

“Human traffickers exploit vulnerable children and adults, subjecting their victims to manipulation, violence, and unspeakable cruelty while forcing them into labor and prostitution,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.  “I thank our law enforcement partners in the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force and our California Department of Justice Special Agents for working diligently and collaboratively to protect victims of trafficking and hold accountable those who profit from the insidious crime of human trafficking.”

Tyrone Evans, 40, in San Diego County was arrested and charged on 22 felony counts of human trafficking, pimping and pandering.  Lila Leflorsm, 36, and Natasha McElrath, 37, were also arrested in connection with the operation and are suspected of using social media to recruit teenage women and negotiate transactions.

Through the investigation, law enforcement discovered that Tyrone Evans was involved in the sex trafficking of several women in San Diego County and across the country.  Evans utilized social media websites to recruit and exploit his human trafficking victims. 

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where perpetrators profit from the control and exploitation of individuals, including men, women, children, adults, immigrants, or U.S. citizens.  The California Department of Justice’s 2012 report “The State of Human Trafficking in California,” confirmed that California is one of the states most affected by human trafficking, due in part to its proximity to the U.S. southwest border, its robust economy, and a large immigrant population.

The San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force (HTTF) was formed in January 2015 with the goal of rescuing victims, holding their captors accountable, and promoting community awareness.  The Task Force takes a collaborative and regional approach to effectively meet the threat posed by human traffickers who are increasingly organized and sophisticated.

The Task Force is composed of 19 local, state and federal agencies, including the California Department of Justice, California Highway Patrol, Chula Vista Police Department, Coronado Police Department, Escondido Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Internal Revenue Service, La Mesa Police Department, Oceanside Police Department, San Diego City Attorney's Office, San Diego County District Attorney's Office, San Diego County Probation Department, San Diego County Sheriff's Department, San Diego Police Department, U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Marshals Service.

The San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force have referred Evans' victims to victim advocate groups in order to assist them in accessing housing, counseling, drug treatment, job training and other social services.

Victims of human trafficking are encouraged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center toll free, 24/7 Hotline: CALL 888-373-7888 or TEXT BeFree or 233733. 

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Files Multiple Charges in Long Beach Human Trafficking Case

April 20, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that her office has filed six felony charges against Andrew Jordan, 36, in Los Angeles County Superior Court for allegedly committing human trafficking, pimping, pandering, domestic violence, assault, and a racially motivated hate crime.  He was held to answer on these charges on February 3, 2016, and Jordan pled not guilty as charged.  

“Human trafficking dehumanizes victims and will not be tolerated in California,” said Attorney General Harris.  “We must continue to support victims of human trafficking and help them seek justice.  I thank our California Department of Justice attorneys and Special Agents, as well as the Long Beach Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office for their commitment to fighting human trafficking.”

On August 26, 2015, detectives from the Long Beach Police Department’s Vice Investigations and Gang Enforcement Sections, with the assistance of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Custody Investigative Services, Operation Safe Jails, and the Los Angeles Human Exploitation and Trafficking Task Force, identified a 23-year-old human trafficking victim who was in custody on a prostitution charge.

At Jordan’s preliminary hearing on February 3, 2016, the victim testified that she was forced by the defendant to perform commercial sex acts with other men.  Jordan drove her to an area of Los Angeles she was unfamiliar with and forced her to solicit sex acts from cars passing by.  He monitored her whereabouts and ordered her to send him text messages every time she was picked up and every time she completed an act.  He collected the money in between and forced her to stay out until she met a quota that the defendant set.  She described how the defendant beat her severely when she broke his rules and called her racially degrading slurs to further punish and control her.  He coerced her into getting a tattoo of his name on her wrist.  The defendant also controlled all of her personal belongings.  She testified that she was scared to run away as he kept tabs on her by constantly driving up and down the street.  It was not until she was in custody that she was able to tell an officer that she was being abused. 

Human traffickers often use verbal and physical abuse to instill fear in their victims, break down their sense of self-worth, and maintain control.  This prevents victims from seeking help or running away.  Traffickers also often keep control of a victim’s personal belongings, identification, and keys and take victims to work in unfamiliar settings, to further isolate them.  Traffickers also force or coerce their victims into getting tattoos featuring the trafficker’s name or moniker to represent ownership. 

