I-Team: Report points to few prosecutions for sex trafficking in Nevada

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– While Las Vegas is a known hub for sex trafficking, a recent report points to few prosecutions at the federal level.

Alyssa Wheeler is an Attorney at the Human Trafficking Institute, which released a report looking at federal prosecution state by state. For the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Nevada, HTI found only four prosecutions for sex trafficking and no cases for forced labor.

“I’d say what stands out this year about Nevada is that there were no convictions at all,” Alyssa Wheeler said.

According to HTI’s report, zero defendants were convicted for sex trafficking at the federal level in 2020

“Definitely a low number of prosecutions does not by any means mean that there is not a lot of sex trafficking happening and the same for forced labor,” Wheeler said.

The same year, Metro identified 128 adults victims of sex trafficking. The department also identified 123 victims under the age of 18.

“We have some of the highest numbers of recoveries in the nation every single year,” Lt. William Matchko of Las Vegas Metro Police.

The I-Team rode along with the Metro’s Vice Unit last May. These are the detectives responsible for investigating sex trafficking.

“It’s just another challenge with being a major tourist destination,” Matchko added.

In just one night on the Las Vegas Strip, they reported arresting three suspected pimps.

“It’s just another challenge with being a major tourist destination,” Matchko said.

The I-Team has learned that many of these cases are prosecuted by the Clark County District Attorney’s Office. HTI examined cases only at the federal level.

The I-Team reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s office about HTI’s report. A spokeswoman sent the following statement:

“Combating human trafficking is a priority area for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Traffickers prey on some of society’s most vulnerable members, exploiting them through commercial sex or forced labor for profit. Together with our law enforcement partners, our office remains committed to bringing traffickers to justice and seeking justice for victims.[1] We are engaged in investigating and prosecuting sex trafficking crimes, supporting survivors, and providing training for law enforcement and victim advocates.

“Last year, our office brought four federal sex trafficking cases, involving four defendants. Including cases filed in previous years, seven defendants currently await trial. (Of course, complaints and indictments merely allege that crimes have been committed. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.)

“If any member of the public knows of a victim of human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or the Blue Campaign at 1-866-347-2423.”

[1] A federal violation is committed when there is an interstate link, such as social media posts, images sent through a cell phone or text messages.

[1] A federal violation is committed when there is an interstate link, such as a social media advertisement or phone or text message.

Statement can be attributed to U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of NV.

To see the 2020 Nevada State Report click here.

To download the full Federal Human Trafficking Report for 2020, click here:

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