Updated: Jul 31, 2022
Marcy: Welcome to Crime Raven, real life stories from law enforcement crimes and issues, crime fighters face. This podcast discusses crimes researched using publicly available information or personal recollections. Content may be graphic disturbing or violent, and maybe upsetting to some. Listener discretion is advised.
Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
Marcy: One of the places that you can listen to Crime Raven is on Audible. With an Audible membership, you can access podcasts, audiobooks, and original content. I mainly use Audible when I'm driving. When do you listen, Mark?
Mark: I listened when I'm working on my farm.
Marcy: What do you listen to on Audible right now?
Mark: I'm switching between Barry Eisler's John Rain spy series, and Greg Hurwitz' Orphan X thriller series. And I love them both.
Marcy: To support Crime Raven, Audible is allowing our listeners to try it for free for 30 days if you visit audibletrial.com/crimeraven. That's free access for 30 days at audibletrial.com/crimeraven. We'll also put the link in the show notes.
Mark: I wanted to let you know, as with the episode, Preying in Anchorage, this episode contains more of Mary's story. Mary is a representative of several victims, but the stories are real. I chose them, not because they're unique, but because they're shockingly common. When we get into the investigation, those are the real names and real people.
Marcy: Trigger warning. This episode references sexual abuse and exploitation, including that of minors.
A minivan drive slowly towards Mary as she walks on the narrow shoulder of the roadway. The stroll she's on runs through one of the older neighborhoods, characterized by medium sized lots, holding tiny dilapidated houses. Most of the yards that she passes are unkept chaos of overgrown grass and bushes. The streetlights that are functional, provide a patchwork of visibility along the otherwise dimly lit street. It's a chilly fall night, snow still a couple of weeks away, and Mary sees wisps of her breath.
Mr. Minivan's driver's side window is down as he slowly approaches. Mary can only see a shadow of the man's face, but he is looking at her. She imagines his eyes through the shadow and tries to hold the gaze, the universal signal that she isn't just out for a walk.
Mr. Minivan stops and says, " you need a ride, honey?" Mary moves around the back of the van, tries to remember the plate and opens the front passenger door. The dome light illuminates a 45 year old white dude with short, dark hair, a little overweight, but otherwise clean looking. Mary's always thankful for clean. In that instant, she decides he doesn't look like a serial killer. So she steps in and closes the door behind her. Mr. Minivan pulls away, continuing down the road. "How much?" he asks.
Mary's head swivels looking up and down the street. "Are you a cop?"
Mr. Minivan chuckles. "No. How come they always ask that?"
Mary replies, "because cops have to say." After a pause," it's a hundred for a blow job. 200 for more."
Mr. Minivan says, "I'll do you for 200."
"You have a rubber? I won't do it without".
"Yeah," he grunts. As they talk, Mary pays attention to where Mr. Minivan's taking her. She thinks, 'this guy knows what's up. I usually have to take them to a spot.' Couple of minutes later, he pulls into the darkness along the side of a warehouse. The building is surrounded by dense brush, creating a secluded feeling, even in the crowded neighborhood.
Mr. Minivan wastes no time after putting it in park, easing his seat back a little and unbuckling his belt. "Imma going to call you Jean", as he simultaneously tries to grab her head and pull his dick out of his pants.
Mary jerks her head away, leans back and says, "Whoa, I need the money up front."
Mary says, "No. Now."
Mr. Minivan suddenly sits up right and turning, he hits her across the face with his left palm. Mary sees stars and feels his hands grip around her neck. He snarles, almost barking, the words at her. " I don't give a shit what you want, Jean." His hands tightened and Mary chokes. She gasps, trying to suck in air. The reprieve from the throat pressure comes only when the man lets one hand go to punch Mary in the face. It's all in slow motion now. Mr. Minivan speaks in threats promising what he's going to do to Jean. Mary's head swims from the force of the blows. Then Mary does something she's prepared for, but never really thought she'd have to do.
She reaches down to the knife, clipped in the inside of a right boot. 1, 2, 3 times she stabs him. Twice in the chest and as he grabs the knife, once in the face. Mary's sure that the three inch blade went all the way in on our first stab. The third cut. The one in Mr. Minivan's face makes him recoil. She uses that instant to back out of the door and run. She finds herself plowing through the dark brush, through the sound of branches snapping as they hit her. She hears the door open. Mr. Minivan bellows, "Bitch. You fucking cut me!" Bitch. I'll kill you."
Mary's adrenaline carries her through the woods, barely aware that she's bashing and ricocheting off trees. She half runs, half falls down a rocky embankment and collapses flat against the slope. Mary hears Mr. Minivan walking around in the bushes above her. He's panting and starting to moan softly. After a few minutes, the sound of movement through the brush subsides and Mary hears the minivan start-up.
Mary stays on the ground. Her face hurts. Her throat burns. She realizes her nose is bleeding. It's very dark, so she can't tell if the blood is just on her face or all over. She thinks about how she got here. She shouldn't be working the street. This is Amber's fault. She should have a cell phone. That's Ambers fault too, she thinks. Well, Amber and Jerry.
Mary ponders about how it is that she's lying in this dirty dark, hurting and bleeding. She is 18 years old. When she was 14, she became involved in what she knows now is the game. The players are the pimps and the whores. A group of hoes working under a pimp is called a family. Her family, like all of them has a hierarchy. The daddy is the boss. And in her family, the daddy is Jerry Starr.
There's a bottom bitch or Jerry's right-hand girl who helps control the other girls. Well, why the top girl is called the bottom bitch has always been a mystery to Mary, but they always say it's because she's the most down with the pimp. In Mary's family, the bottom bitch is, Amber. Amber is 20 and they say she's been with Jerry since she was 12.
When she went to Millionaire Joe's house four years ago, Mary didn't know that it was the first step to her joining the game. For a while, Mary was allowed to stay at one of Jerry's houses without having to go to work every night. She was reserved for the rich guys like Millionaire Joe who dealt with Jerry or Al directly. Millionaire Joe's house was good because there was never a shortage of drugs. Joe liked his Coke. And for a while, Joe liked Mary. Over time, Mary noticed that Bambi was swapping her out for even younger girls. After that, Jerry allowed her to stay at one of his houses, but she was pressured to work for the escort service.
With these memories swirling in her mind, Mary stands up. Her night vision was good enough to distinguish a different surface about 20 yards away, where the woods were cleared back. Walking to it, Mary sees that it is the gravel berm of railroad tracks. She walks out of the woods and up onto the tracks. She is relieved to see lights twinkling through the trees and several hundred yards up the tracks, the glow of a familiar intersection. Sensing no one else on the tracks in either direction. Mary begins to walk towards the light.
