Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks this week announced the crackdown of a Maryland-based human trafficking enterprise, resulting in indictments against three of its members.

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Rashid Marwan Mosby, 42, Terra Marie Perry, 35, and Joshua Isaiah Jones, 26, were charged on several counts of conspiracy human trafficking, trafficking of minors and adults and receiving earnings from a prostitute, among other charges.

“The trafficking of women for prostitution is a widespread and worldwide practice that places vulnerable individuals at risk of exploitation and violence, and it is a problem even in our own back yards,” Frosh said in a statement. “This enterprise brutalized women, crossed county and state lines, and spanned years. But, through close collaboration between our office and the office of Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, today, we can announce that this enterprise has been shut down.”

A 2015 arrest by Prince George’s County Police officers initiated the multi-agency investigation that resulted in the arrests and charges against the defendants.

“Thanks to the dedicated efforts of police, prosecutors and defense attorneys across Maryland, together, we will continue to focus on inter-jurisdictional and cross border crimes to ultimately end human trafficking in our state,” said Col. William Pallozzi, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, which also participated in the investigation.

The indictments allege that from 2013 to 2015, the three men conspired to operate a criminal human trafficking enterprise under the guise of an escort and modeling agency called “Pink Pleasure Entertainment.”

Using the website Backpage.com–which features numerous adult services including body massages, fetish fulfillment and strippers—the men recruited victims from Maryland and other states, including juveniles from New Jersey and North Carolina. Once lured into Maryland, the girls were coerced into prostitution and kept captive by means of intimidation, deception and physical violence.

The defendants posted more than 100 advertisements on Backpage.com, featuring explicit images and language that solicited customers for paid sexual services performed by the victims.

The men rented hotel rooms throughout Maryland where the victims were housed to perform the arranged sexual encounters.

“Human trafficking is a crime that often preys on young girls who have become estranged from family and friends,” Alsobrooks said.  “In addition to vigorously prosecuting those who engage in this terrible act, we must also provide resources to victims to help them deal with any trauma they have suffered and help them reunite with loved ones so they are never victimized like this again.”

If convicted, the men face potential penalties of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000 for the human trafficking charges, maximum penalties of 25 years in prison and $15,000 in fines for the charges of trafficking a minor and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for receiving the earnings of a prostitute.

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2016 “Trafficking in Persons Report,” about 20 million persons worldwide are victims of modern-day slavery at any given time. The report reported significant increases in prosecutions and convictions related to trafficking—there were 18,930 prosecutions reported in 2016 as compared to 10,051 in 2015, and 6,609 convictions reported in 2016 compared to 4,443 the year before. However, the report noted, the legal actions are but a drop in the bucket compared to the scope of the problem and governments tend to impose penalties that do not act as a deterrent to traffickers.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO