Eight Sentenced In Human Trafficking Ring In OKC, Tulsa
OKLAHOMA CITY - Using poker chips to gamble with women's lives and forcing them to have sex against their will. That's the racket some Mexican nationals are accused of running right here in Oklahoma City and in Tulsa.
A judge has sentenced eight people for human trafficking. Federal agents called it "Operation Poker chip" because these sex traffickers would actually sell poker chips to their male clients.
Those clients would then use the poker chips as a way to pick out a girl, and then pay for sex.
The suspects' operation spanned four states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee.
"They'd move these girls on a daily basis," said Danny Williams with the U.S. Attorney's Northern District office in Tulsa. " So sometimes, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack."
One of their victims who managed to escape says she was smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico eight years ago. She arrived in Atlanta and was beaten, threatened, and forced into prostitution. She claims she was trafficked in at least 10 other states, including Oklahoma.
She used a black shoe as a way to alert authorities to where she was being held against her will.
A year ago, we exposed how a group of low level sex traffickers got busted, after one of them admitted to running a house of prostitution out of two apartment complexes in southwest Oklahoma City, one of which was near S.W. 59th and Harvey.
"I think that's kind of scary," said Carla Grey, who lived in an apartment upstairs and says she was shocked to learn what was happening behind closed doors.
Carla Grey lived in an apartment upstairs and says she was shocked to learn what was happening behind closed doors.
Major Leisa Hall is with the Salvation Army and heads up the local human trafficking task force awareness committee, and says human trafficking can take place anywhere.
"It's here in OKC and Tulsa, small towns in between," said Hall. "And the shocking thing for most people is that could be my neighbor."
Experts say there is a way you can help authorities find and rescue more human trafficking victims.
They say if you notice a lot of people going in and out of a house or apartment and it seems suspicious, call police.
It usually means someone is trafficking drugs or sex.
You can learn more about how you can help raise awareness about human trafficking at a community summit taking place in May. It will be held at crossings community center at 2208 W. Hefner Road on Saturday May 4 at 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, call 1-800-227-2156 or email anna_poff @uss.salvationarmy.org.