Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TEN Underage Girls Victimized by “ESCORT” ads

This article is based on the dedicated research and writing of human rights advocate, William Hayes, of

Ten underage girls are the latest to be victimized and sold online by Village Voice Media, the alternative weekly newspaper chain which owns the classified web site,

Numerous reports from all over the United States tell of underage girls being held in bondage and sold through the “adult” section of, which has become a notorious trafficking center for pimps and their customers, every day men called “john” or “hobbyists.”

And while ten victims in one law enforcement operation seems astounding, it really should come as no surprise.

Federal prosecutors reported that two members of a Fairfax County, Virginia Crips gang pleaded guilty to charges of running a prostitution ring that recruited and trafficked local high school girls. Gang members Michael Tavon Jeffries, 21, and Christopher Sylvia, 23, both of Virginia, admitted their role in the trafficking operation in federal court in Alexandria.
Prosecutors said that members of the Underground Gangster Crips approached young girls on street corners, the Washington D.C. Metro, Facebook and even in school, telling them that they were pretty and could earn money by having sex with men.
At least 10 underage girls from Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia were lured by the gang into prostitution and were held captive through threats and violence, including rape, court records say. However, since the girls are minors, federal law dictates these crimes as human trafficking violations, not prostitution.
Jeffries, a member of the gang, and Sylvia, an associate, pleaded guilty to sexual trafficking of a minor. They face from ten years to life in prison.
“We have a zero-tolerance, one-strike policy toward juvenile sex trafficking in this district,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride. “Anyone we find who entices or forces a young girl into the vile world of prostitution will pay a very heavy price for their actions.”
Court records show that Jeffries admitted that he worked as a bodyguard for the ring, collecting proceeds from “johna,” advertising the girls on and paying for hotel rooms, where the sex for sale occurred. Sylvia admitted to transporting girls to jobs.
Both are scheduled to be sentenced in July. Attorneys for both men declined to comment.
Now, the attention has turned to Village Voice Media and executives, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey. The two are silent over the growing backlash against and the website’s “adult” ads where the ten girls were – and thousands of others across America are – regularly sold.

However, Village Voice general counsel Elizabeth McDougall is doing most of the talking for the company, continually attempting to defend Village Voice Media and

Days after the two men in the Virginia case pleaded guilty to the pimping of the ten underage girls, McDougall participated in a panel discussion about sex trafficking on MSNBC. While child advocates on the panel argued that the trafficking of just one child was one too many, McDougall agreed that the sex trafficking of minors is a “social atrocity.” However, she maintained that if shut down its adult section, the pimps would just migrate to off-shore sites where they would be beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. authorities.
By that reasoning, McDougall is to keeping the problem alive right here in the U.S. no matter the human cost, so that Village Voice can continue making an estimated profit of $25 million a year from the adult ads. Others have said that her argument is akin to saying that drug dealers shouldn’t be moved off of school playgrounds because the police will know where to find them. Dangerous logic.
Two States are attempting to address “Escort” ads by enacting laws that would put pressure on publishers like Village Voice Media and the Tribune Company – both of which run print and online version of “Escort” and “Adult” advertising. Washington recently passed legislation that would make publishers liable for accepting “Escort” ads which include minors. Connecticut is now considering a similar law.

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