ICE Agents Let Sex Traffickers Go Free After Getting Hand Jobs From Asian Prostitutes

sex trafficking

Agents of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) — a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — reportedly paid “Asian females” for handjobs in undercover operations that sought to combat sex trafficking in Mohave County, Arizona in 2018.

Within a five-month period that year, the agents, identified only as “Arturo” and “Sergio,” documented 17 sexual encounters with subjects working at eight massage parlors in the county, according to records obtained by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University (ASU).

Local police began investigations in May 2016 after receiving multiple reports from citizens who claimed that massage parlors in Lake Havasu City had been operating as houses of prostitution.

Convinced that the businesses had been trafficking Asian women, Havasu and Bullhead City police called HSI — which specializes in similar cases — in April 2018 for help.

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An Asian-inspired massage room. Image (representation only) via Pixabay

The investigation would be known as “Operation Asian Touch.” In one HSI report from May 2018, a naked agent detailed how he had negotiated the price of oral sex with a worker named “Angel.”

“How much for oral copulation?” the agent reportedly asked, to which Angel sought $120. The agent replied that he did not have enough money, so she lowered the price to $100.

The agent also asked Angel to “take off her clothes.” However, when she finally attempted to “perform oral sex,” the agent stopped her, pulled off his condom, and asked her to masturbate him instead.

“The female then placed oil on her hands,” the HSI report said, according to Cronkite News. “After a few minutes, the female stopped and gave the UC a wet towel to clean himself.”

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A workspace is seen during an unveiling of a major expansion of the ICE Cyber Crimes Center July 22, 2015, in Fairfax, Virginia. Image via Alex Wong / Getty Images

Brad Rideout, a defense attorney who represented two suspects, described the agents’ actions as “absolutely, morally problematic.”

“It is unclear how an ICE officer having sexual relations with human-trafficking victims in Mohave County, Arizona, protects the nation from terrorist attack or secures the borders,” he said in a court motion in September 2019, which sought the names and badge numbers of the agents.

In the end, the operation that consumed years of effort from the police, court, and federal agency only resulted in three state misdemeanor convictions, which all came from a single incident.

This involved a 45-year-old woman convicted of prostitution, her husband who drove her to the massage parlor (attempted pandering) and the man who paid her to perform the sexual act (solicitation).

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An ICE agent with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), watches as Guatemalan police investigate the scene after detaining a suspected human trafficker on May 29, 2019, in Guatemala City. Image via John Moore / Getty Images

The agents’ identities remain unknown as of this writing. The ICE has stated that their actions were inconsistent with its official policy.

“HSI is committed to placing the safety of potential victims at the forefront of every investigation,” said ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, according to the Associated Press. “Conduct by a limited number of HSI agents involved in the investigation was not consistent with HSI policy.”

However, an ICE Undercover Operations Handbook from 2008 says otherwise, noting “possible justifications for otherwise illegal activity.” This is reportedly subject to the approval of the agent’s superior.

Arizona police believe the same. “Our understanding of (Homeland Security) policy is that their investigators are allowed to participate in sex acts while working undercover,” Havasu Police Chief Dan Doyle told Today’s News-Herald in December.

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Bullhead Police spokeswoman Emily Fromelt added, “Detectives were informed by HSI that the undercover sexual activity was authorized.”

Feature Image (representation only): Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) ICE agents work in a control center during an operation targeting immigrant gangs in Central Islip, New York. Feature Image via John Moore / Getty Images

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