The defendant has remained in custody since his September 2015 arrest. The next court date is a pre-trial conference on April 27, 2016 and jury trial is set for May 19, 2016.

“This case is another great example of how our partnerships with other law enforcement agencies and non-profit victim advocacy groups protect and support victims of Human Trafficking,” said Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna.  “We commend the proactive work of our detectives and will continue to dedicate resources in an effort to combat these violent acts and bring those responsible to justice.”  

“I want to commend Long Beach Police, the Sheriff’s Department, and the Attorney General’s Office for their quick work to apprehend and file charges on this extremely dangerous person,” stated Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert.  “Our office is proud to partner with these agencies to stop human trafficking and assist the survivors.”

Attorney General Harris has made fighting human trafficking a priority for the California Department of Justice, and has advocated for increased collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies during the investigation and prosecution of the crime of human trafficking.  

Earlier this month, Attorney General Harris announced her sponsorship of Assembly Bill 1731 by Assembly Speaker Emeritus Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) to combat human trafficking.  The bill creates the Statewide Interagency Human Trafficking Task Force, which would be a permanent collaborative entity led by the California Department of Justice in partnership with other government agencies.  In addition to her sponsorship of AB 1731, Attorney General Harris also announced her support for AB 1730 by Speaker Emeritus Atkins, a bill to establish housing programs that provide trauma-informed mental health services for child sex trafficking victims.

Last year, the Office of the Attorney General released a resource guide to help companies comply with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act.  The law requires large retailers and manufacturers doing business in California to disclose on their websites their “efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from [their] direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale.”

In 2012, Attorney General Harris created a Human Trafficking Work Group and released a report, The State of Human Trafficking in California, which discussed the growth of human trafficking crimes statewide and the challenges with combatting them effectively.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Speaker Emeritus Atkins Sponsor Legislation to Combat Human Trafficking

March 9, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – Today, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced her sponsorship of legislation to combat human trafficking, Assembly Bill 1731 by Assembly Speaker Emeritus Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego).  The bill creates the Statewide Interagency Human Trafficking Task Force, which would be a permanent collaborative entity led by the California Department of Justice in partnership with other government agencies.

“Human trafficking is one of the world’s most heinous and profitable criminal enterprises,” said Attorney General Harris.  “This legislation will help combat human trafficking by ensuring coordination between a wide range of agencies and partners.  I applaud Speaker Emeritus Atkins for fighting this abhorrent crime.”

The task force created through AB 1731 is a successor to the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery (CA ACTS), a temporary entity established by AB 22 (Lieber) in 2006.  That bill, which was sponsored by Attorney General Harris while she served as San Francisco District Attorney, made human trafficking a crime in the state, provided restitution to trafficking victims, and directed the CA ACTS to produce the first comprehensive report on human trafficking in California.

In 2012, Attorney General Harris temporarily reconstituted a Human Trafficking Work Group to publish a second report.  Both reports dramatically expanded the state’s understanding of the scope and nature of modern day slavery, and the Attorney General has since sponsored previous legislation based on their findings.

As a sponsor of AB 1731, Attorney General Harris will assist Speaker Emeritus Atkins in developing a new task force that builds on the success of California’s previous collaborative models.  This permanent entity demonstrates a long-term commitment from California to ending both sex and labor trafficking within the state.  The task force’s initial priorities will be to identify data-driven solutions to combatting slavery, improving interagency cooperation, and increasing public awareness.

“Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and it will take vigilance, collaboration, and hard work among many different sectors to end it,” said Speaker Emeritus Atkins. “Attorney General Harris’ backing of this legislation will go a long way in ensuring California develops the kind of taskforce we need to effectively battle human trafficking in our state.”

In addition to her sponsorship of AB 1731, Attorney General Harris also announced her support for AB 1730 by Speaker Emeritus Atkins, a bill to establish housing programs that provide trauma-informed mental health services for child sex trafficking victims.  Both bills unanimously passed out of Assembly Public Safety Committee last week.

