Life in prison - that's the sentence a lead defendant in an international sex trafficking case received in Federal Court in the Southern District of Georgia on Wednesday. Twenty-two other defendants are sentenced to prison time ranging from seven months to twenty years. "Operation Dark Night" was the largest sex-trafficking investigation ever conducted here - stretching from Mexico to Savannah.
Arrests were announced in a press conference at the U.S.Attorney's office last year. Authorities say a dozen women were rescued from the organization. And that's just the tip of the iceberg in human trafficking in the state of Georgia.
In a report released by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center covering the first six months of last year - 417 calls regarding human trafficking originated in the state. Many of those in the Atlanta area - which authorities say is a hub - a top-five city for human trafficking. There were 85 cases evaluated as having evidence of potential trafficking. 67 of those involved sex trafficking.
12 - labor trafficking. The majority of the victims are women - like those authorities described in Operation Dark Night. "The results of our investigation have been impressive, but gruesome, reaching far beyond simple prostitution in Georgia and revealing an underworld of sexual exploitation throughout the southeastern United States, "said John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs last year. U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver said, "The details in this indictment are shocking. Members of the conspiracy are accused of intimidating and coercing dozens of women from Mexico, Nicaragua and other places into acts of prostitution here in Savannah and in other communities and states."
There are still two men indicted as part of operation dark night who are fugitives.