Transcript

Sex Trafficking in America

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FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Literally thousands of people are pouring into the Phoenix area today—

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Super Bowl XLIX, now just a day away—

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Super Bowl XLIX kicks off tomorrow in Glendale, Arizona—

MALE NEWSREADER:

Fans of the Seahawks and Patriots flying in, say they’re loving the location—

MALE NEWSREADER:

It’s not just another night on the town. Tonight, Phoenix is the town—

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Local businesses getting all prepped—

NARRATOR:

Before the Super Bowl came to Phoenix in 2015, the city began preparing for the arrival of tens of thousands of people—

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

—players resting today—

MALE NEWSREADER:

So many people here—thousands—

NARRATOR:

And they worried that not all of them would be coming for the game.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

You may be surprised to find out where sex trafficking’s at at the Super Bowl.

DETECTIVE AMBER CAMPBELL, Phoenix anti-trafficking unit:

There's always a lot of talk around any kind of a large sporting event about traffickers bringing their victims.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Sex trafficking is a huge problem around the world, including in the United States—

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Because they expect there to be a big client base.

(on patrol) All right, we’re in the area. We’re just south of you guys.

NARRATOR:

Like other cities around the country, Phoenix was looking for a new way to deal with a persistent problem: the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

How many girls are out here right now?

NARRATOR:

One of the first things they did was change the way they look at the problem.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Just north of here.

NARRATOR:

They started seeing it as a form of human trafficking.

DETECTIVE CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ, Phoenix anti-trafficking unit:

A pimp and a trafficker are the same thing. We just used to call them pimps all the time.

FEMALE POLICE OFFICER:

Grab her, grab her, grab her! Hey! She’s running!

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

The very core of what trafficking is, is influencing, inducing, encouraging someone into a life of prostitution.

NARRATOR:

For 2 1/2 years, FRONTLINE followed a special police unit in Phoenix devoted to fighting sex trafficking.

DETECTIVE HEIDI CHANCE, Phoenix anti-trafficking unit:

The thing is, no defense that you didn’t know how old she was.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

If you’re exploiting someone else, and you’re using their body and using them to make money, you’re a trafficker.

MALE VOICE:

(on police radio) Hey, Christi, if you can just come down, the one that Kris got is—

NARRATOR:

When we arrived in Phoenix in the fall of 2016, the police had just begun a new approach meant to treat the women and girls as victims, not criminals.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

Before, it was just, arrest, book, arrest, book, arrest, book.

It was more about addressing the community's complaints about seeing people out on the street. They tell us to f off, and we book 'em, and we go about our business.

(on patrol) Where are you from originally? California. What part? How long have you been out here?

We started talking to some girls, and once we realized why they were out there, we realized we were approaching it wrong.

(on patrol) Unfortunately, we keep coming across girls that are either really, really young; older and thought they wanted to do it and changed their mind but don’t know how to get out anymore—

We started trying to figure out how can we help get them off the street and go after the pimp instead of the girls.

(on patrol) We really do want to help get you out, OK?

GIRL ON STREET:

If somebody sees me arrested like this, like the girls or the pimp or something, and then—

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

(on patrol) You kind of don’t have a choice right now to talk to us, right? I know it seems like a big to-do here, but we have to kind of make it that way—we know that—for you guys. OK?

AMBER CAMPBELL:

It's very difficult to put a number on how many victims are out there.

(on patrol) The victim advocate is over there, and she’s gonna talk with you—

There’s no stereotypical human trafficking victim.

They span all ethnicities, all socioeconomic backgrounds and all ages.

(on patrol) Girl, you’re so young. That makes me sad. Are you out here with anybody?

GIRL ON STREET:

No.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Are you working for a pimp?

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

We don’t really call them prostitutes anymore. We call them victims, and then we call them survivors. And we try to empower them a little bit as they move through that culture.

NARRATOR:

The detectives were also changing the way they looked at the men selling women, treating them as the perpetrators of human trafficking.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

Each state is different, and the federal law is different, but overall, if you’re using someone else for your personal financial gain, that is the true sense of being a trafficker. It doesn’t have to be across state lines, though most always it is.

NARRATOR:

When we started filming with the unit, much of the sex trafficking business had moved online to websites like Backpage, a virtual marketplace for buyers and sellers of sex.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

We usually look for girls on Backpage because that's where it's the most prominent. That's where we know that most of the customers are going online to look for girls; that’s where we know most of the girls are being advertised.

KRIS GISELE, Phoenix anti-trafficking unit:

These are the ads that Heidi pulled yesterday.

HEIDI CHANCE:

We chose this one because her name happens to be Jazzy and because of our case yesterday.

KRIS GISELE:

We look for juveniles specifically on Backpage.

HEIDI CHANCE:

And then a lot of these girls, it’s been my experience, they’re not going to put 18 to 19. They’re going to put 21 to 24 because they don’t want us to think that they’re underage.

KRIS GISELE:

Everything on this could be 100% false.

HEIDI CHANCE:

But if it looks like they’re young—they’re speaking young, there’s young indicators; plus there's someone else taking their photo, that it wasn’t just a selfie, that it was someone else—

FEMALE VOICE:

—that’s taking to post—

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

When I first came, it was girls working out on the streets, and then it was on Craigslist.

