Local News

Oct 31, 2013 6:47 PM by Caroline Flores - cflores@kristv.com

Prostitution Busts Sheds Light On Bigger Issue

CORPUS CHRISTI - Tuesday's prostitution ring bust has shed light on the bigger issue of human trafficking. Police say the women working in the spas were forced into prostitution when they were brought into the United States. According to local activists, this is a clear situation of human trafficking.

So, now the question is why isn't the owner of these salons being charged with human trafficking instead of aggravated promotion of prostitution. Local activists say the answer to that question is easy.

"It's hard to prove human trafficking cases," said Marlene Villerreal with Blue Nation.

Blue Nation is a local group that speaks out against human trafficking. Villerreal says federal law enforcement has told her when it comes to cases like Tuesday's prostitution bust, they will charge the suspect with what will stick. Prosecutors say sometimes the charge isn't what people want.

"It sounds a bit worse to have human trafficking rather than promotion of prostitution. But if the result is the same... As far as sentence goes... You want to try the easiest case to prove," said Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka.

When it comes to human trafficking, a prosecutor has to prove three things: force, fraud and coercion. Villarreal says to prove that you would normally need the victims to cooperate with the investigation. She says many times the victims won't because of threats they get from the person who owns them at the time.

Villerreal says the victims get threats like, "If you don't do these things for us, if you don't prostitute, then we are gonna hurt your family back in your native country."

Prosecutors say it may sound like the crime is being ignored but I'm told that's not the case at all.

"We're not shying away from it. We're not trying to get... I don't know if you want to use the word bang for your buck... But we ultimately try to get the higher sentence," said Skurka.

Skurka says depending on the outcome of the federal investigation, the charge could eventually be changed to human trafficking. That is what Villarreal is hoping for.

"If our federal government... Homeland Security, The Feds... Are coming in from Houston I'd like to believe that they're gonna make a human trafficking case stick. If it is in fact a human trafficking," said Villerreal.

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