Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 2.45.45 PM

Marylanders give Obama, Clinton thumbs up, O’Malley and Congress Thumbs Down


President Obama’s job approval ratings among Marylanders have remained consistent during his last two years in office, a new Goucher Poll finds. Fifty-three percent (53%) of Maryland residents approve of the job he is doing, while 38% disapprove — nearly identical to the results found in the September 2014 Goucher Poll.

Marylanders continue to express their disapproval with Congress; 83% disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job. The disdain for Congress is fairly uniform regardless of party, gender, race or age.

UPDATE 10/6, 8:15 a.m.: If the Democratic primary were held today, 43% of Maryland Democrats say they would vote for Hillary Clinton, 23% for Joe Biden, and 17% for Bernie Sanders. Mirroring nationwide polling, 2% of Maryland Democratic voters would support former Governor Martin O’Malley’s bid for the Democratic nomination.

When asked for the most important issue in determining their vote, 33 percent say economy, budget, or tax issues; 13 percent say international affairs or foreign policy; seven percent say women’s issues; and six percent say education.

“The gains Bernie Sanders made with Democratic voters in New Hampshire and Iowa are not reflected in Maryland. Hillary Clinton remains the clear front-runner, even with the undeclared Joe Biden in the mix,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College. “Although Martin O’Malley was a popular two-term governor among Democrats in the state, his campaign’s difficulties in gaining traction nationwide are reflected in Maryland.”

Views on undocumented immigrants

Residents were asked about their general views toward undocumented immigrants working in the United States:

62%: Undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in their jobs and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
13%: Undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in their jobs only as temporary guest workers, but not to apply for U.S. citizenship.
20%: Undocumented immigrants should be required to leave their jobs and leave the United States.

Residents were also asked whether they thought the number of undocumented immigrants coming to the United States in the past decade has increased, decreased, or stayed the same.

Seventy-three percent of Marylanders think it has increased, 14 percent think it has stayed about the same, and 8 percent think it has decreased.

According to research from the Pew Research Center based on Census population estimates, the number of undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. has stayed about the same since 2005.

By Len Lazarick

Edwards Files for Senate, Far Behind Van Hollen in Funds


Although Maryland will not elect its next senator until November 2016, the party primaries are only 230 days away on April 26.

Since incumbent Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced her retirement plans in March, the primary is shaping up to be a clash between two of the state’s best-known politicians, though four lesser-knowns have filed.

On Tuesday, Rep. Donna Edwards, who represents Maryland’s 4th District, took another important step in her campaign, filing her certificate of candidacy, and officially placing her name on the ballot as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who represents Maryland’s 8th District, was the first to announce his candidacy, just days after Mikulski made her retirement plans public.

Both candidates filed their statements of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission in March, but Edwards is the first to file her certificate of candidacy with the state of Maryland, which is not required until February.

Van Hollen has fundraising advantage

While both candidates have received numerous endorsements, ranging from politicians and groups on the local level to organizations and politicians on the federal level, the gap in fundraising between Van Hollen and Edwards is wide so far.

In their first full quarter of fundraising, a period spanning the beginning of April to the end of June, Van Hollen outraised Edwards by a ratio of more than 4-to-1, according to a CNS analysis of the candidates’ fundraising reports filed with the FEC.

By the end of June, Van Hollen’s campaign has already raised more than $4.2 million, while Edwards’ campaign has raised just shy of $1 million.


Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 12.13.52 PM

Both campaigns have spent almost $500,000 on items such as renting office space, advertising, and consulting, leaving Van Hollen with a nearly 9-to-1 advantage in cash on hand over Edwards.

In fact, in the Edwards campaign’s latest release, campaign manager Garrick Delzell acknowledges facing a “steep fundraising disadvantage,” saying that without the help of supporters, Edwards and her campaign “risk falling further and further behind.”

Major differences on in-state, out-of-state funding

One of the major differences in fundraising between the two campaigns stems from where the candidates are getting their money.

According to FEC records, nearly 70 percent of Van Hollen’s funds have come from Maryland contributions, while only 19 percent of Edwards’ donations have come from in-state donors.

Almost $1.7 million of Van Hollen’s current campaign funds came from the Van Hollen for Congress Committee, signaling that Van Hollen had a substantial fundraising head start over Edwards. Only $9,000 of Edwards’ $918,000 came from her House campaign fund.

The next reporting period closes Sept. 30. Although it is early in the race, Edwards has a large financial gap to close.

Four other lesser-known Democrats have already filed the paperwork for the seat along with the $290 filing fee. They include perennial candidates Ralph Jaffe of Baltimore County and Lih Young of Montgomery County; Ed Tinus of Worcester County; and Violet Staley of Prince George’s County.

Richard Douglas of Prince George’s County, who ran in 2012, and Anthony Seda of Harford County have filed on the Republican side.

By Dylan Reffe

2012 Stats Show Maryland Taxpayer Loss and Kent County Gain


Meg Tully at MarylandPerorter writes, “Recently released data from the IRS shows that about 5,500 more taxpayers left Maryland in 2012 than moved to the state.

“Long-cited by tax critics as annual data that show the migration of taxpayers to lower-taxed states, some experts caution that not too much should be read into year-to-year changes.”

Continue reading here.

Maryland Teachers Say Testing Hurts Learning


Standardized testing is chipping away at “so many layers” of a public school classroom these days, a panel of educators said during a town hall meeting — taking away from teacher autonomy to curriculum and even technology hubs placed in schools to help students learn and connect to a high-tech world.

Wednesday’s panel discussion was sponsored by the Maryland State Education Association, the union representing over 70,000 educators, and moderated by radio host Marc Steiner. The 90-minute forum drew about 100 participants that included two state delegates, teachers, administrators and parents to an auditorium at Roland Park Elementary and Middle School in Baltimore.

