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Topics relate to adult business, the War on Drugs, political prosecutions, censorship, and police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Misuse of the VTVPA and Its Successors

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act was enacted in October of 2000, and was last reauthorized as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007 with additional provisions written-in. The Act is often misused by prosecutors that have no valid strategy in an adult business investigation. I'll speak plainly here: If these prosecutors were as concerned as they claim that there was actual human trafficking involved in a case, each would also prosecute the male clients that patronize the adult establishments. But they know better – this group is not two beers short of a six-pack; they just pretend to be.

The perfect example of abuse of the Act is the Lev Trakhtenberg case. I've named a list of other recent cases wherein agents refer to "human trafficking" when the reality is that a massage parlor merely had workers of non-U.S. origin or was owned by an Asian-American woman, and in fact, the workers were in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. This practice creates what I'll refer to as an integrity challenge of the law enforcement or prosecutor spokesperson. Sure, human trafficking does exist in adult business and in a variety of other businesses, and the approach of using the label here, there, and everywhere has inadvertently minimized the real cases. The religious agenda also cannot be overlooked – these people want to rid the country of prostitution and often attack from the side using any weapon in the arsenal. The label "human trafficking" has become a prosecutorial weapon to garner public support in otherwise unpopular prosecutions.

In the Trakhtenberg case, the use of the VTVPA to prosecute Lev Trakhtenberg and two co-defendants was on the basis that the women dancers from Voronezh, Russia were deceived as to the type of dancing each was to do when she arrived in the US, and that each was forced to work in these New Jersey strip clubs until the agreed amount of money ($5600) was repaid. I know for fact that these were false allegations and federal prosecutors in N.Y. and N.J. were aware of the misrepresentations. Lev produced the original advertisements placed in the Russian newspaper, and the ads were clear and descriptive as to the type of dancing. Additionally, each potential dancer was interviewed at length as to her understanding of the strip club dancing prior to agreeing and traveling to the US. To take it a step further, there was evidence that several of the dancers from Russia continued dancing in the same clubs, during the case, in which federal prosecutors had them claiming they were coerced, and then upon arrival, forced to work. A few of the women that escaped the clutches of federal prosecutors and returned to Voronezh also sent sworn affidavits to Lev for his defense.

I do not have personal knowledge of any other cases; however, fail to understand how a worker in a massage parlor making thousands of dollars a month ($5K to 30K) could be considered a victim of human trafficking, or anything else for that matter. Thus far I have seen no evidence in the Rhode Island, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Colorado, or Florida cases that each of these ladies could not leave if she decided that the employment was not morally acceptable to her. These were grown women that made decisions in their lives; decisions based on free will and choice. Any one of them could have opted to work as a minimum wage slave or clean houses for a living. Referring to them as trafficking victims and dangling a work visa in front of their faces, as in the Trakhtenberg case, has only served to further damage the real victims of trafficking.

A quick look at several websites, including Polaris Project, reveals the extent that these organizations will go in promoting the cause – censorship of publishers and the anti-prostitution agenda – as each seeks to raise donations and gain federal grants. Human also utilizes a religious platform, and both consistently refer to child trafficking. Once again I'll make the point that these massage parlor workers are almost always in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and none of the cases that I have referenced involve children. It is a twist of words used to attack prostitution and has nothing to do with anything else.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Bingo Racketeering Case

Bingo parlors used to be another target of the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI), but it looks like the agents of the State of Florida had their fill, and bit off more than they could chew, in the biggest of the bingo cases. I referred to the case briefly in my book, and had one important part incorrect: The two defendants and several corporations that took the criminal case to trial were acquitted on all counts by the jury. It is the civil case that they originally lost, was overturned on appeal, won, and is now once again in appeal status, according to the file. The bingo case began in 1995 and continues today.

Back in 1995 when the criminal case was filed there were 17 defendants, and 8 of those defendants were corporations. One of the acquitted defendants was Pondella Hall for Hire, Inc. – Pondella was in Orange County (Orlando), but this was a large-scale commercial bingo operation comprising 15 bingo halls in 12 Florida counties. Leave it to the overzealous MBI to be the investigators to pursue a racketeering (RICO) case. The criminal case is Case Number 95-CF-0012838, and it is an Orange County case. I have never seen so many filings on a case as this one, except in the civil case that continues. The civil case was also filed in 1995, as the state sought to forfeit all of the property of the bingo halls and the defendants. Today the victims also seek damages and losses from the State of Florida. The civil Case Number is 1995-CA-006890-0 and it is also in Orange County.

The two defendants that didn't plead guilty to the lengthy list of felony counts are Roy Killingsworth Jr. and Philip Leroy Furtney. I recall Furtney being in the news in leg-irons well over a decade ago, and must believe that it was during the criminal trial when he was being taken to court, but it may have been right after his arrest. Furtney was the one connected to Pondella, and the man is a legend – he fought these abusive overzealous whacks until he died in September of 2007. His brother Bruce, on behalf of his estate, carries on in the civil case today. The last filing on the case was on May 28, 2009. Can you imagine a 13 year fight over a bingo hall case and then to die before it's resolved? Well, it is resolved in that the state lost and has pay for all the forfeited property – today it's about how much they have to pay for property value changes and specifically what state office is paying.

It should be the end of the MBI for twisting the Florida racketeering statutes to the point of obscurity in a case that has cost Florida taxpayers an unknown sum of money that has yet to be revealed. But hey, it gave all the attorneys and agents something to do, right? I still have the MBI Governing Board minutes from meetings in 1994, and forward, wherein Pondella is discussed, so the board was well-aware of this abuse of the statutes. May Philip Leroy Furtney of Ontario rest in peace – eventually they will pay for all that they did.