Craigslist shut that section down, which then made Backpage popular.

And now, even in—more recently, in the last few years, they’re recruiting on apps.

DETECTIVE MELISSA BORQUEZ, Phoenix anti-trafficking unit:

Let’s be a little vulnerable here. I don’t want to get myself in a—

NARRATOR:

Because traffickers hide behind the anonymity of the internet, the detectives have been going undercover to try to lure them into the open.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

With undercover Facebook accounts, I’ll typically—I’ll friend somebody who I know is out there; who maybe we’ve previously ID’d as a pimp or as a working girl. And then once they friend me on Facebook, then I just go into their friend list and I just hit 'em all up with friend requests.

Because they’re not going to take the time—they just figure, "Oh s---, she’s a really pretty girl, and look what her profile pic is." And they all network together.

NARRATOR:

They hire models who let them post their pictures online.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

Samantha, what was her name on there? Ashley Diamond.

We will have multiple different profiles across multiple different types of social media.

This persona, I pretend to be very into fashion. So I will share fashion stuff.

And I’ll post these funny little things. So I kinda mix it up to make it look real.

I have about five different pages; this is the one I’ve been using the most lately. It is a lot of work and I do it when I can.

The good thing is Facebook is something I can get on from my phone when we’re doing surveillance. I can sit there—we work late at night, I can post something so I'm—that’s the other thing, it’s important to post things on the weekend or late at night or—if I only post things Monday to Friday, 8 to 5, then I start to look like a cop. So.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Here, he responded. It looks like he’s desperate for a girl. He’s hurting for money right now.

After a year of being my friend, all of a sudden he just sends a random Facebook message, then. I’m gonna jump all over it and see what he has to say. "I’m not asking—"

HEIDI CHANCE:

He probably sent that same message to—

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

—to every single girl, oh, yeah.

HEIDI CHANCE:

It’s like a fishing expedition for them.

We can develop charges on them just based on this conversation and arrest them.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Yeah. If I can get him to meet all the criteria for it, then that’s a fantastic pandering charge, whether he’s in California or Arizona or not.

He knows I’m going to work as a prostitute for him. He’s going to take all of my money. I let him know I’m nervous about that, and he’s just very, very nonchalant, like, "It’s normal to be nervous about making such a change."

DOMINIQUE ROE-SEPOWITZ, Associate professor, Arizona State University:

Sex trafficking is a new problem. I mean, it's the oldest problem, but it's a new problem that we're looking at in a different way.

NARRATOR:

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz helped launch the anti-trafficking effort before the 2015 Super Bowl. She’s one of the few experts studying the scope of the problem.

DOMINIQUE ROE-SEPOWITZ:

Reliable statistics on sex trafficking are very complicated to find. It is a hidden crime. The trafficker tells the victim that they're gonna get in trouble if they disclose it, so oftentimes the victims that we work with don't tell us quickly or up front that this is something that's happening. The sex buyers are purposely hiding their behavior so they don't get caught. It's illegal to buy sex. So the whole thing is sort of behind a screen.

NARRATOR:

It was hard for the police to tell if there was an actual spike in sex trafficking around the Super Bowl, but the event changed the way they have approached the issue ever since.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

The Super Bowl was kind of the catalyst that brought all the parties to the table.

It brought law enforcement in the same room with the service providers; individuals that were out there in the community doing training; the legislatures; and the governor and mayor. That’s what was the catalyst for bringing the task forces together.

(in interrogation video) I’ll be right back. I’m just gonna grab my notepad, OK?

NARRATOR:

The anti-trafficking effort has been particularly focused on minors.

In 2016, the unit picked up this teenager, named Kat. She’d been abducted and trafficked by men she met online.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

I actually got a call at 3:45 in the morning.

She’s a 16-year-old who ran away from the city of Maricopa and ended up here in Phoenix.

KAT:

(in interrogation video) He told me 15 minutes—15 to 20 minutes was 100, 30 minutes was 120 to 150 and an hour was 200, but it depended—and that was all he told me. But I’m guessing that it went up more and more if they wanted more time.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

(in interrogation video) And who's the—

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

We're seeing more and more girls, but they're just typical teenagers going through the woes of being a teenager and become a victim because they're vulnerable, because the traffickers have access to them through their phones and through the internet.

NARRATOR:

When we met Kat a few months after she’d been found by the police, she was back home with her parents.

KAT:

I have to talk to them about making a schedule for the week.

FEMALE POLICE OFFICER:

How are you doing in school?

KAT:

Good. I just did a pretest for—

My name is Kat and I’m 16 years old. I have three siblings, actually, two brothers and one sister. I love giraffes. (laughs) I don’t really know what else to say.

So this right here, this is Pedro. It’s something you sleep on; it's almost like a pillow.

I—me and my parents had been arguing a lot about just things that had been going on throughout my life and things that were going on in their life, and it seemed they were blaming me for everything, and I just—I couldn’t take it anymore. I had Facebook; I had Instagram; I had all these things—Snapchat, everything like that.

