Kansas City, MO – A dozen people, mostly area residents, were charged this week in a giant labor trafficking ring that extended out to 14 states. The leaders of this ring allegedly lured more than a thousand people to the US with promises of work and documentation. But once the workers got here, federal officials say they had to pay for false documents, received meager wages, and were forced to live in cramped apartments, which they also overpaid for. Some would end up with negative paychecks in the end, and were threatened with deportation. KCUR's Dan Verbeck talked to acting US Attorney Matt Whitworth about how they're gathering information from such a large number of victims.
Many of the people who were allegedly brought over by this trafficking ring came from Jamaica, the Dominican Republican and the Philippines. They were placed across the country in construction firms, casinos, resorts and hotels, including some in Kansas City like the Westin Crown Center and the Doubletree Inn. Now eight of the people indicted for leading this ring are originally from Uzbekistan, and live in Mission and Kansas City, Missouri. The principal defendant is Abrorkhodja Askarkhodjaev, who owned or controlled three personnel management companies: Giant Labor Solutions, based in Westport, Crystal Management in Mission and Five Star Cleaning in Overland Park.
After this story came out this week in The Kansas City Star, KCUR's Sylvia Maria Gross spoke to Ambassador Mark Lagon from the Polaris Project, an organization that combats international human trafficking. Until recently, Lagon was Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the State Department's Office to Monitor Trafficking in Persons. We asked him how common he thought this kind of scheme is in the United States.