Attorney General Harris has made fighting human trafficking a priority for the California Department of Justice.  Last year, the Office of the Attorney General released a Resource Guide to help companies comply with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, a law requiring large retailers and manufacturers in California to post their supply chain policies online.  In 2014, Attorney General Harris released Gangs Beyond Borders, a report that highlighted the growing role of transnational criminal organizations in the human trafficking underground economy.

In February 2015, Attorney General Harris created the Bureau of Children’s Justice to enforce criminal and civil laws to hold those who prey on children accountable; work with local, state, and national stakeholders to increase support for vulnerable children; and identify and pursue improvements to policies impacting children.  One of the Bureau’s core priorities is human trafficking of vulnerable youth, including foster children.

For more information on the Attorney General’s work on human trafficking, visit oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking.

On Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Collaboration with Truckers Against Trafficking and Law Enforcement Partners

January 11, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND – In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that the Attorney General’s office, Truckers Against Trafficking, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office will host a training on Wednesday, January 13, 2016, to equip the trucking industry and law enforcement with the tools to effectively identify and charge suspected traffickers.

The training will be held at the Port of Oakland and will provide resources to help truck drivers recognize and report suspected traffickers to law enforcement.  Given the cross-jurisdictional nature of the crime of human trafficking and the use of major thoroughfares by traffickers, truck drivers are particularly well-positioned to aid law enforcement.  The event will also feature The Freedom Drivers Project, a first-of-its-kind 48-foot mobile exhibit that includes artifacts from trafficking cases, portraits of Truckers Against Trafficking members, and ways members of the public can join the fight against human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is one of the world’s most heinous and profitable criminal enterprises,” said Attorney General Harris.  “It is unconscionable that each year, thousands of vulnerable children and adults are forced into labor and prostitution.  Those who buy trafficked labor must also be held accountable for their outrageous crimes.  I thank Truckers Against Trafficking and our law enforcement partners for their work to dismantle networks of traffickers and this criminal industry.”

“California is at the national forefront in the fight to end human trafficking.  Local and statewide law enforcement agencies and prosecutor’s offices cannot wage this battle without the assistance of groups like Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT),” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley.  “TAT enables concerned truckers to act as additional eyes on the road for signs of human trafficking and to subvert demand for sex trafficking.  Every member of our community should be aware that children and adults are trafficked on a daily basis around our state and nation, and we each have a vital role to play in ending this horrendous criminal enterprise.”

“We are pleased to be able to forge a partnership with Attorney General Harris’ office, Alameda County District Attorney O’Malley and the Truckers Against Trafficking to combat human trafficking,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch.  “This alliance will illustrate once again why a collaborative model unifying state and federal law enforcement with service providers is an effective instrument in our fight against human trafficking.” 

“We are thrilled to work with our partners at the California Trucking Association and the California Attorney General's office to bring law enforcement and key trucking industry stakeholders into a networking and training session,” said Kylla Lanier, the Deputy Director for Truckers Against Trafficking.  “By equipping these critical audiences to recognize suspected human trafficking, traffickers will find it harder to operate, and victims will have a better opportunity at being recovered.”

“The California Trucking Association is proud to partner with Truckers Against Trafficking and the California Attorney General’s office,” said Shawn Yadon, CEO of The California Trucking Association. “As a long-standing supporter of Truckers Against Trafficking, the trucking industry has made it a top priority to work with our coalition partners by helping to deliver educational platforms to fight against issues related to human trafficking.”

"We encourage everyone to get educated on trafficking by visiting http://www.notraffickahead.com/, a workgroup of over 50 agencies across the Bay Area leading the fight against Human Trafficking,” said Sharan Dhanoa of the No Traffick Ahead Coalition.

Wednesday’s training is part of an ongoing partnership between Attorney General Harris’s office and U.S. Attorney’s offices in California to address the need for heightened awareness of labor trafficking, which is often overlooked in anti-human trafficking efforts.  Participants in previous trainings have included the U.S. Department of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, California’s Employment Development Department and Department of Fair Employment and Housing, City Attorney’s Offices, local regulatory offices, as well as service providers and law enforcement agencies.  This training in Oakland is the ninth in a series that began over a year ago in Fresno and other trainings have been held in Sacramento, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Luis Obispo. 

On Tuesday, January 12, 2016, Attorney General Harris will also receive the Modern Day Abolition Award from the San Francisco Coalition Against Human Trafficking, which she helped to establish while serving as District Attorney of San Francisco.  The award recognizes individuals who have worked to prevent and prosecute human trafficking and protect victims from violence, exploitation, and slavery.

Throughout her career, Attorney General Harris has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fighting human trafficking.  She has advocated for increased collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases, as well as early and frequent collaboration between law enforcement and victim service providers.

In addition, Attorney General Harris’s office will be working with local law enforcement in Santa Clara County and statewide to combat human trafficking in the lead-up to and during the Super Bowl, which will be held on February 7, 2016, in the city of Santa Clara, California.

The Attorney General’s office is actively investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases across California, most recently securing convictions against four defendants who were running a brothel out of an Emeryville massage parlor, with the owner receiving a 10-year prison sentence.

Last year, Attorney General Harris released a resource guide for companies on complying with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (SB 657), a law requiring retailers and manufacturers doing business in California that have annual worldwide gross receipts exceeding $100,000,000 to disclose on their websites their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their product supply chains.  Attorney General Harris’s office is actively investigating companies that may be in violation of the law.  More information is available at https://oag.ca.gov/SB657.

In 2014, Attorney General Harris released a report, Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime, which identified human trafficking as an emerging criminal enterprise undertaken by transnational criminal organizations and recommended creating state task forces to investigate and disrupt these organizations.  In 2012, Attorney General Harris created a Human Trafficking Work Group and released a report, The State of Human Trafficking in California, which outlined the growing prevalence of this $32 billion-a-year global industry and the way in which California is uniquely affected.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces 10-Year Sentence for Defendant in Emeryville Sex Trafficking Case

July 16, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that Jimmy Gong Lee, 55, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and must pay restitution in the amount of $33,861.26 for his role in an Emeryville, California-based sex trafficking ring. 

“The defendant sold young, vulnerable women as commodities,” said Attorney General Harris. “This sentence brings a perpetrator of this heinous crime to justice, and sends a clear message that sex traffickers will be swiftly prosecuted.  I thank our DOJ agents and our local, state and federal partners for their continued commitment to fighting trafficking in communities across California.”

On May 22, 2015, Jimmy Gong Lee and Tom Loi, 59, pled guilty to multiple felony charges.  Lee pled to conspiracy to commit pandering, two counts of bribery, and three counts of tax fraud and Loi pled to conspiracy to commit pandering and two counts of bribery.   Loi will be sentenced in October.

The defendants are two of the four suspects (Jimmy Gong Lee, 55, Tom Loi, 59, Wei Kuang, 56, and Rong Liu, 37) arrested and charged with operating a sex trafficking ring out of Lee and Liu’s business, Acucare Oriental Massage, in Emeryville, California.

Charges are still pending against Kuang and Liu. 

The arrests and sentences are the result of a joint investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the California Attorney General’s Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement Task Force (TRaCE), the Emeryville Police Department, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern and Eastern Districts of California.  

The joint investigation revealed that Acucare Oriental Massage operated as a front for a brothel where young Asian females were used for commercial sex and replaced every two weeks. Lee and Liu owned the business while Kuang operated the front desk, collecting money from “customers” and providing condoms.

When authorities became suspicious of the business, an undercover Emeryville Police Captain posing as a corrupt police officer was paid a total of $24,000 in bribes by Loi to allow for the business’s continued operation. On June 5, 2014, California Department of Justice and HSI agents issued warrants for both Acucare Oriental Massage and Lee’s residence, recovering $69,000 cash and evidence that Lee, Liu and Kuang were operating a brothel. Lee, Loi, Kuang and Liu were arrested and charged for conspiracy, pimping, pandering, bribery, and tax fraud on December 12, 2014.

In 2012, Attorney General Harris created a Human Trafficking Work Group and released a report, The State of Human Trafficking in California, outlining the growing prevalence of human trafficking crimes in the state (http://www.oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking/2012). The report analyzes the challenges California faces in addressing this increasing crime. As a populous border state with a significant immigrant population, California is one of the top destinations for human traffickers.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Consumer Alert on California Transparency in Supply Chains Act

April 13, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

En Español

LOS ANGELES- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued a consumer alert to Californians on the availability of critical information about the efforts that certain companies are undertaking to stop and prevent human trafficking and slavery in their product supply chains - in the United States and abroad.  In addition, Attorney General Harris today released a guide, The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act: A Resource Guideto provide businesses with recommendations to develop and refine their disclosures to consumers.

The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (the Act) requires large retail sellers or manufacturers doing business in California—with annual worldwide gross receipts that exceed $100 million—to provide disclosures about their “efforts to eradicate slavery and trafficking in their direct supply chains for tangible goods offered for sale.” (Cal. Civ. Code, § 1714.43, subd. (a)(1).)  The mandated disclosures apply to five specific categories—verification, audits, certification, internal accountability, and training. 

By taking the time to read a company’s disclosures before making a purchasing decision, California consumers have another means of holding retail sellers and manufacturers accountable for the integrity of their products.

The Act, the first law of its kind in the nation, enables consumers to distinguish companies that are taking steps to supply the marketplace with products free from the taint of slavery and trafficking.  Under California law, a human trafficking crime takes place when a person “deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent to obtain forced labor or services .…” (Cal. Pen. Code, § 236.1, subd. (a).)  An estimated 21 million people are victims of forced labor around the globe. These victims work in virtually every industry and across sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture, construction, entertainment and domestic service.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Since the Act is intended to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions, consumers should be aware of the law and know what to look for on company websites.  If a company has a website, the required disclosures must be accessible through a “conspicuous and easily understood link” on the company website’s homepage.

Once consumers have gained access to the required disclosures, they can review them before making a purchase.  Through a company’s required disclosures, the law entitles consumers to obtain information about:

1. Verification: To what extent, if any, that the retail seller or manufacturer engages in verification of product supply chains to evaluate and address risks of human trafficking and slavery. 

2. Audits: To what extent, if any, the retail seller or manufacturer conducts audits of suppliers to evaluate supplier compliance with company standards for trafficking and slavery in supply chains. 

3. Certification: To what extent, if any, the retail seller or manufacturer requires direct suppliers to certify that materials incorporated into the product comply with the laws regarding slavery and human trafficking of the country or countries in which they are doing business.

4. Internal Accountability: To what extent, if any, the retail seller or manufacturer maintains internal accountability standards and procedures for employees or contractors failing to meet company standards regarding slavery and trafficking.

5. Training: To what extent, if any, that the retail seller or manufacturer provides company employees and management, who have direct responsibility for supply chain management, training on human trafficking and slavery, particularly with respect to mitigating risks within the supply chains of products.

(Cal. Civ. Code, § 1714.43, subds. (c)(1)-(5).)

The Act provides consumers with a mechanism to use the power of information in the fight against slavery and trafficking.  For California consumers, evaluating company disclosures required by the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act is among the best ways to use their voices and wallets to influence supply practices that contribute to the slavery and trafficking problem around the globe.  

WHERE TO REPORT SUSPECTED VIOLATIONS OF THE ACT:

The Attorney General has created an online form to accept inquiries and reports related to the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. Please direct any such inquiries or reports to http://oag.ca.gov/sb657/contact-us or to:

SB 657 Enforcement Reporting
Attention: Civil Rights Enforcement Section
300 S. Spring Street, Suite 1702
Los Angeles, California 90013

WHERE TO REPORT INSTANCES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING:

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, please seek help immediately by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or the U.S. Department of Justice Hotline at 1-888-428-7581. For more general information and additional resources, please visit the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking page at http://oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking.

