Sex trafficking has spread well beyond impoverished pockets of large cities to wealthy suburbs and rural small towns, federal prosecutors said yesterday at the University of Mississippi School of Law, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “Some (victims and traffickers) are from wealthy suburbs and some are living in poverty without electricity and running water in the home,” Jonathan Skrmetti, an assistant U.S. attorney in Memphis, told the crowd during a panel discussion attended by about two dozen U.S. attorneys from California to New York. “We have an 18-year-old white trafficker who didn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds, but she was beating the crap out of the victims and threatening to kill them,” said Skrmetti.
U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton of Memphis and U.S. Attorney. Steven Dettelbach of Cleveland moderated the discussion. Prosecutors from Memphis, Boston, Detroit, and Miami detailed troubling cases occurring at a pace they can’t contain in their jurisdictions. Several prosecutors pointed to the Internet — particularly the “adult services” section of the popular website Backpage.com — as a tool pornographers and traffickers are using to exploit minors. U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of Birmingham said her team has prosecuted 35 sex-trafficking or child pornography cases this year. “It’s an epidemic,” she said. “These cases are devastating for the victims and difficult but rewarding to the prosecutors.”