Get inked, give help: Local fundraiser benefits sex trafficking victims

This article pulled from KOB 4 News.

Paul Reilly
April 07, 2018 09:32 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Sex trafficking is an issue that often goes unnoticed in New Mexico, despite there being multitudes of victims who need help.

Enter the New Mexico Dream Center, a non-profit with the goal of helping those victims escape horrible conditions. On Saturday, two Albuquerque groups united to support that mission for the second year.

Some locals were given fresh ink or got to put their videogame skills to the test in the process.

"We have a vision for Albuquerque and the surrounding areas," said Stefonie Montoya, owner of Good Fortune Tattoo, which teamed up with Gamers Anonymous to raise money for the Dream Center.

She was just one of many on Saturday working to make the city a better and safer place.

"To show them love, no matter what skin, religion, race, color, it doesn't matter," she said. "We want to show that love to this community."

Good Fortune is pitching in 50 percent of all tattoo proceeds from the event to the center. Meanwhile, Gamers Anonymous held a videogame tournament at the tattoo shop, with 100 percent of those proceeds set to benefit the Dream Center.

"We've always believed in giving back to the community," Montoya said.

She added they raised around $5,000 last year, and while this year's totals still have to be counted, her hope is that they reached that mark once again.

Sex trafficking sting nets seven arrests

This article pulled from KOB News.


J.R. Oppenheim and Caleb James
July 21, 2017 10:09 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Authorities arrested seven men connected to an underage sex trafficking operation this week, the New Mexico Attorney General's Office announced Friday afternoon.

According to criminal complaints, the seven men tried to solicit sex with someone they believed to be a 15-year-old girl. That person, however, was an undercover Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy.

The sting, dubbed Operation Recovery, lasted four days. The attorney general's office says the suspects offered anywhere from $40 to $200 to have sex with teens.

"There is no higher priority than protecting our children from sexual violence and dangerous sexual predators, and I want to thank all of the agencies that worked together on this successful operation to combat the trafficking of children in New Mexico," Attorney General Hector Balderas said.

The suspects are Daniel Apodaca, Christopher Goulardt, Christ Sathoud, William Long, Jacob Samora, Richard Sanchez and Vu Nguyen. Authorities say all communicated online with a girl they believed to be 15. All showed up to an Albuquerque address according to police, ready for sex.

"The individuals that we deal with are individuals that we would think would not be doing something like this and they are doing this, said Anthony Maez, a special agent for the Attorney General's Office.

Maez said sting operations like this one aim to identify predators actively seeking children for sex. Predators often hide in plain sight, Maez said, and the task force that smokes them out is made up of almost every agency imaginable. This sting was led by Homeland Security.

Maez said websites and social media apps must report inappropriate chats and conversations to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It's how many of these strings and investigations begin -- with a report from the center.

Real children are exploited online each day in New Mexico," Maez said.

"We're seeing that across the state in every jurisdiction that children are doing that more and more -- sending out images of themselves and being extorted more and more," he said.

Several agencies contributed to the operation, including Homeland Security Investigations, the Albuquerque Police Department and BCSO.

"I truly believe in the effort to advocate for victims who have been forced into a life of sex trafficking and placed in a position to restore stability in their life," Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said. "This partnership has proven to be fruitful in targeting sex traffickers who prey on minors. Let this be a notice to those who participate in sex trafficking that law enforcement will hold you accountable."

For more information about Attorney General's Office Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, click here to go to its website.

Advocates march, rally at Capitol to shine light on sex trafficking

This article pulled from Santa Fe New Mexican.


Her family looked normal from the outside, Pavandeep Khalsa said. She grew up in Orlando, Fla., in a middle-class, military family and attended Catholic school. But when she was a teenager, she said, her mother, who was struggling with a drug addiction, forced her into the sex trade.

“I was a commodity,” said Khalsa, her collarbones inked with colorful, swirling tattoos. “… For years, I was told the best hope I had was prostitution. We have to start talking about responsibility.”

Khalsa, a Santa Fe yoga teacher, life coach, writer and advocate for victims of human trafficking, was one of several women who spoke Wednesday at the state Capitol about their experiences as sex slaves. Most were not yet 18 when they were stripped of their identification, wages, medical care and contact with their family members — and forced to have sex with strangers. On her website, Khalsa says she was 13 when the horror began.

The event, hosted by The Life Link, One Woman Rising, Spoken For and several other advocacy organizations, marked National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and was aimed at shedding light on a crime in New Mexico that advocates say remains largely overlooked and underreported. Many of the speakers said the number of victims is increasing, but awareness of the abuses remains low, and state laws are inadequate.

Before the talks, about 40 people marched from Warehouse 21 to the Capitol, carrying handmade signs that read “Funding for survivors of human trafficking” and “Change New Mexico’s laws.” In recent years, advocates, victims and some state politicians have pushed for harsher criminal penalties for sex traffickers and funding for victims’ services. Under New Mexico law, sex trafficking is considered a nonviolent crime, a fourth-degree felony carrying an average 18-month prison sentence for a single offense.

A 2016 state scorecard issued by Shared Hope International, a sex trafficking prevention organization, gave New Mexico a grade of D for its laws protecting minors from sex trafficking.

Kathleen Burke, with the Albuquerque-based nonprofit Street Safe New Mexico, said, “New Mexico is becoming a haven for sex traffickers because they can get away with it here.”

The National Human Trafficking Hotline, operated by the nonprofit Polaris, receives roughly 90 calls from victims of human trafficking in New Mexico annually, about half of them minors. The highest rate of calls in the state come from Albuquerque, the organization says, followed by Santa Fe and Farmington. Reports also come from Grants, Roswell, Alamogordo and Hatch, 90 miles from the border with Mexico.

A spokesman for the New Mexico attorney general’s Human Trafficking Unit, established in 2016, told The New Mexican the state investigated 18 human trafficking cases in 2015, a number that nearly doubled last year to 33 cases.

Christine Barber, executive director of Street Safe, said the number of human trafficking victims in the state is significantly higher, likely several thousand each year. The organization conducted interviews with sex workers and security staff at the types of places where victims were most likely to be found — truck stops, casinos and massage parlors. Incidents also occur frequently through online solicitation, Street Safe found.

Based on these talks, as well as on-site visits and national studies, the nonprofit estimated through extrapolation that there are more than 10,000 sex trafficking victimizations each day in New Mexico.

“I hate this number,” Barber said. “These people are being controlled by another human being — beaten every day, raped every day.”

During the 2015 legislative session, then-state Rep. Stephanie Maez, D-Albuquerque, introduced a measure calling for tougher penalties for people convicted of a sex trafficking offense involving a child between the ages of 13 and 16. The bill would have increased the crime to a first-degree felony. Under the bill, a legal guardian who knowingly allowed a child to engage in sex work would have been guilty of a third-degree felony. But the bill failed, along with a measure that would have funded services for victims of sex trafficking.

In 2016, state Senate and House bills requesting $125,000 for victims’ services also failed. So far, no bills on the issue have been filed for the 2017 legislative session, which begins Tuesday.

A federal bill to provide funds for trafficking victims stalled in Congress in 2015. Republican senators, led by Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, objected to a provision that would have allowed female trafficking victims who had become pregnant to use the funds for abortion.