My friend told me about this app; it was called MeetMe. It was like a—like you meet people and you talk to them, you know. It didn’t really seem like it was that harmful.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

This is his chatting history—there's Kat, and there's Rafael.

NARRATOR:

Through the MeetMe app, Kat began chatting with a man named Rafael Quiroz. They exchanged messages for almost a month.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

She talked to him about the struggles that she was having at home with her family and fights that she was having, and he was just playing on her vulnerabilities.

NARRATOR:

Rafael introduced Kat to a friend of his named Jesse Cisneros.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

So Jesse started corresponding with her on Snapchat, and Jesse was the one who actually arranged to meet up with her.

This whole section here is where they’re talking about her running away.

KAT:

He offered to give me a ride up to Phoenix, and with everything in my head, I was like, "You know what? It’s just a ride, you know. Nothing is going to happen."

When he got here I climbed out of my bedroom window and got into his car. He was like, "I’m not dropping you off." And I was like, "What are you talking about?" He covered my eyes so I couldn’t see where we were going. It was really dark.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Their plan was to get Kat and utilize her for the purpose of sex trafficking. They knew it going in. Kat was the unsuspecting one who had no idea, unfortunately.

And that's how her nightmare began.

SHAWNA, Kat's mom:

I went to go wake her up for school, and I looked in her room, and I didn’t see her. I drove all over town looking for her, and she wasn't there, and that’s when we started realizing that something wasn’t right.

NARRATOR:

Kat’s parents filed a missing persons report.

PAUL, Kat's dad:

So what I’m thinking is that my daughter's laying out in the middle of the desert dying, and she’s crying for me, and I can’t be there.

NARRATOR:

The night she left home, Kat was driven 30 miles to Phoenix, where she met a third man, who she says was the most frightening of them all: Bryant Flemate.

KAT:

Bryant was more of the enforcer, you could say.

He told me, "I don’t give a f--- who you are." He said, "I own you. I own your body, I own you, and you have no say in what you do."

NARRATOR:

The men took her to a hotel.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

And that black truck right there is Jesse Cisneros’ truck.

This is Jesse Cisneros. This is Bryant Flemate. They arrive to the hotel together, and then here comes Kat.

KAT:

And that’s where Jesse explains, "You have a client."

And I was like, "What are you talking about, I have a client?" He was like, "You’re going to have sex with this man." He was like, "You’re going to tell him you’re 19 and your name is Rose." And this stranger comes in, he did those things to me, he puts the money in the drawer and then he leaves.

It was like my whole world just collapsed.

NARRATOR:

Over the course of a week, she was taken to homes and hotel rooms and repeatedly sold for sex, until someone saw her outside the hotel, became suspicious and called the police.

KAT:

(in interrogation video) And then we went and checked back in, but it was into a different room. It was at the Comfort Inn, but it was a different room—

AMBER CAMPBELL:

She's the only victim I've had who could tell me specific room numbers of hotel rooms that they had been taken to.

(in interrogation video) OK, so they went into that room 204 that you pointed out yesterday—

When she could recall so much detail, that helped us tremendously in tracking down who all these players were.

At this point, I’ve got charges on all suspects. So we have three traffickers in custody right now. So I’m preparing the case for the county attorney’s office so they can move through the court process.

NARRATOR:

For Kat, this would be the beginning of a long and uncertain journey.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Typically cases like this will take anywhere from a year and a half to 2 1/2 years to make their way through the court process.

DOMINIQUE ROE-SEPOWITZ:

What we know, in most states, is that traffickers get away with it.

Our research shows that about 27% of victims participate in the court; that they will talk to law enforcement and give them enough information to catch the trafficker and move forward.

MALE VOICE ON PHONE:

Hello.

HEIDI CHANCE:

Hello, this is Vanessa.

NARRATOR:

Many of the unit’s cases don’t start with a victim like Kat. So the detectives are finding other ways to gather evidence against potential traffickers.

HEIDI CHANCE:

Just calling to chat a little bit because I just didn’t know what you were all about, really.

MALE VOICE ON PHONE:

I’m looking for a new girl right now. I don’t know if you’re comfortable with traveling, but I do some traveling, too. California, Miami, New York; my next stop I’m thinking about taking you to Vegas.

HEIDI CHANCE:

When we are doing an operation where we’re talking to pimps, literally, if I don’t answer my pimp’s call I’m not legitimizing myself and he’s gonna drop me. So it is 24/7 all the time.

MALE VOICE ON PHONE:

At the end of the day I gotta take care of you; I gotta make sure you’re straight. I gotta make sure your hair done, your nails done. I gotta make sure you get your beauty sleep. I gotta make sure you get the proper hygiene.

HEIDI CHANCE:

The first time I didn’t answer a call, I had to explain myself the next morning and he had pulled my ad off immediately and was screaming at me because I didn’t answer his call.

MALE VOICE ON PHONE:

I gotta take care of everything. You know what I mean? Once everything start getting going, and everything start getting good, it’s a really luxury life. I’m gonna put you in a position to win. A happy girl makes happy money.

HEIDI CHANCE:

It’s all about the money; it is a business to them.

A drug is a usable quantity that can be used up one time. A person can be trafficked over and over and over again all day long. And that's why it’s such a growing problem.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

So there he is. He’s responding now.

