Human trafficking is happening across Texas. It's not limited to a certain gender, age, nationality or socioeconomic class.

There are two types of human trafficking cases - labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Even with several branches of federal law enforcement investigating cases, it's hard to build a case against a human trafficker.

The CHANNEL 5 NEWS I-Team spent almost a year uncovering challenges law enforcement faces, talking to trafficking victims and discovering ways the public can help identify crime that may be happening right in front of them.




Mouse-over the image below for more information

Sources: Adolescent Girls in the Texas Sex Trade: Tracking Study Results for August, 2011 and April 2014 Texas Department of Public Safety - Assessing the Threat of Human Trafficking in Texas

Videos

The entire 30-minute program is available for viewing. It's presented in eight separate parts below.

Read the Special Report

  • Trafficked: Web of Despair

    The CHANNEL 5 NEWS I-Team spent almost a year uncovering challenges law enforcement faces, talking to trafficking victims and discovering ways the public can help identify crime that may be happening right in front of them.

PROFILES

Araceli Herrera
Human Trafficking Survivor

Araceli Herrera met a smuggler in Matamoros. After being caught several times trying to illegally cross the Rio Grande, she successfully made it into the U.S. on July 4, 1980.

She feared the train ride with the smuggling group and started walking alone. She asked for help in Sarita, where a man pulled her inside his home and enslaved her.

Where is the case now? Her captor was never charged. (Watch her video)

"Mary"
Human Trafficking Survivor

"Mary" is from Nicaragua. A co-worker told her about a job offer in the United States. She crossed illegally through Matamoros and Brownsville. She was caught and released in 2005.

"Mary" traveled to Houston to work and realized the Houston "job" was forced prostitution. She witnessed clandestine abortions.

She escaped after an asthma attack and hid for eight years. She sought help two years ago.

Where is the case now? Her trafficker was caught by the FBI in Houston. He was sentenced. To keep her identity safe, we cannot release any more details about the case. (Watch her video)


Sgt. Rolando "Rollie" Garcia Jr.
San Juan Police Department Special Operations

Sgt. Rolando "Rollie" Garcia Jr. has worked for the San Juan Police Department for 22 years. He works on joint investigations with federal, state and other local law enforcement agencies.

He helped rescue a woman from captivity. She was in the U.S. illegally, and her captor got her pregnant.

Where is the case now? The smuggler was sentenced in federal court for human smuggling, not trafficking. San Juan police are currently pursuing state charges for sexual assault, unless they can prove trafficking. (Watch this segment)



"Linda"
Human Trafficking Survivor

"Linda" is from Corpus Christi. She was trafficked by her mother's boyfriend. She said, "For a long time, that's what I thought I was for... I was for these men."

She escaped but used drugs and sex to cope. She was trafficked again and sold to another trafficker for $250. (Watch this segment)




Alfred T. Tribble Jr.
FBI Special Agent

Alfred T. Tribble Jr. is a 24-year veteran of the FBI. Tribble is considered a subject matter expert on civil rights program matters, which includes forced labor, commercial sex and domestic servitude, which are forms of Human Trafficking. (Watch this segment)


Hortencia Medeles-Arguello, "Tencha"
Leader of 16-defendant sex trafficking conspiracy

Authorities rescued 12 rescued victims in the case. Some girls were recruited as young as 14 years old.

Pimps recruited the young girls by convincing them they were in love. They then threatened the girls and their family. Prosecutors said the group made more than $1.6 million in a 19-month period.

What is the latest in the case? The jury found Medeles-Arguello guilty on all counts as charged to include conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, conspiracy to harbor aliens, aiding and abetting to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. UPDATE: In January 2016, a judge sentenced her to life in prison.

Fifteen properties and other assets purchased with sex trafficking proceeds were forfeited. They were valued at about $2.5 million.

Authorities intended to use the proceeds from their sale to make restitution to the victims of this horrible crime. (Watch this segment)



Angie M. Salazar
Assistant Special Agent in Charge - Homeland Security Investigations

Angie M. Salazar oversees HSI office in Harlingen, which includes six investigative groups targeting the money laundering, human smuggling, human trafficking, weapons smuggling, and child exploitation.

She helped rescue 114 individuals, including 53 children, who were being sold for sex trafficking/child exploitation.

From 2009 to 2013, Salazar served as the Human Trafficking Section Chief within Homeland Security Investigations headquarters in Washington, D.C. She's conducted training worldwide on HSI best practices to combat human trafficking.


Rachael Alvarez
Case worker at YMCA Houston

Rachael Alvarez grew up in Houston. She specializes in the Trafficked Persons Assistance Program.

Once she was aware of human trafficking, she said she realized "it was all around me, and I never noticed."

She identifies victims and helps them become survivors of labor and sex trafficking. She also educates victims about job opportunities. (Watch this segment)


Have a news tip for the I-Team? Email tips@krgv.com.



National Human Trafficking Resource Center National Human Trafficking Resource Center Report Human Trafficking Access Trainings Human Trafficking Information & Resources







Mouse-over the image below for more information

Sources: National Human Trafficking Resource Center

Sources: Introduction to Human Trafficking: A Guide for Texas Education Professionals (Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force, July 2014) and National Human Trafficking Resource Center


Photo Gallery

Photos courtesy of the Harris County Sheriff's Office



Reports on Human Trafficking

2015 Hotline Statistics (PDF)

Texas DPS: Assessing the Threat of Human Trafficking in Texas - 2014 (PDF)

National Human Trafficking Resource Center Data Breakdown: Texas State Report (PDF)

Introduction to Human Trafficking: A Guide for Texas Education Professionals (PDF)

Texas DFPS: Human Trafficking of Domestic Minors - 2014 (PDF)

State Attorney General: Sexually-Oriented Business and Human Trafficking: Associations, Challenges, and Approaches - 2013 (PDF)

CURRENT CONDITIONS
/