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Entries in Prostitution (8)

Monday
Feb252013

Americans Targeted for Allegedly Running Underage Prostitution in Philippines

ABC News(SUBIC BAY, Philippines) -- Arthur Benjamin is sitting at the edge of a small stage, wearing a lavender Hawaiian shirt and nursing a bottle of San Miguel Light beer. The 6-foot-6 mustachioed Texan lazily watches the half-dozen or so girls dancing rather around the stage's pole.

"I forgot your gift again, it's in the car," Benjamin says to one of the girls on stage, shouting above the pop music blaring from the speaker system.

The small, dingy bar, which Benjamin says he owns, is called Crow Bar. It's in a rundown part of the picturesque Subic Bay in the western Philippines, about a three-hour drive from the capital Manila. Home for 50 years to a United States naval base, Subic Bay has become synonymous with foreigners looking for sex in the long string of bars that line the main road along the coast.

The bars in this area are often packed with older foreign men ogling the young Filipino women available for the night for a "bar fine" of around 1,500 Filipino pesos, or just over $35. Many of the bars are owned and operated by Americans, often former military servicemen who either served on the base or whose ships docked here until the base was shuttered under political pressure in 1992.

Most of the prostitutes working in the bars are indeed 18 or older. But in the Philippines, just a small scratch to the surface can reveal a layer of young, underage girls who have mostly come from impoverished rural provinces to sell their bodies to help support their families.

Benjamin, 49, is, according to his own statements, one of the countless foreigners who has moved beyond just having sex with underage girls to owning and operating a bar where girls in scantily-clad outfits flaunt their bodies for patrons.

"My wife recently found out that I have this place," he tells an ABC News team, unaware they're journalists and recording the conversation on tiny hidden cameras disguised as shirt buttons.

Benjamin said that a "disgruntled waitress" had written his wife on Facebook, detailing his activities in Subic Bay.

"She sent her this thing saying that I have underage girls who stayed with me, that I [have sex with them], I own a bar, I've got other girls that I'm putting through high school, all this other crap," he said.

"All of which is true," he laughed. "However, I have to deny."

He sends a text message summoning his current girlfriend, a petite dark-skinned girl called Jade, who he said is just 16 years old. Benjamin says he bought the bar for her about a year ago, and while most still call it Crow Bar, he officially renamed it with her last name.

"She needed a place to stay, I needed a place to do her. I bought a bar for her," he says, explaining that she lives in a house out back by the beach.

"You're not going to find anything like this in the States, not as a guy my age," he said as he looked down at Jade. "Ain't going to happen."

Benjamin is the latest target of Father Shay Cullen, a Catholic priest with a thick Irish brogue and fluency in the local language, Tagalog. Through his non-profit center called Preda, he's been crusading against underage sex trafficking in the Philippines for 40 years.

In December, Cullen started to encourage an 18-year-old prostitute who had worked at Crow Bar to tell him and his social workers what she saw inside the bar. Two months later, the girl, Marisol, agrees to sit down with Cullen and his social workers, leafing through pages of photos from the bar. She identities four girls who she says worked there as underage, including a baby-faced one who is known in the bar as Princess.

"These characters who come here looking for sex with young children and selling them to everybody like they're just like chickens in the market? I mean, we are ready for the worst evil that we can imagine," Cullen said. "They're really evil people who need a millstone around their neck, to be thrown in the ocean here."

Father Shay, as he's known to everyone at Preda, blames the rampant underage prostitution on a combination of widespread poverty, lax and corrupt law enforcement and a "machismo kind of culture that says women are objects, girls are the most desirable."

In the months after Benjamin first appeared as a blip on Father Shay's radar in September, Shay says he has gathered enough evidence through Marisol and a team of Australian documentary filmmakers that had been working undercover to present it to the National Bureau of Investigation, the Filipino equivalent of the FBI.

Working with them on American cases is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. Under the PROTECT Act, they work with the Filipino authorities to extradite Americans back to the United States for prosecution.

"For me, as long as they're behind bars, not committing these acts, I sleep very well at night. Whether it's in the Philippines or in the United States," Special Agent Eric McLoughlin said in an interview.

McLoughlin estimates that he has been involved in thousands of investigations involving Americans in his three years here that involve sexually abusing minors.

"A lot of the Americans want to come here because they perceive it's easier to operate here than in the United States," he said. "And we're happy to remind them they are sadly mistaken. We are going to find them and they are going to be held accountable."

In early February, as Father Shay and Marisol drive to Manila to try to convince NBI to raid Benjamin's bar, ABC News set up another meeting with Benjamin at a café on the former American base.