The discussion will be broadcast Friday morning at 10 a.m. on The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA-FM.

Changes in teaching

During a panel discussion, three educators spoke frankly about how standardized testing in Maryland — the PARCC test of Common Core standards — has contributed to radical changes in their approach to teaching. Much of their comments are part of a growing chorus of criticism and national debate over standardized testing.

At a town hall meeting on standardized testing, Del. Eric Ebersole speaks to the audience.

At a town hall meeting on standardized testing, Del. Eric Ebersole speaks to the audience.

PARCC — which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers– was given for the first time to Maryland’s elementary and high school students during the 2014-15 academic year.

It measured reading and mathematics and replaced existing standardized tests, the Maryland School Assessments for grades 3 through 8, and the High School Assessment tests for Algebra I and English 10.

“I think children are being left behind — kids are not being taught the basics,” said Cheryl Colbert, a teacher at Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore.

Erika Strauss Chavarria, a Spanish teacher at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia added: “It’s taken the enjoyment and fun out of learning . It’s destroyed that. As educators, it’s taken the fun out of teaching. We should be deciding how to assess our students.”

The forum was presented as the MSEA launched $500,000 advertising campaign with public awareness events like the town hall to highlight what it has deemed the negative impacts testing has had on Maryland students. The campaign is called “Less Testing, More Learning.”

A second town hall is scheduled for Nov. 4 in Montgomery County.

Lost time

During a question and answer period during the town hall meeting, a common theme discussed by parents and educators was how students and teachers experienced lost time in the classrooms during test preparation. One speaker even lamented that the number of field trips have scaled back because there is not enough time to schedule them.

“We need to get away from the idea that the only way we’ll know how we’re doing is by giving a test,” said Maryland state Del. Eric Ebersole, a Democrat who represents District 12 and for decades was a math teacher in Howard County.

Ebersole was appointed to a state commission that has been charged with studying over-testing of students in Maryland schools, as was Del. Shelly Hettleman, D-Baltimore County. Hettleman said the state commission is still being formed and is not likely to meet for the first time until 2016.

Ebersole told the group,“We are working in the State House,” to scale back the emphasis on standardized testing as a means to grade and assess success for students, teachers, schools and school districts.

Classroom autonomy whittled away

Many speakers and educators admitted that testing is important and necessary. But today’s emphasis on Common Core standards, developed as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind law, has whittled away at curriculum and classroom autonomy.

Another complaint discussed at the town hall meeting was technology. As a majority of the PARCC tests are taken on computers, educators told of how entire computer labs in schools — designed to help students learn, write papers, print papers, use email and research academic pursuits — are taken over during testing time.

“When I heard it was computer based, I asked what about those students who don’t have technology at home?” asked Matthew Vaughn-Smith, a reading specialist at Bollman Bridge Elementary School in Jessup, a member of the town hall panel.

One result of that, Vaughn-Smith said, was some students struggling to use a keyboard and a mouse during test taking.

Another issue was crashing of computers during testing, which caused stress for students, particularly those who have learning struggles said Colbert from Digital Harbor High School.

“Some students, they just shut down,” she said.

Parents concerned

Parents were equally concerned. During a Q&A session, many spoke of the impact of testing on their children’s academic path. Morna McDermott, who has two children in Baltimore County schools, has “opted out” of testing for her 3rd and 5th graders.

“My children have never taken the MSAs (Maryland School Assessment test) or PARCC and somehow they have not spontaneously combusted,” she said. “You can refuse the test. It’s a lousy measure of who they are.”

Joi Kerr Walker, who said she just left a position as a Baltimore City Schools teacher in part because of the testing issue, told the town hall of how testing prep begins in Pre-Kindergarten.

“We are stressing these babies out,” she said. “We are going to make them hate coming to school.”

Towson University literacy teacher Bess Altwerger, who is also a member of the Howard County School Board, said she came to the town hall to express her personal viewpoint on standardized testing and student test preparedness. She called it a huge waste of money.

“If we took the hundreds of millions of dollars spent now on testing and created schools with small classrooms and more resources…we could address issues” of poverty and academic inequities, she said. “We are wasting money on these tests and it’s pointless.”

By Melody Simmons


Mandel: The Accidental Governor’s Achievements Outlived Scandal by Len Lazarick


Former Gov. Marvin Mandel died Sunday, ending a remarkable life that made him one of the most influential Maryland governors of the past century and one of the most colorful, with personal drama providing flourishes to his large public accomplishments.

If you live long enough in politics, all may not be forgiven, but most is forgotten, and if you’re lucky, only the good stuff is remembered, wrote in May.

That’s certainly true of Mandel, who turned 95 in April and was feted at a birthday celebration that was an old-timers reunion for a man who left office 36 years ago. It’s nice to be able to hear your eulogies before you pass away.

A machine pol, Jewish kid from East Baltimore

A product of Baltimore Democratic machine politics, Mandel stayed relatively conservative as the Democratic Party has moved to the left.

He quietly supported both Hogan and former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

Mandel became Maryland’s chief executive when the last GOP governor before Ehrlich, Gov. Spiro “Ted” Agnew, was elected vice president with President Richard Nixon. Back then, the legislature chose the speaker of the House of Delegates, Mandel, since there was no lieutenant governor.

“I’ll Never Forget It” is what Mandel called his memoir published in 2010 when he turned 90 – a title that could have been applied to a thousand autobiographies. It might better have been called “The Accidental Governor.”

Based on a series of interviews conducted by Christopher Summers of the Maryland Public Policy Institute over the years, the book is “written” in the colloquial style of a plain-spoken man, a Jewish kid from East Baltimore. If you take him at his word in the book, Mandel never had ambitions to be a member of the legislature, chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, speaker of the House of Delegates (accidentally again), and then the first Jewish governor of Maryland when the first Greek governor got to be vice-president.