"What you lookin’ for in the one you choose?" Aww.

I mean, this is fantastic. This is going to give us—it’s an entire transcript.

"So I’m not asking for you to be perfect. I just ask for you to have loyalty, dedication and I want some elevation in your situation."

HEIDI CHANCE:

He’s talking about money.

The other part of this is proving the person behind the computer, behind the phone, behind the text messages; and that’s why we do other things to bolster the case, and in that way we can prove this is the person that did all these things, that I had the conversation with—

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Get him in a telephone conversation—

HEIDI CHANCE:

—to get them charged.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

—get him to purchase a Greyhound ticket for me. Get him at the Greyhound station picking me up.

Let’s see here. Let’s see if we can get him ID’d. His name may not even be Chris. Let’s see what we got here.

NARRATOR:

Another one of the men she’s been talking to online is Dwayne Mathis, and he has a long criminal record.

FEMALE POLICE DETECTIVE:

So assault, marijuana, DV assault. And then he had a couple robberies in 2012 and 2011. Armed robbery.

Ninety days is the most he’s done in jail.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Ninety days for armed robbery.

FEMALE POLICE DETECTIVE:

Yep.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

So last week on Tuesday, I believe, I get a phone call from a sheriff’s deputy out of Albuquerque.

NARRATOR:

The unit has been working closely with neighboring police departments and quickly learned that Mathis is a suspect in another sex trafficking case involving a 16-year-old girl.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

They located her on Backpage here in Phoenix.

And I don’t know the circumstances surrounding it, but according to Glendale, they believe that 16-year-old girl out of Albuquerque coincidentally works for Dwayne.

So we’re gonna have a good child prostitution charge on him as well, which is a class 2.

SGT. MARK DOTY:

You’ve made arrangements with him that you’re coming in tomorrow at 5:30?

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Tomorrow at 5:30 on the Greyhound, which there will be a Greyhound pulling in there tomorrow at 5:30.

MARK DOTY:

So I can get it set up with our FAID guys.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

I will have him on the phone when he arrives tomorrow to kinda solidify everything else. I would want—I want him on the phone as he’s pulling in the parking lot, if we can get him.

MARK DOTY:

Hey, Chris, we’re heading that way.

SGT. CLAY SUTHERLIN, Phoenix anti-trafficking unit:

These guys that are trafficking the girls are also selling drugs and involved in gangs and all sorts of other criminal activities. So we don’t know a lot about this guy’s violence potential.

HEIDI CHANCE:

We’re out at 27th and Glendale at the Greyhound bus station.

MALE VOICE:

(on police radio) He’s in the parking lot, guys.

HEIDI CHANCE:

He is. He’s right there. Black Lexus, right there.

MALE VOICE:

(on police radio) We got a visual on him. It’s definitely our guy.

MARK DOTY:

Call him on real quick just to make sure he gets on the phone.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

It’s ringing, boss.

Hey, you ready or what? Are you there, or where you at? OK, all right. I just don’t want to be hanging out in front of some scary-ass bus station by myself. You know what I’m saying?

(laughs) That’s right. So—all right.

MALE VOICE 1:

(on police radio) While he’s looking down at his phone, he’s not looking around at all.

MALE VOICE 2:

(on police radio) You’re good to go anytime.

MALE VOICE 3:

(on police radio) On me here. I’ll take the driver’s door. Ready? Move up.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

You there? You OK?

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

Let it go. Then I want you to lay that seat all the way back, all the way back. Lay it all the way back. Yes, yep. You’re good.

Go ahead and do it. Go ahead and do it. Now I want you to turn over, and I want you to crawl out that back door. Crawl out. Do what you’re told, do exactly what you are told.

Keep your hands out, just like that. Now pull yourself out, keep your hands out. Keep your hands out, your hands out. On your belly, on your belly!

MALE POLICE OFFICER 2:

Good. Thanks for doing what you’re told, all right? OK? Thank you for doing what you’re told, all right?

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Roll to your left side?

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

(on interrogation video) OK, do me a favor? Just sit up while I talk to you. It’s a respect thing. I’m not gonna disrespect you while I’m in here, I expect you not to disrespect me either, OK?

All right, all right, all right. Let’s get this going, OK? I got more than enough proof to show that you were out there encouraging a female to lead a life of prostitution.

DWAYNE MATHIS:

(on interrogation video) That’s not true, Miss Lady.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

(on interrogation video) OK. And you know what? That’s OK. I’m just telling you right now, you have every right. You’re gonna get an attorney; you can do your thing; you can defend yourself. But yes, I am booking you into jail today on that.

DWAYNE MATHIS:

(on interrogation video) Is there any way I can avoid that? Honestly. Is there any way that I can sit here and avoid that? When I say "any way," any way, I’ll—if I could get you some—a real person that’s really doing this; if I could give you—if I can, if I can just be an informant. Anything. I—please. I’ll be an informant.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

(on interrogation video) And that’s all stuff that you have to discuss with your attorney.

DWAYNE MATHIS:

(on interrogation video) Please, listen, ma’am. You don’t know what’s gonna happen if I go to jail right now. Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am. I know—ma’am. Ma’am, please.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

(on interrogation video) Just take a breath. Let me go do some paperwork.

