Woman Who Laundered Over $2 Million for International ‘Child Modeling’ Websites Sentenced to More Than Five Years in Federal Prison

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A Florida woman was sentenced today to five years and three months in prison for engaging in a money laundering scheme in connection with an international, subscription-based, sexually-exploitative enterprise based in Florida that operated “child modeling” websites. As part of her sentence, the court also ordered her to forfeit $236,410.70.

Patrice Eileen Wilowski-Mevorah, 53, of Tampa, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering on July 6. According to court documents, Wilowski-Mevorah laundered at least $2.3 million for the company known as Newstar Enterprise, which operated for-profit websites (the Newstar Websites) depicting sexual exploitation of vulnerable children under the guise of “child modeling.”

According to court documents, Wilowski-Mevorah joined the Newstar Enterprise around 2009 and fraudulently opened payment-processing and bank accounts under the pretense of a phony jewelry company. For 10 years, she routinely used the phony company’s accounts to conceal criminal proceeds from the Newstar Websites and transfer those proceeds back to principal members of the Newstar Enterprise. Wilowski-Mevorah continued to launder money for the enterprise until November 2019, when law enforcement authorities executed several search warrants across the United States and simultaneously seized the Newstar websites’ servers in the United States and Europe. Law enforcement officers then disabled the servers hosting the Newstar Websites.

Founded around 2005, the Newstar Enterprise built, maintained, hosted, and operated the Newstar Websites on servers in the United States and abroad. To populate website content, Newstar Enterprise members sourced, enticed, solicited, and recruited males and females under the age of 18, some of whom were prepubescent, to use as “child models.” Using the recruited child-victims, the Newstar Enterprise produced more than 4.6 million sexualized images and videos to distribute and sell on their websites. Some of those images and videos, though non-nude, depicted minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. For example, images and videos sold on the Newstar Websites depicted children as young as 6 years old in sexual and provocative poses, wearing police and cheerleader costumes, thong underwear, transparent underwear, revealing swimsuits, pantyhose, and miniskirts. Most of the child-victims – recruited from Ukraine, Moldova, and other nations in Eastern Europe – were particularly vulnerable due to their age, family dynamics, and poverty.

The Newstar Enterprise maintained a membership list for subscribers and customers who originated from 101 countries. Images in the websites’ galleries were freely available to the public to preview, but greater access and more content required purchasing a subscription. The sale of purported “child modeling” content on the Newstar Websites generated more than $9.4 million during the course of the conspiracy. To process, receive, and distribute this money, Newstar Enterprise members fraudulently opened merchant and bank accounts in the United States and laundered proceeds using the bogus company. 

The defendants have also been notified that the United States intends to forfeit a total of $9.4 million, which are alleged to be traceable to proceeds of the offenses, in addition to real property located in Florida.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Karin Hoppmann for the Middle District of Florida; and Special Agent in Charge John Condon of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa made the announcement.

HSI Tampa and the High Technology Investigative Unit of the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) investigated the case, with substantial assistance provided by HSI offices in Fort Lauderdale, Athens, the Hague, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Tacoma; U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Sofia, Bulgaria; IRS-Criminal Investigation in Tampa; and the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS).

This investigation benefited from foreign law enforcement cooperation and substantial assistance by the Republic of Bulgaria, Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office and National Investigation Service; the Republic of Moldova, Office of the Prosecutor General and National Inspectorate of Investigations; International Legal Assistance Center (IRC), North-Holland Unit; the Czech Republic, Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office, Czech Police and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs. The Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) provided technical assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Murray of the Middle District of Florida and Trial Attorney Kyle Reynolds of CEOS are prosecuting these cases.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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California Senator Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 357, is an example of legislation proposed with no consideration of its unintended consequences

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While it considers one group of victims, its shortsightedness overlooks another group of victims, also in need of protection.

