Maloney and Poe push anti-human trafficking legislation, restitution for survivors

Feb 4, 2015
Press Release
Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act awaiting Senate Action, new legislation introduced to sic IRS on pimps

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) are urging the Senate to act on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which cleared the House last week. Poe is the lead sponsor of the bill, which would create stiffer penalties and enforcement for the demand side of human trafficking, and provide restitution to the survivors.

Maloney and Poe also announced plans to reintroduce the Human Trafficking Fraud Enforcement Act, which would give the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) more funding and resources to go after pimps and traffickers for taxable income, as well as provide financial assistance and whistleblower protections to survivors.

The lawmakers were joined by Shandra Woworuntu, a courageous and inspiring survivor of sex trafficking, who now advocates in support of restitution for survivors of similar crimes.

“Stories like Shandra’s are heartbreaking reminders that slavery still exists in America,” said Carolyn Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “Modern day slavery involves holding women captive and degrading their humanity. It involves being sold over-and-over again. It is horrific and it must be stopped. Congressman Poe and I are fighting this battle here in Washington. We want to go after the demand side, and we want to go after the abusers. We want to seize any ill-gotten gains and provide restitution to the survivors.”

“In a time of seemingly constant partisan gridlock, there is one thing we can all agree on: our children are not for sale,” said Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX).  “Human trafficking is a $9.8 billion criminal enterprise that exists in cities across America. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) addresses each of the three different groups involved in the crime of human trafficking: the trafficker, the buyer and the victim. JVTA implements a new, robust and aggressive strategy to help combat human trafficking in the United States. It targets demand by treating those who buy sex from minors and other trafficking victims like what they are: criminals. Finally, JVTA encourages a victim-centered approach to fighting human trafficking so that victims are no longer treated as criminals. The House has once again taken action to end modern day slavery in America. I am hopeful that the bill will make it to the President’s desk.”

“I want to thank Reps. Maloney and Poe for their work on anti-trafficking legislation. While I am happy now, leading a life providing support and education for survivors and the public, I struggled for a while after escaping my trafficker. My trafficker was eventually put in jail, but I never received any money and was at a point where I was homeless before I got help and got back on my feet. Both the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act and the Human Trafficking Fraud Enforcement Act would help ensure other women do not face a similar fate,” said Woworuntu.

Shandra Woworuntu is originally from Indonesia. She is college educated and worked as a financial analyst in her home country, until political instability and racial persecution caused her to lose her job, according to her biography. She came to the United States in 2001 under the impression that she would be taking a hospitality job in Chicago. But Shandra never made it to Chicago. Instead, she was kidnapped at John F. Kennedy International Airport, had her passport stolen, and was forced into sex slavery in the New York Tri-State Area for almost a year.

Eventually, she escaped her trafficker by climbing out a bathroom window in Brooklyn. Although she was free of her trafficker, and he was eventually imprisoned, Shandra struggled financially. At several points she was homeless. Eventually, with the help of the non-profit Safe Horizon, Shandra was able to get back on her feet and be reunited with her daughter. Shandra lives in Elmhurst, Queens with her two daughters and works as a public speaker, community activist, and is involved in a number of community service efforts.

Maloney co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking with Congressman Chris Smith (R-NY) and co-chairs the Trafficking Task Force of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues with Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO). For more than a decade, Congresswoman Maloney has worked to combat human trafficking internationally, nationally, and in New York City.

Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act Background:

  • Repurposes and reauthorizes a grant program to create a victim-centered model block grant to help state and local governments develop and implement comprehensive victim-centered programs to train law enforcement to rescue victims, prosecute human traffickers, and restore the lives of victims.
  • Allows state and local human trafficking taskforces to obtain wiretap warrants within their own state courts without federal approval in order to investigate crimes of child pornography, child sexual exploitation, and human trafficking.
  • Requires law enforcement to upload available photos of missing children into the National Criminal Information Center database and to notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of any child reported missing from a foster care family home or childcare institution.
  • Reduces demand for human trafficking by clarifying current law and encouraging police, prosecutors, judges, and juries to target and punish persons who purchase illicit sexual activities from trafficking victims as human traffickers, rather than petty criminals.
  • Reduces affirmative defenses for persons who exploit children through interstate prostitution by requiring them to show by clear and convincing evidence, rather than a preponderance of the evidence (current law), that they believed the child to be an adult.

Human Trafficking Fraud Enforcement Act Background:

  • Authorizes $4 million to establish an office within the IRS to prosecute sex traffickers for violations of tax laws.  The new IRS office would coordinate closely with existing sex trafficking task forces in the Department of Justice.
  • Imposes stiffer penalties – including fines of up to $50,000 and jail sentences of up to 10 years – for traffickers who fail to file tax returns, supply tax information, or pay taxes
  • Establishes a new felony offense for an “aggravated failure to file” in cases where income or payments are derived from criminal activities.
  • Designates the victims of criminal sex traffickers as whistleblowers and allows them collect up to 15 percent of the fines levied against their abusers.