Greg Gurulé, a spokesman for the Santa Fe Police Department, said potential human trafficking cases in the city usually involve teenagers and are handed over to the attorney general. “They usually come in as reports of runaways, drug busts, abuse, domestic violence, battery,” he said, adding that the department doesn’t track data on human trafficking cases.

“Prostitution doesn’t appear to be a major problem in Santa Fe,” Gurulé said. “I very rarely see cases pop up on the dispatch reports.”

Advocates stressed that lack of reporting doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.

“Oftentimes, their stories go unnoticed and unbelieved, and a lot of people don’t even know that human trafficking is happening here in Santa Fe, here in New Mexico and across the globe,” said Jessica Eva Montoya, with the group One Billion Rising. “We know they are out there.”

At the end of the event at the Capitol, trafficking victims were asked to stand, signifying proof of their existence, beyond statistics. Six women rose silently in the hushed room. One held an infant.

UNM study reveals U.S. sex-trafficking charges on the rise

This article from UNM HSC Newsbeat.


A research team from UNM’s College of Nursing recently developed new statistical metrics that produced clear evidence sex trafficking has been on the rise in the U.S.

Data show that in the period before the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), charges filed in federal sex-trafficking-related cases were increasing at a rate of more than 40 percent per year. Results also show that this trend changed following the passage of the TVPA in 2000. The rate of charges filed continued to increase, but only at about 15 percent per year.

Tracking the murky world of sex trafficking in the U.S. has been challenging, with unclear outcomes due to disparate and unconnected local, state, federal and international reporting criteria, according to Shana Judge, PhD, the study's principal investigator and an assistant professor with the UNM College of Nursing. 

“In this study, we addressed the need for empirical research on human trafficking by compiling unique data related to criminal charges filed in federal judicial districts, and using these data to examine trends in sex-trafficking-related cases,” she says. “In the past, U.S. sex-trafficking data were often compiled through unreliable sources – from the number of sex-trafficking prosecutions worldwide to state-level crime statistics. None of these resources is comprehensive or integrated.”

Judge began her research as a doctoral student in North Carolina wanting to measure the impact of policy responses to sex trafficking – specifically, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Her initial research revealed a pervasive skepticism regarding the integrity of data being used to measure trafficking activity, so she sought a different source – the Federal Justice Statistics Program, which tracks the prosecution of federal crimes, including sex-trafficking-related crimes.

Judge and her colleague Blake Boursaw, a mathematician and applied statistician instructor at the UNM College of Nursing, performed extensive modeling and calculations on reconfigured data from the Federal Justice Statistics Program. They found that the proportion of all charges filed by federal prosecutors that involved sex trafficking and related cases increased significantly between 1994 and 2007.

“The rate of increase, however, slowed following the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, suggesting that the TVPA might have helped to mitigate increases in new cases,” Judge says.

The study also revealed factors affecting national sex-trafficking data, like how sex trafficking is prosecuted. “Focusing on federal charges gave us the advantage of examining a single criminal justice system in a nationwide, longitudinal analysis,” Judge adds. “We found evidence suggesting that in cases with elements of both immigration and sex-trafficking crimes, federal prosecutors might dispose of these cases using immigration charges only, most likely because securing a conviction in an immigration case is easier and involves fewer resources.”

Prostitutes: APD cuffs them, BCSO unit helps them

This article pulled from the Albuquerque Journal.


Are sex workers criminals or victims? In the Albuquerque area, that may depend on who’s doing the investigating.

Local law enforcement agencies involved in a four-day, multi-agency operation targeting sex-trafficking of minors two weeks ago took very different approaches in dealing with those involved.

The Albuquerque Office of Homeland Security Investigations ran the operation, which started on July 17, along with the Attorney General’s Office. They were also joined by the Albuquerque Police Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

During the operation, APD detectives booked five women into jail on petty misdemeanor prostitution charges after finding their ads for “adult services” online.

BCSO didn’t arrest any sex workers, but identified nearly a dozen and helped them find social services.

Meanwhile, the AG’s Office focused on finding men who prey on underage girls.

APD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza said in a statement that detectives interview people caught in such a sting to determine whether they are working as prostitutes willingly or being forced.

“At the conclusion of the investigations, we sometimes arrest the individual for prostitution,” she said. “Arresting an individual often removes the individual from a dangerous situation and gives them time to decide if they want to take advantage of the resources being offered.”

The women were released on their own recognizance the next day and the charges are still pending.

Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office detectives said their focus in the operation was on rescuing trafficking victims who were being held in area motels.

Detective Kyle Hartsock, with BCSO’s Ghost Unit, said his team identified a couple of juvenile victims and rescued one while helping nine sex workers get services and assistance from The Life Link, a local behavioral health center. The Ghost Unit handles missing persons cases and child victims of exploitation or sex trafficking.

Hartsock said his unit typically doesn’t arrest or charge anyone with prostitution.

“We see them all as potential victims,” he said. “We want them to get services and rescue out of this.”

Hartsock said that while his group didn’t arrest anyone on trafficking charges during the course of the operation, members of the unit have opened 15 new criminal cases involving potential sex trafficking, including some involving juveniles. He said they did arrest six men on warrants and charges not related to the operation.

Lynn Sanchez, executive director of The Life Link, said she was surprised to hear APD’s vice unit had made arrests for prostitution. She said she thought law enforcement attitudes toward women working as prostitutes had been shifting away from arresting them as offenders.

“I think that’s horrible, and we need to stop that archaic outdated process,” Sanchez said.

But New Mexico law still considers prostitution a crime defined as “knowingly engaging in or offering to engage in a sexual act for hire.” It is a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

APD Police Chief Gorden Eden issued a special order in May instructing officers not to arrest certain suspects in low-level misdemeanor crimes, including prostitution. He said officers will still enforce those laws but they are permitted to issue a citation instead of taking them to jail, based on the officer’s judgment.

APD spokeswoman Espinoza did not respond to questions about why detectives decided to make arrests, rather than issue citations, in the cases during the operation.

Anthony Maez, the special agent in charge of Internet Crimes Against Children and the Human Trafficking task forces for the AG’s Office, said his office arranges operations to target sex trafficking about four times a year throughout the state.

He said in the most recent operation his agents charged seven men with attempted human trafficking. Those men had all arranged online to go to a hotel in order to have sex with an undercover deputy thinking she was a 15-year-old girl.

Maez said New Mexico’s human trafficking statute is extremely broad. Regarding the trafficking of minors, it says violations include “recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting or obtaining by any means a person under the age of eighteen years with the intent or knowledge that the person will be caused to engage in commercial sexual activity.” It’s a felony.

Maez said the goal of the AG’s sting operation is to target adults who are trying to have sex with minors.

“They want to meet a child to have sex with them,” Maez said. “We want to send that message that you have no idea who you’re going to walk in with, so maybe just don’t do it.”

Sanchez said although the operation lasted only four days, the fact that sheriff’s deputies were able to identify and help 12 trafficking victims shows that sex trafficking is a real problem in Albuquerque.

“If we could find that in one week, we could do that all the time,” she said. “We know there are more out there.”

Group working to create 'safe haven' in ABQ for sex trafficking victims

This article pulled from KOB 4 News.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – On the streets of the Duke City, there's a problem that often goes unnoticed.

