Sex trafficking as a family business

TOLEDO, Ohio – In recent years, the Toledo Federal Bureau of Investigation has uncovered a new link that makes solving sex trafficking even more difficult: selling sex is often a family business.

“Pimps, when they were arrested and we would interview them, we would find out by looking at their history that their dad was a pimp, or their grandfather, or their uncle were pimps. The girls, often times, mom was a prostitute,” said David Dustin, supervisory agent with the Toledo FBI.

Tracing the family tree is part of the job, and this practice is still relatively new. Eight years ago, Dustin says sex trafficking wasn’t even on the radar for law enforcement in Toledo.

“For so long, this went on as a normal course of business,” Dustin said. “It was a lucrative business enterprise, and nobody was really getting arrested. These businesses just kind of flourished as family businesses.”

The city of Toledo is an origin city when it comes to sex trafficking; many of the girls who are sold into the trade are recruited here, before they are shipped to other prostitution rings in major cities across the country.

And the process is made easier because of emerging technology.

“Social media is becoming the breeding ground for this recruitment,” Dustin said.

The grooming process for victims starts by a pimp acting as a boyfriend, telling a broken, young girl that he loves her. The girls are very young, some under the age of 10 years old.

Agents say it’s a lot like fighting organized crime, but with one very big difference.

“Not just having this hard attitude about locking up the people involved in the conduct but separating the true victims from the pimps, and those who are coercing these young girls into the sexual trade,” he said.

So what’s the future of fighting this crime?

Agents say it’s all about awareness and education throughout our community.

Stay tuned tomorrow for our final piece on the series ‘Sex Trafficking: Exposed.’ We’ll be catching up with two FBI agents who are trying to combat sex trafficking as retired agents.

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