Maloney’s Human Trafficking Fraud Enforcement Act
Published on March 26, 2014 in the Queens Gazette
On March 22, Congressmember Carolyn B. Maloney and several advocates were joined outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan by Shandra Woworuntu, a courageous and inspiring survivor of sex trafficking, who told her story in support of Maloney’s Human Trafficking Fraud Enforcement Act of 2014. The bill would give the IRS more funding and resources to go after pimps and traffickers for taxable income, as well as provide financial assistance and whistleblower protections to survivors.
“We must use every tool at our disposal to crack down on the underground commercial sex economy,” said Maloney. “This illegal industry is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. While Shandra, an inspiration to all of us, was able to escape her trafficker, who was later imprisoned, she struggled financially for a significant amount of time, as no compensation was ever provided to her. This bill would not only sic the IRS on traffickers and pimps, it would also provide financial assistance and protections to survivors. The bottom line is: We can use the IRS to follow the money and catch the perpetrators. That’s how we got Al Capone, and that’s how we’ll catch the purveyors of modern day slavery. It’s time we give law enforcement new tools to stop these horrific crimes.”
“I want to thank Rep. Maloney for introducing this important bill. While I am happy now, leading a life providing support and education for survivors and the public, I struggled for a while after escaping my trafficker. My trafficker was eventually put in jail, but I never received any money and was at a point where I was homeless, before I got help and got back on my feet. This bill is a good thing because it would redistribute that money to survivors,” said Woworuntu.
Woworuntu is originally from Indonesia. She is college educated and worked as a financial analyst in her home country, until political instability and racial persecution caused her to lose her job, according to her biography. She came to the United States in 2001 under the impression that she would be taking a hospitality job in Chicago. Woworuntu never made it to Chicago. Instead, she was kidnapped at JFK Airport, had her passport stolen and was forced into sex slavery in the New York tri-state area for almost a year. Eventually she escaped her trafficker by climbing out a bathroom window in Brooklyn. Although she was free of her trafficker, and he was eventually imprisoned, Woworuntu said that she struggled financially after breaking free. At several points she was homeless. Eventually, with the help of the nonprofit Safe Horizon, Woworuntu was able to get back on her feet and be reunited with her daughter. Woworuntu lives in Elmhurst, with her two daughters and works as a public speaker, community activist and is involved in a number of social service efforts.
Maloney’s Human Trafficking Fraud Enforcement Act would:
Authorize $4 million to establish an office within the IRS to prosecute sex traffickers for violations of tax laws. The new IRS office would coordinate closely with existing sex trafficking task forces in theDepartment of Justice.
Impose stiffer penalties – including fines of up to $50,000 and jail sentences of up to 10 years – for traffickers who fail to file tax returns, supply tax information, or pay taxes.
Establish a new felony offense for “aggravated failure to file” in cases where income or payments are derived from criminal activities.
Designate the victims of criminal sex traffickers as whistleblowers and allow them to collect up to 15 percent of the fines levied against their abusers.
For more than a decade, Maloney has worked to combat human trafficking internationally, nationally, and in her New York City districts. She was a strong advocate for the original landmark anti-trafficking law, enacted in 2000, and each reauthorization bill since then. These laws helped make the United States a leader in combating the worldwide affliction of human trafficking. The reauthorization bill enacted in 2006 incorporates key provisions of the “End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act” championed by Maloney and former Congressmember Deborah Pryce (R-OH).
Maloney co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking with Congressmember Chris Smith(R-NJ) and co-chairs the Trafficking Task Force of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues with Congressmember Ann Wagner (RMO).
“Pimps and traffickers not only brutalize their victims physically and psychologically. They deceive and defraud them and leave them destitute. Congresswoman Maloney’s bill holds these criminals accountable for their economic abuse of their victims and offers the possibility of economic redress,” said Dorchen Leidholdt, of Sanctuary for Families.
“Restore NYC helps many survivors of sex trafficking right here in our own backyard. This bill represents an important step in providing economic justice for some of the most exploited women in our great country,” said Jimmy Lee, executive director of Restore NYC.
“Sex trafficking is a lucrative business. The pimp tax bill attacks the business model behind human trafficking, a $99 billion industry. We need more strategic interventions like this bill that increases the risk of people who profit from the exploitation of lives,” said Diana Mao, of Nomi Network.
“Carolyn Maloney has been a longtime champion for survivors of sex trafficking and the commercial sex trade, working to ensure that traffickers are brought to justice,” said Lauren Hersh, of Equality Now.