Tag: Trafficking

Give Me That Old Time Religion

It turns out that a church known as the Imperial Valley Ministry has been enslaving homeless people to line their own pockets.

This is old school religion, as any Pharaoh would agree:

Inside a beige bungalow in California’s Imperial Valley with a well-trimmed lawn and beds of pink flowers, the 17-year-old girl felt imprisoned. The doors were locked from the inside. The windows were nailed shut.

Like the other homeless and vulnerable people who came to Imperial Valley Ministries seeking shelter, food and rehab, the teenager was not allowed to leave without supervision, was not allowed to contact her family, to “discuss things of the world” or read any book but the Bible, according to federal prosecutors. Those who lived in the church’s group homes had to turn over their money and welfare benefits, their identification and all of their personal belongings, so that even if they wanted to leave, they couldn’t, prosecutors said.

Then, once they settled in, they were allegedly forced to panhandle up to nine hours a day for six days a week in parking lots and on street corners — turning over every penny to the church.

Finally the 17-year-old had enough: She busted through the locked window to escape, bleeding from the shards of glass, and ran to a neighbor to call the police.

Now, after her outcry helped propel an FBI investigation, the girl’s alleged captors — Imperial Valley Ministry’s religious leaders — were charged Tuesday with forced labor for allegedly luring in dozens of victims under false pretenses only to lock them inside group homes and compel them to panhandle for the church’s profit. Prosecutors also say a dozen ministry leaders defrauded taxpayers by taking guests’ welfare benefits. The victims gave the church permission to take up to 40 percent of their benefits to go toward their expenses. Instead, prosecutors say, IVM took everything.

U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer, of the Southern District of California, called it the “most significant labor trafficking prosecution” in his district in years.

“The indictment alleges an appalling abuse of power by church officials who preyed on vulnerable homeless people with false promises of a warm bed and meals,” Brewer said at a news conference Tuesday. “Instead these victims were held captive, stripped of their humble financial means, stripped of their identification, their freedom and their dignity.”


Victor Gonzalez, a former pastor who allegedly directed much of the conspiracy, denied he’d done anything wrong last year when the FBI raided the group homes and the main church office in El Centro, Calif., a small city in the arid Colorado Desert, just north of the Mexican border.


With the proceeds the church earned largely on the backs of the homeless, prosecutors said, church leaders opened 30 affiliate churches throughout the United States and Mexico, although the criminal conspiracy focuses on five group homes based in El Centro, Chula Vista and Calexico, Calif., from 2013 to 2018, when Victor Gonzalez was in charge.


The participants would immediately be forced to turn over all of their documents, money and belongings to the home supervisors, he said. They would then sign an agreement that laid out a strict set of rules and expectations, all designed to isolate them from the rest of the world. “There will be no use of the telephone,” Rule No. 3 said. “You have two meals daily except on Sundays,” sometimes a day of mandatory fasting, Rule 25 said. “If any of the above rules are broken there will be discipline,” Rule No. 28 said.


If convicted of the forced labor conspiracy, benefits fraud and document servitude, Gonzalez and the 11 others could face up to 20 years in prison. Most will be arraigned Wednesday afternoon.

Not long enough.

Missing the Bigger Picture

The Baddies Do Love Their iPhones

For all the allegations of treason swirling around Donald Trump, people are something right in front of their face, that Trump, and the Trump companies, have been laundering money from the Russian mob for at least a decade.

It’s why they are now paying cash for projects.

Case in point, a Russian Pimp running a prostitution ring from a Trump property:

At first blush, it just looks like the bust of another Russian human trafficking operation, run by a husband-and-wife team with two kids and a pricey Miami condo.

And then you look a little closer and it’s a Manhattan Russian criminal enterprise run remotely from Trump Tower III in Miami.

The husband and wife team, Yevgen Rizanov and Ksenia Khodukina, both 29, flew women from Russia to New York as part of a “sophisticated long-term operation promoting prostitution,” according to New York Assistant District Attorney James Lynch.


I’m sure the link to Trump properties is just a coincidence, too, though. Right? It’s not like a lot of Russian criminal enterprises run out of Trump properties, right?

Wrong. FT reports:

An alleged Kazakh money-laundering network channelled millions through apartment sales at the Trump SoHo; a Russian oligarch bought a Palm Beach estate from Trump in 2008 for $95m, more than double what Trump had paid for it four years earlier; in Florida, 63 Russians, some with political connections, spent $100m buying property at seven Trump-branded luxury towers, Reuters established. The money was not exclusively from the former Soviet Union: at the Trump Panama, some of it allegedly belonged to Latin American drug traffickers.

 Seriously, how did the august representatives of 4th estate miss this?

This man has been mobbed up as f%$# for decades.