Mary continues to take stock. She reaches up to feel her face. She probably has a black eye, a front tooth feels loose on the left side. Her throat is on fire. Over the last few years, she's learned to ignore pain of all kinds. She thought, I've been in pain since my dad died. This whole shitty life is pain. Mary had learned so much about life from pain. The pain of losing her family; being betrayed by her mother; the pain of beatings from Jerry, or sometimes a fucked up trick. There was also the pain of learning about human nature. Mainly, male human nature. Most tricks just wanted to get off, but some had freak fantasies they wanted to try and they all think they're the first to have that idea. "No, I won't let you put your entire fist at my ass." "No, I won't watch child pornography with you or suck my thumb and call you daddy." Between Jerry and those lost motherfuckers, men could all go to hell. The only bright spot in this giant pile of shit was the gram she earned for every trick. The rock went straight into the pipe and you could almost forget about the whole thing.
After Bambi, Joe and that whole group went down, everybody was careful for awhile. Mary and the other girls were schooled about what to say if the police tried to talk to them. The specter of the torso girls hung like a hammer over them. Nobody was openly saying Jerry did 'em, but they were both his girls and they'd both been around long enough to see some shit. When the old bitches whispered about Deseret and Michelle, it was that they'd seen too much. They knew too much. There was a rumor that one of them was trying to blackmail one of the rich guys. Mary knew that you never relied on what bitches said. It was all part of the game.
Mary thought about the time recently, when she got popped by the police. It was a sting in a hotel. She hadn't told them jack. In fact, she flipped them shit about the cop who got fired for groping one of Jerry's girls, when he gave her a ride. The detective she talked to, Barbosa, he was cute, kind of a David Duchovny vibe. He was nice and he promised to get her out of the game, but Mary blew him off. They weren't going to help her do shit. The cops held Mary until T, Jerry's go-to guy, arrived to check up on her. They arrested him too. T usually did his Ving Rhames enforcer act when he had to come out. With the cops, he was quiet.
Thinking about T brings Mary back to the current moment. She wishes she had her phone. T could find Mr. Minivan. And if he wasn't already dead, Mary fantasize about T finishing the job.
She stepps slowly, carefully placing her feet. The last thing she needs is to twist an ankle on the uneven tracks. She'd never make it out of here. The intersection lights were still distant and foot placement in the dark was tricky. Why didn't she have her damn phone?
Oh yeah. That's ambers fault. Mary knows that the problem is that Amber is a jealous bitch. Amber has made Mary's life hell ever since the Lakeshore Motor Lodge. About six months prior, Mary was sent out on a date at the Lakeshore. When she got there, a white guy in his forties, let her in. The guy, told her his name was Bill. Mary could see that Bill had been drinking - a lot. He told Mary that she was pretty and tried to rub her shoulders. She backed away from him and she went through the procedure. "Bill, are you a cop?"
Bill said, "what? No."
Mary said, "because if you're a cop, you have to tell me."
Bill said, "no, not a cop."
Mary said," the fee for time and company is 200. And if you want certain special favors, it's a hundred dollars more each."
Bill said, "I just want to fuck you."
Mary said,"400 and I'll make it worth it."
Bill nodded. With a level gaze, Mary held out her palm. "You have to pay before."
Mary watched as Bill went to a shoulder bag, hanging above a suitcase. He counted out a few bills and gave them to Mary. She started towards the bathroom. "I have to call it in and let my people know."
Bill looked confused, "wait, are you a cop?"
Mary laughed, "no, but if I don't check in some big angry black dude's going to show up, looking for me and neither of us want that." In the bathroom, Mary sat on the edge of the tub, sighed, and dialed the number. When a voice on the other end answered, she said "Lakeshore 205. It's 400." And she hung up.
There was nothing unusual about the sex. Mary, like always tried to get it over quickly, taking her cues from the guy. With Bill, he seemed like he wanted to talk. One of the things he said caught her attention. He asked her if she liked Coke. She said she did. And he said he was there because he was picking up some Coke from the airport. He said he wished he had some, so he could suck some lines off her ass. Mary played along, but her attention was drawn back to that satchel.
When Mary left, she called Jerry and told him about the date and the bag. He told Mary to wait in the parking lot behind the hotel. 10 minutes later, Jerry pulled up in his Caddy and T with him. Mary described the date again to Jerry and T. T asked her more details about the room. Jerry asked if she knew what the guy was driving, but she didn't.
T got out and went into the building. A couple of minutes later, Jerry answered his cell and spoke to T. Jerry hung up and immediately made another call. Mary heard Jerry say "Yes. I'm trying to reach room 2 0 5."
After a pause, Jerry said "Sir, this is the front desk. There's a gentleman here that says he hit your car in the parking lot."
"with your car."
"We have the plate on your room registration."
"Well, I don't know. He went back outside".
"Okay. Thank you." Jerry hung up the phone and rolled down the window. He inched the car closer to the back door and angled toward the alley exit.
$17,000 in cash. That's what T came out with. The only sound Mary had heard had been the muted thump of the door of 2 0 5 being kicked in. T ran out and they got away clean. Mary got nothing more than Jerry's goodwill. He told Mary that they were closer to live in the lives they've dreamed of with this score. This was his theme song. They were one big happy family. The goal was one day to live in a mansion. All the girls would drive luxury cars. They'd wrap themselves in furs and jewelry, and they'd all be happy-rich. Mary didn't believe him, but she did like to hear him talk that way. It meant he wasn't mad.
The other girls all hugged Mary when they heard. All wanted to know the story. Everyone was happy, except for Amber. The bottom bitch, Amber couldn't stand that Mary had pulled off such a big trick without her. So she started screwing Mary over. There were times when Amber collected money for Jerry, and he later scolded Mary for coming up short. Mary denied it at the time. And then it happened again. Jerry refused to believe that Amber was lying to him. After all, Amber was his most loyal, most trusted girl. Amber had stuck with him the longest. One night, Mary was sitting on the couch at her assigned house. The other girls were there, which was unusual. Daddy had called a family meeting for all the girls staying at that house. Mary didn't think much about it. When daddy came in that night, it started slow. With the girls sitting in a semicircle around him, daddy began a sermon about family, loyalty, work ethic, betrayal, and punishment. And as daddy's voice rose, Mary noticed that he seemed to be focused on her. His anger grew and his eyes flashed wildly. Suddenly daddy lunged forward, grabbing Mary by the hair and dragging her forward to the middle of the circle. " You stealing from us bitch? You keep in our money?" Daddy's questions were punctuated by punches to the side of her face. Mary was on all fours crawling to keep up, scared that her hair was going to be pulled out. The other girls watched in silent horror, his daddy drug her into an adjacent bedroom where he beat and raped her. The girls in the living room didn't dare move. So they sat and listened to everything.