Over coffee, he continues to boast about his girlfriend Jade, who he says is only 16, one of several underage girls he says he has been with. He met Jade a year and a half ago and slept with her and her older sister, he said, before taking Jade in.

Asked how he manages to hide the underage girls from the authorities, he credits his Mama-san, the term for a Filipino woman found in every bar who recruits and manages the girls. His Mama-san is called Lucy. He also claimed he pays graft money to four different groups of local authorities to "keep them off our ass."

The raid on Benjamin's Crow Bar is given the green light by NBI. The Australian film crew working with Father Shay organizes a fake bachelor party for a Tuesday night, designed to guarantee that Benjamin will be there. ABC News is invited to the party, to be inside as the raid happens. ICE will also be joining NBI on the raid.

When Tuesday evening arrives, confusion breaks out as NBI and ICE agents come through the door and start herding the girls into a corner.

"I want to see your hands! Sit down! No talking!" McLoughlin shouts at the girls.

Benjamin, in a blue polo shirt, looks like he's trying to blend into the wall. He's not addressed by the authorities and after several minutes, he slowly heads for the door but is blocked by an NBI agent.

When the ABC News Nightline team reveals to him that they are journalists and asks him about whether he is selling underage girls out of his bar, he denies everything.

"I've never had underage girls here and I do not have sex with underage girls," he says calmly. "It's just talk," he explains, "a bit of braggadocio."

He doesn't admit to knowing Jade, even when we told him all of his conversations with ABC News had been recorded on camera. None of the girls admit to being underage and none turn on Benjamin. Princess insists she's 18 and defends Benjamin as a "good man, a nice man." Dentists check the girls' teeth, one of the easiest ways to estimate someone's age.

NBI fails to find Benjamin's name on any of the bar's documentation. But after several of the girls tell them that Benjamin owns the bar, the NBI agents feel they have enough to arrest him.

"There's no minors here, we don't have minors here," Benjamin tells the lead NBI agent when told he's under arrest for employing minors in the bar. "Fine, I'll go with you. I have no problem with that."

They quietly lead him -- without handcuffs -- to a white van. The girls are in another one. Everyone heads back to the Preda center to figure out the next moves.

Despite the arrest, Father Shay isn't savouring the moment, instead arguing with the agents about where the girls are being taken, concerned they will be mistreated and the case will fall apart if they go to Manila, which he views as deeply corrupt.

Finally, the authorities agree to take the girls to a Department of Social Welfare and Development center in nearby Papanga. Soon after, Princess admits to being 16 and her birth certificate confirms it. Four others have birth certificates showing they're of age, but the social workers suspect they could be fakes and their dental exams suggest they're minors.

Marisol, the 18-year-old who led Father Shay to Benjamin, says she'll never go back to the bars and Preda is trying to give her work. Jade has disappeared; NBI says the house behind the bar is empty.

Three weeks after the raid, Benjamin and Mama Lucy remain in jail in Manila, held as the prosecution debates what to charge them with.

The Filipino authorities are doing "very, very little" to solve the plague of underage prostitution, Father Shay says. "There are some good, dedicated people. They're struggling. They've no budgets, no money."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun132012

Canadian Teen Girls Charged with Human Trafficking

In this screenshot provided by CTV, young victims in a human trafficking case were lured to this apartment complex. (ctv.ca)(OTTOWA) -- Two Canadian teenage girls have been charged with human trafficking for using social media to lure other teen girls to a housing complex and then forcing them into prostitution. A third teenager involved in the alleged pimping is still at large.

"It's something that has shocked us and the community," Ottawa Police Staff Sgt. John McGetrick said at a news conference. "We're actively investigating."

Police say that three separate incidents were identified in which three female victims, ranging from 13 to 17 years old, were lured to a housing complex in Ottawa and then forcibly driven to other locations for prostitution purposes.

"We had three individual reports--one received on May 19, one on May 31 and one on June 3," McGetrick said. "The investigators did a great job of quickly linking them together, realizing the common threads between them and it kind of evolved from there."

McGetrick said that "social media was a factor" in planning the initial meetings arranged between the suspects and the victims. He told ABC News that the suspects and the victims were "vaguely known to each other," but were not friends.

"The meetings were intended to do an enjoyable activity, let's say, hang out," he said. "There was no ill-intention in the invite. Obviously things changed once that happened."

McGetrick would not provide details about how the suspects forcibly managed the victims into prostitution.

Police believe that there were no adults involved in the organization of the prostitution ring, and are searching for the "johns" that sexually engaged with the victims.

