Hidden Atrocities (Part Four): The untold story of human trafficking in North Central Florida

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Human traffickers deprive their victims of the most basic human rights: freedom and security. Trafficking victims are forced into cruel and inhumane conditions and are often helpless to leave or seek help. It is a crime that affects people worldwide, including the United States, and right here in North Central Florida. 

Local law enforcement is often in the best position to identify victims, often hidden within the communities they serve and difficult to uncover due to this crime’s subversive and underground nature. In some ways, they are the eyes and ears for recognizing, discovering, and responding to circumstances that may appear to be a routine street crime but ultimately be a human trafficking case. 

Though recognizing the importance and severity of human trafficking has grown in recent years, identifying and investigating them remains a complex undertaking for local law enforcement. Effectively responding to human trafficking requires officers to notice and identify victims who often have been hidden from or had poor relationships with law enforcement in the past. 

It’s an issue the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) takes on every day.

“Investigators have been provided the opportunity to attend training to assist them in recognizing indicators of trafficking cases,” said Sgt. Frank Kinsey, the Public Information Officer for the ACSO. “We also work collaboratively with other law enforcement and victim service providers.” 

Kinsey also acknowledges the issues facing the relationships between law enforcement and human trafficking victims. 

 “Victims of trafficking often fear law enforcement and may not view themselves as a victim. We continue to work with all human trafficking victims and provide options for them to disclose information that may lead us to a trafficking investigation.”

Since 2015, Kinsey says there have been nine criminal investigations related to human trafficking, with 10 suspects arrested. To put that into perspective, 2,098 individual arrests on all charges were made by the ACSO in 2019.

 Kevin Mangan, the Public Information Officer for the City of High Springs, says that the police department is not only training, but they are taking the issue of human trafficking to the public.

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“We empower our community through education, with literature distributed to civic groups and citizens,” he said. “Our agency’s sworn personnel is training to identify human trafficking.” 

Mangan also points out the transient nature of this crime and the importance of agencies working together across jurisdictional borders. 

 “Additionally, we support other agencies that specifically target this type of crime. In many instances, the criminal element expands to multiple jurisdictions.”     

In North Central Florida, Gainesville appears to be ground zero in the fight against human trafficking, according to Graham Glover. 

“We [the Gainesville Police Department] are on the forefront of the “Believe First” campaign with End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI),” said Glover, the Public Information Officer for the GPD. “We are also trailblazers in response to sexual violence, even presenting at IACP. We are members of the Alachua County Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and we regularly follow up with our victim advocates in cases where human trafficking is suspected. We never turn down the opportunity to assist the survivors of this heinous crime.” 

Since 2015, Glover estimates the GPD made less than a dozen arrests related to human trafficking. In comparison, it made 2,806 individual arrests in 2019 on all charges. 

Alison Ungaro of Created Gainesville knows that law enforcement is essential to fighting sex trafficking.

“The role that law enforcement plays is huge,” she says. “A large majority of our referrals come from knowledgeable and compassionate law enforcement officers who take the extra step to connect individuals to helpful resources. They are also the ones who patrol our streets and investigate these complex and intricate cases.

Ungaro would like to see training expand at all the local agencies.

“The problems rest in the following areas: not having an adequate local safe home to take survivors promptly; the cases that don’t make it to prosecution make many survivors understandably fearful to report and believe that something will be done, and department-wide on-the-ground training for all first responders to identify victims of sex trafficking. We can’t just have a couple experts in human trafficking within each department. Due to its evolving nature, everyone needs to be trained to spot human trafficking on an on-going basis, along with connecting first responders to resources like Created Gainesville that can be utilized for necessary collaboration.” 

THEIR STORIES—Horrific sex crimes often remain in the shadows

Multiple studies have shown that between 20 million and 40 million people are victims of some form of human trafficking worldwide. Assessing the full scope is difficult because so many cases often go undetected. In fact, the Guardian Group estimates that less than 1% of traffickers are ever prosecuted.

In North Central Florida, that also holds true. The following accounts describe three local stories, including convictions for human trafficking and child pornography production.

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Mainstreet Daily News attended the sentencing hearing of Howard Osgood and reported on the results. However, in the cases of Arthur Larange Lee Jr. and Mikal Alemin Craig, we use court documents to tell their stories.

Howard Osgood—guilty of child pornography production

Howard Osgood sat alone with a walker in front of his feet, waiting for his attorney to arrive and take the seat next to him at the defendant’s table. Osgood wore a grey suit, an eye patch, a black mask, a purple floral tie, and a large gold ring on his finger.

He turned his head to the left when his attorney arrived, and they talked briefly. Then he looked to his right at Joanna, the girl he sexually abused and exploited for several years.  

Osgood pled guilty to one count of production of child pornography.

“The undisputed facts demonstrated that Osgood had a continuing relationship with a 14-year-old girl beginning in June 2011, and created sexually explicit images of her, including an image when she was 17,” according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office. 

Osgood had spent only six days behind bars through continuances and delays and was out on bond awaiting this hearing before Judge Alan Winsor of the 2nd U.S. District Court of North Florida. 