Despite the horror of what happened to her. Mary counted herself fortunate that she had not received other worst punishments. She had seen daddy lock a girl in a small closet they called the box. The box was barely big enough to be called a closet. It was a solid wood box, just big enough to sit down. The girl she saw was locked in for four days. She was given water twice. After the first day, she cried out calling for somebody to help her. Daddy, who only spent a couple hours there a day, heard the girl. He opened the door, kicked and punched her, and slammed the door on her. Daddy screamed warnings to all the other girls that they'd better stay away unless they wanted to turn in the box.
Mary thinks about how the rape wasn't Amber's only revenge. She made Mary work extra tricks on the street to make up for the money daddy thought she shorted him. A few minutes ago, one of those tricks tried to kill her. Mary realizes that she's missed how dangerous Amber could be. Mary missed it because she has no interest in being bottom bitch. Mary doesn't want to be the enforcer, the snitch, the one hustling the other girls. Amber can have it.
Mary continues her walk up the tracks as her mind, wanders back, trying to sort her life. The memory of a thousand tricks. The memory of Jerry beating and raping her. The guy who just tried to rape her. Then she thinks of her little sister, Michelle.
With the thought of Michelle, Mary collapses to the gravel.
Mary is racked with sobs on her hands and knees in the darkness, the memories wash over her. Mary's sister, Michelle was supposed to be safe with foster parents. Mary had only seen her once since she left her mother's apartmentf or the last time. Mary had walked into a diner and saw her sister sitting with a woman who looked to be in her forties. Michelle looked surprised. Mary nodded her head towards the bathroom as she walked past. When Mary came in, they hugged and questions flooded out of both of them. Mary could only answer her sister with lies, but she was satisfied with what she got back. Michelle liked the people she was living with and was doing good in school.
It was a shock to Mary that when she next saw Michelle, she was sitting on the couch in one of Jerry's apartments. Her little sister was high and had the familiar look of a girl who hadn't slept in days. Mary laid into Michelle, "what the fuck are you doing here?"
The sad truth was that Michelle had lied to Mary too. The foster home had been a nightmare.
Michelle hadn't known that Mary was with Jerry. She just knew Mary was somewhere on the street and Michelle had followed. Mary had tried to keep Michelle close while she figured out what to do. But somehow Jerry had found out they were sisters. Only a couple of other bitches knew, but one of them had blabbed. Jerry came up with a rule that sisters couldn't stay together. So Michelle moved back to the original place and Mary wasn't able to keep track of her. In the months that followed, Mary saw Michelle only sporadically. Mary knew that Amber and the other girls were keeping tabs on them. Each time they bumped into each other, Michelle looked a little more strung out. Her skin was pale. She was losing weigh. Her eyes hollowed out and dark.
One night, Mary thought Amber was being uncharacteristically nice to her. Mary had shields up, so when Amber hit her with the emotional blast, Mary didn't give the reaction that Amber was going for. Dripping with fake compassion, Amber told Mary, she was so sorry about Michelle and the baby. Mary shrugged it off until she was out of sight of Amber. Then she ran up the street to a gas station, caught a cab and was banging on the door of Michelle's apartment 10 minutes later.
A girl named Jen opened the door with a worried look. "Jerry said, you're not supposed to be here."
"Come on Jen. I need to see Michelle."
"Jerry's trying to call you."
"I left the phone at my house", Mary lied. She turned off the phone in the cab when it started to ring. "I got to see her, Jen." Mary was on the verge of tears, trembling hands covering her mouth pacing back and forth.
Jen frowned. Nodded, "okay, but you never talked to me." Jen stepped back as Mary flew past and up the stairs.
Mary flipped the lights on afraid of what she would find. Michelle was lying on her back. The bed was small, but she looked tiny in it nonetheless. For a moment, Mary thought her sister was dead. But her eyes opened and her head lolled to the side so she could look at Mary. She gave her a faint smile. Mary saw that she was flushed and sweating. "Shell, what happened?" Michelle's gaze was flat at first. Then her face contorted, tears squeezing out the side of her eyes, "I was pregnant," She choked and then gasped for air. Mary closed the distance, falling to her knees beside the bed. There was a glass of water on the table next to her, and Mary held it to her; helped her drink.
As Michelle calmed, she began to talk. "It was tiny. Dead when it came out." Tears in her eyes, Mary looked around. "Where?"
"Jerry took it."
Mary, trying to understand, asked, "did you go to the hospital?"
"No. Jerry said I couldn't. Said and get in trouble." Michelle was crying again, "he said they'd think I killed the baby."
Mary shook her head again. "No, you're bad sick. We have to get help." Downstairs, Mary heard the front door open and someone running up the stairs. An angry Jerry burst through the door, " bitch, I told you, you can't come over here". He grabbed Mary by the hair and drug her out into the hallway as Mary struggled to stand. "She needs to go to the hospital. Can't you see, she's sick!" Mary wailed. At the top of the stairs, Jerry shoved Mary down. One of the hired guys, Mary didn't know him yet, was down there to catch her. The man drug her out the front door and across the grass strip. Mary continued to flail and cry at the car until one of them, she didn't know who, punched her full in the face. The next thing she knew Mary was lying next to Jerry in the backseat of the car, the new guy was driving. When Jerry noticed she was looking up at him, he said, "I've got somebody bringing her some medicine." Hopeless, Mary cried into the seat the rest of the way back. When Mary arrived home, Jerry put her in a room alone. He took her phone and put a couple of oxies in the palm of her hand, held out a bottle of Sprite, " take them," he ordered. And she did. He said, "your sister's going to be fine. I'm going to put T here for a while to watch you. He'll give you what you need. Don't leave." Mary, let the drugs take her away. She was accustomed to being hopeless. But what was worse was she had failed Michelle.
These memories haunt Mary, as she sits on the gravel shoulder of the railroad tracks that divide the center of the city from the west side, two blocks away from the lighted intersection. As her tears subside, she no longer feels afraid. She feels rage. Mary didn't grow up in this shitty life. It was thrust upon her. She remembers what it was like to live in a home where she felt protected and loved. She called out to the night, "fuck Jerry!" "Fuck Amber!" Fuck the tricks! They're all going to kill us."