You can't tell by looking at victims, or even by hearing their voice, but it can lead to a lifetime of trauma for victims of sex trafficking. But one group is trying to create a safe haven.

Watch the above video for more from Joy Wang.

Local man charged with sex trafficking

This article pulled from the Albuquerque Journal.

Adonis Baker, also known as “Albuquerque Big,” came to the attention of law enforcement in February 2016.

In the 18 months since then, authorities conducted multiple undercover operations and requested search warrants and subpoenas before arresting him on federal sex-trafficking charges last month.

A recently unsealed search warrant affidavit filed in federal court lays out a picture of him forcing at least five women and a teenager to work for him as prostitutes, transporting them from Albuquerque to Phoenix to Colorado Springs. He would beat them and use heroin to ensure their cooperation, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Baker’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Baker, 32, is charged with forcing five adults and one teenager to engage in prostitution, and his friend, Leotha Williams, 56, is charged with forcing one adult to engage in prostitution.

But one woman told agents that at one point “20 other girls” were being held in the same hotel where she was kept.

Earlier this year, sex trafficking made headlines in a case involving an Albuquerque couple who police say may have hired a man to kill two people, including a 20-year-old woman who they had working for them as a prostitute. The pair have not been charged in the deaths but they have been charged with several counts of sex trafficking, and, according to court documents, they kept the woman locked in a dog crate in a hotel room.

In Baker’s case, one woman, identified in the affidavit as V.A., told a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security Investigations that she first met Baker in the summer of 2015 and refused to work for him.

Several days later, she said, he and two others picked her up on Central and drove her to Phoenix.

There they beat her and held her head under water in the bathtub until she agreed to work as a prostitute and give them the money she made, according to the affidavit. She said they injected her with heroin while she was asleep and soon she was addicted to the drug.

V.A., who had no prior arrests for drugs or prostitution, told agents she ended up working for Baker in Albuquerque for the next nine months. She said she was among five sex-trafficking victims whose photos were posted on and who were made to walk up and down Central looking for “Johns” and other women to recruit.

“During her employ with him, he physically abused her on multiple occasions and she witnessed him physically abusing other victims as well,” the agent wrote in the affidavit. “Baker broke one of the other victim’s wrists.”

Eventually V.A. and a couple of other victims managed to escape, according to the affidavit.

Multiple other women told the agent similar stories about being drugged and beaten and forced to work as prostitutes while Baker took their earnings.

One woman told agents she met Baker one night in Albuquerque “while smoking a blunt” and the next thing she remembered was “waking up in Colorado Springs.” There she said she was forced to have sex with men for money while Baker and a man she knew as “Silk” gave her heroin to keep her compliant.

And in August 2017, a detective with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office told agents about a 16-year-old girl who said a man, later identified as Baker, and a woman tried to force her to work for them, according to the affidavit.

The girl said she met the pair in Phoenix and they offered her drugs before locking her in a car and driving her to Albuquerque. There, she said, they told her she could earn money to return home by working for them as a prostitute.

The girl called her brother for help and police arrived. They took her to a juvenile detention center where she was interviewed by the detective.

A month later, agents staked out Baker’s Southeast Albuquerque apartment. They said they saw at least five women and other suspected sex-trafficking victims coming and going with Baker and watched him take a couple of women to different hotels.

Baker was arrested on a federal warrant on Sept. 26.

Williams was arrested in Little Rock, Ark., around the same time and will be extradited to New Mexico.


Helping sex trafficking victims is a challenge

This article pulled from the Albuquerque Journal.

This is the first article in a two-part series about the often under-reported crime of sex trafficking in New Mexico. It was spurred by the death of a 20-year-old woman who police say had been shot and killed by a hit man hired by the people who had been forcing her to sell sex.



In January 2016, police were called to a Northwest Albuquerque home after an 18-year-old girl said she had been beaten by her 39-year-old boyfriend.


Cathryn Cunningham / Albuquerque Journal

The teenager, who had bloody and swollen lips, told the officers that her boyfriend was also her “pimp” and had beaten her with a sharpened shovel handle.

She told them he regularly hit her when she didn’t make enough money working as a prostitute – which is a potential sex trafficking offense – yet they charged him only with domestic violence, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court. The case has not yet gone to trial.

Law enforcement officers and advocates who focus on sex trafficking say this scenario plays out all too often, and it’s one of the biggest obstacles to helping victims and stopping offenders.

“We see the girlfriend thing a lot,” said Detective Kyle Hartsock with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Ghost Unit, named “after the part of society that is often overlooked,” according to the BCSO website. “We see police characterize it as domestic violence.”

Many sex trafficking victims are unable to escape their traffickers without help, and Hartsock said he believes that with specific training, officers will be able to better recognize them so offenders can be taken off the streets. He and his partner, Kyle Woods, have started a program at the BCSO to tackle the issue.

“Domestic violence cases are a dime a dozen,” Hartsock said. “If you call someone a human trafficker, the courts and prosecutors put more weight on it.”


Authorities say sex trafficking is a vastly under-detected and under-reported crime since many of the victims are living on the fringes of society and may not want to come forward or even identify as victims themselves.

New Mexico State Law defines sex trafficking as knowingly recruiting or transporting a person in order to force them into selling sex or benefitting financially from forced or coerced sexual activity. It’s a third-degree felony.

Although Hartsock said there are prostitutes who work independently and are not forced into selling sex, he said it’s extremely common for traffickers to try to recruit them under the guise of offering protection. Often these relationships devolve into sex trafficking as the worker is forced into doing more and more and isn’t able to keep most of what he or she makes.

Law enforcement agencies across New Mexico investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases, but no state government agency keeps statistics on the number of cases or victims.

Anthony Maez, a special agent in charge of the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit in the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, said identifying victims of trafficking in the state is particularly difficult because many remain in the area only a short time. The interstates that meet in the middle of the city can act as thoroughfares for traffickers who are bringing their victims from one area to another.

“New Mexico appears to be part of a ‘circuit’ where victims are brought for a couple of days, posted online or forced to walk the streets and then moved on to another city,” Maez said.

However, some groups have amassed statistics.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 32 cases the organization was aware of in New Mexico in 2016, and Lynn Sanchez with The Life Link’s Anti-Human Trafficking Initiative said in the same year the local hotline came into contact with 46 to 52 victims.

And Hartsock, using national studies and statistics as well as personal experience, extrapolates that at any one time there are more than 25 traffickers in BCSO’s jurisdiction alone and more than 40 juvenile sex-trafficking victims.

These calls and experiences lead some advocates to say the number of victims in New Mexico could be in the thousands.

Christine Barber, a local victims’ advocate and co-founder of Street Safe New Mexico, has taken it upon herself to try to figure out how many sex trafficking victims could be in the state.

Barber and a crew of volunteers gather twice a month at casinos to walk up and down between the neon glow of slot machines and count the women they suspect are being coerced into prostitution.

Barber said although she initially focused on bringing everyday supplies and assistance to sex workers on the streets, particularly in Southeast Albuquerque, she began to hear from victims that casinos can be hotbeds of activity for sex trafficking.

That inspired her to try to count them and estimate the scope of the problem. She then passes along her data to the Attorney General’s Office.

“If we don’t start counting those trafficking victims, it allows us to ignore them,” Barber said. “We’ve allowed everyone to be complacent for far too long.”

