Monday, November 8, 2010
Somali gangs and prostitution in Minnesota
Twenty-nine people have been indicted in a sex trafficking ring in which Somali gangs in Minneapolis and St. Paul allegedly forced girls under age 14 into prostitution in Minnesota, Tennessee and Ohio, according to a recently unsealed indictment. The 24-count indictment, unsealed in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee, said one of the gangs' goals was recruiting females under age 18, including some under age 14, and forcing them into prostitution so the defendants could get money, marijuana or liquor. The indictment details several instances in which young Somali or African American girls were taken from place to place and forced to engage in sex acts with multiple people. One girl was under 13 when she was first prostituted. Another girl was 18 when she was raped by multiple men in a hotel room, the indictment said. The indictment claims the ring involved three Minneapolis-based gangs - the Somali Outlaws, the Somali Mafia and the Lady Outlaws - and that all three gangs are connected. The men and women charged were either gang members or associates of the gangs, the indictment said. They range in age from 19 to 38. The indictment says the sex trafficking ring operated for 10 years, with the defendants recruiting young girls to engage in sex acts. Jerry Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said the defendants traveled back and forth easily between Nashville and St. Paul, and some may have been related. Both cities, as well as Columbus, have large Somali refugee populations. Along with sex trafficking, the indictment charges some of the defendants with conspiring to obstruct the investigation by lying to a federal grand jury. It also alleges some stole a motor vehicle, committed burglaries, and engaged in credit card fraud - causing one credit card company to lose $231,000 over a one-year period.