DWAYNE MATHIS:

(on interrogation video) God, please. Damn. F---. No, this is some bulls---. I’m going to jail.

NARRATOR:

With the evidence they’d collected, the unit was able to help prosecutor Samantha Caplinger build a sex trafficking case against Mathis.

SAMANTHA CAPLINGER, Deputy county attorney, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office:

What we're receiving, at the prosecution level, is a better investigation from law enforcement.

They are getting every loose end that they can to make sure that this person isn't going to get away with what they did.

And we're getting very thorough investigations, and that leads us to be able to get very strict sentences on these cases.

NARRATOR:

Mathis eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years and three months in prison.

After months struggling to adjust to life at home, Kat has moved into the Phoenix Dream Center, which specializes in caring for survivors of sex trafficking.

KAT:

I actually ended up leaving home on July 25, 2016. And I was sex trafficked. Ah—and it was the worst time of my life—sorry.

KONSTANCE MERIDETH, Chief Programs Officer, Phoenix Dream Center:

We are always full. Always full. And it’s sad, because we need a place that’s bigger for us to be able to help, so we don’t turn anybody away.

The girl only gets that one chance possibly to call, and if you don’t have a place for her, then who knows if she’s ever gonna call again.

CARLA GRACE, Therapist:

So how are you feeling? Like you’re settling in?

KAT:

I feel a lot safer here.

CARLA GRACE:

How’s your sleep?

KAT:

It’s a lot better. I’m falling asleep at like 9:30, 10.

CARLA GRACE:

Because it used to be—

KAT:

I used to fall asleep at 5, maybe 6 a.m. Yeah.

I didn’t even know what sex trafficking was before I was taken.

I didn’t know that I would end up in the situation that I ended up in. It’s good to have people up here that are like, "You know, I know what you’ve been through. I may have not been through what you’ve been through, but I’ve been through something like that, so I can relate to how you feel and I’m here for you."

NARRATOR:

Marriah has been living at the Dream Center for five months. She escaped from her traffickers two years earlier.

MARRIAH:

I was out there for almost four years.

I hated every second of it. I hated every call. I remember putting my phone on airplane mode sometimes, and I would take the beating that came for that. But I just couldn’t—I couldn’t do it for another—I couldn’t, I couldn’t do it again.

But for me, when I started, it’s like all these big promises and, "Oh, you know, you can have whatever you want and you can travel and you can take care of your family and not have to worry about anything; and I’ll keep you safe and make sure nothing happens to you."

They mentally trap you way more than physically. Physically I could have gotten away if I wanted to, 'cause I was out on the track or in the room by myself sometimes, so, I mean, I could have. But it’s emotionally and mentally like they have you in handcuffs.

It’s like they pick the most insecure or sad or damaged in some kind of emotional way female, and they take them and they just build up their head with what, if you don’t know what love is, what you might perceive as love.

Then once they get you that way, then they flip the script and they tell you, "You’re mine," or "This is always what you’re always gonna be," and "You can’t do anything else," and "You can’t ever leave; you can’t ever get away, I’ll find you," and just crazy stuff, you know? And you believe it. You believe what they say.

In that moment it sounds believable. "Nobody will love you past this. Nobody will see past this." It sounds believable. So you just believe it, and then you just go and you think and you hope that things will get better, and then they never do. And then you’re just there, and then one day you wake up and it’s years later, and you’re not even the same person.

NARRATOR:

Like many victims of sex trafficking, Marriah says she was too scared to tell the police, so nothing ever happened to the men who trafficked her.

FEMALE VOICE:

State of Arizona v. Bryan Alexander Martinez Aguilar.

NARRATOR:

But because Kat did work with the police, they were able to arrest not just the traffickers but one of the men who paid to have sex with her.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

And laws changed also that it wasn't a defense for them to say, if they were buying sex from someone, “I don't know how old they are.”

We now, in Arizona, if the person's under 18, they're getting charged with child sex trafficking just like a trafficker would.

NARRATOR:

The man gave detectives evidence that helped corroborate Kat’s story.

FEMALE JUDGE:

Sir, in light of the fact that you entered into a guilty plea in this matter, you’ve waived your right to direct appeal.

NARRATOR:

He took a plea deal and got three years probation.

Deterring customers has been a big part of the anti-trafficking effort in Phoenix.

The detectives do undercover work on the streets.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

It's nice to meet ya. What are you looking for?

MAN IN CAR:

Sex.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Sex?

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Sexo, si!

NARRATOR:

They then arrest the men for the crime of soliciting prostitution.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Human trafficking only perpetuates because there's a customer base.

If we had no customers, if we had no demand, there would be no trafficking. It's simple economics.

CLAY SUTHERLIN:

Is this everybody?

NARRATOR:

On this day, the detectives are planning a weeklong crackdown on potential buyers.

CLAY SUTHERLIN:

So we’re going to do a hotel reversal operation today.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

When I first started, we would arrest johns all the time. We would do undercover operations, we would give them a ticket, and send them on their way.

Then we changed our policy of how we deal with them. They don't just get a ticket; they get booked; their photo gets taken. It becomes a little bit more of a deterrent.

