Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Announces Justice Department Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking

Recently, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland released the Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

Rooted in the foundational pillars and priorities of the interagency National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which President Biden released on Dec. 3, 2021, the Justice Department’s National Strategy is expansive in scope. It aims to enhance the department’s capacity to prevent human trafficking; to prosecute human trafficking cases; and to support and protect human trafficking victims and survivors.

“Human trafficking is an insidious crime,” said Attorney General Garland. “Traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm. The Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking will bring the full force of the Department to this fight.”       

“While the threats our fellow citizens face are many and varied, because of the physical and emotional toll human trafficking offenses take on vulnerable victims, these cases deserve our purposeful focus,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to focus our efforts on seeking justice for vulnerable victims and holding traffickers and those who prey on trafficking victims accountable. We will expand our   collaboration with victims and the organizations that serve them to help get them the services and support they need. Whether the survivor is a child or an adult, no human being deserves to be coerced into commercial sex for the benefit of another.”

The department’s strategy will be implemented under the direction of the National Human Trafficking Coordinator designated by the Attorney General in accordance with the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017. U.S. Attorney Myers has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Hilton to serve as the Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Southern District of Indiana. Hilton will continue to build on the district’s strong foundation of investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases throughout the Southern District.

Working closely with law enforcement, prosecution, and probation partners, as well as victim-service providers and child protection agencies, the Southern District of Indiana has successfully prosecuted multiple sex trafficking cases. This includes work with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Whitestown Police Department, the Indiana State Police, and Homeland Security. Notable results include the following:

  • United States v. James Young resulted in a 26-year prison sentence for the primary trafficker of four minors. Raheem Simmons was also prosecuted for his role in the operation, and Wayne Wilson received a three-year federal prison term for obstructing justice during the prosecution.
  • United States v. Nahtanha Garcia-Herrera, et. al. resulted in a 20-year prison sentence for the primary offender and a ten-year prison sentence for Tyrece Jones. Two other individuals, Rhonda Badger and Vaughn Isom, were imprisoned for their respective roles in the offenses against 2 minor girls.
  • United States v. William Muzzall resulted in an 11-year prison sentence for the primary trafficker of one minor. Ashani Burnett-Cisse was also prosecuted for Attempted Witness/Victim Tampering and sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment.
  • United States v. Marvin Rankins, et. al. resulted in a 10-year prison sentence for the primary trafficking of one minor. Two other women were prosecuted for their respective roles in the trafficking enterprise.
  • United States v. Breanda Smith resulted in a 78-month prison sentence for a woman who trafficked a minor. Her co-defendant, Cordney Thurman, was sentenced to 40 months in prison for his role in the offense.
  • In 2021, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury’s verdict and the 40-year prison sentence in United States v. Elijah Vines. Vines trafficked a minor female in the Indianapolis area in the fall of 2016. He was convicted after a jury trial in 2019. Two other individuals were also convicted for their roles in the trafficking enterprise. That case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kristina Korobov, Brad Shepard, and Lawrence Hilton.

On Dec. 23, 2021, the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) announced almost $87 million in funding to combat human trafficking, provide supportive services to trafficking victims throughout the United States and conduct research into the nature and causes of labor and sex trafficking.

OJP’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) continues to manage the largest amount of federal funding dedicated to providing services to victims of human trafficking. OVC strengthens the victim service response to human trafficking through grant funding, training and technical assistance and leadership in the field. For example, OVC-funded human trafficking task forces initiated more than 2,800 new investigations nationwide between June 2019 and July 2020, and its victim service grant programs reached nearly 10,000 clients over a 12-month period. OJP’s investments figure prominently in the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. If you believe that you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text 233733.