MINNEAPOLIS -- Twenty-nine people have been indicted in a sex trafficking ring allegedly run by Minneapolis-based Somali gangs, an operation that feds say spans three states.
An indictment unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Nashville says one of the goals of the gangs was to recruit females under age 18, including some under age 14, and force them into prostitution in exchange for cash, drugs or other items.
Federal investigators say the sex ring operated in Minneapolis, Nashville, and Columbus, Ohio.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, 26 of the 29 defendants have been taken into custody by the St. Paul Police Department's Gerald Vick Task Force and its local, state and federal law enforcement partners. Of the 26 arrested, 17 are in custody in jails in Dakota County, Carver County, Stearns County and are also in prisons in Lino Lakes and Rush City.
"We're very excited today because they're young daughters. It doesn't matter if you're Somali or not, we're all parents. We've kept young girls safe," said St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith.
The indictment outlines numerous instances of prostitution. In one case that dates back to 2005, a 13 year-old girl was transported from Minneapolis to Columbus and Nashville for sex.
Investigators say the girl was forced to provide sex-for-money for a period of approximately 2 1/2 years.
"Trafficking children for sex is intolerable and the Department of Justice will aggressively enforce trafficking and other laws to eliminate these types of deplorable acts," said U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin. "As shown here today, law enforcement agencies at every level will come together to bring the full force of justice to bear on individuals who choose to profit by victimizing innocent children."
The indictment also details the case involving a 12 year old Somali girl who was sexually assaulted and forced into a prostitution operation housed in a St. Paul apartment. That girl was later prostituted by members of the gang to 'other' men in exchange for money, drugs and alcohol.
Cases of two other underage girls, named in the indictment as 'Jane Doe 3 and 4,' were also extensively documented.
Prosecutors say the girls were forced to engage in sex acts in hotel rooms, men's bathrooms, vehicles and other locations.
"Human traffickers abuse innocent people, undermine our public safety, and often use their illicit proceeds to fund sophisticated criminal organizations," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton. "ICE is committed to bringing these criminals to justice and rescuing their victims from a life in the shadows. We will continue to fight the battle to end human trafficking both here in the United States and around the globe."
The men and women indicted in the sex-trafficking ring also face charges involving obstruction of justice, the theft of cash, cars, and counterfeiting by creating and using fake credit cards.
"The fact of the matter is these are very serious charges in a very serious case. We would like people to hold their judgments," said local Somali Community Advocate Omar Jamal.
Those charged in the federal indictment are:
- Abdifitah Jama Adan, aka "Shorty" aka "Faleebo" aka "Kuzzo," age 28
- Abdullahi Sade Afyare aka "Forehead,"age 19
- Ahmad Abnulnasir Ahmad aka "Fabulous," age 23
- Yahya Jamal Ahmed, age 23
- Abdikarim Osman Ali, aka "Homer" aka "Big Abdi," age 22
- Musse Ahmed Ali aka "Fat Boy," age 23
- Hassan Ahmed Dahir aka "Mohamed Ali Hussein," age 21
- Fadumo Mohamed Farah aka "Naana Naana" aka "Gangster Boo" aka "Barnie," age 25
- Idris Ibrahim Fahra aka "Chi Town," age 22
- Yasin Ahmed Farah, age 19
- Abdullahi Hashi aka "Kamal," age 24
- Fatah Haji Hashi aka "Jerry" aka "Jr," age 23
- Abdirahman Abdirazak Hersi aka "Biggie," age 20
- Muhiyadin Hassan Hussein aka "CD," age 22
- Dahir Nor Ibrahim aka "Dahir Lucky," age 38
- Abdifatah Bashir Jama aka "Cash Money" aka "Ohio," age 23
- Andrew Kayachith aka "AK," age 20
- Abdigadir Ahmed Khalif aka "Awali," age 24
- Bashir Yasin Mohamud aka "Br," age 26
- Mustafa Ahmed Mohamed, age 22
- Fuad Faisal Nur aka "Hanjule," age 24
- Abdifatah Sharif Omar aka "British" aka "Pinky," age 25
- Liban Sharif Omar aka "Sunderra," age 21
- Mohamed Sharif Omar aka "Moe D" aka "Mojo," age 26
- Hamdi Ali Osman aka "Big Hamdi" aka "Boss Lady," age 22
- Haji Osman Salad aka "Hollywood," age 20
- Bibi Ahmed Said, age 19
- Ahmed Aweys Sheik aka "Rear Hammer" aka "Abdul," age 24
- Yassin Abdirahman Yusuf aka "Junior" aka "Black Cat Junior," age 21
If convicted, the suspects face 15 years to life in prison. The victims also face a sentence.
"This is stuck with them the rest of their life," said Joy Friedman.
Friedman knows the struggles these women face because she's living it. A survivor of sex-trafficking herself, Friedman now works for Breaking Free, an organization that helps women and girls escape from prostitution.
"It's a healing journey now for each and every one of those victims that they rescued, just like it's a healing journey for me," she said.
Friedman knows indictments, like the one Monday, are a win in the fight, but just one battle in a much bigger war.
"Until we hold the demand side responsible and accountable, this is not going to stop," said Friedman.
(Copyright 2010 KARE and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)