CLAY SUTHERLIN:

—deals all off that, and do it just like we were doing the website.

NARRATOR:

Instead of working the streets, the unit is using online ads and a website it set up to attract targets.

CLAY SUTHERLIN:

So the decoys that will be posting ads are Amber, Evelina, Christi, Amanda, Melissa, Heidi.

NARRATOR:

They schedule appointments for sex acts in downtown hotels.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Yes, it is. What can I do for you?

Yes, I charge, but different things cost different prices, period. What were you looking for question mark?

AMBER CAMPBELL:

What did we say, $60 for a quickie?

FEMALE VOICE:

It depends on what you're looking for—

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

That sounds like a challenge.

FEMALE VOICE:

Oh, daddy dom, edging.

FEMALE VOICE:

This is a full-time job, for sure.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

There’s a lot of customer base, there’s a lot of demand. There is some stuff on the streets, but it’s not as prominent as it is on the internet.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

This is like fish in a barrel right here. This is like throwing chum off the boat.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

We had developed a program where we were posting ads, and we were really collecting all the data of everyone that was contacting us. Phone numbers, who was visiting the website.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

What do you want to do with my boobs?

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

Every single time, we have a huge portion of the same people contacting our undercover ads.

HEIDI CHANCE:

Kitty and ass play, nothing uncovered.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Can talk more about that when you get here, period.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Were you looking for BJ, question mark? If so, I don’t do it uncovered, so could you get the flavored ones, question mark?

Getting on the phone and talking to men, just being so vulgar, is a major shift.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Sounds like you and I are going to have a fun afternoon, period.

HEIDI CHANCE:

Fetishes, though, are extra. So I don’t know what you had in mind.

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

Now I have my husband calling. Hello? I’m at the Extended Stay. We’re doing a hotel reversal. All right, I’ll call you later.

"Hi, about my kids? Oh, by the way, how much for a b------?" Ohh.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s pretty aggressive. That sounds illegal.

There’s a lot more fetishes and deviant behavior that’s requested of the women. And that scares me. Just because I hear what they’re asking of me, so I know they’re asking the same thing of somebody who’s actually being trafficked.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

People think that they're paying for something so they can use and abuse and do whatever they want, because they believe that no one will care; no one will report it; nobody’s going to miss them, which unfortunately often is true.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Are you still on your way, question mark? I’m ready for you, period.

This guy’s going to be here in 40 minutes, the other guy is going to be here in 45 minutes.

OK, and we just learned that our arrest team is in position. Are we good to go with this?

CLAY SUTHERLIN:

(on radio) We’re good to go.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

Hello. Are you here for Kayla?

MALE CUSTOMER:

Yes.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

Kayla—you can come in—

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

Phoenix police.

MALE CUSTOMER:

Oh, sorry about that.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

Phoenix police! Hands behind your back!

Phoenix police, Phoenix police. You’re under arrest. Take hands out of your pocket, on the back of your head.

Hi, Phoenix police. You're under arrest. Take your hands out of your pockets.

Phoenix police, you’re under arrest. Put your hands behind your back, put your hands behind your back. Hands behind your back—relax, relax, relax.

MALE CUSTOMER:

OK, I'm going to relax.

CLAY SUTHERLIN:

Soliciting an act of prostitution.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Her guy was supposed to be here 15 minutes ago. Fifteen minutes, 15 minutes, 15 minutes.

HEIDI CHANCE:

Hey, girl, he’s here for you. Go ahead.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Almost every single male that I interact with, the first thing they want to say is, "Whoa, no, no, no, no, no."

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

Phoenix police! Hands behind your back.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

"I didn’t know. I had no part in it. The girls I interact with are not trafficking victims."

MALE CUSTOMER:

I guess I would think that was probably more so in maybe other countries.

MALE CUSTOMER:

Oh, if I knew that someone was under the control of a pimp doing it forcefully, I wouldn’t be interested in it.

NARRATOR:

None of the men arrested in the operation were engaged in sex trafficking, but the detectives wanted to send a message.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

But human trafficking could have very well been what you just walked into.

And because human trafficking is so prevalent here in Arizona, our requirement went from a simple ticket to sending you on your way to now being booked in jail.

When we arrest them and their lives are completely shattered because they’ve now—their pictures end up on websites, or they end up on the news, and their wives find out because their cars have been towed. I have seen more grown men crying as a result of being arrested for this crime than any other crime.

I don't think johns are held nearly as accountable as what they should be.

I think it’s so rare for us as investigators to actually find the johns and have the evidence necessary to prosecute them.

NARRATOR:

Though a john is cooperating in Kat’s case, it’s taking a long time to be resolved.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Anytime we do these cases, we want to get a photo of what the victim looked like at the day that they were recovered. We want to be able to show a jury, because from the time she's recovered to the time it goes to trial, her appearance could change drastically, and so this was the photo that was taken of Kat.

NARRATOR:

With Kat’s help, the detectives have been accumulating evidence against the three men accused of trafficking her.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

She’s got an impeccable memory, and we were able to find some really great surveillance footage.