The name given the bill itself is a grossly inaccurate description of the long-term effects of the legislation. While it is well-meaning, it overlooks the reality of the world we live in, a world where sex trafficking continues to be a plague on all societies. While I agree that concerns for police harassment of women/men in prostitution on public streets is a merited discussion, the implications of this bill and the permanent harm incurred among victims of human trafficking is far more devastating to both the victims and their families.

The bill will help “end discrimination against and violence toward sex workers, especially the most targeted communities — trans, Black, and Brown people,” The Senator offers support from some progressive groups and anecdotal evidence but offers absolutely no proof this will do as promised. We ask you to consider the long-term ramifications of removing the ability for law enforcement to control sex sales in public spaces. The legislation is a political effort to make its sponsor and the groups that support him feel they’ve protected those who need protection. But while this is done to benefit one group, it simultaneously diminishes the safeguards for another.

This act is a step down a slippery slope that we suspect will lead to further legislation to eliminate prosecution of women/men in prostitution. There are claims that this type of legislation removes trafficked victims’ fears of speaking to law enforcement. No prosecution for loitering means the police will not be feared. Instead, the police become someone to turn to for help in escaping from a pimp, or so the argument goes. This explanation is clearly a pipe dream, a complete misinterpretation of the nature of the crime and the people involved.

The Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition has fought for years to protect victims of all types of trafficking no matter who they might be. We can honestly say, check our record, see what we have done, see what we are doing. Our executive director, our board president, our entire board, oppose this legislation because it is based on only a partial picture of what is happening in our society.  Wiener says most of those harassed by the police are minorities. But the sad truth is minorities are often the primary source for slave labor, the root cause for this lies in the inequities in our society, not in police misconduct.

While Wiener and the supporters for this legislation speak loudly about how unfair the police are and how women/ men /in prostitution they represent are treated poorly, we ask who is speaking out for the victims of trafficking? Where is the legislation to increase funding for better educating the police about the treatment of sex workers and for more resources to pursue the real criminals?

We ask your help in stopping this legislation. History has shown that legislative efforts like banning abortion on moral grounds and prohibition of liquor can lead to unintended consequences. This legislation represents a law the People of California will come to regret.

 A study that is documented regarding sex workers and where the truth lies:
http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/pdf/Prostitutionin9Countries.pdf

Please consider our plea-
Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition
Marisa Ugarte, Executive Director,
Anne Hoiberg, President
The Board of the BSCC

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U.S. Foreign Service Member Indicted for Engaging in Illicit Sexual Conduct in the Philippines and Possession of Child Pornography

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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, August 3, 2021

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an indictment today charging a member of the U.S. Foreign Service with engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and possession of child pornography.

According to the indictment and court documents, Dean Cheves, 61, was a member of the U.S. Foreign Service serving at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines between September 2020 and February 2021. While in the Philippines, Cheves allegedly met a 16-year-old online. Court documents further detail that Cheves allegedly engaged in sexual activity with the minor on two occasions, knowing the minor’s age, and produced cell phone videos of himself engaging in the sex acts each time. The videos were found on Cheves’s devices seized from his embassy residence while in the Philippines. Between February 2021 and March 2021, he also allegedly possessed child pornography.

Cheves is charged with one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and one count of possessing child pornography in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States or on lands owned or leased by the United States. Cheves previously made his initial court appearance on July 6 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ivan D. Davis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison on count one, and up to 10 years in prison on count two. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia made the announcement and Assistant Director for Domestic Operations Mark Sullo of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service made the announcement.

The State Department, Diplomatic Security Service, is investigating the case.

Trial Attorney Gwendelynn Bills of the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Pomerantz Halper of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Courtesy of The United States Department of Justice, follow link below for full announcement.

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-foreign-service-member-indicted-engaging-illicit-sexual-conduct-philippines-and-possession

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Prostitution operates at all hours near Naval Base San Diego

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Business owners said illegal sex activity picks up on military paydays.

SAN DIEGO — Business owners along Main Street near Naval Base San Diego in Barrio Logan are fed up with alleged prostitution in their neighborhood. Click here to watch the full news clip.

