FOX23 Investigation: An inside look at human trafficking

By: Katie Higgins

Updated:

Quick Facts:

  • Human trafficking claims victims across the country daily 
  • Growing social media use is making it easier for predators to target victims
  • A sex industry survivor talked to FOX23 about recruiting victims

 

A FOX23 Investigation got an inside look into human trafficking.

FOX23’s Katie Higgins talked to a sex-trafficking survivor who says she purposefully targeted certain woman.

She says it often starts on social media.

Jessica Neely says she called herself a “predator.”

“There was no force, but I did make them afraid of me,” she said.

She says she turned to the porn industry to cope with her own sex abuse and quickly found herself starting a brothel in Denver.

“Here’s the thing about most madams and perpetrators and predators,” Neely said, “they think they’re doing the community a service.

She says she ran girls from Denver to Dallas.

“Anywhere there’s interstate, there’s human trafficking,” she said.

She says finding the young women is easy.

“There are people and predators, such as I used to be, that are looking for the ‘I just got in a fight with my mom’ girl,” Neely told FOX23.

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She says she used social media.

“They’ve already friended your friends,” she said, “which is a strategy I used. They’re getting snatched off the apps.”

She says she looked for specifics.

“She is looking, or he is looking, for the girls doing the sexy poses,” Neely said. “That is the girl that is completely validated by her body. I never went for modest girls, because I didn’t have time to work through your morals.”

Neely says she went for girls with college educations.

“[I was] seducing the daughters of the middle class,” she said. “I didn’t go for the ones across the street, because you need to talk English to talk to my clients. I’m looking for college debt, for your financial crisis.”

She says she then put those girls to work in her brothel.

“I told them, ‘If you don’t make $1,000 by noon, you can walk out the door,’” Neely said.

Neely says it was that easy.

“Do they know they’re a victim? Absolutely not,” she said.

Investigators say that makes their job almost impossible.

“We have adult women who are victims of human trafficking, but those cases are harder,” Sgt. Evans with the Tulsa Police Department told FOX23. “You need their cooperation to prosecute.”

Human trafficking cases more than doubled in 2015, from 43 to 88. Most of the victims were reportedly found at hotels and brothels.

Evans says the rise is due to more community awareness and stronger cases.

Tulsa police say one of their arrests pleaded guilty just this month in federal court for trafficking underage girls.

They say they look out for younger girls with men that are not appropriate for their age. Evans says a girl’s friends are also in danger if she’s brought into trafficking.

“Every single girl has recruited another girl in this industry,” he said.

Neely says she’s done recruiting women, and now she’s trying to help.

“To the girl sitting on the bathroom floor singing hymns from her childhood, she’s going to make it. There’s survivor community,” she said.

She says she knows the way out can be a long road.

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