10 years as governor, minus 19 months

Mandel had almost 10 years as governor, though 19 months of that was spent in a federal prison camp in Florida, on a mail fraud conviction that was later overturned on appeal.

Mandel’s legal problems left Lt. Gov. Blair Lee III as acting governor. Before that there was a marital drama that had him living on the governor’s yacht while his first wife refused to leave Government House. She had found out about the affair with the woman who would be become his second first lady.

Mandel has been called “the architect of modern Maryland.” He took hundreds of disparate state agencies, and put them together under a modern cabinet system. Maryland became the first state to have a transportation department overseeing roads, mass transit, port and airports that he purchased for the state to run.

Over several years, Mandel created the current structure of the Maryland judiciary, including the district courts and judicial nominating commissions to emphasize professional qualifications over political patronage.

He instituted state funding for school construction as Maryland’s suburbs grew.

Mandel is also remembered as one of the greatest friends of the black community, and appointed many of the first African American judges to serve in Prince George’s and other counties.

U.S. House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer was a young state senator who voted against Mandel’s election but later become Senate president with his help. He called Mandel, “the best governor I’ve served with for almost half a century,” praising “the generosity of his spirit.”

Being governor harder today

Serving as governor “is far more difficult today than it was 20 years ago,” Mandel told in an interview five years ago. “I think the legislature and the governor have done a pretty good job at keeping the state functioning, But you can’t keep raising taxes. You just can’t keep doing it.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 12.57.56 PM“We’ve reached a point where we have to reduce the size of government,” Mandel said. “I just think government is getting too big. I don’t think you should spend money you don’t have.”

When he entered the legislature in 1952, Mandel said, the budget was $250 million and today it is $32 billion. “Nobody knew what a billion dollars was,” he said.

Mandel recalled that he didn’t raise “general” taxes during his tenure, but according to historian George Callcott, the budget under Mandel rose 180% – going up double-digits all but one year.

A analysis five years ago found that Mandel had some of the biggest spending increases of the last six governors.

At the May birthday bash, M.C. Tim Maloney, an influential attorney, said the famous epitaph for renowned English architect Christopher Wren found in the crypt of London’s St. Paul Cathedral could also apply to Mandel’s tenure as governor.

“If you seek his monument, just look around you.”

Still a visible presence at the State House

Even at the State House, just look around you. Mandel is still a visible presence on all three floors.

Besides his portraits in the Governor’s Reception Room (right) and in the House of Delegates chamber where he served as speaker (at top of page), in the large press room known as the Pit, there is heavy 3 foot by 5 foot black-and-white poster from his days as governor that was preserved by reporters when the State House was renovated in 2008.

It was re-hung in January 2009 with a brief ceremony attended by Mandel who signed the battered poster next to some small graffiti. Just his name, the date and a brief thank you. It still hangs there today.

Being governor today is a lot more difficult than it was when he had the job in the 1970s, as Marvin Mandel tells it.

But the government, at both federal and state levels, has also grown too large and taxes are too high. Those were some of the observations Mandel offered in a 90-minute interview two days after his 90th birthday last month, in the Annapolis law office where he said he still works five days a week.

Human Trafficking Part 4: Maryland has Light Penalties for Trafficking



Editor’s note:

This is part 4 of an investigative series on human trafficking in Maryland by Capital News Service. 

Maryland has some of the lightest penalties in the nation for human trafficking of adults, which police officers and advocates say draws traffickers into the state.

A bill to strengthen trafficking penalties died in the Maryland General Assembly this session. Among the biggest opponents were advocacy groups working to end trafficking, who said the bill might have ensnared people trying to help a victim and imposed felony penalties on them.

“People who would directly be impacted by the law are very rarely consulted with in development of anti-trafficking policy and that’s why things go wrong and that’s why this legislation has been pulled,” said Penelope Saunders, spokeswoman for the Best Practices Policy Project, a national organization advocating for the rights of sex workers.

While trafficking a minor is a felony with penalties up to 25 years in prison, trafficking a person 18 or older is a misdemeanor unless prosecutors can prove the suspect used “force, threat, coercion or fraud” to control the victim. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Traffickers of adults not afraid of cops

Sgt. Deborah Flory of the State Police’s Child Recovery Unit said she has interviewed traffickers who refuse to bring children to Maryland because of the stiff penalties.

“But they know that trafficking an adult is a misdemeanor, it’s not a big deal and they’ll be back out in a couple hours,” Flory said.

“We’re actually talking to these guys on the street who are trafficking [adults] and they’re not even scared of us… they’re very aware of what the laws are in certain states they travel to.”

From 2010 through 2014, 19 people statewide were charged under the state’s felony provision that targets traffickers of adult victims, according to a Capital News Service analysis of data provided by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The misdemeanor human trafficking charge, the more lenient of Maryland’s human trafficking punishments, is used much more frequently. Across the state, in the same time period, 215 cases were prosecuted under the misdemeanor provision of the law.

In two-thirds of cases from 2010 to 2014, all human trafficking charges were dropped.

In Baltimore, according to a search of public records, eight of 10 misdemeanor trafficking cases since January 2013 ended with prosecutors dropping charges.  One case ended in conviction on a separate charge, and another ended in a stet agreement, meaning it was indefinitely postponed, a search of case records showed.

Increasing the penalty

A bill to increase the penalty for trafficking adults to a felony in all cases, SB904,  was voted down in Annapolis this spring by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and then withdrawn by its Senate sponsor.

“Currently if it’s a misdemeanor, you have people who go out and exploit individuals, they may get a fine, under a year in prison, but they’re going to do it again,” said Delegate Susan Aumann, R-Baltimore County, the bill’s sponsor in the House where it never got a committee vote. “If we make penalties stiffer, maybe they’re not going to want to get involved in this transaction.”