Making progress

Hartsock said he and BCSO have made recent progress in the fight against sex trafficking by focusing on homeless, at-risk teenagers.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in six runaways has been coerced into prostitution, and teenagers who have run away from state programs are the most at risk. A 2016 study found that 86 percent of the juvenile victims had run away from social services or foster care.

Hartsock said there are 262 juveniles who have been reported as missing in BCSO’s jurisdiction, and he expects there are three or four times that number in the Albuquerque Police Department jurisdiction.

He said for that reason, uniformed officers are the most likely to encounter sex trafficking victims as they respond to other calls, but they often don’t realize it.

Victims “generally have a long history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect,” Hartsock said. “It’s rare that a victim says they’re a victim.”

APD Detective Matt Vollmer agrees. He said he worked on the department’s vice unit when it had six detectives, and although there are only two now they still carry out undercover operations.

Vollmer said sometimes officers arrest a woman who is working as a prostitute multiple times before she discloses that she is the victim of sex traffickers.

“A victim is not a victim until they decide to be a victim,” he said. “Once they decide to be a victim we have to be prepared to assist them with everything from substance abuse treatment to housing, to money, to clothing – basic necessities to help them escape whoever is trafficking them.”

Hartsock and Woods, on the other hand, started taking a more proactive approach at the BCSO in June 2016, by training all deputies on how to identify and interview potential victims of sex trafficking.

Hartsock said signs that indicate someone is being trafficked include close monitoring by another person, buying an exorbitant amount of condoms, not wanting to say where they are staying at night, making references to “the life,” which is slang for being a sex worker, or getting random calls at all hours of the day. He said victims also usually display signs of mental illness or drug abuse.

“We rarely find a victim that is not being drugged by their trafficker on a consistent basis,” Hartsock said.

BCSO also introduced a seven-deputy High Risk Victims Unit that works more intensively with the community and follows up with at-risk teenagers and families.

Results came quickly.

Hartsock said they have identified 15 juvenile victims since October and have several new cases building against traffickers.

He said the trick is recognizing the behaviors victims often hide behind.

“We’re saying if they’re acting like this, they’re probably acting like this for a reason,” Hartsock said. “It has to be our job to find out why they’re doing this.”

NM’s 2016 Human Trafficking Case Data Released

This article pulled from




WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Polaris, the organization that works on all forms of human trafficking and serves victims of slavery and human trafficking, released national and state-by-state human trafficking case data for 2016 today showing a significant jump in cases nationwide. 


For New Mexico, 32 cases of human trafficking were reported to the National Hotline in 2016, which included 19 cases of sex trafficking and nine cases of labor trafficking. In 2015, 30 human trafficking cases were reported. Since 2007, the National Hotline has received reports of 158 cases of human trafficking in New Mexico.

Polaris also released its combined data for the National Human Trafficking Hotline and the BeFree Textline (233733) for the entire United States and cases originating overseas. Those 2016 statistics show a 35 percent jump in reported cases.


Together, the Polaris-operated hotlines handled a record 8,042 cases of human trafficking in 2016. The data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline constitute one of the largest data sets on human trafficking for the U.S. Comprehensive case and call data for the U.S., all 50 states, and D.C. are here. Data for the BeFree Textline are here


Key highlights from the 2016 data from Polaris-operated hotlines for the entire U.S. and international locations include:

  • Cases of reported human trafficking continue to increase each year, with the most significant increase last year. In 2016, 8,042 cases were reported to the hotlines, which include 7,572 cases to the National Human Trafficking Hotline from within the U.S. and 301 reported cases from overseas, as well as 169 cases reported to the BeFree Textline. This number compares to 5,961 reported cases in 2015. Polaris largely attributes this increase to greater awareness of human trafficking and the National Hotline, especially as more people become aware of its effectiveness in connecting people to a broad range of services. Additionally, more recognition of the various types of sex and labor trafficking serves to better reach and identify specific victim populations. 
  • More survivors than ever reached out for help. The 2016 data reflect the importance of ensuring survivors are aware that help is available so they can actively reach out for options to stay safe. In 2016, 2,042 survivors reached out to the hotlines for help, a 24 percent increase over the 1,641 survivors who did in 2015. The 2016 data better illuminate how survivors were most often recruited for sex trafficking (through intimate partners, family members, and those posing as benefactors) and labor trafficking (through fraudulent job offers and false promises). Demographic data also show that reported victims were predominantly people of color, and U.S. citizen victims outnumbered foreign nationals.
  • Reports of labor trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline soared by 47 percent within the U.S. In 2016, 1,057 labor trafficking cases were reported to the National Hotline, compared to 717 in 2015. The types of labor trafficking most often reported included domestic work, agriculture, and traveling sales crews. Even with this increase, Polaris strongly believes labor trafficking cases in the U.S. are chronically underreported due to a lack of awareness about the issue and a critical lack of recognition of the diverse vulnerability of workers in labor sectors across the U.S. By identifying and effectively targeting the specific sectors and venues where labor exploitation and trafficking occur, more success can be realized with prevention by increasing outreach to specific groups of vulnerable workers. 


A detailed report of 2016 statistics, including key victim demographics, can be viewed here. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1.888.373.7888. The BeFree Textline is 233733.

Human Trafficking on the Rez: a Closer Look at Life for Females in New Mexico

This article pulled from

Human trafficking is an ancient yet persistent and very real current global issue that has now created a global health dilemma. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) and Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) define trafficking as “modern-day slavery” and sex trafficking as the use of people under eighteen for commercial sex acts. Due to a lack of awareness, many Americans assume that it is a problem only in other countries, but the unfortunate reality is that sex trafficking has severe consequences for women in the United States as well. Every year, between 14,500 and 17,500 victims of trafficking come from the United States (1). In 2015 alone, 29.9% of the potential victims around the world had their origin in the US, more than every other country listed, and 91.4% of the US victims were female (2). The 2015 States Report on human trafficking includes a map that highlights some of the regions all over the US where trafficking cases were uncovered. As a case study, I will discuss the situation in New Mexico.

The economy of New Mexico is severely recessed, thus making its inhabitants especially vulnerable to traffickers. Between 2009 and 2011, there were six times as many calls reporting sex trafficking in New Mexico for human trafficking as there have been in previous years (3). Concerning the city of Albuquerque, officials have said that while the traffickers have largely been individuals so far, they think that organizations of traffickers are spreading (4). Trafficking is even more prevalent in Albuquerque during and perhaps because of the annual Balloon Fiesta every fall because of all the people traveling to the state. Out of the twenty-nine high to moderate potential risk for human trafficking cases in 2013 in New Mexico, seventeen of them were sex trafficking (5). In one case last year, a man in Albuquerque was convicted and sentenced to ninety-seven years in jail for trafficking (6).

Especially vulnerable to trafficking are Native American women, whether on reservations or in more urban areas of the state. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has stressed the problem of trafficking in the Southwest and pointed to homelessness and poverty as predisposing risks (7), something that plagues many New Mexicans.

