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Human Trafficking Cases in Miami Springs and around the World

An 18 year old, Maria, left her county in South America to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher in the Caribbean.  Everything turned sour when the person employing her kidnapped and locked her in his house to preform chores, clean, and work 16 hours a day.  Basically, she was being forced into manual labor. 

All of her items were confiscated including her cell phone.  She couldn’t run away because she was threatened that her loved ones would be in danger if she dared to run away.  And even worse, she’d “get in trouble” if he found something dirty in the house.  She’d get punished for it, punishments included violence and emotional abuse.  

According to the Miami Herald, it took Maria a long time to trust people.  Horribly, she went through 12 years of the torture and forced labor until she fled to the United States.  In the United States she got the treatment that she needed to recover from all the abused that she endured. 

By Nahia Gonzalez, Lewis Graves

Human trafficking is a system that occurs all over the globe. It is a hidden community of people who grab innocent individuals; it is so secretive that humans that don’t partake in the system don’t realize who is trafficking people until they get caught. In Florida, there are accounts of human trafficking occurring, whether with victims speaking about the horrendous crimes that were done to them or traffickers getting under arrest. There is a case in Florida that involves two men getting arrested for engaging in trafficking. These two men are Agustin Mendez-Vazquez and Ever Mendez-Perez, father and son, who were residing in Homestead, Florida during the time they were forcing people to do manual labor. 

Agustin Mendez-Vazquez, age 44, with his son Ever Mendez-Perez, age 24, was convicted for engaging in a scheme to acquire and give forced manual labor. In the report of the two Mexican nationals, according to the Department of Justice, the father and son would use physical force as well as blackmail to force immigrants to work for him. it states that ” Workers in Mendez-Vazquez’s control were beaten if they did not work every day; were subjected to harassment and abuse…” Mendez-Vazquez would coerce these people to work for him and if they didn’t, they would have to suffer from the consequences. Mendez-Perez would assist his father in supervising the migrants when working. 

During their trials, both pleaded guilty for their actions. Mendez-Vazquez was sentenced to 6 years in prison for one count of conspiracy for dealing with the forcing of manual labor and Mendez-Perez was sentenced to a year of imprisonment for one count of conspiracy for supporting and convincing immigrants to reside in the United States. 

Countless people in the United States often do not understand that human traffickers live within their city and that trafficking is simply a global problem; however, they are unfortunately mistaken. Florida is said to be the third-highest trafficking location. There are many tactics that traffickers use to lure in their victims. One way is by gaining their trust and pretending to care for the victim, and when the time is right, they capture them when they’re most vulnerable. Another method is taking them without warning, sometimes traffickers use objects to distract someone. For example, they might place an opened bottle of liquid upside down on the top of your vehicle to distract you and proceed to kidnap you when you aren’t looking. There are plenty of other ways that traffickers can get to you, but the most important thing is to stay alert and safe. In Florida, you can call 1-800-962-2873, the abuse hotline, and can report any suspicious activity occurring in your neighborhood. 

Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery that occurs across the world. It is a secretive and manipulative system that people get forced into unwillingly. The immigrants that had to suffer under the control of Agustin Mendez-Vazquez and Ever Mendez-Perez were unfortunate since they had no idea what they were in as these people were abusing and blackmailing them. These malicious acts can happen anywhere, so it is better to be alert at all times to prevent any other mishaps from happening. “It is better to be safe than sorry.” 

By Yoselyn Bodes

On June 21, 2019, a case of human trafficking and prostitution was reported in Miami, Florida. The victim was persuaded to accompany her ex boyfriend and his twin brother on a ride to the courthouse. Hesitantly, the woman got in the car but quickly realized that the route he had stated was not the route they were taking.  

Jaleel and Jamil Graves, the twin brothers (along with another woman China Blount), kidnapped the woman and drove her up to Atlanta instead of the courthouse. During the ride, according to the Miami Herald, Jaleel drove and Jamil cut off his ankle monitor from his previous arrest. Once they reached the destination, the twins reportedly told the victim that they wanted her to “Prostitute herself” so that she can pay for their hotel room. After the victim refused, Jaleel, Jamil, and China drove her to Miami so she wouldn’t escape. According to Miami Herald, the vehicle was stolen. 