On this day, Osgood would learn his length of sentence and the fine he would pay. Osgood’s attorney read from affidavits of friends who knew him and vouched for his character. She read from a list of health afflictions that Osgood suffered from, including tinnitus, hypertension, bursitis, macular degeneration, and stage four cancer. She sent up Osgood’s friend, son, and daughter to speak on his behalf. All three described him as helpful, kind, charitable, and trustworthy.

Finally, Osgood spoke for himself and tried to explain his actions as best he could.

“I’m sorry every day that I hurt Joanna. All I can do is apologize to her and society and ask for forgiveness. All I can do to atone is to help others.”

Osgood’s attorney asked for the minimum term of 15 years and no fine.

Frank Williams, an assistant U.S. attorney for the 2nd District of North Florida, has been on the frontlines of the battle against sex-trafficking and underage sexual abuse for over a decade. He has successfully prosecuted 21 cases like this one. And while he did not contest the lesser 15-year sentence, he pushed back on Osgood’s actions being an “unlike him” type moment.

“We’re here today because Mr. Osgood victimized a child,” Williams said. “That is not a mere character flaw. She continues to suffer. Law enforcement and child services were aware, but opportunities were missed. Today marks an opportunity for some semblance of justice. It’s the best we can do.”

Joanna spoke after Williams made his statement, and despite the years of trauma, found a way to offer forgiveness.

“My name is Joanna. I’m 25 years old. I stand before you for the first time in my life, free! Able to breathe and not be controlled by a substance, able to feel my feelings versus trying to numb or suppress them. I’m 17 months sober from substances. I’m shameless when it comes to my past because everything I’ve lived through is creating me into the person I’m continually blooming into. I spent some of the most vital years of my life trying to run from the person I was and some of the things I’ve done. I’ve made many mistakes and had to own up and deal with the consequences my actions rendered. I have a hard time accepting the fact that none of this is or was my fault. That no matter how smart I was and how much I knew what we were doing was wrong, I was still a child. I stand before you today, not to ask for an increase or decrease of his sentence but to close this revolving door that should not have revolved this long! I forgive myself, I forgive you, and I hope you find peace.” 

For the second time, Osgood looked at Joanna, and for the second time, she did not return his stare. 

Winsor sentenced Osgood to 15 years in federal prison, a $35,000 fine, $25,000 restitution, a $100 special assessment, and a lifetime of supervisory parole.

“We are sensitive to Mr. Osgood’s health,” Winsor said. “But there is a real victim here who suffered real harm, and Mr. Osgood does not seem particularly remorseful.” 

Although Osgood’s attorney asked for a sentencing date of March 1, 2021, to complete his cancer treatments and therapy for other afflictions, Winsor told Osgood to turn himself in on November 16.

(Editor’s Note: Osgood remains free on bond as of this writing. He is scheduled to enter jail on December 21.) 

“This sentence sends a strong message to those who exploit children and cause severe and lasting trauma for their victims,” said U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe. “With the dedicated help of our law enforcement partners, we will bring every investigative and prosecutorial resource to bear to protect our children from sexual predators like Osgood.”   

Osgood stood after the hearing, put on his black fedora hat with a gold band, and pushed his walker out of the courtroom to meet his attorney, son, and daughter. He took one last look towards Joanna and then walked with his group to the elevator.

She never looked in his direction.

Arthur Larange Lee Jr.—guilty of human trafficking

Arthur Larange Lee Jr., a Gainesville resident, was convicted for human trafficking and sentenced to 27 years in prison, followed by 20 years supervised release.

Lee allegedly abducted her from a Gainesville church’s parking lot where she was attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and held her against her will. 

According to court documents, the woman said that Lee took her to a hotel room, sexually battered, slapped, shook her, and pulled her hair, all while verbally abusing her and forced her into prostitution. Lee also took photographs of her that he posted on the internet to advertise her for prostitution and included his phone number for men to call and make arrangements to have sex with her. 

Lee arranged for men to travel to the hotel room or took her on “outcalls” to residences, where she engaged in commercial sex acts for money. 

The woman said she made between $1,000 and $2,000 in less than two days and that Lee took all of the money. 

Mikal Alemin Craig—guilty of sex trafficking

According to the court documents, police were told that Mikal Alemin Craig was holding a woman against her will and forcing her to have sex with other people. 

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Craig subsequently pled guilty to sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion. 

Craig and the government submitted a statement of facts in conjunction with the plea agreement describing Craig’s scheme to make money by forcing S.D., a 19-year-old woman who was addicted to cocaine, to perform sex acts.

Specifically, Craig posted an ad online that showed the victim posing in a motel room and offered her for commercial sex. The victim then engaged in sexual activity for money with persons who responded to the ad. Craig coerced her to engage in sexual activity through physical violence and the threat of physical violence, according to prosecutors. By providing her with cocaine, he then forced her to pay for it by performing sex acts for money. Craig collected the proceeds of and profited from the victim’s commercial sexual activity. 

Monday in Part Five: Sex trafficking is a complex and overwhelming issue worldwide and in North Central Florida, but there are practical solutions that everyone can do to fight it, and larger solutions that a community can take on together to eradicate sex trafficking in our communities. That is the feature of Part Five entitled “Solutions” in Mainstreet Daily News on Monday.

To read part one go here.

To read part two, go here.

To read part three, go here.

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