Jessica Emerson, a fellow at the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, said the state Human Trafficking Task Force withdrew its initial support of the bill after hearing criticism from advocacy organizations such as the Best Practices Policy Project. The critics feared the new law would have created unintended consequences and cast too wide a net on what behavior is considered a felony.

Trafficking Jessica Emerson JPR

For instance, a friend giving a ride to a sex worker, or acting as a lookout while someone takes a “date,”  could be liable for felony crimes under such a law, even if no trafficking occurs, Saunders of the Best Policy Practices Project, said.

Analyzing laws in 50 states 

Nathaniel Erb, a policy consultant with The Samaritan Women from January 2015 to May 2015, testified in support of the Senate bill.

For his testimony to the state House and Senate judiciary committees, Erb compiled a list of the lowest possible penalties for human trafficking in all 50 states. He found that only two states, Maryland and Nebraska, have a misdemeanor classification for human trafficking.

Forty-four states classify trafficking exclusively as a felony. Three states and the District of Columbia do not distinguish between felony and misdemeanor, Erb’s analysis found. But of those three states and the District, only New Jersey has a lower possible penalty than Maryland, according to Erb’s analysis for the legislative hearing.

“Traffickers, especially those that are most notorious, they’re businessmen,” Erb said. “They’re going to look at where their product can be moved to the best location where they can be successful, and they see Maryland having lower penalties and few convictions and they’re going to come here.”

Trafficking weak Md laws chart

Repeat offender

One of the business people who has repeatedly ended up in court is a woman who holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Baltimore.

Di Zhang, 44, has operated massage parlors for years and has faced human trafficking and prostitution charges in Montgomery and Baltimore County dating back to 2008, according to state court records.

Once her cases have arrived in court, most of her charges have resulted in a declaration of nolle prosequi, which means the prosecutors dropped the charges.

The Maryland State Board of Chiropractic Examiners revoked her massage license in 2004, noting 2003 charges for prostitution and massage law violations in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County. Her lawyer told the board the charges in both counties had been dropped.

Di Zhang was found guilty of human trafficking in Baltimore County District Court in 2008, but that conviction was dropped when the case was heard on appeal in the county Circuit Court. She has since been found guilty of violations of state massage licensing laws and a charge of “general prostitution,” for which she has been fined and placed on probation, according to court records.

Trafficking Di Zhang

In 2012, Zhang was given a formal warning in an interview with a Baltimore County police detective and Homeland Security agents at her business — Jade Heart Health, according to court records.

In a federal civil case in 2013, Zhang had to forfeit one of her properties, which police said was a brothel, and was fined $325,000.

She was arrested again in March 2013 on human trafficking and prostitution charges in Baltimore County, but all charges were dropped except for a general prostitution charge and a violation of massage licensing laws.

Zhang was ultimately sentenced to two years of supervised probation for the prostitution charge after an Alford plea — which means she did not admit guilt but acknowledged that if the case went to trial the prosecution had enough evidence to convict her. She also was fined $250 for operating a massage parlor without a license.

But she was arrested again in Baltimore County in June 2013, on prostitution charges, only to be brought in again in February 2014 for multiple counts of human trafficking in Montgomery County. The trafficking charges again were dropped.

Zhang could not be reached for comment.

Vanishing witnesses

Bringing a case to federal court seems to be a logical solution, but it isn’t that simple. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Yasser, who prosecutes federal trafficking cases in Maryland’s federal court, said the best evidence comes from the victims themselves. But witnesses can be difficult to track down.

Zhang’s massage parlors feature Chinese nationals, said Amanda Rodriguez, who recently stepped down as chief of anti-trafficking policy in the governor’s office and who briefly worked on Zhang’s 2013 Baltimore County case. This makes it harder to prove human trafficking because victims are undocumented citizens who are virtually untraceable.

Baltimore County Deputy State’s Attorney John Cox, who took over prosecution for the same case after Rodriguez, said that they couldn’t locate the victims when they were gathering evidence for trial. It was like they vanished.

Without victim testimonies, prosecutors couldn’t provide enough evidence for a human trafficking conviction.

One way to stop criminal activity is through seizing their property.

“There are some people where the way to deter them is to put them in prison and there are some people where the way to deter them is to stop them from their criminal enterprise,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t say it has stopped her after her forfeiture with the federal government but I think it is one way to get her in the criminal prosecution.”

Earlier this year, Zhang was arrested in Baltimore County for violating her supervised probation. She is charged with nine counts related to human trafficking and six counts of related to prostitution.  She faces trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

By Jon Banister, Lisa Driscoll and Jessica Evans

Jin Kim contributed to this article.

Human Trafficking Part 3: Most Trafficking in the U.S. is not about Sex Work, but Labor by Immigrants


Part 3 of a five-day investigative series on human trafficking in Maryland Capital News Service produced by student journalists and professional editors of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland College Park. 


For a girl from Cameroon, the idea of America was seen only through a television screen. America was a dream where she could marry the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and be a part of the Beverly Hills 90210 clique.

“The way we see America in Africa, oh my God, it’s like heaven,” said Evelyn Chumbow, a survivor of domestic labor trafficking. “You would have never told me I would see a homeless person or I would be enslaved in America. I would never, ever [have] thought that.”

Labor trafficking can be found in sweatshops, on farms, in restaurants and nail salons, on construction crews and custodial staffs and in American households, according to the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force. Labor trafficking victims are more commonly immigrants brought to the United States than Americans, according to “Hidden in Plain Sight,” a 2014 Urban Institute-Northeastern University study.

Victims are lured into modern-day slavery with false promises of a better education, work opportunities and higher wages, in search of the American dream, according to the  Urban Institute-Northeastern University study.

Immigrant women who don’t report

“Domestic work is mostly immigrant women,” said Tiffany Williams, former director of the Break the Chain campaign.  “So even those who are on visas are in this precarious immigration status because the employer holds the key to the visa.

