COOK COUNTY, IL – Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart today called on websites to work with law enforcement to prevent more people from being trafficked online after 10 people were charged in Sheriff’s Police trafficking related investigations in just two weeks.
The cases investigated by the Sheriff’s Police Vice Unit and Internet Crimes Against Children Unit varied in complexity, victims, and methods used by the alleged offenders.
“These cases show that trafficking and child exploitation can happen anywhere and be perpetrated by anyone,” Sheriff Dart said. “We want the public to be aware of the prevalence of trafficking. Case in point is the number of our investigations that were charged in such a short period of time.”
- On Oct. 6, four people were indicted by a Cook County grand jury on charges of involuntary servitude, trafficking in persons, and promoting prostitution after Sheriff’s Police Vice Unit investigators found that they were operating a brothel in an apartment in the 1500 block of Norway Lane in unincorporated Palatine.
- Christian Hurtado, 28, of Elgin
- Daniel Hurtado, 26, of Elgin
- Martha Hurtado-Hernandez, 57, of Chicago
- Rigoberto Parra, 46, of Aurora
- All four are facing similar charges in Kane County for allegedly operating brothels there.
- On Oct. 6, 53-year-old Carlos Cooks of Elk Grove Village was charged with involuntary servitude and promoting prostitution after a Vice Unit investigation found that he forced a woman to have sex for money.
- The investigation found that Cooks placed the ads for the victim online, arranged the encounters with johns, controlled the money she received from those encounters, and physically abused the victim if the victim did not provide services.
- On Oct. 11, two siblings were charged with trafficking in persons after a Vice Unit investigation found they forced the victim to work against their will at a Cicero restaurant they owned. The investigation revealed that the victim worked long hours for little money and was prohibited from leaving a residence that one of the siblings owned.
- Jaimie Olvera-Lopez, 52, was charged with trafficking in persons.
- Leticia Pena, 57, was charged with trafficking in persons and involuntary servitude.
- On Oct. 13, 24-year-old Erick Johnson of Chicago was indicted by a Cook County grand jury for involuntary servitude of a minor and promoting juvenile prostitution for trafficking a minor online. At the time of his indictment, Johnson was already charged for promoting prostitution of another victim.
- On Oct. 19, 26-year-old Angel Ojeda of Chicago was charged with dissemination of child pornography and possession of child pornography following a Sheriff’s Police Internet Crimes Against Children investigation that revealed Ojeda downloaded and shared child pornography on a social media app.
- On Oct. 20, 36-year-old Marcus Brewer of Chicago was charged with promoting prostitution after a Vice Unit investigation found he placed an online ad for the victim and provided her “security” during encounters with johns.
In half of the cases, the victims were advertised online through the aggregator website ListCrawler or the website MegaPersonals.
Sheriff Dart announced today that he will be sending letters to the owners of these websites asking them to work with his office to prevent victims from being trafficked online.
“I am calling on these websites to make a difference by helping prevent more victims from being trafficked,” Sheriff Dart said.
As Sheriff’s Office investigators continue to aggressively pursue human trafficking and child exploitation, the Office wants the public to learn some of the warning signs, so they can also help report these cases to law enforcement.
Signs someone may be trafficked include:
- Visible signs of abuse such as unexplained bruises, cuts, or marks.
- Their money is under someone else’s control.
- Secrecy about whereabouts.
- Isolation from loved ones.
- Behavioral changes.
- Unexplained shopping trips or possession of expensive clothing jewelry or cell phones.
Child exploitation warning signs may include:
- Age-inappropriate knowledge about sexual situations.
- Attitude changes of sudden mood swings.
- Receives requests for and/or sent sexually explicit image.
- Unexplained gifts.
Anyone who believes someone is being trafficked or believes a child is being sexually exploited should notify their local law enforcement agency.
The public is reminded that the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty by the government in a court of law.