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Open border with Mexico traffic highway for human souls!




The Girls
Next Door

by Peter Landesman

January 25th, 2004


The house at 1212 1/2 

West Front Street in Plainfield, 
N.J., is a conventional midcentury
home with slate-gray siding, 
white trim and Victorian lines. 

When I stood in front of it 
on a breezy day in October, 
I could hear the cries of children
from the playground of an 
elementary school 
around the corner. 

American flags fluttered 
from porches and windows.

The neighborhood is a leafy,
middle-class Anytown. 

The house is set 
back off the street, 
near two convenience 
stores and a gift shop. 

On the door of Superior 
Supermarket was pasted a sign
issued by the Plainfield police: 
“Safe neighborhoods save lives.”

The store’s manager, 
who refused to tell me his name,
said he never noticed anything
unusual about the house, 
and never heard anything. 

But David Miranda, 
the young man behind the 
counter of Westside Convenience,
told me he saw girls from the 
house roughly once a week. 

”They came in to 
buy candy and soda, 
then went back to the house,” 
he said. 

The same girls rarely came twice,
and they were all very young, 
Miranda said. 

They never asked for 
anything beyond what 
they were purchasing; 
they certainly never 
asked for help. 

Cars drove up to 
the house all day; 
nice cars, 
all kinds of cars. 

Dozens of men 
came and went. ‘
‘But no one here knew 
what was really going on,” 
Miranda said. 

And no one ever asked. 


On a tip, 
the Plainfield police raided 
the house in February 2002, 
expecting to find illegal aliens 
working an 
underground brothel.

What the police found 
were four girls between the 
ages of 14 and 17. 

They were all Mexican nationals
without documentation. 

But they weren’t prostitutes; 
they were sex slaves. 

The distinction is important: 
these girls weren’t working 
for profit or a paycheck. 

They were captives to the 
traffickers and keepers who 
controlled their every move. 

”I consider myself hardened,” 
Mark J. Kelly, 
now a special agent with 
Immigration and Customs 
(the largest investigative arm 
of the Department of 
Homeland Security), 
told me recently. 

”I spent time in the Marine Corps.
But seeing some of the stuff I saw,
then heard about, 
from those girls was a difficult, 
eye-opening experience.” 

The police found a squalid, 
land-based equivalent of a 
19th-century slave ship, 
with rancid, doorless bathrooms;
bare, putrid mattresses; 
and a stash of penicillin, 
”morning after” pills 
and misoprostol, 
an antiulcer medication 
that can induce abortion. 

The girls were pale, 
exhausted and malnourished.

It turned out that 1212 1/2 
West Front Street was one 
of what law-enforcement 
officials say are dozens of 
active stash houses and 
apartments in the New York metropolitan area — 
mirroring hundreds more 
in other major cities like 
Los Angeles, 
Atlanta and Chicago — 
where under-age girls and 
young women from dozens 
of countries are trafficked 
and held captive. 


Most of them — 
whether they started out 
in Eastern Europe or 
Latin America — 
are taken to the United States
through Mexico. 

Some of them have been baited
by promises of legitimate jobs 
and a better life in America; 
many have been abducted; 
others have been bought from 
or abandoned by their 
impoverished families. 

Because of the porousness 
of the U.S.-Mexico border and 
the criminal networks that 
traverse it, 
the towns and cities along 
that border have become the 
main staging area in an illicit 
and barbaric industry, 
whose ”products” are 
women and girls. 

On both sides of the border, 
they are rented out for sex 
for as little as 15 minutes 
at a time, 
dozens of times a day. 

Sometimes they are sold 
outright to other traffickers 
and sex rings, 
victims and experts say. 

These sex slaves earn no money,
there is nothing voluntary about
what they do and if they try to 
escape they are often beaten 
and sometimes killed. 


Last September, 
in a speech before the United 
Nations General Assembly, 
President Bush named sex 
trafficking as ”a special evil,”
 a multibillion-dollar 
”underground of brutality 
and lonely fear,” 
a global scourge alongside 
the AIDS epidemic. 

Influenced by a coalition 
of religious organizations, 
the Bush administration has 
pushed international action 
on the global sex trade. 

The president declared 
at the U.N. that 
”those who create these victims
and profit from their suffering 
must be severely punished” 
and that 
”those who patronize this 
industry debase themselves 
and deepen the misery 
of others. 
And governments that 
tolerate this trade are 
tolerating a form of slavery.” 

Under the Trafficking Victims 
Protection Act of 2000 — 
the first U.S. law to recognize 
that people trafficked against 
their will are victims of a crime,
not illegal aliens — 
the U.S. government rates 
other countries’ records on 
human trafficking and can 
apply economic sanctions on 
those that aren’t making 
efforts to improve them. 