La Procuradora General Kamala D. Harris emite una alerta al consumidor sobre la Ley de transparencia en la cadena de abastecimiento de California.

April 13, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ÁNGELES—La Procuradora General Kamala D. Harris, emitió hoy una alerta a todos los consumidores californianos acerca de información crítica disponible sobre los esfuerzos que están emprendiendo ciertas empresas para detener y prevenir el tráfico de personas y la esclavitud en las cadenas de abastecimiento de sus productos, en los Estados Unidos y en el extranjero. 

La Ley de transparencia en la cadena de abastecimiento de California (la Ley) demanda que los grandes vendedores o fabricantes al menudeo con operaciones comerciales en California, con facturación bruta anual mundial mayor a $100 millones, proporcionen divulgaciones sobre sus "esfuerzos para erradicar la esclavitud y el tráfico en sus cadenas de abastecimiento directas para bienes tangibles ofrecidos a la venta." (Código Civil de California, § 1714.43, subpárrafo. (a)(1).)  Las divulgaciones obligatorias se aplican a cinco categorías específicas—verificación, auditorías, certificación, responsabilidad interna y capacitación. 

Al invertir tiempo en leer las divulgaciones de la empresa antes de una decisión de compra, los consumidores californianos cuentan con otro medio para responsabilizar a vendedores y fabricantes al menudeo sobre la integridad de sus productos.

La Ley, la primera ley de este tipo en la nación, permite a los consumidores distinguir a las empresas que están haciendo esfuerzos para abastecer al mercado con productos libres de la corrupción del esclavismo y el tráfico.  Bajo la ley de California, un delito de tráfico humano sucede cuando una persona "priva o quebranta la libertad personal de otra persona con la intención de obtener trabajos o servicios forzados...." (Código Pen. Calif., § 236.1, subpárrafo. (a).)  Aproximadamente 21 millones de personas son víctimas de trabajos forzados en el mundo. Estas víctimas trabajan virtualmente en todas las industrias y en todos los sectores, entre los que se incluye manufactura, agricultura, construcción, entretenimiento y servicio doméstico.

QUÉ DEBEMOS BUSCAR:

Debido a que la Ley tiene el propósito de ayudar a los consumidores a tomar decisiones informadas de compra, los consumidores deben de ser conscientes de la ley y saber qué hay que buscar en los sitios web de la empresa.  Si una empresa cuenta con un sitio web, se debe contar con un "enlace visible de fácil comprensión" con las divulgaciones obligatorias en la página principal del sitio web de la empresa.

Una vez que los consumidores obtienen acceso a las divulgaciones obligatorias, las pueden revisar antes de hacer una compra.  A través de las divulgaciones obligatorias de la empresa, la ley da derecho a los consumidores a obtener información sobre:

  1. Verificación: Si se aplica, cuál es el alcance del involucramiento del vendedor o fabricante al menudeo en la verificación de las cadenas de abastecimiento del producto para evaluar y abordar los riesgos de tráfico humano y esclavitud.
  2. Auditorias: Si se aplica, cuál es el alcance del vendedor o fabricante al menudeo en la realización de auditorías de proveedores para evaluar el cumplimiento de los mismos con los estándares de la empresa en relación a tráfico y esclavitud en las cadenas de abastecimiento.
  3. Certificación: Si se aplica, hasta qué grado el vendedor o fabricante al menudeo requiere de sus proveedores directos que certifiquen que los materiales incorporados en el producto cumple con las leyes en relación a esclavitud y tráfico humano del país o países en donde realizan negocios.
  4. Responsabilidad interna: Si se aplica, hasta qué grado el vendedor o fabricante al menudeo mantiene estándares y procedimientos de responsabilidad interna para empleados o contratistas que no cumplen con los estándares de la empresa en relación a esclavitud y tráfico humano.
  5. Capacitación: Si se aplica, hasta qué grado el vendedor o fabricante al menudeo proporciona a los empleados y gerentes de la empresa, que tengan una responsabilidad directa de la administración de la cadena de abastecimiento, con capacitación sobre tráfico humano y esclavitud, en particular en cómo atenuar riesgos dentro de las cadenas de abastecimiento de productos.

