Human trafficking in our rural heartlands-Part 1

Law enforcement authorities say human trafficking happens in Missouri's rural areas.

It's been happening in our backyards for years. Most Missourians do not it exists; others are in complete denial. No human being should be treated as a slave of any kind. The problem of human trafficking in the United States is on the rise and the reality is it may be happening in your neighborhood.

Human trafficking is defined in two categories, the exploitation of forcing people into prostitution or sex slavery and forced labor which is closely related to regular slavery.

On Friday May 9, the New York FBI arrested Todd Barkau for commercial sex trafficking of a minor.

"FBI agents in New York State apprehended Barkau, pursuant to a warrant by the U.S. District Court here in Kansas City. Our offices have charged Barkau with a seven-count indictment with sex trafficking of a minor female, specifically of commercial sex trafficking of a child," U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Missouri John Wood held a press conference Monday May 12, regarding a 12 year old girl who was trained and forced to work as a dominatrix.

Court filings allege that in Blue Springs, Missouri Barkau and the girl's mother trained and forced a girl to serve as an online sexual dominatrix, called "Mistress Alisha."

The federal indictment alleges that from January 1, 2000 to February 20, 2005, Barkau trained the minor to be a sexual dominatrix by engaging her in bondage activities with himself and forcing her in other sexual activities while he watched. With extensive force and violence Barkau made the girl serve as dominatrix beginning at 12 years old.

When the girl was 14 years old, the motion alleges Barkau created his online business for "Mistress Alisha," both Barkau and the child TMs mother earned tens of thousand of dollars.

The Department of Justice says it is the first time in the United States that parents have been alleged to profit from their own child this way.

Away from this shocking headline, I wanted to find out how often human trafficking occurs in Missouri's cities and specifically rural areas.

"The reality is that human trafficking cases they're all different. So you can have it in the big cities, you can have it in the rural areas," stated Cynthia Cordes, assistant to the U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Missouri, "We've already prosecuted one labor human trafficking case. Some of them can be happening in farmland and rural areas."

Cordes believes Missourians are more aware today, than they ever have been before.

"Five to 10 years ago certainly people would not have thought of human trafficking in the Western District of Missouri, and the heartland areas, and it's thriving unfortunately," said Cordes.

Authorities credit increased awareness and new laws under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) for the increased number of reports, as well as a specific law enforcement task force.

Missouri's human trafficking task force began in Kansas City, but has expanded to Boone and Cole Counties where there are ongoing investigations in Columbia and Jefferson City.

"Human trafficking cases do not just come to you they're ones you have to seek out. The victims are specifically trained if not brainwashed to not cooperate with law enforcement so you have to go and find them," commented Cordes, "We now have a task force of multitude of agencies working on the cases its easier to find the cases."

Barkau and the girl's mother face a maximum sentence of life in federal prison without parole if convicted. The victim, who is now 20 is in disclosed location for her privacy. The "Mistress Alisha" website domain is being used by another company.

If you sense something suspicious in your area contact the following-

Detective Jason Young (816) 325-7072Detective Matt Fowler (816) 325-7255TPWETF Hotline 1-888-428-7581

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