Another piece of legislation, 
the Protect Act, which Bush 
signed into law last year, 
makes it a crime for any 
person to enter the U.S., or for
any citizen to travel abroad, 
for the purpose of sex tourism
involving children. 

The sentences are severe: 
up to 30 years’ imprisonment 
for each offense. 

The thrust of the president’s 
U.N. speech and the scope 
of the laws passed here to 
address the sex-trafficking 
epidemic might suggest that 
this is a global problem but 
not particularly 
an American one. 

In reality, 
little has been done to 
document sex trafficking 
in this country. 

In dozens of interviews 
I conducted with former 
sex slaves, 
madams, government and 
law-enforcement officials 
and anti-sex-trade activists 
for more than four months 
in Eastern Europe, 
Mexico and the United States,
the details and breadth of this
sordid trade in the U.S. 
came to light. 

In fact, 
the United States has become 
a major importer of sex slaves.

Last year, the C.I.A. estimated 
that between 18,000 and 
20,000 people are trafficked 
annually into the United States.

The government has not studied
how many of these are victims 
of sex traffickers, 
but Kevin Bales, 
president of Free the Slaves, 
America’s largest anti-slavery organization, 
says that the number is at 
least 10,000 a year. 

John Miller, 
the State Department’s director 
of the Office to Monitor and 
Combat Trafficking in Persons, 
”That figure could be low. 
What we know is that the 
number is huge.” 

Bales estimates that there 
are 30,000 to 50,000 sex slaves
in captivity in the United States
at any given time. 

Laura Lederer, a senior State Department adviser on trafficking,
told me, 
”We’re not finding victims in 
the United States because we’re 
not looking for them.” 

ABDUCTION In Eastern European
capitals like Kiev and Moscow, 
dozens of sex-trafficking rings 
advertise nanny positions in 
the United States in local 
others claim to be scouting 
for models and actresses. 

In Chisinau, the capital of 
the former Soviet republic 
of Moldova — 
the poorest country in Europe 
and the one experts say is 
most heavily culled by 
traffickers for young women — 
I saw a billboard with 
a fresh-faced, 
smiling young woman beckoning
girls to waitress positions 
in Paris. 

But of course there are 
no waitress positions and 
no ”Paris.” 

Some of these young women 
are actually tricked into paying
their own travel expenses — 
typically around $3,000 — 
as a down payment on what 
they expect to be bright, 
prosperous futures, 
only to find themselves 
kept prisoner in Mexico 
before being moved to 
the United States and sold 
into sexual bondage there. 

The Eastern European 
trafficking operations, 
from entrapment to transport,
tend to be well-oiled 
monoethnic machines. 

One notorious Ukrainian ring,
which has since been 
broken up, 
was run by Tetyana Komisaruk
and Serge Mezheritsky. 

One of their last transactions, 
according to Daniel Saunders, 
an assistant U.S. attorney in 
Los Angeles, 
took place in late June 
2000 at the Hard Rock Cafe 
in Tijuana. 

Around dinnertime, 
a buyer named 
Gordey Vinitsky walked in. 

He was followed shortly after
by Komisaruk’s husband, 
who led Vinitsky out to 
the parking lot and to a 
waiting van. 

Inside the van were six 
Ukrainian women in their 
late teens and early 20’s. 

They had been promised 
jobs as models and baby 
sitters in the glamorous 
United States, 
and they probably had no 
idea why they were sitting 
in a van in a backwater like 
Tijuana in the early evening.

Vinitsky pointed into the van 
at two of the women and said
he’d take them for 
$10,000 each. 

Valery drove the young women 
to a gated villa 20 minutes 
away in Rosarito, 
a Mexican honky-tonk tourist 
trap in Baja California. 

They were kept there until July 4,
when they were delivered to 
San Diego by boat and 
distributed to their buyers, 
including Vinitsky, 
who claimed his two ”purchases.”

The Komisaruks, 
Mezheritsky and Vinitsky 
were caught in May 2001 
and are serving long sentences
in U.S. federal prison. 

In October, 
I met Nicole, 
a young Russian woman who 
had been trafficked into Mexico
by a different network. 

”I wanted to get out of Moscow,
and they told me the Mexican 
border was like a freeway,” 
said Nicole, 
who is now 25. 

We were sitting at a cafe on 
the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles,
and she was telling me the 
story of her narrow escape 
from sex slavery — 
she was taken by immigration 
officers when her traffickers 
were trying to smuggle her 
over the border from Tijuana. 

She still seemed fearful of being
discovered by the trafficking 
ring and didn’t want even her 
initials to appear in print. 

(Nicole is a name she adopted 
after coming to the U.S.)

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