(Código Civ. de California, § 1714.43, subpárrafos. (c)(1)-(5).)

La Ley ofrece a los consumidores un mecanismo para utilizar el poder de la información para combatir  la esclavitud y el tráfico.  Para los consumidores californianos, la evaluación de las divulgaciones empresariales requeridas por la Ley de transparencia en la cadena de abastecimiento de California es una de las mejoras formas de usar sus voces y sus billeteras para influenciar las prácticas de abastecimiento que contribuyen al problema mundial de esclavitud y tráfico.  

CÓMO REPORTAR SOSPECHAS DE VIOLACIONES A LA LEY:

La Procuraduría General ha creado un formulario en línea para aceptar consultar y reportes relacionados con la Ley de transparencia en la cadena de abastecimiento de California. Dirija por favor sus consultas o reportes a http://oag.ca.gov/sb657/contact-us o escribiendo a:

SB 657 Enforcement Reporting
Attention: Civil Rights Enforcement Section
300 S. Spring Street, Suite 1702
Los Angeles, California 90013

CÓMO REPORTAR CASOS DE TRAFICO HUMANO:

Si usted o alguien que Ud. conoce es víctima de tráfico humano, busque ayuda inmediatamente llamando a la línea de ayuda de National Human Trafficking Resource Center al 1-888-373-7888 o a la línea de ayuda del U.S. Department of Justice al 1-888-428-7581. Para obtener más información general y recursos adicionales, visite la página de tráfico humano de la Procuraduría General en http://oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Guide for Companies to Comply with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act

April 13, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO— Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued a resource guide to assist companies that do business in California with disclosing their efforts to prevent and root out human trafficking and slavery in their product supply chains, as required by law. The guide, The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act: A Resource Guide, provides businesses with recommendations to develop and refine their disclosures to consumers.

“Human trafficking profits from exploiting the most vulnerable in our society and often extends to factories, farms and construction sites,” Attorney General Harris said. “This guide will help companies disclose efforts to eradicate human trafficking from their supply chains and empower consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.”   

The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (D-Steinberg, 2010) (the Act) requires large retailers and manufacturers that do business in California to disclose on their websites their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale. The Act applies to companies doing business in California with annual worldwide gross receipts totaling over $100 million and that identify themselves as a retail seller or manufacturer on its California tax return.  

The Resource Guide explains each of the Act’s requirements, and provides model disclosures inspired by actual company website disclosures.  These model disclosures aim to help businesses develop their own effective disclosures—ones that not only comply with the Act, but also more fully educate the public about the integrity of their supply chains.  

Specifically, the new guide will assist companies in addressing the Act’s five required disclosure categories:

1. Verification: Disclose to what extent, if any, that the retail seller or manufacturer engages in verification of product supply chains to evaluate and address risks of human trafficking and slavery. 

2. Audits: Disclose to what extent, if any, the retail seller or manufacturer conducts audits of suppliers to evaluate supplier compliance with company standards for trafficking and slavery in supply chains. 

3. Certification: Disclose to what extent, if any, the retail seller or manufacturer requires direct suppliers to certify that materials incorporated into the product comply with the laws regarding slavery and human trafficking of the country or countries in which they are doing business. 

4. Internal Accountability: Disclose to what extent, if any, the retail seller or manufacturer maintains internal accountability standards and procedures for employees or contractors failing to meet company standards regarding slavery and trafficking.

5. Training: Disclose to what extent, if any, that the retail seller or manufacturer provides company employees and management, who have direct responsibility for supply chain management, training on human trafficking and slavery, particularly with respect to mitigating risks within the supply chains of products.

The Act does not impose any obligation on businesses to implement new measures. All disclosures must be made available on the company’s website and be accessible by a conspicuous link on the homepage. If a company subject to the law does not have a website, it must provide written disclosures within 30 days of receiving a request for the information.