The names of the 15-year-old girls arrested on June 8 and 9 cannot be released since they are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

In addition to human trafficking, the girls face other charges including robbery, procuring, forcible confinement, sexual assault, assault, uttering threats and abduction.

One of the girls is also charged with administering a noxious substance, McGetrick said. He believes the teens will be tried as juveniles and could face up to three years in prison.

Authorities are still searching for a third suspect, a 17-year-old girl, and are investigating whether there could be more victims.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May182012

Make Brothels Legal During London Olympics, Says Cathouse's Dennis Hof

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The Nevada brothel owner who became famous as the star of an HBO reality show says he wants to start a new and fully legal brothel in London during the upcoming summer Olympics -- not just because he could make "a couple million pounds," he says, but because legal brothels would stop human trafficking by international criminal gangs.

Dennis Hof, the 65-year-old owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch and star of Cathouse, promoted legal prostitution during a Thursday night debate at the Oxford Union, and told ABC News that while he's in the U.K. he's on a mission to sell London authorities on legal brothels.

"These illegal brothels are disgusting," said Hof. "The girls are not tested for diseases and they're trafficked and forced into it. I'm saying it's not always like that and it doesn't have to be like that. We can provide the client with a clean, safe and fun experience."

Hof said he wouldn't mind making some money out of a pop-up mini-Bunny Ranch during the Olympic Games, which begin July 27 and are projected to draw as many as 900,000 visitors to London. He estimates he would make "a couple million pounds" during the three-week event, which he said is "much more than the average" he would make during a similar period at his Nevada brothel, where he employs 500 girls.

But he said his main concerns are the health and safety of both sex workers and their clients, and stopping a short-term epidemic of human trafficking.

"I expect 1,000 girls to be trafficked in by Southeast Asian, Albanian and African gangs, violent gangs involved in crime and drugs," said Hof, who based his prediction on what he said he witnessed at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

He also thinks authorities are making an economic mistake. The traffickers, Hof said, "stand to make a billion pounds that won't be taxed and that will be stolen away from London."

While prostitution is legal in the U.K., operating a brothel, pimping and streetwalking are all illegal, as is paying for sexual services from someone who has been coerced into prostitution.

Hof believes that establishing legal brothels around metropolitan London for the duration of the games would provide safe sex for both tourists and prostitutes, as well as much-needed tax revenue.

The Oxford Union, however, seemed unconvinced by Hof's reasoning. During his Thursday speech, Hof told listeners legal brothels would "sort out all your problems. It would be a good thing for your country, I'm telling you." According to the debating society's website, after Hof spoke a motion in which the Union would support "recogniz[ing] prostitution as a legitimate business" was defeated.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May022012

Women in Secret Service Scandal Not Tied to Terrorism, Cartels

USSS(WASHINGTON) -- Investigators have found that nine of the Colombian women who were drinking and partying with Secret Service personnel last month in Colombia were paid for their services, Congressional sources tell ABC News. 

The Secret Service has now interviewed most of the women, who range in age from 20 to 39, and none were found to have any ties to terrorist organizations or drug cartels.

That information has allayed fears on Capitol Hill that the wild night of partying by Secret Service personnel in Colombia compromised the President’s safety, or national security.

The scandal unfolded when 175 Secret Service agents and officers traveled to Cartagena, Colombia last month to make advance preparations for President Obama’s trip to the Summit of the Americas.  The prostitution allegations became public when a Colombian woman at the Hotel Caribe complained to police that a Secret Service employee did not pay her the agreed-upon price for her services.  The police informed U.S. Embassy officials, and the seedy details of agents’ drinking heavily, visiting strip clubs, and bringing escorts back to the Hotel Caribe became an international scandal.

The Secret Service also provided Congressional investigators with more details of who exactly was involved with the escorts: two of the 12 employees were supervisors; three were snipers and another three were members of a Secret Service counter-assault team. Their careers ranged in length from two years to 22 years.  Nine of the 12 people involved took polygraph exams, but three refused – including the supervisory agent who had the original dispute over payment with the Colombian escort. Nine of the 12 involved have resigned or been fired by the Secret Service, two agents have been cleared, and one is appealing disciplinary action.

Last Friday, the Secret Service announced that all agents must complete ethics training before being eligible for foreign travel.

The new rules say:

  • “Patronization of non-reputable establishments is prohibited.
  • “Alcohol may not be consumed at the protectee hotel once the protective visit has begun.
  • “Foreign nationals, excluding hotel staff and official counterparts, are prohibited in your hotel room.”
  • “Alcohol may only be consumed in moderate amounts while off-duty on … assignment and alcohol use is prohibited within 10 hours of reporting for duty.”


