Did you know that human trafficking is thought to be the third largest criminal activity in the entire world?
That’s according to the FBI’s page on the matter.
Sex trafficking is just one type of human trafficking, but it’s a big one. According to Equality Now, it’s the fastest growing criminal enterprise out there, and it brings in an estimated $99 billion every year.
If recent news is any indication, law enforcement right here in Chicago and across the country is well aware of those facts and they’re really starting to crack down. Back in May of last year, 21 people around the U.S. were indicted for their involvement in what was called a modern day sex slave ring. Just a few months later, two teens were arrested right here in Illinois during a bust of a child sex trafficking ring where the average age of the victims was 15.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from these busts is that sex trafficking rings are large, complicated operations, and it wasn’t just the people running the show who can be arrested. In fact, there are all kinds of things someone can do that might leave them open to a sex trafficking charge.
With so much attention currently being paid to these types of crimes, it is more important than ever to understand sex trafficking laws, as well as just how many different types of actions may constitute involvement in sex trafficking. That way, you don’t unknowingly engage in illegal behavior.
How the State of Illinois Defines and Punishes Sex Trafficking
In our state, sex trafficking falls under a broader statute that covers “Trafficking in persons, involuntary servitude, and related offenses.” Specifically prohibited under this law are the crimes of involuntary servitude, involuntary sexual servitude of a minor, and trafficking in persons.
Associated charges can be as “minor” as a Class 4 felony (with penalties that include 1-3 years of imprisonment) and as serious as a Class X felony (with penalties that include 6-30 years of imprisonment). It should also be noted that those consequences do not assume an extended term sentence or the inclusion of any aggravating factors, both of which can greatly increase the severity and length of penalties.
Now to the most important question: who can potentially be charged with sex trafficking in Illinois? The answer requires you to understand how these operations work and how many different types of jobs can potentially be involved.
The Jobs and Roles Present in a Large-Scale Sex Trafficking Ring
You might think of sex traffickers as modern-day slavers. People who kidnap vulnerable individuals by force, make sure they don’t escape, and then essentially act as pimps once they arrive at their destination.
There’s some truth to that, but in reality it is far more complicated, and there are numerous shades of gray when it comes to the level of involvement – or even knowledge – that some participants have. A large-scale sex slave ring might involve:
- Bogus companions or sponsors of underage victims
- Distributors of child pornography
- Funding providers
- Marketers of sexual services
- Producers of child pornography
- Solicitors of sexual services
- Those who aid and abet participants
- Travel arrangers
As you can see, this is quite a varied list of people, and it would be quite possible to engage in several of these tasks without ever knowing that you were working for a criminal operation. Others may involve some knowledge that they were engaging in an illegal act, but not that it was in any way connected to sex trafficking.
For example, say someone contacts you about the use of a ship or cargo container to transport goods. What is your culpability if it turns out that those “goods” are people? What if you are asked to recruit people for a sex trafficking ring, but they sell you the same fake story that you end up passing on to the victims about coming to the U.S. for a job and a better life? Could you be charged?
The bottom line is that if you are surprised to find yourself suddenly facing charges, you need to act fast to protect your rights and your future. The best way to do this is to get in touch with an experienced Chicago criminal attorney with experience handling these types of cases. The sooner you reach out and start working together to craft your defense strategy, the better your chances at receiving a positive outcome.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.