Florida has local human trafficking task forces in each of its sixty-seven counties.
The crime’s statistics have been precipitous; having a very steep ascent year after year.
Over the past seven years total cases have risen from a reported 931 contacts in 2012 to 1885 ending 2018; more than double.
All annual statistics can be found on Florida’s humantraffickinghotline.org website.
In this shady underbelly of society, criminals find ways to exploit those with severe challenges in their lives and those who have lost hope and are looking for a better path forward.
In many cases traps are set at airports, bus stations and other points of travel, in some cases, operated by now willing or brainwashed recruited participants who have previously been caught up in this web of deceit.
It was outside a local nightclub in Broward County when one of these lost souls encountered a woman who seemed more than happy to engage her with conversation. The young female victim to be opened herself up telling the stranger a story about a dysfunctional home and other difficulties she’d recently faced. She explained that she was recuperating from heroin addiction, had little money, and really didn’t know how she’d move forward with her life.
The conversation continued for a while as the stranger listened intently to her story, hardly saying a word yet appearing to befriend this outwardly broken girl. As the conversation wound down, the woman told her new younger friend that she thought she might be able to help with the aid of a man she knew for quite a long time.
Less than a week after the initial exchange with the young woman the older of the two introduced her to William Foster at a Fort Lauderdale strip club, late last August.
After a lengthy discussion with Foster, he was able to convince her to pack up all her belongings and go with him offering her temporary assistance until she was able to get back on her feet. Lost and confused it was that same night she packed up everything she owned and went with Foster to one of the three South Florida homes that he owned. Foster suggested he would save her.
But that’s not what happened.
After assuring her an opportunity to make a good living, be able to attain a fancy car as well as be provided with a luxury wardrobe, he was able to turn her out into a life of performing sex for pay.
The woman who introduced the young woman to him was Ashleigh Holloway, who turned out to be one of Foster’s principal recruiters. She had been working for Foster for many years. This latest victim wasn’t the first fish she pulled out of the sea. In addition to Holloway, Hanah Chan was Foster’s other top recruiter and both apparently played a large part in his illegal enterprise.
Foster had allegedly been running a sex trafficking ring for most of the twenty-first century.
In 2014 he opened a non-profit organization which he ironically named Foster’s Care. Records show the company claimed to provide free counseling, social services, education and shelter for young adults and youth in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The business itself formally dissolved sometime during 2015, but investigators argue he was still running the entity online as a new website advertising the venture popped up soon after its dissolution, displaying Foster’s personal phone number on the site’s Contact page”.
Within the website’s text pages it was asserted that the service assured “a comprehensive restoration program for victims of Human Sex Trafficking,” and “protection in partnership with police and FBI.”
Investigators discovered Foster had been running a human trafficking ring for at least fifteen years, housing between five and fifteen females at a time, living with him and working as prostitutes at any specified time during that timeframe, according to the criminal complaint.
When detectives interviewed the victims that were present, they were told that Foster engaged in sexual relations with them after they were first recruited; when the young girls still were minors.
One of the victims told police investigators that she was recruited out of high school while living in a legitimate foster home. She confessed that Foster told her the best places to recruit young women and minors was from group homes like where she was housed, shelters, and exotic dance clubs. He told her this was because the young women found at these locations were the most vulnerable and in need of the greatest help.
Foster lived an extravagant lifestyle, owning three beautiful homes and flashy sports cars. He encouraged the recruited women to work hard to make a lot of money in order to accomplish the lifestyle that he promised them.
Foster was arrested last month by the FBI on the federal charges of two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, one count of sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud, or coercion, and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
Hanah Chan and Ashleigh Holloway who were known as his “main girls” were also arrested by the FBI on similar charges.
Foster had been under the FBI’s investigative watchful eye in the past. Late in the last century, he was charged with soliciting minors to engage in prostitution in New Jersey, according to court documents. Those charges were later dropped.
This story has so much more interesting content to pass on that I decided to be continue it in my first blog post of 2020 next month.
Happy New Year and please check back for the conclusion of this story in January, 2020.
Michael B. Cohen, Esq. is a Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney whose expertise in cases of human trafficking and sexual misconduct is extensive. As a former Assistant State Attorney for Broward County, and an Assistant United States Attorney for the government, Mr. Cohen clients receive the best sought possible outcome refuting any charges alleged by the State of Florida or the Federal Government. Working for the prosecution prior to founding his criminal defense practice in the private sector has given him a superior advantage that will result beneficially for those who seek his help. If you, a family member or close friend is charged with any type of the above referenced crimes, call Mr. Cohen at the earliest possible time for a free case evaluation.