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Former spa owner sentenced on sex-trafficking, forced labor charges

- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2012

A former Illinois spa and massage parlor owner who used violence and threats of violence to force three women from the Ukraine and one from Belarus to work for him without pay and, at times, little to no subsistence over a two-year period was sentenced Monday to life in federal prison without the possibility of parole, the Justice Department said.

Alex Campbell, 45, of Glenview, Ill., was sentenced in his conviction of charges of sex-trafficking, forced labor, harboring illegal aliens, confiscating passports to further forced labor and extortion involving four foreign women whom he mentally and physically abused while forcing them to work for him.

Campbell, who called himself "Cowboy," also was ordered by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman to pay $124,000 restitution.

"Alex Campbell abused women by violently coercing them into labor and commercial sex. By working together with law enforcement and community groups, those women were able to testify about that abuse," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "Today's sentence is a victory not only for the Department and the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force, but also for those women who so bravely came forward and told the truth about their exploitation."

Campbell was convicted at trial in January on three counts each of forced labor, harboring illegal aliens for financial gain and confiscating passports and other immigration documents to force the victims to work and one count each of sex trafficking by force, and extortion. He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life on the sex-trafficking count alone, and the judge also imposed maximum prison terms ranging from five to 20 years on each of the remaining counts, to run concurrent with the life sentence.

Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, whose office initiated the investigation, said he was "extremely proud" of the effort and resolution of all the agencies involved with the successful investigation, conviction and sentencing "of such a violent individual."

All four victims testified as government witnesses at trial, as well as co-defendant, Danielle John, 25, who pleaded guilty before trial to two counts of harboring illegal aliens for financial gain. She was sentenced previously to three years’ probation. In addition to the trial victims, the government presented evidence that investigators learned of approximately 20 women that Campbell had victimized.

Mr. Perez said the trial showed that Campbell recruited and groomed foreign women without legal status in the United States to become part of his “Family,” which he claimed was an international organization that would provide them with support. He said Campbell offered them jobs in his massage parlor, a place to live, assistance with immigration, and lured each of them to enter into a romantic relationship with him.

After gaining their trust, Mr. Perez said Campbell forced the victims to get tattooed with his moniker, which he said made them his property and allowed him to stop paying them. At the same time, he acquired the women’s passports and visas. The women were forced to work long hours every day and they were beaten and punished if they disobeyed him.

Trial testimony established that Campbell forced one victim to engage in sex acts with customers at various other massage parlors, but not at his spa, which testimony showed he operated "cleanly" to avoid problems with law enforcement. He extorted another victim to pay him more than $25,000 to leave the "Family" by threatening to send a sexually-explicit video recording to her parents in Belarus, the records show.

Human trafficking is a Justice Department priority.

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