Numerous factors contribute to Native women’s vulnerability to trafficking (8). First, because of the history of Native women being one of the most frequently sexually abused groups of women in the United States, “generational trauma” in families, a complicated but well-documented phenomenon, contributes to increased poverty, which increases their risk of falling into the trafficking industry because of previous victimization and promises of independence and success, creating a brutal cycle of poverty and enslavement. Many traffickers target Native women because they suffer some of the severest poverty in America. These predators especially target women who are mentally challenged or who struggle with substance abuse because such women have reduced capacity to counteract their enslavement and many come from reservations. Native women are, therefore, at higher risk of becoming victims of trafficking.

Sex trafficking also has important global health implications because the business of sex into which these women are forced enhances the spread of disease. Moreover, these victimized women do not have adequate access to health care at any time, whether during their being used in the sex slave trade or, for those fortunate enough to escape without being murdered, in their attempt to return to healthy, non-enslaved lives. The grave threat of trafficking to health care is a critical aspect of the problem that demands attention as it poses a serious challenge to global health. At its root, of course, there is the underlying use for which these women are procured in sex trafficking as well as the staggering poverty of the victims, rendering them unable to afford the health care they need. Perhaps the very real threat of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections beyond the victims can serve to awaken the largely unconcerned masses who flippantly dismiss the reality of this social cancer. Thus, not only social workers but global health professionals should also be addressing the problem of human trafficking, both globally and in the United States, even if they are unmoved by the plight of untold numbers of girls and women whose lives and bodies are forever destroyed through one of humanity’s greatest vices.

While human trafficking is a global issue, it is also a critical problem in the United States, especially in places like New Mexico where the lack of resources makes uncovering all the cases and convicting all the traffickers unusually difficult, where unimaginable poverty and limited options makes girls and women uniquely vulnerable, and where sometimes it is a family member or a respected community leader who sells or facilitates the enslavement of the girl or woman.

In order to fight this violation of fundamental human rights, there need to be more resources and funding available to go after suspected rings, to rescue current victims of slavery, to facilitate the health of those girls and women who are rescued and to address the issues that made them vulnerable in the first place, and to address the multifarious health issues of everyone impacted. Obviously, one of the first changes that needs to happen is for people to view the victims of sex trafficking differently than they have been viewed.   Lucia Estrada from Five Stone International accurately summarizes the situation: “These girls are just seen as whores or it’s their own choice. They’re categorized, yet they’re not seen as individuals who, a lot of times, are being forced and manipulated and coerced into doing this.” (9).

As the Navajo Times pointed out, human trafficking is not synonymous with prostitution because trafficked women are not given any power over their own actions. These women are, quite literally, slaves. And action must be immediately taken to end this slavery.

Bondage, slavery, human trafficking in New Mexico, U.S.

This article pulled from Taos News.

While human trafficking is everywhere among us, sometimes unseen in plain sight, it is thriving on community ignorance which has allowed it to become the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.


What do a 14-year-old kidnap victim, runaway Kansas teenagers, and the now-adult child whose parents groomed and sold her for sex starting at age 10 have in common? They are all real examples of victims of human trafficking, modern day slavery right here in the United States.

While human trafficking is everywhere among us, sometimes unseen in plain sight, it is thriving on community ignorance which has allowed it to become the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world, according to the New Mexico Attorney General’s website.

Sex-trafficking victims can be found in strip clubs, being prostituted through websites, massage parlors, brothels, and escort services. Labor-trafficking victims can be found working in construction sites, farm work, restaurants, panhandling, sweatshop factories, and even in households working as nannies or maids.

For the most part, trafficking is a hidden crime with the perpetrators threatening, isolating, and torturing their victims into compliance. The runaway Kansas teenagers were picked up on the road, and forced under threat of death by their captor into prostitution at truck terminals. Leveraging their guilt for running away, their pimp understood how to play on their emotional needs, manipulating them to think they “deserved it.”

That phrase is also used by the once 14-year-old whose “boyfriend” forced her into the sex trade as well. Seven years after her escape, Asia Graves became a Victim Advocate for FAIR Girls, an organization devoted to preventing exploitation through education and empowerment.

Seventeen-year-old Angela is one of those whose stories are featured on “Angela believed the older boy who offered her a ride to school really liked her, never considering that he would sell her online, force her to have sex 10 times a night in hotel rooms in six cities across the United States, and beat her with belts and chains when she didn’t earn enough money. Angela escaped her trafficker and was found by a nurse.”

Minh’s parents started grooming her for sex at age 3, sold her for sex at 10 and maintained a hold on her until she graduated from college. Minh’s parents forced her to sign a contract with them when she was only 8 years old.

Unlike many trafficking victims, Minh knew that if she followed their instructions and kept their secret she would have shelter and could go to school (where she was a soccer star and honor student). After getting free, Minh severed all ties with her parents. Now working with actress Jada Pinkett Smith on and as a victim advocate, Minh was asked why she didn’t leave sooner, she says, “Part of saving myself was to submit and be obedient,” she says.

Community members’ increased awareness and willingness to call for help for the victims can help halt this atrocious crime. Learn some common signs of victimization (not showing emotion or having unusual fear, anxiety or submission; being frequently guarded, not free to leave or speak for themselves; working excessive or unusual hours; little or no personal possessions; “branded” or tattooed by trafficker; and appearing malnourished or drugged; and become more aware of the laborers working in restaurants, construction sites, etc.

In Albuquerque, Human Trafficking Evolves And Grows

This article pulled from

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was a bad night, and none of the girls had made much cash. The evening's customers were more interested in the San Antonio Spurs game on television than the strippers. But one of the dancers knew how they could make up for it.

“There was this guy that was a regular at the strip club,” Serena said. “He sold a lot of drugs in big quantities — he was really popular with the girls that did coke and stuff — and he had a place for us to go after work if you didn't make enough money.”

"Serena" is a pseudonym. She asked for her identity to be concealed for reasons that will become apparent.

That night, she went to a party at the regular’s house.

“He had a pole and a little stage,” Serena said. “It was like just being at a strip club.”

Serena was tipped in $20s and $50s and given a seemingly endless supply of cocaine. At some point that night, she and her friend were the only two women left in a room full of men. Her friend paired up with someone, and Serena – still unclear to this day why – did the same. She left with $1,200 in hand.

“Once the person that I was living with found out about it, I was there all the time, because it was an easier way for him to have more money,” Serena said.

About a year before, Serena had been a college student with a full scholarship. But in her first semester, the man she lived with had introduced her to cocaine, stripping, domestic violence, and had now effectively pushed her into prostitution. Within months, Serena would be walking the main drag of Albuquerque.

“Even now when I tell my story, sometimes people are like ‘Your story doesn't make any sense. Why didn't you just leave? What's wrong with you?’” Serena said.

To put it simply: it’s complicated.

Human trafficking in the sex industry has evolved from a simple pimp and prostitute relationship to complex organizational efforts by cartels and individual entrepreneurs. In many cases, there’s more money ­ and less risk ­ in selling a person than trafficking in drugs or firearms, said Lucia Estrada with Five Stones International, an anti­-human trafficking organization.

“A minor can be sold for up to $200 an hour,” said Estrada. “So you figure if they have a couple of minors and they’re selling them a couple times a day, couple times a week, couple times a month, how much money is being involved in that?”

In the Southwest, Estrada says many traffickers travel between California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. However, she adds that the public is often unsympathetic.

