Md. police seek tougher laws to combat human trafficking

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The rap artist, the Afghan immigrant in the import-export business and the Internet company owner are all pimps, Montgomery County police say, and they called a news conference yesterday to highlight their actions and ask for tougher laws in Maryland to combat human trafficking.

"This really does exist. It really is happening," said Sgt. Ken Penrod, a vice detective.

He and other Montgomery County police officials discussed the cases yesterday as part of an effort to draw attention to the issue. Penrod testified recently in Annapolis to support bills that would make prosecution of such cases easier and allow police to seize properly of those involved in the trade.

Penrod and other vice detectives define human trafficking, when it comes to prostitution, as forced or coercive control. In many cases, Penrod said, the practitioners lure women by promising attractive jobs, such as modeling careers. To keep them working, they will say they know people who can hurt them, or they will threaten to send raunchy pictures of the women to their parents, Penrod added.

Police provided these details of the cases, hoping to make their point:

On Dec. 28, detectives monitoring escort advertisements online learned that a suspected prostitute was staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rockville, police said. The detectives approached Room 247 and knocked on the door.

Jeremy Naughton -- also known as Jerms Black, 29, of Brooklyn, N.Y. -- answered, according to police. Inside the room, detectives also found a woman who appeared to be crying and had a welt over her right eye, police said. Detective D.J. Fitzgerald called the phone number listed on the Internet advertisement, and a cellphone on the bed rang.

Naughton pleaded guilty to receiving earnings from a prostitute as part of a plea agreement, according to court records. Naughton's attorney, Jason Cleckner, declined to comment.

On Feb. 16, Rodney Hubert, 34, of New York, was charged with trafficking of a juvenile for prostitution, according to police. Detectives say he and several associates persuaded a 15-year-old girl to take a bus to Maryland for what she thought would be a modeling photo shoot.

The girl ended up at a Comfort Inn, where she was photographed in lewd poses for an online advertisement. By the time police caught up with the operation, the 15-year-old had had sex with a man who paid $200, according to charging documents.

Hubert, who told authorities he has worked as an operations manager at a Web hosting company, remained in Montgomery County jail Tuesday, an official there said. It was unclear whether he had retained an attorney.

In the most recent case, Arash Koraganie Ghulam Abbas, 31, of Germantown, was charged last week with several counts of human trafficking for operating an Internet escort service that was a front for prostitution, according to police. He was released from Montgomery County jail. It was unclear whether he had hired an attorney.

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