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Sting operation results in trafficking charges, plus conspiracy

Authorities characterized the outcome of a recent sting operation spanning 29 states as bringing down the Uber of sex-trafficking.

The operation reportedly placed around 18,000 adds on Backpage.com to advertise the sexual services of foreign women. The women, many of whom were undocumented immigrants from China and Korea, were intimidated with threats of deportation. Many also did not speak English. To avoid detection, the alleged traffickers shuttled the women across the country.

At least four defendants in the sex-trafficking ring have each been charged with six felonies. The charges include sex trafficking, prostitution, conspiracy to traffick, and aiding and abetting concealment of criminal proceedings.

The federal nature of the alleged crimes, when combined with the conspiracy charge, translates into very serious penalties. Conspiracy refers to an alleged agreement between individuals to commit an illegal act. Only two people are needed for a conspiracy, although more can also participate. Yet for a criminal defendant, a conspiracy allegation counts as a separate criminal offense, in addition to the illegal act itself. In a way, it’s like receiving two punishments for the same alleged activity, simply because one or more individuals were involved.

Our law firm understands that prosecutors aggressively mount charges against an accused. Our founding attorney worked as a public defender in Tennessee before entering private practice. Yet that zeal is no excuse for denying a criminal defendant procedural due process, or short-changing his or her constitutional rights. Our lawyers work hard to hold prosecutors to their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, using only lawfully obtained evidence.

We also look for negotiation opportunities. Through a plea deal, a defendant may be able to plead guilty to lesser charges. Federal minimum sentencing guidelines also offer another point of reference. The factors may point to a more appropriate sentence.

Source: Star Tribune, “East metro authorities bust expansive, 'sophisticated' sex-trafficking ring,” Chao Xiong, March 29, 2017

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