“These girls are just seen as whores or it’s their own choice,” said Estrada. “They're categorized, yet they’re not seen as individuals who, a lot of times, are being forced and manipulated and coerced into doing this.”

“A very significant proportion of young people who get involved in human trafficking are very young teenagers and often they are runaways,” said David Pederson with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. “That’s a very easy group to target and to recruit. And these are not just traditional pimps, they are really mounting an effort to do this as an organized business.”

Pederson says the Attorney General’s office has primarily prosecuted individuals involved in human trafficking.

FBI Special Agent Ida D’Antonio-­Hangen said in Albuquerque, law enforcement is seeing a similar trend.

“It involves individuals, not necessarily associated with any gangs, but individuals who, say, lure a girl and get them to trust them and then before you know it, they’re engaging in prostitution,” said D’Antonio-Hangen.

This is important to remember. At the moment, it’s the little guys who are getting into the trade.

“Human trafficking is very profitable for the gangs and the cartels and larger organizations,” said D’Antonio-Hangen. “But what we’re seeing right now in Albuquerque is just individuals.”

There have been 15 human trafficking prosecutions by the state’s Attorney General in the last three years. But law enforcement officials say there could be more in the future as trafficking organizations see an opportunity to expand in this market. Unfortunately, those who get pulled into the trade may not have the same survival skills Serena did to escape.

“At least it was me and not my mom, or like, my dad, or like, a good friend of mine,” said Serena. “At least it was me, because for whatever reason, I came out a little bit better for it. I can find a greater meaning to my experience.”

Serena is now back in school, studying to be a counselor.

11 Facts About Human Trafficking

This article pulled from

  1. Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.
  2. Trafficking primarily involves exploitation which comes in many forms, including: forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude and compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography.
  3. According to some estimates, approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labor exploitation.
  4. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.
  5. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children.
  6. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.
  7. California harbors 3 of the FBI’s 13 highest child sex trafficking areas on the nation: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
  8. The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state in the US. 15% of those calls are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
  9. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year.
  10. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking). It reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of that number, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized countries.
  11. The International Labour Organization estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims with 11.4 million trafficked victims (55%) compared to 9.5 million (45%) men.

National Human Trafficking Initiative Prompts New Mexico to Ramp Up Fight

This article pulled from NM News Port.


Human trafficking cases are increasing in frequency globally and New Mexico is no exception,  seeing a 40 percent increase locally in just the past year.

Organizations around the state and Albuquerque metro area tasked with fighting human trafficking are working together along with law enforcement to help fight the epidemic, but a disconnect between the government’s efforts and aftercare for victims  has created a lack of resources to see the necessary progress.

“We need to see level of sentencing for traffickers in New Mexico to go up…We also need to see more federal funds coming into the local level in order to get the necessary resources for law enforcement to really follow through these human trafficking cases… New Mexico funds for this have been so stunted.” said Shelley Repp, Executive Director of Spoken For, an Albuquerque based organization, who also works for the New Mexico Human Trafficking Task Force combating human trafficking.

New Mexico has seen a large increase human trafficking cases over the past few years that served as a call to action for Attorney General Hector Balderas and the Santa Fe based victim aftercare facility, Lifelink to convene more than 200 educators, human trafficking victims, and law enforcement agents at various trainings in Albuquerque and Santa Fe this past February. The mission of the trainings were to address potential ways to stop the cycle of forced sexual exploitation and to recognize when someone might be in the sex industry against their volition.

The state has seen an explosion in human trafficking reports each year after 70 cases were reported in 2014 to 90 in 2015, and 118 reports in 2016, a 40 percent increase over a two-year span. So far in 2017, 32 reports of human trafficking have already been made along with 118 tips called into the New Mexico National Human Trafficking Hotline.


The State Law NMSA-32-50-1 explicitly defines trafficking as, a person knowingly:

Recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting or obtaining by any means any other person without their consent, or with the knowledge that that person was forced or coerced into any labor. The law also includes provisions punishing the financial benefit from labor, services or sexual activity of any other person by force.

With New Mexico’s high trafficking activity, the primary goal of local groups is to grasp the root of the epidemic by uncovering trends and patterns of traffickers.

“One of the major factors weighing in on trafficking in New Mexico is having both interstates I-40 & I-25, which is a convenient way for traffickers to bring victims in and out of our state,” said Shelley Repp, Executive Director of Spoken For, an Albuquerque based organization, who also works for the New Mexico Human Trafficking Task Force combating human trafficking.

Repp noted that there is also a high increase for human trafficking in the state during the Balloon Fiesta, Gathering of Nations and the State Fair due to the large number of visitors traveling and passing through the state.

Repp says Spoken For is the only Albuquerque based organization combatting human trafficking by working with all levels of law enforcement, emergency housing, case management, food, clothing, and housing programs to aid in the process of rescue, aftercare, and advocacy for formerly trafficked individuals.

The Lifelink is a community action organization based in Santa Fe that has been grappling with Human Trafficking survivors and their post trafficking aftercare for the past 8 years. Lifelink has worked together with the office of the Attorney General in New Mexico to champion the establishment of a statewide hotline 505GETFREE, which was the first of it’s kind to make it possible for victims and informants to text message for help, rather than make a phone call.

Dr. Michael Debernardi, Clinical Director at The Lifelink says although legislation exists to punish perpetrators, “[but now] it’s really about increasing awareness, education…and increasing collaboration between law enforcement and clinical providers…and in terms of treatment, not much funding is being offered.”

In 2013, the state established the Crime Victim Reparation Commission (CVRC). In cases of emergency, Debernardi says the Lifelink can obtain funds to help new victims get back on their feet, this funding isn’t a long term solution and allocation of money for victims of human trafficking only accounts for 1% of the commission’s awards. Debernardi and his organization work to leverage state services like healthcare and housing, also with some funding from the state’s indigent fund. The Lifelink also prides itself on their management of a safe house, where victim-survivors can get back on their own feet in a comfortable, safe location.’

In New Mexico, the crime of Human Traffic is punishable by a third degree felony, unless the victim is under the age of 16, the crime is lowered by one degree and furthermore, if the victim is less than 13 years old, it becomes a first degree felony. This is important considering the average age for a girl to fall into a situation of human traffic is 12-14 years (

At the trainings conducted by the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, Amanda Jaramillo, a legal assistant for Balderas highlighted different aspects to consider when conducting a post-trafficking interview with a victim in attempt to find resources and ultimately seek prosecution. They noted it is important to “not assume the victim is at fault..[and to] address gender issues.” Despite the heinous manner of forced sexual exploitation, victims are not legally required to file a police report if they do not want to.

The human trafficking industry is a blatant violation of human rights, often pushes victims into drug addiction and prostitution. The trade of humans earns over $150 billion worldwide each year, according to a report by the International Labour Organization. In developed countries and Europe particularly, an estimated $46 billion and with more than $50 billion earned from forced labor in Asia alone. Additionally an estimated $22 thousand is earned per victim in developed economies, with 21 million people subjected to forced labor worldwide.

Another obstacle facing the fight against human trafficking is the misrepresentation that victims tend to receive from news coverage. In a report by Julie Bindel titled, “Press for Change”, she details how the use of the terminology, “sex work” delegitimizes the violence committed against women during a situation of human traffic or forced prostitution. There do not exist many cases where women voluntarily enter the sex industry, but rather use prostitution as a means of survival.