Streetwalkers and johns appear to be hooking up at all hours of the day on side streets, including Dalbergia Street at Vesta Street near the navy base entrance.

“This part of town just isn’t America’s finest city,” said Nelson Sanabria, a business owner along Dalbergia Street.

“Everyday, girls back and forth, back and forth. Guys coming to pick up all the time,” said Sanabria.

News 8 spent one afternoon recording video of activity in the area: streetwalkers flagging down cars, talking to johns, getting into vehicles and driving away.

Other business owners shared video of prostitution taking place in broad daylight, all-out brawls in the street, and lewd acts in public.

“You see people having sex here on the street, and you cannot do much.  I mean you say, ‘Oh my gosh again?’” said Sanabria.

San Diego police are certainly aware of the activity.  Cell phone video showed a streetwalker getting into a truck, right before a police cruiser pulls up behind her. The male driver sees the officers and it doesn’t take long for the woman to hop out of the car and walk away.

“There’s no respect for people driving cars.  If you’re coming down the street, they will block your way,” said one business owner who asked to remain anonymous.

He said customers have refused to come into his business because of prostitution activity on the street.

“They have certain people working in the morning, the noon, the afternoon.  I know that sounds like it can’t be true, but it is absolutely true,” the business owner said.

The acting lieutenant of the San Diego police vice unit told News 8 that officers have issued several misdemeanor citations in the area as part of a three-month operation aimed at cleaning up the neighborhood.

But it doesn’t appear to be working.

“They say they can’t do anything unless they catch them in the act. That’s just the old story,” said the business owner.

News 8 approached one of the women on the street but she did not want to be interviewed.

Some business owners told News 8, the johns appear to be coming from Naval Base San Diego (also known as 32nd Street Naval Station) right across Main Street.

They said the problem seems to get worse on military paydays.

“I heard they’re charging $150, 100 bucks, whatever. They’re giving it away,” said Sanabria.

U.S. Navy spokesperson Brian O’Rourke emailed News 8 the following written statement:

“The solicitation of prostitution and human trafficking are clear violations of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and contrary to the Navy’s core values. We take these issues very seriously, Navy-wide and in San Diego. The Navy conducts mandatory annual training for every sailor on the significant risk trafficking poses for victims and the legal and professional consequences faced by those who participate in such activities.”

District 8, San Diego City Councilmember Vivian Moreno issued the following statement to News 8:

“My staff immediately contacted the San Diego Police Department upon receiving the first complaints in 2019 regarding the prostitution activity occurring near Dalbergia Street. The increase in activity poses a public safety risk to our communities, and my staff is in constant communication with SDPD’s Central Division regarding this matter. I encourage any residents who are impacted by this activity to contact my office.”

Watch Related: Advocates sound the alarm about human trafficking, prostitution in National City (May 2021)

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BSCC 20th Anniversary

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The 20th anniversary celebration of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition at the EastLake-Torrey Pines Church was an unqualified success. There were moments to celebrate and moments to reflect upon.

Among them:

The introduction of a sweet, 3-year-old boy who is the BSCC’s “grandchild,” whose  mother is a victim of trafficking.

A warm thank you to a long- time friend of BSCC, Chris Tenorio, who is going to Washington,D.C. as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice.
 NBC7 anchor Monica Dean was honored for “Stolen,: her breakthrough series on trafficking.
NBC7 anchor Monica Dean was honored for “Stolen,: her breakthrough series on trafficking.

President of BSCC’s  Board of Directors Anne Hoiberg, one of the originating founders of the organization, kicked off the celebration with a welcome to the event’s moderator and hostess, San Diego County’s District Attorney Summer Stephen.

Stephan is a long-time leader in the fight against trafficking. In her opening remarks, Stephan noted that the pandemic led to an increase in trafficking of children—more so than of adults.