Mary stands and ambles down the tracks. As she approaches the intersection, she sees a police car parked in front of the liquor store. Normally, Mary would have headed in the opposite direction. Tonight, she doesn't. A patrol officer's just finishing up a robbery report at the Brown Jug Liquor on Spenard Road. As he walks out of the store, he sees a lady hobbling off the tracks and into the light of the parking lot. Her face and the front of her shirt are caked in blood in her right eye looks like it's about to swell shut. As they close the distance, the cop asks, "Hey, are you okay? Do you need an ambulance?"
Mary says, "Barbosa. I need to talk to Detective Barbosa."
The investigation of Don Webster, street name Jerry Starr began with the formation of the Anchorage Police Department Vice Unit in 2005. The reason for the unit's formation was twofold. One, the Boehm investigation put a spotlight on the problem. Not only was a prominent, wealthy businessman, able to procure drugs and children in quantity, but he also was a bedded by members of the city's sprawling escort and prostitution network.
And two, there was a growing recognition that human sex trafficking isn't a uniquely Alaskan crime. Just like narcotics, it's a serious national problem that often crosses state and international borders.
The Boehm case represents the bigger picture. The sexual abuse of minors, rape, assault, dead sex workers and drug abuse exact a heavy emotional toll, leaving surviving victims devastated in its wake. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, TVPA, which was first enacted in 2000 provided sizeable grants to help pay for stakeholders to combat the issue.
Anchorage got its first TVPA grant in 2005, and the vice unit was partially funded by it. In its original incarnation, the unit was staffed with four detectives, a detective Sergeant and a clerk. In addition, a special agent from the FBI was attached as a liaison investigator.
Jerry Starr became the target of APD vice almost immediately upon its inception. Starr was a known associate of Boehme and was involved in the same activity that had sent the defendants in the Boehm ring to prison. As the owner of several escort services, a label that in Anchorage was synonymous with prostitution, Starr was responsible, not only for selling women for sex, but also for the accompanying host of collateral crimes.
Human sex trafficking is defined under US federal code as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, accomplished or accompanied with the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Human sex trafficking is often referred to as modern day slavery.
It involves forcing an individual to engage in commercial sex acts, including prostitution or the production of pornography. It can also include human rights abuses such as debt bondage. Sex trafficking is associated with levels of deprivation of Liberty and loss of personal freedoms, most often associated with people living in third world countries.
The detectives at the vice unit started with prostitution arrests in public places. The area of any city where street-level prostitution regularly occurs is referred to as the track or the stroll. On the track sex workers walk up and down the street, waiting for a customer to pull up and offer them money in exchange for sex. Making arrests on streetwalkers is usually popular with residents and businesses because of the optics and the collateral crimes that the sex trade attracts.
Vice detectives also conducted call-out stings in hotel rooms, targeting the telephone and online escort services. More than 100 arrests were made in the first 18 months. These were fairly simple to complete, but legally were not much more significant than a serious driving offense. The complicated part was convincing the arrestees to talk about the men running the sex trade. For the human trafficking charges the investigators would need to prove force fraud or coercion. So there was a constant effort to drive interviews toward that end.
Detectives were looking for any leverage, any string to pull that might unravel the organization. Jerry Starr owned at least six apartments or houses. Vice detectives conducted surveillance to learn which women stayed at, which houses and used this information in interviews and subsequent search warrant applications.
There was a particular effort to find girls who no longer worked for Jerry Starr or one that might have a reason to leave. Many early arrests and interviews led nowhere. But increasingly over time information began to seep out.
As complex investigations mature, there is a tipping point where the preliminary or readily available details have been processed and new information must be obtained to move forward. In the Jerry Starr case, it became clear that some people would talk and others wouldn't. The good thing was at that point, what investigators had was sufficient to allow warrants to see Starr's business and banking records and search his six houses.
Searching houses revealed several properties were being run as little more than storage spaces for commercial sex workers. Most of these places were not what one would consider a home. These were not rooms used for the business. The rooms were austerely furnished with few decorations. Some rooms held several small beds.
Some of the noteworthy items seized include: pictures of women and girls who worked for Jerry Starr. These pictures included individual ladies, sometimes groups, and sometimes groups with Jerry. Some of the photos showed a gathering with all the women in an outdoor setting. Think a high school team photo. In the picture, the ladies were scantily clad and Jerry Starr was wearing a flamboyant pimp suit. In the houses, pornography and drug paraphernalia were ubiquitous.
In the interviews, women described being punished by Jerry in various ways. One of the ways was being locked in the box, which was described as a closet. Investigators found the box in Jerry Starr's house on Thunderbird drive. It was a small wood reinforced closet, not much bigger than a cupboard. Closer examination of the inside of the box revealed it had blood spatter on the inside walls and scratch marks. The marks looks similar to what it would look like when a dog repeatedly scratches the door to be let out. This evidence was so compelling investigators cut it out of the house intact to be used as an exhibit in court. While searching Jerry Star's vehicle, one of the detectives opened a briefcase and discovered a human fetus.
After the search warrants, investigators had a clear picture of the business that Jerry Starr was running. It was no surprise, but the escort services were simply fronts for prostitution. Starr recruited workers by targeting women and children who were poor, homeless or runaways. He hired them to work for his businesses, including Foxy Roxies, Sunshine Girls, American Beauties, Kotton Kandy, Tiffani's, Tickle Your Fancy, and Lickety Splitz. Those businesses were advertising online and in local papers. The customers were not offered sex services. They were told they would only pay for the worker's 'time and company'. The expression 'time and company' was followed by the phrase, which is familiar to prostitution, 'anything that two consenting adults do after that is their business'.
The prostitution business operated on an out-call basis, meaning females would travel to the customer's residence or hotel room. The customers had to pay in advance, a fixed hourly rate, plus a transportation fee, and additional cash for sex acts or drugs, which Jerry Starr supplied.
None of the previously listed activities qualify explicitly as human trafficking. Instead, human trafficking occurred in how Jerry Starr treated the women and the girls after they agreed to work for him. During numerous interviews, victims told investigators, that Jerry Starr kept the women working through manipulation. The ladies had to live in one of six houses, that Starr assigned. They could not talk to people, particularly men who are outside the prostitution family. He didn't pay escort employees in cash. Instead he issued small amounts of crack for every date that they completed and forced them to turn in all the money. If a woman didn't do what he wanted, didn't make a quota or tried to leave, he used violence and intimidation to keep them compliant.