We also have, obviously, the hotel records for the various hotels she pointed out. We have bedding, some sheets that we’ll be sending out for DNA testing.

And we have a couple of cell phones. But one of the most important cell phones is Rafael’s cell phone.

NARRATOR:

But after a year, there has been little progress in court.

MALE VOICE:

Case management conference on two matters, State v.—

NARRATOR:

The three defendants—Jesse Cisneros, Rafael Quiroz and Bryant Flemate—have appeared at more than a dozen preliminary hearings.

FEMALE PROSECUTOR:

Good morning, Your Honor.

JUDGE MICHAEL KEMP, Maricopa County Superior Court:

I was going to set another—

AMBER CAMPBELL:

It’s painstakingly long sometimes, the time between the arrest and the time that we see a suspect in trial. And we just don’t have any control over that.

NARRATOR:

Kat has repeatedly come face-to-face with the three men, and it's taking a toll.

KAT:

I just don’t know if I have enough strength inside of me to continue doing and being involved in the case anymore.

This should have been over a long time ago.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

The victim’s cooperation, and Kat in this case, is absolutely imperative for us to move forward.

Without a victim there’s no crime. Unfortunately, that’s the way the justice system works when we’re talking about sex trafficking. So if Kat was not to participate in this case, the suspects would be out and we’d be done.

NARRATOR:

After living at the Dream Center for nine months, Kat has moved back home with her family.

SHAWNA, Kat's mom:

It’s hard to be a parent and not be able to fix what hurts your kid.

She has to get past all this, and she can’t get past all of it when it keeps dragging on.

I sent this to the prosecutors: “I’ve realized through this process why victims do not report things or trust our justice system. My daughter is a strong person, but even the strong can only take so much. She says she’s OK, but as her parents we know she is not. She’s stuck in the trauma of a 16-year-old girl.”

NARRATOR:

As the case has been developing, Kat’s therapist, Carla Grace, is helping prepare her to take the witness stand at trial.

CARLA GRACE:

So Kat, as we get closer, just let me know kind of how you’re feeling and if things start getting more activated. OK. Just let me know, OK?

With any client, prep time to be able to stand and to be cross-examined—I think that's one of the most difficult, vulnerable times.

And, you know, can she do it? Probably not today, but knowing that that could be down the road, then there's lot of things to do to prepare for it.

NARRATOR:

Kat has asked Carla to take her back to the scene of the crime.

KAT:

I haven’t been over here since everything happened.

CARLA GRACE:

So right now, on a scale of zero to 10.

KAT:

Like a 7.

CARLA GRACE:

Kat, if there’s a certain point where you’re just like, "OK, this is close enough," just let me know, and we’ll pull over, OK?

KAT:

You can pull in right here. And go straight.

CARLA GRACE:

So where are you now?

KAT:

I’m scared.

CARLA GRACE:

Zero to 10?

KAT:

Eight. It was right at the top of the stairwell. The room was 206. This is the room where Bryant choked me for the first time. I had just gotten out of the shower. And he said I was being disrespectful because I didn’t want to do nothing. And so I started getting lippy with him, and he grabbed me by my throat and pushed me onto the little coffee table that’s in there. And he told me that I was his f------ b----, so he didn’t care. [crying]

CARLA GRACE:

It’s OK. Yeah, it’s time to just let it be released. Yeah, OK.

NARRATOR:

After 2 1/2 years, there's finally a break in Kat's case. She won't have to go through the ordeal of a trial after all.

One of the accused traffickers, Jesse Cisneros, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in hopes of reducing his sentence.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

(on interrogation video) What I’ll do is go back and ask additional questions to fill in some holes for me.

He was able to corroborate a lot of what Kat had told me. He was able to talk to me about the hotels that she was taken to.

He gave me the information on some customers that she had been with, who posted the ads, who took the photos.

JESSE CISNEROS:

(on interrogation video) I had Kat take pictures. Everything was on my phone.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Basically corroborated everything I already had with Kat.

And after he signed the testimonial agreements, plea deals started happening.

NARRATOR:

All three of the men accused of trafficking Kat would end up taking plea deals, sparing her from having to testify at any of their trials.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

I’m hoping she can really just kinda put it behind her and focus on going forward.

Had we taken this case to trial they would have spent likely the rest of their lives in prison, or pretty close to it.

—showing up to court every month, and having to face these people—

NARRATOR:

The men would still have to go to court for a judge to determine their sentences.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

—detrimental to her healing.

NARRATOR:

In March 2019, Kat arrived at the courthouse in Phoenix.

FEMALE COURT OFFICER:

All rise, please.

NARRATOR:

Jesse Cisneros was going to be sentenced.

JUDGE MICHAEL KEMP:

Thank you. Please be seated.

KAT:

I’m happy that the trial’s not going through. That should be the one thing that I get out of all of this, is just the right to happiness, you know?

SAMANTHA CAPLINGER:

Your Honor, the victim would like to speak.

NARRATOR:

She had decided she wanted to read a statement.

KAT:

I’ve been waiting for this moment for almost three years.

I just want to say the right words; and I want to say words that’ll stick with him for a really long time.

I wanted to speak today because I really need this to come to an end.

