Two New York Men Indicted for Sex Trafficking in Vermont

By Alessandria Schumacher

Last week, Gary Delima and Sharif Cargo, both age 26 of Brooklyn, NY, were indicted by a federal grand jury for various charges of human trafficking in Vermont.

According to a statement released by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, “Delima and Cargo are accused of recruiting, enticing and maintaining two individuals referred to in the indictment as “Victim 1” and “Victim 2,” and using force, threats of force, fraud and coercion to cause them to engage in commercial sex acts between Sept. 2012 and Sept. 2013.” In addition, Delima was accused of transporting a minor, referred to as “Victim 3,” to Vermont to engage in prostitution earlier this year.

Delima and Cargo were first suspected of human trafficking in July of 2013 when law enforcement officials responded to a call in a South Burlington hotel and found the two men there with two women.  The police found evidence of prostitution and narcotics on the scene.  In addition, they found that one of the women had been listed online earlier that day as an available escort in the South Burlington area.  Records from the website showed that Cargo’s email address had been associated with the email and other similar advertisements.

This past February, police received another call from a South Burlington hotel, where they found two women.  These women said that they were engaged in prostitution and that Delima had brought them here from New York for that purpose.  One of these two women was a minor, which would lead Delima to face worse charges, if found guilty of sex trafficking of a child.

If convicted of Sex Trafficking by Force and Coercion, both Cargo and Delima would face a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison up to a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to a statement by the U. S. Attorney’s District of Vermont Office. If found guilty of sex trafficking of a child, Delima could also receive ten years to a lifetime in prison.

The indictment of Cargo and Delima came just several weeks after U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont Eric Miller launched an anti-sex trafficking media campaign in Vermont in response to the rise in sex trafficking in the state in recent years. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, they received 37 calls and reports of seven human trafficking cases that mentioned Vermont in 2014, which was up from the 17 calls and reports of three cases in 2012. As of June 30, they had received 14 calls and three cases referencing Vermont.

The media campaign led by Eric Miller consists of a website, ucanstoptraffick.org.  The homepages reads, “U Can Stop Traffick – help end sex and drug trafficking in Vermont.”  The website features the stories of three women from Vermont who were victims of sex trafficking and ended up abusing drugs.  There is also a one minute public service announcement video and a list of available resources.

Prior to this indictment for human trafficking, Delima and Cargo were also indicted back in March for distributing heroin and cocaine in Vermont.  This connection between the drug trade and human trafficking in Vermont is not uncommon.

Human trafficking often begins with an addiction to heroin, cocaine or other opiates while under the control of their perpetrator. Once dependent on drugs, victims of human trafficking often turn to using sex as a means to make money to feed their addiction and to pay off drug debts.  Jasmine Grace, a survivor of sex trafficking and drug addiction featured ucanstoptraffick.org, elaborated on this idea in her interview on the website.

“You become addicted to drugs, so now you don’t have an actual pimp over your head, you have a growing drug addiction, so the only way to support that drug addiction really is to prostitute,” Grace said. “I didn’t realize that this was going to turn into a heroin addiction.”

Not only are victims of sex trafficking drug abusers, many are also helping financially support drug dealers.

“No one deals drugs alone,” said Geni Cowles, First Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Vermont district. “For every dealer our office charges there’s a circle of people, charged and uncharged, who make that drug dealing activity possible and profitable.”

Cowles said 75 percent of the people who support drug dealers are women.  They provide support by giving them housing, cars and contact lists. Many women are also used to transport drugs or make minor deals. Cowles added that many of these women are also trafficked for sex. Of these women, Cowles articulated that 60 percent were under 30, most were addicted to substances and one quarter were in a romantic relationship with the dealer.

The current indictment of Delima and Cargo highlights the common trend that human and drug trafficking are inextricably linked.

In light of this rising trend, public and private groups are working to reduce human and drug trafficking in Vermont. In addition to the U.S. Attorney’s U Can Stop Traffick campaign discussed above, the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in 2010. The task force included two representatives from Give Way to Freedom, a Vermont-based non-profit that works locally and internationally to end human trafficking and support victims. As a result of the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force, legislation was passed in 2011 that mandated training on human trafficking for law enforcement and gave the possibility of a life sentence.

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