The arrest of Jerry Starr was anticlimactic. The man who had terrorized so many, quietly submitted to handcuffs and went off to jail. With Jerry Starr off the street, the investigators re canvassed all the identified victims because often with the offender behind bars, victims feel like they can be more forthcoming.
Jerry Star's trial lasted for three weeks. The prosecution case focused on 11 victims: nine adult women, and two juveniles. One of the juvenile victims started sex work for Jerry Starr when she was 13. The victims gave various accounts along one theme. Jerry Starr was a violent pimp who demanded that workers go on 10 dates per day. They would give Jerry Starr the money and he would feed them crack. They had no regular days off. One testified the crack enabled the girls to work long hours. Some went as long as five days without sleep. The living conditions that Jerry Starr provided were sparse and the rules oppressive. He made some of the women call him daddy. They were not allowed to have visitors or associate with anyone outside the family unit. They could not buy anything or keep money without his permission. They were forbidden to speak with men without being paid for it.
If Jerry Starr became angry, he was unpredictable. He might take away a woman's phone and identification. He often beat women in front of the others to make an example. Victims described being regularly choked, punched, slapped, tied up, strip searched by Starr or one of his hired thugs. He regularly threatened to disfigure women by pouring boiling water on them or cutting them. In one instance, a victim, left the house without his permission. He found her nearby and dragged her back by the hair. Several victims talked about a group meeting where Starr became angry and dragged one woman into an adjacent room and brutally beat her. The witness said they could hear him beating her. And when she came out, she was covered in blood and large patches of her hair had been ripped from her scalp.
Some women described the punishment of being locked in the box, the wooden cupboard seized during the search warrants. A woman might be locked in the box for hours or days without food. The victims described Jerry Starr as demanding sex and outright raping them regularly.
Jerry Starr's defense was that all the victims who testified against him, worked for him voluntarily and that he never used force, fraud, or coercion on any of the women. Starr also denied knowing that the business was a front for prostitution and denied knowing the ages of the younger girls.
On February 5th, 2008, a federal jury found Jerry Starr guilty on two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, nine counts of sex trafficking of an adult by force fraud or coercion, two counts of distributing crack cocaine to a pregnant woman, four counts of distributing crack cocaine to individuals under the age of 21 and eight counts of distributing crack cocaine.
Jerry Starr was also convicted of one count of maintaining a premise for the purposes of manufacturing and distributing crack cocaine, and one count of manufacturing, crack cocaine. The following August, Webster AKA Jerry Starr was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The judge ordered Starr to pay $3.6 million in unpaid worker compensation and damages. This figure was calculated from business records and estimates made during the investigation.
Starr appealed his conviction, insisting that there was no proof of fraud or coercion and that the ladies did things of their own volition, just as he had said in the trial. The appeal was rejected. The judge acknowledged that the victims may have gotten into the business voluntarily, but the defendant kept them under his control through beatings, choking confinement in a closet and distribution of cocaine.
Don Webster Jr. is currently housed at the federal detention center in Sheraton, Oregon.
Before we talk about the case, maybe we should discuss why you transferred to the vice unit.
Mark: Sure. When I became a police officer, I never thought, you know, I really want to get into drug enforcement, but it's hard to do police work without bumping up against the drug problem. It's everywhere in patrol, and I was working property crimes and drugs were a significant element of all of those crimes. So in the vice union was formed, I was told that it was going to be street level drugs, street crimes, and prostitution. And I thought it would be kind of in that order. There were some attractive perks: plain clothes, undercover cars. The other thing was the challenge of working undercover.
Marcy: What's the difference between plain clothes and undercover? Were you working undercover?
Mark: Most officers who work in units like mine, don't actually work deep cover undercover assignments. Ones where you would take on that life that's totally immersed in a different persona so that you can infiltrate a criminal organization. These are longer-term cases. Theyre also very risky. You're living life as a criminal. Police agencies don't often have true undercover guys because it's easier, faster, and safer to work confidential informants, commonly referred to a CIs or snitches. The CIs are people who are already living the life and don't have to overcome some of the trust barriers that an undercover cop might.
Marcy: What was working in vice like?
Mark: At first it was a big learning curve. In each police assignment you start off slow, but you take skills that you developed in the last job and usually the new one isn't that big a stretch. On patrol I was a training officer, so I knew what I was doing. I had done a lot of interviews and processed crime scenes. So moving into property crimes as a detective, I did a lot of the same things, just more detailed, building more complex cases. So maybe I added 20% of my pool of knowledge when I went to detectives.
Vice was a different bird altogether. A lot of things were different. You couldn't act like a cop. You couldn't talk like a cop. You had to place your gear differently. The gear thing's a big deal. As a uniformed officer, you know exactly where everything is, so you can access it or put it away without looking. For example, as an officer, you might draw and put away your pistol several times during a shift. You have years of muscle memory that makes us effortless. And it's important because if you're in a fight, you need both your hands. So accessing or stowing equipment without thinking about it is the mark of an experienced officer. Take the pistol example and multiply that across every piece of gear that you either now don't carry or carry in a different place because it has to be concealed, and that makes you feel like a rookie again.
Marcy: What I remember about that time is that you were very much a cop, even off duty. You were a cop and you looked it, and you acted like one. It was such a part of your identity. How hard was it to not act like a cop?
Mark: Yeah, it was hard. Early on I had contact with people who walked up to my car and after, a brief conversation said, you're a cop and walked away. The first streetwalker I picked up asked me so what do you want to do? I was nervous. And I said, I don't know, what do you want to do? Later, one of the other detectives who heard that over the wire made the joke, what she wanted to do was for you to give her a thousand bucks and let her out of the car.
So I started making an effort to lose my copness. I grew my hair out and slicked it back. I grew crappy facial hair. I made a concerted effort to relax, not to talk like I was conducting an interview every time I opened my mouth. Over time, I learned to adapt my operation to be less police-seeming, while still maintaining vigilance where officer safety was concerned. What I also figured out after that first street pickup is that it's fine to use how you feel in the moment when working undercover. It's okay to be nervous when picking up a woman for the first time or the fifth time, because it's believable.
I also learned some tricks on how to shut down some of the questioning, like when they asked if I was a cop. I'd act scared and be like, no, are you a cop? You're making me nervous. And they they'd go out of their way to assure me that they weren't police officers. You kind of turn the tables on them.
