Human Trafficking on the Rise in Western Pennsylvania

A WTAE Pittsburgh investigation found cases of labor trafficking and cases of sex trafficking, right on the streets of Pittsburgh. A recent undercover police operation led to the second person in Western Pennsylvania charged federally with human trafficking in the past decade. But the FBI says there likely will be more.

“We did not have in Western Pennsylvania, three or four years ago, any human trafficking cases opened up. Now we have numerous cases opened up,” said FBI supervising special agent Brad Orsini. Another case under FBI investigation is whether a Bridgeville spa was part of a sex trafficking ring.

Three Rivers Youth, a shelter for troubled young people, director Peggy Harris was surprised to hear sex trafficking is a problem here. “It’s deplorable, number one, I mean it just smacks of slavery,” Harris said. “It’s just even unfathomable to believe that this goes on.”

The FBI is also investigating allegations of labor trafficking. Two natives of Guatemala ended up in Pittsburgh after fleeing an alleged trafficker. Mary Burke of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition has followed their case. “They came to the United States with a legitimate visa. They thought they were working for someone who would actually pay them for their work. When they got to the United States they found out that was not the case,” Burke said.  She says companies sometimes take advantage of a law that requires immigrants with certain work visas to work for only one business. “If that employer ends up being someone who victimizes them they have no freedom to move to another employer because of the restrictions on that visa. That renders them exceptionally vulnerable,” Burke said.

Learn more at Paul Van Osdol’s WTAE News article: Human trafficking on the rise in Western Pennsylvania.
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