“Those who are undocumented don’t come forward, don’t report, don’t challenge unless it’s really bad,” Williams said, “because they don’t want to lose their immigration status.”

Researchers agree that labor trafficking is the leading form of human trafficking, but sex trafficking is the focus of more federal prosecutions, according to a 2015 report by Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan arm of the U.S. House and Senate.

“Unfortunately, the clandestine nature of trafficking makes estimating prevalence really difficult,” Lara Powers, hotline manager and program specialist at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, said in an email.

The federal trafficking statute defines labor trafficking as obtaining a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion to exploit them for involuntary servitude.

In 2012, the Department of Justice successfully prosecuted 138 traffickers, with 76 percent of the cases predominantly sex trafficking and 24 percent predominantly labor trafficking.

Because there is no template for what a labor trafficking case may look like, it often is difficult for the public to identify. And domestic labor trafficking in particular is out of sight, with the worker inside a household.

Victims do not always realize they have been trafficked. Victims’ relationships with their employers may start out as ordinary work situations and deteriorate into trafficking over time, Williams said.

Youngster from Cameroon

Evelyn Chumbow

Evelyn Chumbow now travels the country to raise awareness of human trafficking as part of the Survivors of Slavery organization.

Chumbow was between 10 and 12 years old, according to court documents, when Theresa Mubang, an American citizen originally from Cameroon who is now 52, brought her to Silver Spring, after promising Chumbow’s family that she would receive a good education.“But that’s not what happened when I got here,” said Chumbow, now 29.

According to federal court documents, Chumbow said Mubang forced her to cook, clean and care for her children without payment or schooling and routinely beat her. She’d strike Chumbow with the heel of a shoe or a metal broom, and she used a white plastic television cable to whip the girl’s hands or back until she bled, the documents say.

“Sometimes, when she was tired of beating me up, I had to stand up in her bedroom from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. I stand up there really straight, no sleep,” Chumbow said in an interview.

Mubang, now in prison, did not respond to a letter requesting comment.

It was years before Chumbow escaped. Because of isolation from the outside world, Chumbow says she had lost a sense of time and did not know her exact age when she first left Mubang.

A stay with an aunt did not work out. Chumbow eventually found a church and a Catholic charity that alerted authorities. At 17, Chumbow said, she was placed in foster care.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which Congress passed in 2000, allows law enforcement to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, including sex and labor trafficking. The law offers legal protections to victims.

Most labor trafficking prosecuted federally

Most labor trafficking cases are prosecuted federally “because state law is less developed than federal law,” said Martina Vandenberg, founder and president of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center.

“The laws have been, by and large, on the books a shorter period of time. State’s attorneys general and state prosecutors have tended to focus on sex alone because in the commonplace understanding of human trafficking, most people understand it as sex,” Vandenberg said. “It’s an added level of investigative sophistication to identify labor trafficking cases.”

Vandenberg said that state authorities rarely identify labor trafficking cases. “Frankly, the labor inspectors … are less robust than they should be, less active than they should be, in identifying this kind of abuse.”

Evidence can be difficult to assemble. While force and fraud can be found through physical signs and records, “coercion can take many subtle forms” and is harder to identify, according to a 2015 report from the National Domestic Worker Alliance.

Many cases are challenging to prove because they are rarely discovered while a victim is being trafficked, with few witnesses or physical evidence to corroborate the victim’s allegations, said Rachel Yasser, assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is responsible for both arresting and deporting immigrants, but it also investigates instances of human trafficking.  Immigrant workers are afraid to cooperate with the agency because of its contradictory responsibilities and fear they might be deported, though they are victims, Williams said.

Many immigrant workers are more likely to cooperate with other investigators, such as those from the Department of Labor, she added.

Labor trafficking 25% of reported Md. cases

In 2014, about 25% of the 135 potential human trafficking cases reported in Maryland to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center involved labor trafficking. Domestic servitude accounted for 11% of the 135.

Many of the workers recruited from other countries come with hopes like Chumbow’s.

“They come with low levels of education and have a very sincere interest to make improvements in their lives to support their families, and are coming with the hope of achieving the American Dream,” said Isela Bañuelos, one of the co-authors of the 2014 Urban Institute and Northeastern University report.

“Perpetrators of labor trafficking are using this to lure people in, making false promises,” she said.

Almost a third of victims in the U.S. come from Latin America, more than 25% come from Southeast Asia and almost 11% come from Africa, according to the “Hidden in Plain Sight” report.

Of 122 closed labor trafficking cases from four U.S. locations — the urban Northeast, the rural Northeast, the South and the West — studied since 2000 by researchers from the Urban Institute and Northeastern University, about 10% of victims were trafficked from the U.S. and Canada.

Traffickers use the threat of an illegal immigration status to coerce victims by threatening arrest and telling them no help is available to improve their situation, according to the research.

But, Bañuelos said, more than 70 percent of studied trafficked victims legally came to the U.S. on a visa.

Traffickers dehumanize their victims and force their labor by controlling almost every aspect of their lives, researchers say. They control their movements and outside communication, psychologically and physically abuse them and deny them food and medical care all while living in substandard conditions, according to “Hidden in Plain Sight.”

A federal jury in Maryland convicted Mubang in 2004 of holding a juvenile for a term of involuntary servitude and harboring a juvenile for financial gain. In 2005, she was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison. She is scheduled for release in 2021.

Meanwhile, Chumbow has earned U.S. citizenship and her associate degree and is finishing her bachelor’s degree in homeland security at University of Maryland, University College.

Chumbow speaks to groups internationally about long-term services for human trafficking survivors.

“I am an advocate now. I’m using my experience and I’m teaching other people,” she said. “Yes we are survivors, but also we’re above that. We’re also human beings. We are the abolishers of the modern day slavery, and we have to work together.”

