A young girl in Brazil is approached by an older man. You're very beautiful he states, he asks if he can talk to her parents. She points in their direction, 20 feet away. The man approaches the young girls parents and hands them his business card. He is from the US and is a modeling/acting scout. He asks how old their daughter is and they tell him she is 12 years old. He asks if she has any brothers and they say 3. He asks if he can see them as well and is introduced to the brothers. One brother, age 10, catches his interest and he asks the young boy if he is interested in acting. The family is very poor and are not sure what to think of this american man. He tells them that he sees a lot of potential in their daughter and son and hands them $2500 as a deposit to allow him to take them to the US to model and act at his agency. He promises to put them in a nice apartment with other kids their age. The parents are thrilled and thank the nice man and the man tells them to think it over and he will come back in a week. A week later the young girl and boy board the mans private jet and are off to New York..... When they arrive they cant wait to see their new apartment that they have been promised and meet all the nice boys and girls they will be living with. They take a taxi to a deserted area, and pull up in front of what looks like a warehouse. The man pays the taxi driver and shoves the kids foward. They enter the abandoned warehouse and meet an older woman who looks the kids over. You did well the woman tells the man. The boy is very cute, our male clients will love him, she says. The kids arent sure what to think of the woman. The man then turns to the kids and tells them if they dont make the $2500 he gave to their parents in the next 2 weeks he will kill them and their family. They are shocked, and ask how they are expected to make the money. The old woman laughs and says that they now work for her. She informs them that they are to have sex with multiple men daily and will get paid $10 for each man they sleep with...they have just entered the world of sex trafficking
"Many of San Francisco's Asian massage parlors -- long an established part of the city's sexually permissive culture -- have degenerated into something much more sinister: international sex slave shops.
Once limited to infamous locales such as Bombay and Bangkok, sex trafficking is now an $8 billion international business, with San Francisco among its largest commercial centers.
San Francisco's liberal attitude toward sex, the city's history of arresting prostitutes instead of pimps, and its large immigrant population have made it one of the top American cities for international sex traffickers to do business undetected, according to Donna Hughes, a national expert on sex trafficking at the University of Rhode Island.
"It makes me sick to my stomach," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "Girls are being forced to come to this country, their families back home are threatened, and they are being raped repeatedly, over and over."
Because sex trafficking is so far underground, the number of victims in the United States and worldwide is not known, and the statistics vary wildly.
The most often cited numbers come from the U.S. State Department, which estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked for forced labor and sex worldwide each year -- and that 80 percent are women and girls. Most trafficked females, the department says, are exploited in commercial sex outlets.
Relying on research from the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department estimates there are 14,500 to 17,500 human trafficking victims brought into the United States each year -- but does not quantify how many of those are sex victims. Some advocacy groups place the number of U.S. victims much higher, while others criticize the government for overstating the problem.
"The number will always be an estimate, because trafficking victims don't stand in line and raise their hands to be counted, but it's the best estimate we have," said Ambassador John Miller, director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The CIA won't divulge its research methods, but based its figures on 1,500 sources, including law enforcement data, government data, academic research, international reports and newspaper stories.
Women trafficked for the sex industry are predominantly from Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union and South America -- lured to the United States by promises of lucrative jobs as models or hostesses, only to be sold to brothels, strip clubs and outcall services and extorted into working off thousands of dollars in surprise travel debts to their new "owners."
Federal investigators say that even those who come to the United States with the idea of working as high-society call girls cannot imagine the captivity and the degrading workload they face.
"Human trafficking is a multibillion-dollar business. In terms of profits, it's on a path to overtake drug and arms trafficking," said Barry Tang, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement attache with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in South Korea. "There's a highly organized logistical network between Korea and the United States with recruiters, brokers, intermediaries, taxi drivers and madams."
The United States is among the top three destination countries for sex traffickers, along with Japan and Australia. Once in the United States, traffickers most often set up shop in California, New York, Texas and Las Vegas.
It's an underground world, but in more than 100 interviews with federal agents, experts and sex trafficking victims in California and South Korea, a picture emerges about how international traffickers buy and sell women between Asia and the West Coast.
Overseas, the trafficker is usually a woman. She recruits from clubs, bars, colleges, pool halls and restaurants, said Deputy Special Agent Mark F. Wollman, who oversees San Francisco for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Recruiters fill the want ads in papers and the Internet, targeting vulnerable young women with fake job offers for waitresses, models and hostesses in America.
Traffickers fly the women to Canada or Mexico, and walk or drive them into California. In Canada, they slip through Indian reservations off-limits to the U.S. Border Patrol, often at night, and sometimes along snow-packed trails.
In Mexico, the traffickers lead the women over the same treacherous desert paths worn down by migrants heading to "El Norte" for work. More women come through airport customs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, using fake passports and student or tourist visas made for them by their traffickers.
It's relatively easy for traffickers to evade authorities at the checkpoints -- land, air or sea -- because women still don't realize at that point that they are being tricked.
"It's not like the movies where you open a trunk and you interview them and they tell you everything," said Lauren Mack, special-agent-in-charge with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego. "They aren't going to tell you they're victimized because they aren't -- yet."
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