At a national level, President Donald Trump is also pressing to end human trafficking as he vowed to end the epidemic during his administration by ordering Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to examine the resources they’re planning to use.

New Mexico AG unveils new human trafficking initiative

This article pulled from KRQE News.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Attorney General is partnering with the feds to fight human trafficking.

Monday, AG Hector Balderas announced his office is working with the U.S. Department of Labor on a task force to go after people exploiting foreign nationals for sex and labor.

Officials say the partnership will promote information sharing to better investigate cases as well as make sure victims are compensated.

“If you had an employee who was trafficked and was not paid according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, we may come in and assist with the computation,” said Naixa Franquez with the U.S. Department of Labor.

There are an estimated 20 to 30 million trafficked slaves worldwide.

Seven Arrests in New Mexico Underage Human Trafficking Operation

This article pulled from KRWG News

Albuquerque, NM – Today, Attorney General Hector Balderas, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, Homeland Security Investigations and the Albuquerque Police Department announced the successful result of a joint operation targeting commercial sex trafficking of minors in Albuquerque. Seven men were arrested this week in Albuquerque during the operation for soliciting sex with someone they believed to be a 15-year-old girl, who was actually an undercover BCSO deputy. The men all attempted to pay $40 to $200 to have sex with 15-year-old girls.

The Albuquerque office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led the multi-agency operation, which began July 17. The four-day operation also focused on consumers of underage prostitutes, and rescuing victims, which included juveniles.

“There is no higher priority than protecting our children from sexual violence and dangerous sexual predators, and I want to thank all of the agencies that worked together on this successful operation to combat the trafficking of children in New Mexico,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas.

“Operation Recovery is a collaboration between BCSO, HSI, APD and the New Mexico Attorney General. I truly believe in the effort to advocate for victims who have been forced into a life of sex trafficking and placed in a position to restore stability in their life. This partnership has proven to be fruitful in targeting sex traffickers who prey on minors. Let this be a notice to those who participate in sex trafficking that law enforcement will hold you accountable,” said Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III.

“HSI special agents and our law enforcement partners are pursuing all leads identified during this operation, and will expand investigations to further disrupt and dismantle sex trafficking organizations throughout New Mexico, the United States and abroad,” Waldemar Rodriguez, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso said. Rodriguez oversees HSI operations in west Texas and the entire state of New Mexico.

“Sex trafficking will not be tolerated in our city. We are thankful to the Attorney General and our law enforcement partners for all of their efforts. We will continue to collaborate and ensure we end inhumane crimes like this in our city,” said APD Chief Gorden E. Eden Jr.

Feds say 3 ran sex trafficking ring; tied to murders

Authorities say Cornelius “Chip” Galloway led a sex trafficking ring with his wife, Danielle Galloway, and that they posted photographs of women and at least one minor on websites advertising sex for hire.

In mid-January, one of the women they prostituted – and who witnesses say they had once kept in a dog crate – was found dead in a Foothills park.

Tobi Lynn Stanfill, 20, was shot point blank in the right side of her head, according to an autopsy report.

In an act police say was related, the previous day 39-year-old Daryl Young was shot and killed in a room at a Motel 6 near the Big I.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Metropolitan Court, the Galloways were behind both killings.

Both Galloways face federal charges of conspiracy, commercial sex trafficking and commercial sex trafficking of a minor. They were arrested Wednesday and are in federal custody.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has also charged Matthew Woods, 28, with the same charges for his alleged involvement in the ring, as well as for attempting to recruit a victim for commercial sex. He is being held on state charges in an unrelated case.

The three forced a victim to have sex for money last year and had a minor working as a prostitute in March and April of this year, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Detectives with the Albuquerque Police Department say the group used Stanfill as a prostitute, and Cornelius Galloway, 34, hired a man to kill her and Young because they may have been interfering with the business.

The alleged hit man, Adrian Causey, 25, is charged with two counts of murder.

It’s unclear if Causey is in custody. An APD spokesman said all information would come from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and spokeswoman Elizabeth Martinez did not respond to questions about the case.

But Martinez did confirm in a press release that authorities believe the sex trafficking ring run by the Galloways is tied to the deaths of Stanfill and Young.

Martinez wrote, “The victims allegedly were murdered at the direction of Cornelius Galloway because their activities were contrary to the objectives of the criminal sex trafficking organization.”

She did not respond to questions about whether Galloway or the other two sex trafficking defendants will face murder charges.

Victim was ‘really smart’

Former corrections officer Misti Chavez said she first met Stanfill, who is from Tularosa, at a juvenile detention center last year.

She said Stanfill had been released from the center in the spring of 2016 and had remained in Albuquerque.

Chavez described Stanfill as “super energetic and really smart” and said she had completed her GED and was attending classes at Central New Mexico Community College.

“She was real big on being a mentor and showing other kids how to stop what they’re doing now and how to change things,” Chavez said. “We all had really high hopes for her.”

On Jan. 16, someone walking through Supper Rock Park, near Interstate 40 and Tramway, found Stanfill’s body face down. She had been shot once in the head.

Sources told detectives she had been killed because she used to work for Cornelius Galloway, according to the affidavit. They said Galloway, who was called “Chip,” had threatened to kill Stanfill if she didn’t work for him and he had hired “some guys from Kansas” to kill her.

They said before she was killed, she had been abused by Danielle Galloway, 43.

“(The source) stated that Danielle, who is Chip’s wife, had Tobi locked in a cage or a dog crate at the Howard Johnson’s Motel,” a detective wrote in the affidavit. “(The source) said Tobi escaped and (the source) picked up Tobi on the street wearing only her underwear.”

It is unclear from the affidavit when that incident happened. It’s also unclear how Stanfill and Young were connected to one another, but her phone number was found in his phone after his body was discovered in a hotel room on Jan. 15.

Cellphone and social media records, as well as firearm evidence, implicate Causey and another man, who has not been charged, in their deaths, according to the affidavit.

A source told detectives Stanfill and Young were “pimping and moving their opportunities” and that Stanfill was in the motel room when Young was killed, and that’s why she was killed.

Young’s friends say he grew up in Albuquerque.

“He was a good guy, a real humble guy,” said Ray Caldwell.

Services, funding for sex trafficking victims in short supply


This article pulled from The Albuquerque Journal

This is the second article in a two-part series about the often under-reported and under-detected crime of sex trafficking in New Mexico. It was spurred by the death of a 20-year-old woman who police say had been shot and killed by a hit man hired by the people who had been forcing her to sell sex.

When Michelle Schroff heard that one of the girls who used to attend workshops hosted by her nonprofit organization was killed in January after being trafficked for sex, she said she knew more had to be done to provide services and resources for at-risk teenagers.


In mid-January, police found the body of 20-year-old Tobi Lynn Stanfill in Supper Rock Park in a foothills neighborhood. Several months later, they arrested a hit man who they said had been hired by an Albuquerque couple who had been trafficking Stanfill for sex. (Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

The body of Tobi Lynn Stanfill, 20, was discovered in a Foothills park in mid-January. Before she was killed, police say, she had been forced to work as a prostitute, locked in a dog crate in a hotel and threatened if she didn’t make enough money – all signs that she was a victim of sex trafficking.