By Naomi Eide and Carly Morales


Human Trafficking Part 2: The Internet is a Fertile Field


Behind the numbers on human trafficking arrests is a thriving underworld that depends on a steady stream of vulnerable women and minors for its profits.

To get a better picture of human trafficking’s reach and impact in Maryland, Capital News Services examined hundreds of pages of testimony and evidence produced in three dozen successful trafficking prosecutions over the past decade.

The traffickers aren’t always the flashy, bling-wearing, urban street pimps Hollywood portrays, the records show. They are sex salesmen who use business cards and online classifieds like Backpage to market their products. The business — often referred to by insiders as “The Game” — includes strategy and deception.

Ads on Backpage

Advertisements under the “Escorts” link on Backpage include erotic photos and descriptions of services by location. Last Friday, there were over 200 such ads posted for the Baltimore area (some were duplicates) and even more for the D.C. area.

“WeeKdaY SpEci@Ls SwEEt TrE@T PriCeS U CaN’t Be@T 18-18-18,” reads one Backpage posting submitted as evidence in a 2013 human trafficking case. Many provide ages, but authorities have found some of those listed in their late teens or early 20s are actually minors.

Not all ads are for prostitution, and not all prostitutes are under the control of traffickers. But the Internet, social media and mobile apps have allowed traffickers to reach a wide audience of victims and johns — and then disappear through Web wormholes when police try to track them down.

“In the past, all prostitution was run on the street,” said Montgomery County prosecutor Patrick Mays, who works on human trafficking cases. “Previously, there was a physical location in every city where girls would walk the street. Now it has completely changed with the Internet. Trafficking is all over the place.” (The Washington Post reported in late July that street-walking had returned to some parts of the District.)

Jeremy Naughton, of Oxon Hill, identified prostitutes who were working independently through their website ads, according to evidence presented at his 2013 federal trial in Baltimore. He then posed as a client and, once alone with them, pulled out a gun, seized their belongings, and forced them to prostitute for him in Montgomery County and in New York, prosecutors said.

He intimidated one prostitute into compliance by “snapping the neck of her dog with his hands,” investigators said. He was convicted of sex trafficking and weapons charges and sentenced to 36 years in prison. Naughton, now 34, is appealing. He told CNS through his attorney that he “never denied that he was in the business of prostitution, but the women who worked with him did so voluntarily.”

Drugs, dependency and brute force

Trafficking Maryland live

While traffickers conduct much of their business in cyberspace, the methods for maintaining emotional control over victims are still largely old school: drugs, dependency and brute force.

A blurry surveillance tape from the early morning hours of Feb. 23, 2013, shows the garage of the Maryland Live! Casino: A slender woman stands in front of a heavyset man amid the parked cars. He suddenly swings his fist, delivering a blow to the side of her head that catapults her several feet, stumbling.

He pauses before walking over to connect more punches, striking her in the face as she crouches to shield herself.

Trafficling Lee

According to court records, the woman, referred to as J, was a prostitute; the man, Michael Wesley Lee of Odenton, was her pimp; and the beating was punishment for failing to attract enough customers at the casino to have sex with her.

While Lee sat in an Anne Arundel County jail on an assault charge, his partner, Robert Downing, also of Odenton, took J to a hotel to have sex with customers to raise money for Lee’s bail, the records say.

J escaped when Downing left her alone. She declined to press charges, and the assault case was dropped, records show.

Enticed from St. Louis

Six months after the assault, in August 2013, Lee used the social media website Tagged to entice S, a 23-year-old woman living in St. Louis, to come to Baltimore with the promise that she could work for his “webcam business,” according to court documents. Lee bought the woman a $208 one-way Greyhound bus ticket and she traveled to Maryland in August 2013.

After she arrived, Lee revealed the truth: He was really a pimp with women in several states working for him, court records say. He took her to a Microtel in Linthicum Heights, confiscated her identification — a common ploy by traffickers — and told her she needed to pay off the ticket and a $1,000 initiation fee, court records say.

S “was afraid to challenge Lee because of his size and his demeanor,” and had no money of her own, the records say.  By the next day, she’d had sex with 10 different clients and charged rates as high as $200 — but he kept the money, some of which was used to place advertisements on Backpage, records say.

Around the same time, he lured M, a 21-year-old exotic dancer to the hotel on the pretense that he would get work for her at clubs, according to court records. When he tried to force her to stay to prostitute for him, she ran from the hotel, records say. He chased her, but she escaped by hopping a fence.

S got away several days after M by calling 911 for an ambulance from an Extended Stay hotel near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. When the ambulance crew arrived, she told them about Lee and they called police, who arrested him, according to court records.

Lee, now 31, pleaded guilty to federal trafficking charges and was sentenced in March to 13 years in prison. Downing, now 46, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of using interstate facilities to promote and facilitate a prostitution business and received a 46-month term. Both men declined to be interviewed by CNS.

Parent trap

Single mothers make an especially vulnerable target for traffickers. Pimps often use the children as a soft spot to exploit — either offering a way to support the child or threatening the child if the mother refuses to meet their demands, court records show.

R left her parents’ home in a small Guatemalan town at 17 for the United States. She was raped in transit and gave birth to a baby girl after arriving in America, she later testified in federal court.

She took a job in 2006 making around $400 a week at a recycling plant in Prince George’s County and moved to Langley Park, a landing spot for many Central American immigrants who arrive without legal immigration papers. A man spotted her at a restaurant and offered to pick up the bill. She refused. But within weeks, the two were dating, she said in court.

He told her that he was in construction, that he was a painter, she said. His aunt could care for her baby at her house while she worked. Three months into their courtship, with her baby under his control, he told her how he really made his money: “Selling women,” she testified.

And soon R, in fear for the baby’s safety should she say no, was working for him.