Marcy: One of the things that we were told in a spouse class at the academy is that when you see someone you recognize as a cop in plain clothes in the community, you should never acknowledge them unless they acknowledge you first. You should never mention aloud who are what they are. This was to prevent accidentally outing someone doing plain clothes work. I remember being in a store with you late in your vice time, and you looked really scummy, but by then I was pretty used to it. We saw a coworker of yours and it became clear during that conversation with him that he didn't know you were advice. I think he thought you had been fired or something. I can't remember if you told him what was up, but I remember we laughed about it afterwards. So what else was different about how vise worked?
Mark: With that people looked at me differently. I remember going to a parent teacher conference where my son had obviously told his teacher I was an officer and the lady was a little freaked out by my appearance. But the best was a clerk in city hall. I applied for Sergeant after a few years in vice. The place where you get internal applications was way upstairs inside the building. I went up to the desk and said, I needed the application for police sergeant and the clerk looked at me and said, you do know you have to be a police officer first. I laughed and showed her my badge. She told me that I didn't look like any of the other applicants. I took it as a compliment.
Vice was different than working in property crimes because there, you pretty much work on your own cases and your partner might help you out sometimes.
In vice, the entire unit often works closely together. You might have a primary case officer, which was true in the Jerry Starr case, but everyone's working on it. Even if you're investigating something else, you're always on the lookout for information that might relate back to your major case.
Initially, there are four of us, we're all type A personalities, all thinking we knew the best way to go about things. We butted heads a little, but everyone was professional enough to understand that we all benefit by pulling in the same area. That being said, I never worked in a unit where there wasn't at least a little drama. I learned over the years, the remedy for drama is hard work, that is interesting where everybody is engaged in achieving this particular outcome. Under these conditions, very close ties are formed. You get to know people's strengths and weaknesses, and you learned to trust them and keep everyone safe.
Marcy: The Jerry Starr case was the focus for the vice unit from the very start, correct?
Mark: When I put in for the new unit, I didn't know Jerry Starr's name. Of course I knew about escort services and prostitution in general. I had dealt with commercial sex workers from time to time, but I really didn't know about the problem.
And most people don't.
Here's a quote from the late great comedian, George Carlin on prostitution. He said, selling is legal, fucking is legal. Why isn't it selling fucking legal? In the Army, they give you a metal for spraying napalm on people. Why can you get arrested for giving someone an orgasm?
This is the kind of attitude I got from my friends. Even one of your male coworkers said something to the effect, what's the big deal. And to be honest, that's what I thought initially. I knew the prostitutes knew a lot about what's happening in terms of street crimes. So there were useful in that respect, but mainly I pitied them. Think about it.
You're so desperate for money to buy your drug of choice. You're willing to perform a sex act, often putting your mouth on the penis of the next guy who comes down the street, no matter how vile he is. In the beginning, I kind of looked at prostitution, part of our mission as a sideshow to the street level drug enforcement.
Marcy: So what changed that?
Mark: I went to school. I mean, it sounds funny, but that's actually what happened. Wisely, the human trafficking grant pays for the education of investigators. It turned out to be half schooling, half indoctrination. I went to a conference at Northwestern in Chicago. A woman there was wearing a t-shirt that said something like "modern slavery is real. I was a slave". I thought cynically well, that's dramatic. The training there and at the national center for missing and exploited children and the conference we went to in Las Vegas and the violence against women act conference made me a believer. There was just so much information about human trafficking and how it's happening right under your noses and calling it slavery is not an exaggeration. When we were done with the courses and conferences and started to look around our city, we found it. Jerry Starr turned out to be low-hanging fruit. We found massage parlors with Chinese women working in them who after the establishments were raded, the women were just rotated out to massage parlors in another state. Some of these women are picked up off the street in China and sent to the U S with no knowledge that they're about to be prostituted.
Marcy: People have said prostitution is a victimless crime and in a perfect world, it should be legal.
Mark: Prior to working on the problem, I might've said the same thing, but this isn't a perfect world. And if prostitution was a great thing to get into the list of attributes that make a person at risk for prostitution, wouldn't all be negative.
Here's what makes a person more likely to, work as a commercial sex worker, low self esteem, drug, and alcohol abuse, or addiction, domestic abuse survivor, childhood victimization, mental health issues, naivete or teenage rebellion. And prostitution can't be looked at as a victimless crime as long as it is associated with all the crimes that are closely linked to it.
Like sexual assault, like simple assault, homicide, kidnapping, production distribution, possession of child pornography, distribution or possession of drugs, utilizing female human trafficking victims to mule drugs just like in the Boehm case, money laundering.
Marcy: You've talked about the dilemma of charging the crime of prostitution while also acknowledging that they're victims.
Mark: Yeah, it's a dilemma. In prostitution you're arresting someone, you know, is probably a victim or has been at some point. Some of these women are top echelon street predators, some have committed murders, robberies, felony assaults. That's true, but mostly they're just women and girls who, for reasons of poverty or domestic abuse, they've fallen prey to people who are skilled at recognizing and exploiting weakness.
Like I said earlier, street prostitution arrests are popular with the public who have to live around the track. They see the street crimes and find condoms and needles in the parks. But in the vice unit, the focus was always targeting the people who benefit from the problem
Marcy: To get to Jerry Starr you had to first go after those prostitutes that were working for him.
Mark: There were numerous multi-girl pimps working in Anchorage then. It turned out that Jerry Starr was the king of the call at services. We would set up in one of the several hotels and call out a woman.
Usually, we'd get two adjoining rooms or at least two rooms that are adjacent, and when the woman showed up, it went exactly as I described in the narrative. She would come in, look around, ask if you're a cop, then negotiate sex acts for a price.
Marcy: You've mentioned that these investigations are complicated. Can you talk about why?
Mark: These investigations, the prostitution, the street call it prostitution investigation that are not complicated, but human trafficking investigations are extremely complicated. The investigation's live or die on the victims, telling detectives what's happening, and they're often not cooperative. So you have two options. You can either scare them to try and get you, give you information. Which isn't the best way, or you can try to develop trust. And that is the best way. Part of that is offering that you can help them out of the life or put them somewhere where they can escape. Most sex workers don't like officers and have been conditioned not to cooperate. So trust can be difficult. They may also be afraid of police because of the crimes they've committed at the direction of the traffickers. For example, transporting drugs to dates. They may fear the police will arrest them for their own personal drug addictions. A lot of victims have mental health issues and have suffered complex traumas, so they can be difficult to communicate with for those reasons. A lot of them, maybe most of them don't have stable housing so it's hard to track them down after first contact. This matters because full victim disclosure usually requires multiple interviews.
