Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

According to experts, it's important to understand the differences between prostitution, which is voluntary, and sex trafficking, which can trap victims with involuntary sex work. By Nicole L. Cvetnic / McClatchy

Three South Florida residents are facing federal charges in a multi-state sex-trafficking ring involving minors that the FBI says was disguised as a nonprofit dedicated to helping trafficked victims.

William Foster, 48, and Hanah Chan, 30, of Delray Beach and Ashleigh Holloway, 36, of Fort Lauderdale are being charged with coercing victims, including underage girls, to work as exotic dancers and have sex with clients in exchange for a luxurious lifestyle.

The FBI began its investigation in February 2017 when two women contacted agents and said they were recruited by Foster when they were teens, according to an indictment unsealed last week in West Palm Beach federal court.

Foster was the leader of the sex-trafficking scheme for at least 15 years, according to investigators. He would “knowingly” traffic minors to make a profit, according to a criminal complaint.

foste fitted
William Foster. File Miami Dade Police Department

Holloway and Chan, who were two of Foster’s trusted “Main Girls,” assisted Foster in sex trafficking at least one of his victims, according to court records.

Tempted with luxury goods

Foster used “displays of a fun and wealthy lifestyle as a way to recruit new females,” FBI Special Agent Kelly Cavey wrote in the complaint.

His victims, which investigators say were women and minor girls, would then be sent to work at strip clubs across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County. They would also be forced to have sex with clients and Foster, the complaint states.

He would also send them across the country to strip clubs to entertain customers, including in New York, Las Vegas, and Detroit.

One of his victims was recruited out of high school while she was in foster care in August 2007 and was trafficked by Foster through May 2010, the complaint said.

Another victim told agents she had been “kidnapped by a violent pimp” and was being forced to work at a strip club now known as Gold Rush, 7770 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami, when she met Foster inside the club’s VIP champagne room in August 2004.

Gold Rush
One of the victims told investigators she met William Foster in a VIP champagne room in what is now Gold Rush. Google Street View

He told her the females in his organization were exotic dancers “who owned a business with him and who drove nice cars and had wonderful wardrobes.” If she were interested in living with him, she would have to become his girlfriend. She was 17 at the time.

The woman told investigators she stayed with him until about 2011.

The women and girls who lived with Foster had designer clothes, handbags, shoes, and drove high-end cars: Ferrari, a Cadillac Escalade, a Mercedes-Benz and a Chevy Corvette, Cavey wrote in the complaint.

He would put them on “lemon diets,” pay for their cosmetic surgeries and take them to yacht parties and dinners to meet with wealthy clients.

They were also taught to recruit minors and young women from group homes, shelters, and strip clubs where Foster said they would “be vulnerable and in need of help,” Cavey said.

The women told investigators they never saw the money they made. Foster told them it was being “invested” in a business. If they left, they would never see their earnings, which they describe to be in the “thousands.”

A fake nonprofit

One of these “businesses” was a clothing line called Bad Girlz Fashion Inc., which was incorporated in 2003 and listed Foster as its vice president and director, according to the Florida Division of Corporations.

The company, which listed a home in the 12700 block of Northeast Fourth Avenue in North Miami as its primary address, was dissolved in 2012.

Foster’s Care, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation which had Foster listed as the president, Chan as the chief financial officer and Holloway as the vice president was incorporated on Nov. 21, 2014, according to the Florida Division of Corporations.

The organization, whose principal address was also listed under the North Miami address, claimed to provide “social services, counseling, shelter and education to the youth and young adults in the tricounty area,” according to investigators.

It was dissolved in September 2015.

In September 2019, law enforcement also found and seized www.fosterscareinc.com, a website that claimed to work with the police and the FBI to provide protection to sex trafficking victims.

It also claimed to offer free services, including housing, therapy, medical treatment and job training, and encouraged sex-trafficking victims to contact the organization for help.

In reality, officials say the website was being used, or was created, for the purpose of sex-trafficking children by “force, fraud, or coercion,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida.

South Florida: base of operations

Three Delray Beach homes also were identified as being part of Foster’s criminal organization during the investigation.

It’s unclear how many girls and women Foster sex-trafficked but court documents state that 5 to 15 females lived with and worked for Foster at any given time.

The criminal complaint mentions that investigators were able to speak with only three of his victims. Two women said Foster recruited them while they were minors.

A third, who began working for Foster as an adult and is a recovering heroin addict, contacted POLARIS’ National Human Trafficking Hotline in September 2019 and requested an emergency extraction from a hotel in Romulus, Michigan.

Foster recruited her with the promise that she only had to work as an exotic dancer, she told agents. But when she went to work at a venue she described as being a “brothel” in Detroit, Foster began pressuring her to have sex with clients.

The woman told investigators she and six others were flown from Fort Lauderdale to Detroit to make money while Florida prepared for Hurricane Dorian. They were expected to earn approximately $150,000 collectively while in Detroit.

A Miami man who said he has fixed Fosters’ cars for nearly two decades told the Palm Beach Post that one of the women who is accusing Foster has a child with him.

Foster was arrested in November and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, one count of sex trafficking of a minor and by force, fraud, or coercion, and two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion.

He’s faced similar allegations in the past. During the late 1990s, he was investigated and charged in New Jersey with soliciting minors to engage in prostitution, according to court documents. The charges were later dropped.

Holloway, one of the “Main Girls,” was charged with one count of sex trafficking by fraud and coercion and Chan, the other, was charged with one count of transporting an individual for prostitution.

All of them could face up to life in prison with a 15-year mandatory minimum if found guilty.

If you need help

To report suspected human trafficking or to obtain resources for victims, call 888-373-7888; text “BeFree” (233733), or live chat at HumanTraffickingHotline.org.

The toll-free phone, SMS text lines, and online chat function are available 24/7.

Help is available in more than 200 languages, including English, Spanish and Creole.

The National Hotline is not managed by law enforcement, immigration or an investigative agency. It is confidential and you may request assistance or report a tip anonymously.

Article from: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article238352778.html