She became one of the prostitutes in a brothel the man had set up in a house in the Washington suburbs, she said in federal court.

Trafficking Ventura

Then she met German de Jesus Ventura. He was a client who told her he would take her away from this life and take care of her and her daughter, R said. She wouldn’t have to prostitute anymore if she came with him, she said.

At the beginning, their relationship was “very perfect,” she said.

Then one day, Ventura tossed her a box of condoms and told her it was time to get to work. When she refused, he beat her, she testified at his 2013 federal trial in Baltimore on trafficking charges.

Ventura didn’t just run prostitutes – he controlled them with violence, and used them to build a network of brothels, according to court records.

“I didn’t want to have sex with men,” R told the court during Ventura’s trial. She told how he would threaten her and the other prostitutes with guns, how he abused her “with his fists and a belt” when she resisted him.

Trafficking Fuertes

“He would beat me and tell me that he was going to kill me,” she said.

Court records outline how from March 2008 to November 2010, Ventura and his partner, Kevin Garcia Fuertes, expanded their prostitution business from a small brothel in an Annapolis apartment to a major sex trafficking ring that operated out of residential neighborhoods and sprawled across the borders of Maryland and Virginia.

Attracting customers with business cards

To attract customers, he used accomplices to distribute business cards advertising “deportes” or “sports” in the vicinity of his brothels, records say. These cards signaled to seasoned patrons where to find prostitutes.

Paper tally sheets scrawled by Ventura and later confiscated by authorities, recorded whether each girl was reaching her quota – as many as 30 men a day. One 15-minute session typically cost $30. The women were allowed to keep half of those proceeds, according to trial testimony.

Despite at least one police raid, in 2008, the prostitution operation carried on for two more years before a joint investigation by federal and state law enforcement gathered enough evidence to arrest Ventura and Fuertes on sex trafficking charges. It took court orders to track cell phones and surveillance to photograph Ventura transporting women for prostitution, records say.

A jury convicted Ventura, now 37, of sex trafficking. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison. His case is on appeal. Fuertes, now 27, also was convicted of sex trafficking and sentenced to nearly 20 years.

Neither man could be reached for comment.  At his sentencing, Ventura said, “I have never sold prostitutes” nor harmed anyone and that “the only thing I did with Ms. [R] was to help her.”

At the time of the trial, R had obtained a work permit and found a job as a laborer in construction. But her baby had been taken during the 2008 police raid of Ventura’s brothel, she testified, and legally adopted by another family.

Runaway problem

Runaways are among the easiest targets for traffickers, advocates say: Many come from troubled families and unstable living situations. They’re often on their own without money or shelter.

“These victims are looking for somebody who’s there to pay attention to them and somebody who might be the first person in their life to offer them the care, support  and love that they’re looking for,” said Alicia McDowell, executive director of the Araminta Freedom Initiative, a Baltimore anti-trafficking advocacy group.

Harvey Mojica Washington was charged in state court with misdemeanor human trafficking, sexual assault of a minor and other charges stemming from his recruitment of C, a 14-year-old runaway, for his prostitution business in January 2012. The trafficking charges were dropped, and he pleaded guilty to a third-degree sex offense, a felony.

At his sentencing hearing in March 2015, Prince George’s County Assistant State’s Attorney Christina Caron-Moroney said that Washington fed and clothed C for a few days after picking her up off the street before revealing the real price of his attention: prostitution.

She was shown how to post ads on Backpage to attract clients and how to turn tricks, the prosecutor said. Washington instructed her to sleep with men in cars in a parking lot until she raised enough money to get a hotel room, she said.

Trafficking web traffic chart

The girl contacted friends through Facebook to tell them she was unhappy with what she was doing and wanted a way out. When Washington found out, he “became violent with her,” Caron-Moroney said at the sentencing. Her mother sought the FBI’s help and, through her friends, agents tracked her down in February 2012.

Washington, now 31, was sentenced to 10 years in prison with five years suspended.

“This is the time for excuses and reasoning, and I have neither,” Washington said, voice weak, at his sentencing. “I’m not opposed to any sentence, I’ll do whatever I have to do.”

C decided not to testify in person at the sentencing. The girl had spent more than two years in a treatment facility for post-traumatic stress disorder following her ordeal, Caron-Maroney said. So the teen wrote a letter to the court, which the prosecutor read aloud.

“I am not his first victim of this type, but I would like to be the last,” C wrote. “I couldn’t sleep for months thinking this man would be free and come and find me or my mom and little brother.… He puts girls in this situation, takes away their pride, and joy of becoming a woman just to make money.”

By Katelyn Secret, Jin Kim, Jessica Evans and Courtney Mabeus
Lisa Driscoll, Jon Banister, Fatimah Waseem, Hayley Goodman and Melanie Kozak contributed to this article.

Special Report Part 1: Trafficking in Dozens of MD Towns while Authorities Struggle to Fight It


These women’s stories, told in a variety of Maryland courtrooms, are similar. And chilling.

R, an immigrant in her early 20s with no papers, a third-grade education and a baby girl, entrusted her life to a man she met at a restaurant in Prince George’s County who told her he’d take care of them. Instead, he beat her and threatened to harm her daughter to force her into prostitution.

S, 23, took a bus from St. Louis to Baltimore to work for a man who promised he’d give her a job in his “webcam business.” Arriving on the ticket he paid for, she learned the man was actually a pimp — who told her she’d have to work as a prostitute to pay him back, including a stint in a hotel near Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport.

C, a 14-year-old runaway, was walking down the street when a man offered her a ride and a place to stay in Clinton. He pampered her, fed her and took her shopping. Then on the third day, he revealed he ran a prostitution business and expected her to work for him. When she messaged friends on Facebook that she wanted out, he became violent.

Their stories, taken from court records, sketch out a common theme: Traffickers find vulnerable young women, seduce them with promises of security, then force them into the sex trade.