To get the Jerry Starr case over the finish line, we had to manage the victims and witnesses and that was difficult. One of the things I learned in vice that would serve me well in subsequent assignments is you have to get help where it's offered. Police officers are often loath to admit they can't handle things on their own. This is why so many departments who espoused community-oriented policing don't really practice it. There's a place for discretion, the privacy and operational security. But I think too often, police hide behind these as an excuse, not to engage broader support. In the vice cases, there were charitable organizations and peer advocacy groups that helped with victim handling. These girls and ladies needed help. And the stronger you can make that net the better, of course, you have to be willing to break through the entrenched attitudes about cops, particularly with advocacy groups, but those attitudes are there because cops have done a crappy job at engaging. Each of the girls and women that cooperated and testified against are considered a save. And it's the team effort that got them out and kept them out while we're preparing for trial.
Marcy: Did they really believe you had to admit if you were a cop?
Mark: Yeah. I don't know where that came from, but they really believed it. Almost everyone I ever picked up said, you have to tell me if you're a cop.
After that question, the operations went like this: we'd negotiate for specific sex acts. Then she would usually go to the bathroom, maybe not the bathroom, but, or just call back to the service she was wearing for. The whole time, the rest of the team is listening for the take-down signal, which usually it's something funny, something that one of the other detectives dared the undercover guy to say. We'd pay for the sex act, and then say something crazy like, "oh, momma ain't gonna like this". Or once it was "Look! Flat Stanley." So then the rest of the team came rushing in to make the arrest. As the undercover, you try to get the deal as soon as possible, before any clothes come off. But there were cagey ladies who wanted to make sure you weren't a cop, so she would make you undress or she would undress. So sometimes the team came in on two, mostly naked, people. It was embarrassing, but also part of the job. Some of the games we played with each other, like making a detective, say a take-down signal signaling, " okay, now I'm going to free Willy". It was a good way to break the tension.
After the arrests we're all about the soft interview, trying to figure out how to break through the shell and get information about the pimp, his organization, and any other crimes she might know about. Sometimes we got nothing, but usually we could leverage information we already had to get her to say something.
Marcy: Did you ever have any that went really bad?
Mark: No, I don't really remember any that went horrible; sometimes the ladies were really pissed, but usually it went off without a hitch. I was always worried we'd get somebody who wanted to rob or kill a John, but mostly, that's a concern for street pickups.
One time I picked up a lady in the mountain view neighborhood. It was early evening, still bright sunlight. I only had one detective following in a cover car. The lady I picked up was in her mid thirties and rail thin. She immediately made a deal oral sex for 50 bucks. And I thought, well, you know, that's easy. I told her I was going to park over by the elementary school. And it was about a mile away. We were on Mountain View Drive, which was a busy roadway. I guess she must have felt really comfortable because as I started driving, she suddenly whipped out a rock pipe and lit up. I was suddenly shocked and angry. I was worried I was gonna, breathe in some Coke smoke. So I whipped the car up on the curb and yelled, "no smoking in here" and I grabbed both of her hands, the crack pipe and the lighter in my right fist. I have big hands. She immediately is trying to pull away, screaming. I was able to control everything, and then she tries to bite me on the back of my arm. When I got the vehicle stopped and now I had a free left hand, I had to pin her head against the headrest to keep her stable. When Detective Torres ran up and opened the passenger door, it must look like a game of twister going on in my car.
Marcy: Is there always a pimp?
Mark: In my experience, yes. I know there's stories about women who do it alone, particularly in the age of internet prostitution, but the same dynamics exist online is on the street. I'm sure there are men combing those ads out there trying to the intercept, those women. We arrested woman at a very upscale downtown hotel once who convinced us that she was working alone. She seemed open. She gave us information more quickly than they usually did. So we shrugged and logged her away as an anomaly. Well, a few weeks later, we received a recording from Spring Creek, the Alaska prison down in Seward. It was a telephone audio. They tape all their conversations. And it was the same woman talking to her pimp in unmistakable submissive language. Just like we heard in training, he was saying things like, " bitch, you better be setting aside all that money for me." and "if I find out you're talking to another motherfucker", she was crying saying, "yes, daddy" "no daddy". "I'm being your good little girl, daddy". This surprised us. There are lots of women who refused to give us details, but we never found one that we thought was really a solo operator.
Marcy: Did you have pimps show up, looking for women that you arrested in the hotels that you were at?
Mark: That's where that part of the narrative came from. We would make the arrest and do the interview. After a period of time, the room phone would typically ring we would either answer it and deny knowing anything about it at all, or just not answer. One time a man showed up. When the detective opened a door crack and said, the woman wasn't there, the guy forced his way in. Boy, was he surprised to see the rest of the team waiting inside. Another guy showed up carrying a steel pipe.
One of the things that was intimidating at first, but I liked it over time was a working undercover, was unpredictable. And that made you think on your feet. One time. I picked up a particularly rough looking lady on Spenard road. I mean, she looked and smelled like she had been sleeping in a dumpster. She was carrying a newly purchased 40 ounce beer. She got in and I drove to a vacant lot nearby. She refused to make an immediate deal with me and said, I can prove I'm not a cop by drinking with her. Call me paranoid, but I did not want my lips to follow her lips onto that beer bottle. So I snatched it from her, opened it and proceeded to chug about 20 ounces of beer in 20 seconds. I got the response I wanted. She yelled, Hey, don't drink all my beer. So I handed her back the half empty beer and satisfied, she made the deal. When she was arrested, she complained bitterly that a cop shouldn't be able to drink on duty. Luckily, we were exempt from the city ordinance while we're on an operation, but one of the guys in the cover car had to drive me around the rest of the night.
And while we were learning from the women, they were learning from us. When they were arrested, they would watch the aftermath of the arrest. All of the detectives had matching fabric tool bags that we would download our gear into when it was our turn to be undercover. We put these bags behind the passenger seat so we could reach them fast in an emergency. Well, one day one of the detectives picked up a woman and she looked behind the seat and recognize the bag. Oh, It was over. Another time the undercover detective was wearing his badge on a lanyard around his neck. The woman made like she was going to rub his chest. She said, what's this under your shirt? He said, that's my medallion, baby. Yeah, it didn't work.
Marcy: I am completely confused about the bottom bitch. Can you explain Ambers role as bottom bitch?
Mark: The highest ranking woman in the group or family is actually referred to as a bottom bitch. The reasons unclear. The one I've heard is the one that was in the narrative. She's the most down with the pimp, which kind of sounds silly. In the narrative, Amber is the bottom bitch and she functioned as a snitch and enforcer. This is a real dynamic that goes on and it's fostered by the pimp. He wants them to struggle to one up, one another in their worship of him. To me, it always seemed like a cult.
