May 19, 2020 By Allie Griffin
The Queens District Attorney has launched a new human trafficking bureau — becoming the first prosecutor’s office in New York City to have a dedicated bureau to combat sex and labor trafficking.
The bureau will prosecute traffickers and buyers of sex and will also connect survivors of trafficking with services to help them safely leave the sex trade industry or their traffickers, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced Monday.
Queens — with its vast community of immigrants and two international airports — is a prime geographical location for traffickers to target and exploit people most a risk, Katz said.
Traffickers often target vulnerable people, including homeless youth, undocumented immigrants and the mentally ill.
“The sex trafficking industry is a brutal, degrading and illegal enterprise that far too often profits by forcing women, children and members of our transgender community into prostitution,” Katz said. “But there are other forms of trafficking, such as forcing individuals to work with little or no pay.”
The bureau will have a dedicated staff of assistant district attorneys, social workers, detectives and analysts to fight trafficking in Queens.
“This new and dedicated Bureau within my Office, will combat those who would victimize others with aggressive investigations to end this industry,” Katz said. “But, I want to be clear that we are also here to help the victims find a path to freedom with services and programs that will give them positive change in their lives and a future without fear.”
The District Attorney’s Office has already prosecuted three cases of sex trafficking this year.
In January, 23-year-old Tyquan Henderson was convicted of sex trafficking a 16-year-old female and faces up to nine years in prison.
In February, 31-year-old David Viltus pleaded guilty to attempted murder for stabbing his transgender girlfriend after she refused to continue prostitution. He is expected to be sentenced to 10 years in prison later this month.
In a third case, Julius Heusner, 27, was sentenced on a felony charge of aggravated patronizing a minor for prostitution, for paying a 16-year-old to perform sex acts on him in a parked car. He was required to register as a sex offender and complete an intervention program.
“These convictions demonstrate our commitment to aggressively investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of these degrading crimes that deprive many vulnerable members of our community of their liberty and free will,” Katz said. “Human trafficking is a horrific form of modern-day slavery.”
Katz has appointed career prosecutor Jessica L. Melton as the chief of the Human Trafficking Bureau. Melton has dedicated her career solely to prosecuting human trafficking and related crimes.