A frightening reality surfaced in that predators saw the pandemic as providing a perfect set of conditions where “our kids were spending more time on their tablets, on phones at home, unsupervised.” She explained that predators “saw an opportunity to come in and really escalate their exploitation and human trafficking activities against our children.”  She mentioned a recent case of a 13-year- old recruited and befriended through an online game. The police received an earlier ”heads-up” and rescued the girl. 

Said Stephan,

“We need to do better as we come out of this pandemic; we need to build the resiliency in our children to fight sex trafficking, human trafficking; we need to tell them the truth about what is happening across their devices, they’re smart; we need to trust them with real information, rather than stay stuck in the past.”

She cautioned that just warning children of ”stranger danger” is not going to get the job done these days.  

She also believes the community is not fully aware of the depth of the problem, the serious nature of labor trafficking. From a law enforcement perspective she said, “Labor trafficking is even tougher than sex trafficking to fight.” 

BSCC Executive Director Marisa Ugarte concurred and stated that labor trafficking is a major focus of concern for the organization.  In fact, BSCC is one of the leading NGOs in this battle to stop indentured servitude, massage parlor crime, and other forms of labor trafficking.

“This is a serious crime against people who may not know they have rights nor understand what they can do to protect themselves from abuse.”

Paul Chang from the United States Department of Labor received an Angel Award for his agency’s work in exposing and helping bring prosecutions against traffickers.  He said it was vital that the public and nonprofits like BSCC advocate for more resources to fight the labor crimes because “labor trafficking involves hundreds, if not thousands, of victims at a time when there is no venue to take care of the victims.”  He says there is not an infrastructure in place to handle the victims. “It’s up to you, in the community, to advocate for those types of resources” in order to prosecute the criminals involved. He accepted the Angel Award on behalf of his staff and investigators who “work tirelessly” to pursue labor traffickers.

A special award was given to Chris Tenorio, who for more than 20 years was instrumental in providing the founders of the BSCC a game plan to attack trafficking.  It was his insightfulness about trafficking that helped our organization create an impactful game plan to attack the problem.  And it’s his work for the Department of Justice that has made him one of the most respected and knowledgeable prosecutors of trafficking in the country. 

“Chris has has been a tireless advocate for victims,” said San Diego’s U.S. Attorney 

Randy Grossman in his introduction of Tenorio.  He spoke of the years of exemplary service he’s provided in San Diego. And he told the audience that Tenorio has received the highest honor the department offered attorneys, the John Marshall Award, “for extraordinary contributions to the enforcement of our nation’s laws.”

Tenorio was rewarded with loud applause as well his Angel Award as he recalled the path he had taken. He recalled how years earlier his career course was set in a prosecution in South Florida which involved the largest number of individuals in a slavery case up to that time. It involved “the recruitment of young women and girls from Mexico with promises of being maids and nannies if they come to the United States. And then when they were brought here, they were forced into prostitution.”  His efforts helped lead to the federal trafficking act of 2000, signed by former President Bill Clinton and other presidents would continue to extend the act. The bill provided for the first time legal protections for victims of severe forms of trafficking and violence.

He has led efforts across the county and the nation to recognize the inherent criminality of trafficking. Tenorio mentioned that it wasn’t always an easy sell in the early days.

“People would brush us off and say, well, yeah, that’s alien smuggling. It’s like no, it’s not even, this is something different. These are people who are being compelled, being coerced, being forced. And that force isn’t always physical, it could be psychological. And sometimes that’s even harder to prove—it has a harder grip on what they do.” 

He says he never forgets “the real difficult things here are those victims that come forward and have to overcome what they’ve been through.” 

Anchor Monica Dean thanked the BSCC for the recognition but she also thanked the victims of the crime to help her tell the story to San Diego. ”I’m incredibly grateful to survivors, those who have lived the experience, who shared their story and their hearts with me.”

BSCC thanks the EastLake Church for the beautiful venue and its partnership that provides the funding to establish and maintain “a safe house for victims of human trafficking, where they are provided a safe and secure environment as well as counseling, training, and encouragement.”

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