Marcy: What about the sisters in the story working in that same group?
Mark: Yeah, the sisters are based on a real pair who in their heyday were top echelon street hustlers. One died because along with heroin, she injected bacteria that ate part of her heart. The other alleged that she was groped and propositioned by an on-duty officer. So I was involved in setting up an operation and caught him on film doing it. It's not something any investigator enjoys doing, but if you want a department that has good reputation, you have to eat your own when it's necessary. I was pulled into a couple of investigations against officers, and I hated everything about it, except that we rid the department and the city of an officer who is a liability to everyone.
Marcy: What was the inspiration for Mary's attack in the story?
Mark: I went to an assault victim who was a streetwalker picked up in the neighborhood nearby where it happened. And she was dumped on the north side of the JC penny warehouse. For those of you familiar with Anchorage, it's like the 3,300 block of Arctic Boulevard. And now that I think about it, it's less than a block away from the shack where Della Brown was killed. This woman was beaten worse than anyone I ever saw who lived. The guy made a deal with her, for sex and for no obvious reason started wailing on her. She gave enough information to identify him. And we caught him that morning. The working theory based on what he said to the victim was that he was angry at another woman and took it out on her. But assaults on commercial sex workers are common. In the narrative, Mary lists, a bunch of things she had refused to do. That came from a real conversation I had with a woman. And that woman wasn't unique. Every woman who does this kind of work has experienced the worst in men.
Marcy: So with the search warrants, did you search all of Jerry Starr's houses?
Mark: Yes, we didn't hit them all in the same day. If I remember correctly, we had a couple of the places where he was keeping the girls first. I remember one of them was like a condo apartment and I was surprised by how bare it was. It had a bunch of beds. I thought at the time, this is where Jerry's warehouse, where he keeps a commodity. Later, as the investigation was coming to a close, we hit Jerry's house. I think it was his primary residence on Thunderbird drive. We hit a couple of others on the same day. The box was an important discovery because it corroborated a horrifying story that the victims were telling. I don't have claustrophobia, but I can tell you, I was freaked out with the idea of spending days locked in what looked like a glorified cabinet.
Marcy: And what about the fetus in the briefcase?
Mark: Yeah. Uh, the fetus of briefcase was found by Detective Baker. He called me. Mark! I found a fetus in a briefcase. At the time. I thought that may be the first time anyone has said those words in that particular order ever.
So we talked to the victims about that and were told that the women working for Starr regularly got pregnant and often gave birth prematurely. My medical advisor says it's probably because of the cocaine. These women didn't get prenatal care. They were forbidden from going to the hospital, even if they had been allowed, many of them would not have gone to the hospital because they were drug addicts.
So according to the women, the ones that would talk about it, Jerry took the fetuses and buried them around his property. Think about it. Along this topic, I later found out that the many prostitutes never go to the hospital or have any professional care when they get pregnant. This is because they fear repercussions of a drug test.
I learned that the woman who took me to Della Brown's body, I called her Katie, was widely accepted, and this is their term, as the ho midwife. She had apparently achieved some level of renowned for her skill.
Marcy: You said in the Boehm episode that you would have more to say about the torso murders?
Mark: Yes. Here's a piece of an America's Most Wanted interview with the lead homicide detective in the torso murders. It reads during their investigation of the Desiree Lekanoff /Michelle Roth case, Anchorage detectives told AMW they came across least five other names of women who had turned up missing an Anchorage between 1993 and 2001: Tracy Vinson, Jerry Brambles, Kelly Dunn, Robin van Sickle, and Samantha Kent had all vanished without a trace. Cops think they could all be connected by Anchorage's underground world of sex and drugs. Quote. We don't know that they're connected to Michelle or Dessiree, and we're not assuming that, Detective Ratcliffe said, And we're not assuming that they're not connected. Some of these women could have cleaned up their life, possibly changed their name.
Both Israeli and often Michelle Roth worked for Jerry Starr. Among the photos in the cache we found at Starr's house were pictures of both women. Another woman who wasn't mentioned in the AMW article, Sierra Roberts was 25 when she disappeared. She lived with Roth at Jerry's Thunderbird house.
We were never able to find anyone who admitted direct knowledge of what happened to those missing or murdered. I think the timing of the torso murders, which coincided with the Boehm and Allen investigations is suspicious, Allen was being blackmailed about his involvement with the same girl that was caught up in the Boehm case. Is there a connection? I think possibly. The torso victims were discovered in 2003. In 2007, as the Jerry Starr case was wrapping up the rumors about what had happened four years prior was almost folklore on the streets of Anchorage. So many rumors were swirling around that was almost impossible to cut through them.
Marcy: What effect do you think putting Jerry Starr in prison for 30 years has had on the prostitution scene in Anchorage?
Mark: I think it definitely had a deterrent effect. When we started there had been no real enforcement for years. Starr had a large organization. He wasn't really concerned about repercussions. These guys really thought that the, are you a cop and you're paying for time and company bullshit was going to protect them.
Pimps certainly think that their power over the women is so strong they wouldn't dare speak out. Jerry Starr found out how weak that sounds in full daylight, inside the courthouse. So I think this case and a couple others like it, that happened after sent a strong message of deterrence.
Marcy: So is human trafficking that big of a problem?
Mark: According to the U S department of justice, federally funded task forces on human trafficking open over 2,500 investigations on human trafficking annually. 82% of the incidents reported involve sex trafficking. 11% involve labor trafficking and 7% unknown. 83% of the victims of sex trafficking incidents are US citizens. The estimate of how many children are at risk for commercial sex exploitation in the U S is about a quarter million. So a quarter million kids in the U S and people hear those statistics and think it has to be happening elsewhere. While prostitution as a business occurring everywhere. And child prostitution is just a smaller subset of that business.
Marcy: We're going to link in the show notes to an excellent article by a woman who eventually got out of the game and is now dedicated to helping others. She put it this way, if prostitution is okay then why aren't you recommending it as a career path for your sisters or your daughters?
And I thought that summed it up pretty beautifully.
Mark: if you have a question about police procedure, that you want me to talk about, or I have an interesting case you'd like me to cover. Please email me.
Marcy: Thank you for listening to us. If you haven't already please subscribe. So you don't miss an episode and recommend us to your friends. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our website at crime raven.com. Crime Raven with Mark Rein and Marcy Rein is also produced by us and Ethan Rein and is a 3 little birds LLC production.