Two years ago, Stanfill had attended workshops conducted by Schroff’s Project Zoe, a local nonprofit founded to give at-risk teenage girls a sense of belonging by providing them with clothes and personal items.

After Stanfill’s death, Schroff said she began hosting breakfasts twice a month and looking for ways to fund a drop-in center for homeless teens in order to further her mission.

Schroff and a handful of other women in Albuquerque and Santa Fe are leading the charge to help victims of sex trafficking by providing housing, clothing and other services through donations, volunteer efforts and other social programs.

That’s in part because no state or local money was allocated this year to specifically help victims of human trafficking, even though advocates say victims have very specific problems that need to be addressed in order for them to recover and participate in the prosecution of those who were trafficking them.

During the 2015 and 2016 legislative session, the state allocated $125,000 in its annual budget to be used to provide social services to victims of sex trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence, but this funding was not included in the budget this year. The money, while not enough to fully fund any services, was helpful while it lasted.

Now advocates, like Schroff, are left entirely to their own devices to try to provide services for victims through donations and their own money.

They say victims who are trying to escape their traffickers and rebuild their lives need help, with or without state money.

NM scores low grade

Shared Hope International, a Vancouver, Wash., organization working to end sex trafficking, rates New Mexico’s laws against sex trafficking as the sixth-worst in the nation. In the group’s 2016 report card analyzing state laws about sentencing, reparations and more, New Mexico received a D grade.

State law says victims of human trafficking are eligible for benefits and services from the state as long as they are cooperating with an investigation, but the state budget no longer allocates any funds for these services.

Instead, advocacy organizations work with victims to find them services through existing social programs – like Section 8 housing and food stamps or shelters and soup kitchens.

Two years ago, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office received a federal grant and worked with The Life Link behavioral health center to form a task force that focuses on identifying resources for trafficking victims throughout the state.

Lynn Sanchez, program director for The Life Link’s Anti-Human Trafficking Initiative, said more often than not the organization finds there aren’t enough appropriate services for victims in New Mexico, especially teenagers.

“We don’t have any safe place in our state, so they wind up continuously victimized,” Sanchez said. “They’re falling through the cracks in the system or they’re in juvenile detention centers or treatment centers.”

Sanchez said that when the Anti-Human Trafficking Initiative still had money from the state, it was able to provide emergency services for several victims of sex trafficking who needed a safe place to go immediately.

“That money was really important for creating that sense of well-being, safety and normalcy,” Sanchez said. “Without that, they’re back on the streets and back in desperate survival mode.”

Nonprofits helping

The lack of state money for trafficking victims has authorities turning to nonprofits for help, as well.

Toya Kaplan, executive director and co-founder of Freedom House, said the Attorney General’s Office, Homeland Security and the FBI have all brought sex trafficking victims to her 20-acre property in the Albuquerque area.

Kaplan said they have housed seven women since they opened two years ago, and are funded by the Kaplan family and donations from churches and individuals.

Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Detectives Kyle Hartsock and Kyle Woods work with the department’s Ghost Unit, named “after the part of society that is often overlooked,” according to the BCSO website.

When they begin working with a new teenage victim of sex trafficking, they also turn to nonprofits and visit Project Zoe’s clean, brightly lit boutique to pick up care packages of clean clothing and personal hygiene products.

Schroff, who provides clothing for up to 10 suspected victims of sex trafficking each month, said Project Zoe gives clothing to girls to give them a sense of normalcy and to boost their self-esteem.

“The whole purpose is to instill worth, value and that their past doesn’t define them,” Schroff said. “They’re more than what their pimp told them.”

For Hartsock, these services can make a difference in whether the victim will stick around and whether he can pursue a criminal case against the trafficker.

“We have to have a victim who is stable and who can give a coherent statement about what happened before a prosecutor is going to feel comfortable enough to take it to a grand jury,” he said.

Sanchez said that she’s seen a couple of different law enforcement agencies convict traffickers when The Life Link has been able to find consistent shelter for them.

“Either the victim is stabilized and the trafficker will plead or, if it does go to trial, the victim shows up because she has safety and support,” Sanchez said. “You can’t really touch the traffickers without providing victim support.”

Woman was trapped by sex trafficking life

This article pulled from The Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Long before she was shot and killed in the Albuquerque foothills early this year, Tobi Lynn Stanfill was a child growing up in the small New Mexico town of Tularosa.

Tobi Lynn Stanfill

Tobi Lynn Stanfill

She was the only girl to talk her way onto the youth football team.

She was the middle daughter of four kids, “always protecting her sisters or anyone else that she thought would be harmed,” her mother recalls.

But no one could help her in the end, when police say she was forced into prostitution and a terrifying last few weeks of life.

“When things were getting bad, she could not leave,” said Shelley Repp, executive director for Spoken For, a group whose mission is to prevent human trafficking in New Mexico. “That’s how quickly the situation escalated.”

In May, federal authorities arrested three people, including an Albuquerque couple, on sex trafficking charges. Detectives said they had hired a hit man to kill Stanfill and another man “because their activities were contrary to the objectives of the criminal sex trafficking organization.”

Early trouble

As a child, Stanfill was bounced from home to home, living with her mother, then with each set of grandparents, said her mother, Cynthia Salazar.


“She was very strong-willed,” Salazar said. “She was a happy girl growing up. She was always protecting her sisters or anyone else that she thought would be harmed.”

Tobi Lynn Stanfill, 17, at her high school graduation from Camino Nuevo Youth Center. (Courtesy of Rebecca Christopher)

Tobi Lynn Stanfill, 17, at her high school graduation from Camino Nuevo Youth Center. (Courtesy of Rebecca Christopher)

But her grandmother said Stanfill began to change around the age of 12 when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and started getting into fights with other students in Tularosa.

“I tried to keep her in school and in the eighth grade, I took her to psychiatric hospitals in El Paso and Las Cruces,” said Rebecca Christopher, her grandmother. “She had a lot of anger at one time.”

Stanfill was eventually sent to a juvenile justice center in Albuquerque after violating probation on charges that neither her mother nor grandmother could remember any more. They say she blossomed at Camino Nuevo Youth Center, earned her GED, and took theater and Bible classes.

At 18, she was released to a reintegration home and Christopher said that’s when they began to worry about her again.

“Something went wrong and she got mixed up with the wrong people,” Christopher said. “Things went downhill.”

‘She had a heaviness’

Both her mother and grandmother said Stanfill had changed in the months leading up to her death.

They said when she returned home to Tularosa to visit, she was skittish and scared and depressed. When they talked to her on the phone, she was always in a rush to hang up.

“She had a heaviness about her when she had to go back (to Albuquerque),” Salazar said. “She said, ‘I just have to go back, you don’t understand. Maybe one day you will, but right now you don’t understand.'”

During a visit with her mother in early December, just weeks before she was killed, Stanfill received a text message, and packed up and left almost immediately.

“A vehicle came later on that evening or early that morning to pick her up,” Salazar said, choking up at the memory. “That’s the last time I saw my baby. She wasn’t even home 24 hours.”

Christopher said that although the family suspected something bad was going on with Stanfill, they could never have suspected she was being forced to have sex for money.

“I never dreamt it was human trafficking,” Christopher said. “I didn’t even know it was a thing in Albuquerque. It’s really shocked our family.”