In order to make money off of prostituting the victim, the brothers and the woman posted an ad of the victim on the site (Megapersonals.com). As stated in the Miami Herald, that website was the same site the twins used to post an ad on China Blount. After posting the ad, the three suspects drove the stolen car to Miami Beach to find people to have sex with the victim. Throughout this brutal experience, China encouraged the victim to go through with the prostitution. As stated in the Miami Herald, “Jamil made arrangements to sell the victims for sex and would hurt her anytime she refused.”  

This traumatizing ride began in North Carolina (starting from the victims grandmothers house) to Atlanta and then Miami.  

On June 21, 2019, a case of human trafficking and prostitution was reported in Miami, Florida. The victim was persuaded to accompany her ex boyfriend and his twin brother on a ride to the courthouse. Hesitantly, the woman got in the car but quickly realized that the route he had stated was not the route they were taking.  

Jaleel and Jamil Graves, the twin brothers (along with another woman China Blount), kidnapped the woman and drove her up to Atlanta instead of the courthouse. During the ride, according to the Miami Herald, Jaleel drove and Jamil cut off his ankle monitor from his previous arrest. Once they reached the destination, the twins reportedly told the victim that they wanted her to “Prostitute herself” so that she can pay for their hotel room. After the victim refused, Jaleel, Jamil, and China drove her to Miami so she wouldn’t escape. According to Miami Herald, the vehicle was stolen. 

In order to make money off of prostituting the victim, the brothers and the woman posted an ad of the victim on the site (Megapersonals.com). As stated in the Miami Herald, that website was the same site the twins used to post an ad on China Blount. After posting the ad, the three suspects drove the stolen car to Miami Beach to find people to have sex with the victim. Throughout this brutal experience, China encouraged the victim to go through with the prostitution. As stated in the Miami Herald, “Jamil made arrangements to sell the victims for sex and would hurt her anytime she refused.”  

This traumatizing ride had began from North Carolina (starting from the victims grandmothers house) to Atlanta and then Miami.  

They attempted to force her into prostitution to help pay for a hotel in Atlanta but refused. They then decided to continue to drive towards Miami in the stolen vehicle to avoid her running away.They then got a hotel room in Miami Springs Inn and would drive to Miami Beach through the day to make her perform prostitution. 

Jamil, Jaleel, and China trafficked the victim 801.7 miles and it finally came to an end when they were at a Starbucks on 16th street and Alton road. As told on the Miami Herald, the victim and Jamil Graves were arguing, which wounded up to Jamil chocking the victim and threatening her by saying “*****, I’m going to kill you before I go back to jail.” Jaleel tried to calm his twin brother down but that ended up turning the heat onto Jaleel which gave the victim the perfect time to escape. As stated in the article, “That’s when the victim kicked the car door opened and ran to a Miami Beach Police officer.”  

Although some cases of human trafficking, like this one, ends with the victim being rescued and the suspects arrested, other cases might not be so fortunate. According to (news.wjct.org), Florida ranks as the third most human trafficking cases reported by states. The human trafficking rates are increasing significantly year by year and they need to be slowed down. As stated in (news.wjct.org), There are about 40.3 million of human trafficking cases globally.Some are forced, trapped, and the victims are mostly children(girls) and women. The modern form of slavery is not going to stop unless we really get to the bottom of it and stop it ourselves. 

In the end, the victim was rescued and all three suspects were arrested for the charges of Human Trafficking, violating probation, possession of a stolen vehicle, and kidnapping. State prosecutors are striving the charged the three suspects with life and they are hoping to continue to catch and stop human trafficking cases. Hotlines to contact if you know anything about or you are a victim of human trafficking consist of: Florida Abuse Hotline (1-800-962-2873), National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline (1-888-373-7888), or you can text “Help” to 233733 (BEFREE). 

By Chakaria Allen, Juan Rivera

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