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“It is easy to dismiss human trafficking as a problem that happens only in other parts of the country or the world, but sadly it is something that is happening right here in our communities in Eastern North Carolina,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “Our office is advancing the fight to end human trafficking in our communities. Working together with our law enforcement partners at every level, we seek to identify, locate, and recover the victims and prosecute individuals and organizations exploiting the most vulnerable members of our community. In addition to using our investigative and prosecutorial tools, we are ensuring that our law enforcement partners are armed with the tools and expertise to investigate these cases and hosting events to promote education and awareness.”
New Human Trafficking Task Force
The office is announcing the creation of a dedicated human trafficking task force, initially focused on the Raleigh-Cary area, that is meeting regularly to share intelligence and investigative leads, receive specialized training, develop investigative tools and expertise for law enforcement agencies. The task force includes members of three prosecutorial offices and 11 law enforcement agencies, including the Wake and Johnston County District Attorney’s offices, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Marshal Service, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI), N.C. State Highway Patrol (NCSHP), the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, St. Augustine’s University and the Raleigh, Apex and Cary Police Departments. The goal is to use lessons learned from this task force to develop regional task forces in other parts of the district in the coming year.
“The U.S. Marshals Service has always worked closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and our federal, state, and local counterparts to recover missing and endangered children,” stated U.S. Marshal Glenn McNeill. “We are excited to serve this vital mission and build upon these partnerships as the task force grows in the never-ending pursuit of justice for victims of human trafficking.”
“We are appreciative for this opportunity to further our agency’s efforts in combating human trafficking throughout our state and beyond,” said Colonel Freddy L. Johnson Jr., commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. “The work to be done by this collaborative group of passionate law enforcement professionals will undoubtedly help in identifying victims, removing them from harm’s way and in building strong cases to fully prosecute the offenders of these callous acts.”
“By bringing together the experience and expertise of all cooperating law enforcement agencies, we greatly enhance our ability to combat human trafficking and bring those perpetrating these heinous crimes to justice,” said Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Charlotte that covers North and South Carolina.
“Human traffickers prey on the vulnerable members of our community, and we are proud to join our Federal, state, and local partners on the human trafficking task force to combat this prolific crime,” said Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson. “The Raleigh Police Department will work steadfastly with our partners to educate our community and raise awareness of the impacts of human trafficking. Additionally, we will work closely with the court system to ensure that human traffickers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that the victims are given the resources and support for healing. We will not be a community that allows individuals to abuse other members of society.
NCSBI Director Robert Schurmeier stated, “The creation of a task force specifically dedicated to fighting human trafficking is a welcomed development for North Carolina. Having this resource in place will allow us to better serve the citizens of NC and the many victims of human trafficking. We understand the difficulties and many challenges presented by the complexities of human trafficking investigations. However, together with our criminal justice partners, we believe we can make a profound impact by saving lives and holding to account those who traffic their fellow human beings. The SBI is eager for the opportunity to combat human trafficking in all forms, and is honored to be part of a task force comprised of so many talented members.”
Education, Awareness and Community Outreach
In an effort to raise awareness and educate those involved in the fight against human trafficking, staff from the U.S. Attorney’s Office participated in nearly half a dozen community engagement events, with more planned for 2023. In addition to the direct outreach efforts, the office has also worked to strengthen partnerships with non-governmental organizations and other service providers to ensure that victims of human trafficking are getting the help that they need after the trauma they have experienced.
Prosecution of Human Traffickers
Finally, the office is highlighting several human trafficking prosecutions from 2022 that have helped to put traffickers and members of their organizations behind bars.
USA v. Kevin Rudolph and Marcus Gambrell (No. 5:19-CR-336-FL)
Marcus Antwan Gambrell, 30, of Raleigh, was sentenced to 210 months in prison, on December 21, 2021, for manufacturing child pornography. Gambrell and co-defendant Kevin Rudolph were charged in a four-count superseding indictment. The indictment charged both men with sex trafficking of a minor and using the internet to promote prostitution, Gambrell with manufacturing child pornography, and Rudolph with possession of a firearm by a felon. Gambrell pled guilty to manufacturing child pornography. Rudolph pled guilty to sex trafficking of a minor and aiding and abetting, and sentencing is scheduled for later this month.
USA v. Jenkins, et al. (No. 7:22-CR-00083)
In July 2022, the government indicted a significant human trafficking investigation, charging 20 human trafficking and drug related offenses including, a sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking of multiple victims by force, fraud or coercion, sex trafficking of a minor, multiple counts related to transportation of victims across state lines for purposes of engaging in commercial sex, a drug conspiracy, and drug related offenses. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
USA v. Yomere Juan Busbee (No. 5:20-CR-00393)
In September 2022, a federal jury in Wilmington found the defendant – a violent pimp and drug dealer from Fayetteville – guilty on six counts of kidnapping of four victims, including a minor, drug, and gun offenses stemming from an investigation into the defendant’s sex trafficking offenses. Two co-defendants in the case pled guilty. Busbee is currently set to be sentenced at the end of this month, facing at least 20 years in prison.
USA v. Xiang Yue Jin (No. 5:21-CR-00266) and USA v. Ok Hwa Lee et. al (No. 7:21-CR-00079)
In September 2022, Jin was sentenced to 15 months in prison plus financial restitution for bribery charges intended to protect her illegal “massage parlor” business from law enforcement scrutiny. Five other defendants were indicted in a separate case stemming from the same investigation into illicit massage parlors where sexual services were provided. The last of those five defendants pled guilty in December 2022 and all five are scheduled to be sentenced in 2023.
USA v. Marvarlus Cortel Snead (EDNC No. 7:19-CR-00151; 4th Cir. No. 21-4333)
In December 2022, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence of Marvarlus Snead, rejecting all of defendant’s arguments on appeal. Snead was previously convicted at trial and sentenced to 35 years for sex trafficking of a minor.
If you or anyone you know needs help or has information to provide in regard to a potential human trafficking situation, please contact law enforcement by calling 911 if the situation appears unsafe, or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline:
Eastern District of North Carolina
150 Fayetteville Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601
Raleigh: (919) 856-4530
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