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr152012

Secret Service Scandal: Agents' Conduct Scrutinized

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Secret Service, congressional and military investigators are conducting a methodical fact-finding mission into allegations of misconduct by a security detail assigned to a Colombian hotel ahead of President Obama's visit.

Eleven Secret Service agents and five military service members have been accused of cavorting with prostitutes and drinking excessively at the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena.

Since adult prostitution is legal in Colombia in designated "tolerance zones," officials said the investigation would center less on moral or legal aspects of the alleged behavior and more on whether Secret Service and military protocols were violated -- and whether the security of the president could have been compromised.

"If all this happened, this compromised the agents themselves," House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told ABC News. "It left [the agents] open to be threatened and blackmailed in the future. ... They could have been threatened or blackmailed secondly to bring prostitutes in an area that's a secured zone. It just violates a basic code of conduct."

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chairs the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, said Congress will also scrutinize the Secret Service as a whole to determine whether and how often similar situations may have happened before.

"In this particular case, the president may not have been in danger. But that begs the question -- what happens if somebody six months ago, six years ago became the victim of their own misconduct and is now being blackmailed?" Issa said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"The question is, is the whole organization in need of some soul searching, some changes before the president, the vice president, members of the cabinet are in danger?" Issa said.

The Secret Service members were interviewed Saturday in Washington and have been placed on administrative leave. If the allegations are proven true, they could face reprimands and could be fired.

The Defense Department restricted to their quarters five personnel who were assigned to assist the Secret Service for alleged participation in the inappropriate conduct. They will return to the United States for questioning at the conclusion of the mission, officials said.

The House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Secret Service, has also launched an inquiry.

The Secret Service most recently faced public embarrassment and intense scrutiny in November 2009 when several agents allowed two uninvited guests onto White House grounds for a state dinner and photo line with the president. The so-called "Gate-crasher" incident resulted in three agents later being placed on administrative leave.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep012011

German Prostitutes Required to Feed 'Tax Meters'

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BONN, Germany) -- Prostitutes in Bonn, Germany are being treated like parked cars -- they're now required to put money into a parking meter-like machine while working the streets or face a fine, The New York Times reports.

Hookers pay income tax in Germany, but because compliance is difficult to enforce with the ladies of the night, the city decided to track prostitutes and the hours they work by setting up so-called “sex tax meters” that require them to purchase a ticket for $8.72 per night.   

Any hooker caught without a valid ticket will first be reprimanded and then fined.

Bonn residents have complained in recent years about an increase in prostitution, forcing the city to set up so-called “consummation areas” -- wooden parking garages where customers in automobiles can hook up with the ladies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb042011

Italian Parliament Votes Against Search of Prime Minister's Properties

Photo Courtesy - Governo [dot] it(ROME) -- Italy's parliament voted Thursday against allowing a search of properties belonging to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who's being investigated for prostitution.

After four hours of debate, the politicians rebuffed the request by Milan prosecutors in a 315-298 vote.

The prosecutors allege that Berlusconi paid for sex with a minor and then used his office to cover it up.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan142011

Italian PM Investigated for Sex with Teenager

Photo Courtesy - Governo [dot] it(ROME) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has come under investigation for allegedly having sex with a 17-year-old prostitute and then abusing his cover up his involvement. Prosecutors have requested the 74-year-old Berlusoni appear before them later this month and said they would ask for a fast track trial.

The flamboyant prime minister, a billionaire businessman who has managed to evade previous accusations of sexual and financial impropriety, is accused of paying teen prostitute Karima el-Mahroug, better known as Ruby the Heart Stealer, for sex parties he held last year at his Milan villa.

Berlusconi's relationship with Ruby became public last year, when it emerged that the prime minister had intervened when police arrested her for theft. Berlusconi is accused of calling the Milanese police in March and sending Nicole Minetti, a former showgirl who represents Berlusconi's party in parliament, to intervene. Minetti is also under investigation. Berlusconi reportedly told the police Ruby was the niece of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

The investigation is focused in part on whether Berlusconi intervened in order to keep secret the fact that he had been Ruby's client and that she was 17.

The scandal, considered tawdry even by Italian standards, has further weakened the prime minister, who lost his latest battle to protect himself from prosecution Thursday when the Italian high court struck down a law that had shielded him from trial in three unrelated corruption cases.

Berlusconi is no stranger from the front pages of the world's tabloids. In 2009, his wife called him "shameless" and filed for divorce after a series of allegations that he had sex with prostitutes and had attended the birthday party of an 18-year-old model.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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