When they resist, they are beaten, drugged, threatened with the loss of their children.

And the businesses are everywhere. From a brick house in a quiet neighborhood to a three-star hotel near a swanky mall, sex trafficking has infiltrated the most ordinary of surroundings in Maryland. Behind closed doors, its victims — runaways, single mothers, immigrants, addicts — do what they’re told in unimaginable conditions.

No part of the state immune

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 1.25.38 PM

Howard County detectives arrested Rowland Duffey in room 333 at this Columbia hotel and charged him with human trafficking. A 22-year-old woman told police that Duffey had driven her there from Maine against her will, confiscated her cell phone, demanded she have sex with men who responded to his online ads, and hit her when she resisted, records show. She broke free by telling him she needed emergency care for diabetes. When he took her to a hospital, she sought help. Duffey, now 33, was convicted in state court in 2013 on a misdemeanor human trafficking charge. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Capital News Service Photo Illustration by Alexis Saunders

“I would say that there isn’t any part of the state that’s immune to this,” said Steven Hess, law enforcement coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore.

Three years ago, Gov. Martin O’Malley unveiled the state’s plan of attack at a gathering of 400 people from state, federal and local agencies. A centerpiece of his plan was an ambitious initiative to collect and share data on human trafficking “from every part of government” — and use it to mount a “coordinated, effective, targeted attack.”

Current and former officials say that little progress has been made on the information-sharing plan.

Initially spearheaded by the state police, the effort has been stalled by staff turnover and slow response by government agencies to requests for information, said Amanda Rodriguez, who stepped down in March as human trafficking policy manager for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

She now is chief program officer at TurnAround, a nonprofit social services agency in Towson that works with trafficking victims.

Rodriguez and others involved in anti-trafficking work said lack of information has hurt efforts to win adequate resources on state and local levels to fight the problem. Work on human trafficking cases is mostly done by adding on to the responsibilities of people doing other things.

“To be able to ask for funding, we have to be able to support it with numbers,” Rodriguez said.

How the investigation was done

In the absence of a comprehensive state assessment, Capital News Service obtained a state database of human trafficking arrests and sent public records requests to every county in Maryland.

The reporters also mined police and court files on three dozen criminal investigations from the past decade for details about how victims become trapped, how traffickers operate and how authorities respond locally to what law enforcement and victim advocacy groups say is a significant nationwide problem.

The raw numbers that emerge from enforcement data present a mixed picture: Authorities have uncovered extensive evidence of sex trafficking in Maryland but are still struggling to win convictions with it.

Prosecutors filed 274 sex trafficking cases in state courts between January 2010 and December 2014, according to a CNS analysis of data from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Fifty-nine defendants were charged with felony sex trafficking, including 40 cases involving trafficking of minors.

But most of the rest — 215 — were prosecuted under the misdemeanor trafficking provision of the law.

Trafficking chart

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 1.26.44 PM

Few defendants convicted

And relatively few defendants were convicted of sex trafficking: Those charges were dropped in two-thirds of the cases. There were two felony and 20 misdemeanor sex trafficking convictions, with 54 cases still open as of December 2014, according to the state’s database.

Federal prosecutions are rarer but more successful. Eighteen cases filed since 2010 — including 11 in which the victims were minors — had resulted in conviction of 21 defendants on federal sex trafficking charges in Maryland.

Many of the federal cases came out of joint investigations between federal and local law enforcement. The U.S attorney’s office coordinates the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, which collaborates with local authorities on prosecution of traffickers and provision of services to victims.

Both federal and state human trafficking laws require proof that a pimp used force, fraud or coercion to control a victim in order to convict on a felony charge. If the victim is a minor, coercion is presumed. Otherwise, authorities must prove that the trafficking victims weren’t willing workers.

Proving that often requires the cooperation of victims — and the emotional and financial hold traffickers have over victims was a top reason investigators gave for not producing more trafficking convictions. Other kinds of evidence — cell phone communications and following the money — take time and resources that haven’t materialized.

Federal penalties harsher

When police have evidence of force, fraud or coercion, the cases often are pursued in federal court, where the penalties are harsher — up to life in prison.

For federal prosecution, prosecutors may consider whether the crime is multi-jurisdictional, includes factors that increase severity — such as drug violations or violence — or if the defendant is a danger to the community, said Rachel Yasser, assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore.

So most sex trafficking charges are filed in Maryland state court.

A conviction under the felony provision of the state’s human trafficking law carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

But, more likely, the case will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 10 years and $5,000 fine.

Police and prosecutors say they choose that path if they don’t think they can prove the force, threat, coercion or fraud required to win a felony conviction.

“I mean it’s basically a slap on the wrist,” said State Police Sgt. Deborah Flory, whose job includes investigating trafficking cases. “There’s no real penalty. Catching a robbery charge is worse than catching a trafficking charge for an adult.”

That also helps explain why human trafficking charges are dropped in so many cases: Defendants may be convicted on other types of charges — such as prostitution, weapons, drugs or assault that are easier to prove and carry similar or tougher penalties.

Maryland Department of Public Safety officials would not release the full arrest database, which would have allowed CNS to make that determination.

However, a search of criminal court records in Baltimore found that, since January 2013, prosecutors have dropped all charges in eight of the 10 cases that included trafficking charges and deferred prosecution on a ninth. One case led to a conviction on a non-trafficking charge. All involved misdemeanor trafficking charges.

Christine White, head of the research committee for the Prince George’s County Human Trafficking Task Force and a University of Maryland, College Park criminologist, said the enforcement statistics are disheartening several years into a major state push to combat trafficking.

“With all the problems with arrests and prosecuting,” she said, “you wonder are we all on the same page?”

By Katelyn Secret, Jin Kim, Jessica Evans and Courtney Mabeus