Police: Some Door-To-Door Sales People Forced Into Human Trafficking

Tuesday, May 7th 2013, 9:52 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

Spring and summer is the prime time for those slick sales people to come knocking on our doors. They're often young people selling magazines or cleaning products.

Not every door to door salesman is into something illegal, but police tell us there is a sinister underworld, that can trap young people into a life they don't believe they can escape.

A recent example happened in Oklahoma in 2012. Eighteen-year-old Kaylan Goodman disappeared from Kingfisher. As police investigated, they discovered she left with a man who promised her a lucrative job selling magazines.

Then earlier this year, 17-year-old Zach Lossner said he was walking home from work, when he got into a van with a group of boys who tried to convince him to join a magazine sales crew.

Lossner recalled the sales pitch, "He said that they actually were from Vegas, originally, with their company and they said that they travel from one side of the U.S., across it, and that you got to have points for how many magazines you sell."

Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics agents said they'll typically recruit people in their late teens.

"Promise them trips or career advancement, a chance to move up," the agent told us. "They will recruit lower income kids, offer them a chance to move out of their current environment."

An undercover agent for OBN's Human Trafficking Unit said he sees this type of thing all the time here in Oklahoma.

"They will move them across country, that will be 500, 1000, 2000 miles from the areas they're familiar with that puts them a little off balance, off base, so they will become more dependent on the crew leader."

The agent said the teens will stay in a hotel, several to a room, maybe eating just once a day. And in every case he's worked, the agent said the teens are told to watch a sort of indoctrination video.

"They're gonna promise them the world and then all of a sudden end up in a hotel room, eating beenie weenies," the agent said. "At the same time, watching this video daily and it becomes a very powerful tool to where they think if I just put a little bit more work in, then I'm gonna be able to get out of it, I put in a little bit more work, I'll really start making money."

However, it all doesn't become illegal until the teen is somehow forced or tricked into staying. Industry watchdog groups said the sales crews are often forced into sex, violence, and drugs. Some even end up dead. It's something Lossner said he heard hints of as the men drove him around.

"He's sitting there, threatening people he works with to kill them," Lossner said.

In the Kingfisher case, the police chief said Goodman was found and returned to her family, but ran off again. Agents said that's a typical scenerio. The promise of money or sometimes love becomes a powerful manipulation tool.

How do we know the difference in a legit salesperson and a human trafficking victim?

The agent we talked to said when someone comes to our door, ask for a city sales permit, not a company permit. If they show a patriotic flyer that says something like, "you are helping to advance my career," that's a dead giveaway, they are not legit.

That OBN agent also warns about giving any door to door salesperson any personal information. These groups can often steal your identity. And of course never a good idea to let anyone you don't know into your home. If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, call the OBN hotline: (855)-617-2288.