In 2012, Attorney General Harris released a report, The State of Human Trafficking in California, which outlined the growing prevalence of human trafficking and emphasized that the crime is routinely “hidden in plain sight,” with victims often going unrecognized and consumers across the United States—including those in California—routinely make purchasing and business choices that “inadvertently promote the crime of trafficking.” Developing model disclosures will empower California consumers to join the fight against human trafficking, and enable companies to highlight their efforts to eradicate trafficking and slavery from their supply chains and improve the quality of the goods they bring to market.

 

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Arrest of Four Suspects Running Emeryville Sex Trafficking Ring

December 12, 2014
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of four suspects accused of operating a sex trafficking ring out of Emeryville, California. Acucare Oriental Massage co-owner Jimmy Gong Lee and Tom Loi are also accused of making bribes to an Emeryville Police Captain—who was working undercover, posing as a corrupt officer—to further their illegal business operations.

Today’s arrests are the result of a joint investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations  (HSI), the California Attorney General’s Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement  Task Force, the Emeryville Police Department, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern and Eastern Districts of California.

“Human trafficking is one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises, and it is having a devastating impact right here in our own backyard,” said Attorney General Harris. “Each year, thousands of women and children of all ages and backgrounds are forced into labor and prostitution. I thank our local, state and federal partners for fighting this serious threat and bringing these perpetrators to justice.”

“Illegal ventures like this degrade the quality of life in our neighborhoods as well as the women involved,” said Tatum King, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Francisco.  “HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners to identify, disrupt, and dismantle these kinds of enterprises that prey on the vulnerable and often bring other criminal activity into the area.” 

Defendants Jimmy Gong Lee, 55, Tom Loi 59, Wei Kuang, 56 and Rong Liu, 37, were arrested today and face a total of 30 felony state charges for their respective roles in the operation. The charges include conspiracy, pimping, pandering, bribery, and tax fraud. Lee and Loi are being held at the San Francisco County Jail and Kuang and Liu are being held at the Alameda County Jail on $150,000 bail each and will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office.  Lee and Loi are also facing federal charges. 

The joint investigation revealed that Acucare Oriental Massage was operating as a brothel, with young Asian females being used for commercial sex and being replaced every two weeks. Lee and Liu owned the business while Kuang worked at the front desk, collected money, and provided condoms. A series of undercover operations revealed that “johns” (men paying for sex) would be buzzed in to enter the business, pay approximately $60 to Kuang, and then select a “masseuse” from a group of women. The women would then negotiate further fees for sexual services, a portion of which was given back to Kuang. 

When Emeryville authorities began questioning the legitimacy of the business, Lee gave Loi thousands of  dollars to pay off an Emeryville Police Captain, who was working undercover as a corrupt police officer. In a series of recorded meetings between March 2013 and May 2014, Loi gave the Captain a total of $24,000 in bribes—roughly $2,000 a month—not to shut down Acucare. 

On June 5, 2014, agents with the California Department of Justice and HSI executed search warrants on the Acucare Oriental Massage in Emeryville and Lee’s residence in San Francisco.  In addition to shutting down Acucare, agents recovered $69,000 cash, and evidence showing that Lee, Liu and Kuang were operating a brothel. 

Attorney General Harris has made the fight against human trafficking a priority for the California Department of Justice. In March of this year, the Office of the Attorney General released a report, Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime, which is the first comprehensive report analyzing the current state of transnational criminal organizations in California (http://oag.ca.gov/transnational-organized-crime). The report identified human trafficking as one of the emerging activities being undertaken by these organizations, and made recommendations to address this issue, including funding state task forces to investigate and disrupt these organizations.

Attorney General Harris has been a strong advocate for increased collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies during the investigation and prosecution of the crime of human trafficking.  She has also advocated for early and frequent collaboration between law enforcement and victim service providers.

In 2012, Attorney General Harris created a Human Trafficking Work Group and released a report, The State of Human Trafficking in California, which outlined the growing prevalence of the crime of human trafficking in the state (http://www.oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking/2012). The report describes the evolving challenges California faces in addressing this crime, which has become a $32 billion-a-year global industry. California—a populous border state with a significant immigrant population—is one of the top destinations for trafficking human beings.

Please note that these are only allegations and, as with all defendants, those named here must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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