For the past three years, I have gone through more than any young adult should ever have to go through. Court date after court date, I was forced to see the defendants denying their actions, knowing very well that they knew what they had done to me. It has affected me and my family, as well as everyone around me. In multiple instances the defendants beat me, sexually assaulted me, starved me and let other strange men do the same. They would hold me down, and when I would beg for them to stop, they would cover my mouth and laugh—laugh at the fact that they were hurting me. Doing something like this to a person is inhumane, and when they were doing it they thought about no one but themselves.

I’m going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life.

SAMANTHA CAPLINGER:

You’ve seen the victim and you’ve seen the harm that he caused.

The fact that she was traded like property; the fact that she was beaten and her life was threatened daily is not something that should be forgotten in this case.

And what the state finds the most reprehensible about this case is that Mr. Cisneros saw no difference between trading drugs in society and trading victims and females, such as the victim in this case.

JUDGE MICHAEL KEMP:

Thank you.

Mr. Cisneros? Mr. Cisneros. Anything you want to say on your own behalf?

JESSE CISNEROS:

I don’t expect their forgiveness, but I would like them to know that—how deeply I'm sorry, and I would like them to just be able to move on from this.

JUDGE MICHAEL KEMP:

Well, Mr. Cisneros, unfortunately I've had a number of cases like this, and I'm frankly shocked.

I mean, to abduct a child and force her into committing sex acts for money—difficult to think of something more despicable than that. That's just, I mean—it's very disturbing. It's very disturbing.

The victim in this case described it as inhumane, and I think that that's a good way to describe it. You and your co-defendants preyed on a child and used her to make money in the worst possible way that I can think of: by performing sex acts against her will. It's really a disturbing situation, as all these cases are.

The impact that this has had on the victim is obviously the strongest aggravating factor in this matter. She's going to have to live with this the rest of her life, no matter what happens. This is gonna be something she's going to have to carry with her, and it's going to be a burden.

NARRATOR:

The judge gave Cisneros 24 years for child sex trafficking and other charges.

At his hearing, Rafael Quiroz was given 10 years, and Bryant Flemate 16 years.

They will all be on lifetime sex offender probation due to new anti-trafficking laws in Arizona.

KAT:

It didn’t hit me until probably that night at probably like 3 in the morning, 4 in the morning. I just started crying, and it was over nothing. And it was just—I think it was just my body telling me, "You can breathe; it’s finally over. You can live your life; you don’t have to worry anymore."

NARRATOR:

Since Phoenix began its new approach to sex trafficking, it has seen victories—

FEMALE POLICE OFFICER:

The longer you stay out here, the higher the risk is.

NARRATOR:

—but also new challenges.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

So there isn’t really a centralized place for us to go and look right now to help us find the victims.

NARRATOR:

Backpage, the most popular website for sex traffickers, was shut down.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

So now we’re just trying to figure out where everybody’s going.

So these new websites have popped up. Bedpage, which is almost an exact replica of Backpage.

Then we’ve got OneBackpage.

Basically it’s all of these different websites now that we don’t have any agreements or search tools with, and they’ve kind of spread out. So we don’t have a certain location to go look for them anymore. And it’s kind of a crapshoot.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

There always seems to be this urgency to take things down, to make it inconvenient for the traffickers. But when you do that, there's always unintended consequences.

So you take down Backpage, and then there's more trafficking on the street. It becomes more violent.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

So he choked you out because you wouldn’t work?

FEMALE ON STREET 1:

Yeah.

FEMALE ON STREET 2:

He come out of nowhere, punched me in the jaw, choked me.

FEMALE ON STREET 3:

I've been raped. He did it to a gang of girls.

FEMALE ON STREET 4:

Just be careful of my head. I got beat up real bad this morning.

HEIDI CHANCE:

You got jumped this morning?

AMBER CAMPBELL:

The activity out here is more than we’ve ever seen in our careers. And we’re seeing a lot of girls, young girls, out here on the streets now.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

What’s your first name?

FEMALE ON STREET 5:

Nadia.

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

Nadia. Honestly, hon? You don’t look like an adult to me. You look very young.

FEMALE ON STREET 6:

This is a lot of freaking cops just for nothing.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

I think the thing that's getting harder and harder for us is to figure out where victims are.

HEIDI CHANCE:

Come on out, hon.

AMBER CAMPBELL:

Our work is constantly having to shift, evolve; and we are having to adapt to what the traffickers are doing with their victims. It's like a cat-and-mouse game.

HEIDI CHANCE:

Grab her, grab her, grab her! Hey! She’s running!

CHRISTI DECOUFLÉ:

I think it’s the old-fashioned cops and robbers.

We're reacting, obviously, and we're going to change with how they change, but the wheel goes round and round in law enforcement.

MARK DOTY:

Melissa’s been working this guy for two or three days now?

MELISSA BORQUEZ:

I just got an OK, but he said not till 9, and that’s in 13 minutes. So his life is gonna change in 13 minutes.

NARRATOR:

For the detectives in Phoenix—

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

Put your hands on your head and turn away from me! Turn away—

NARRATOR:

—the fight against sex trafficking goes on.

27:07
3806_SG148
Iraq's Secret Sex Trade
November 12, 2019