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Crime & Courts

Federal authorities in SC get high marks for pursuing human trafficking, report says


Federal authorities in South Carolina are some of the top in the nation at bringing human trafficking suspects to trial and getting restitution for their victims, according to a recent report.

According to the Federal Human Trafficking Report by the Human Trafficking Institute, federal prosecutors in South Carolina ranked second in the United States in getting restitution from convicted human trafficker for 2018. Federal agents also brought the state into the top 10 in the number of alleged human traffickers charged with the crime in 2018.

The Human Trafficking Institute used federal court cases and charges for the report, which was released in late June. State cases and charges were not part of its data.

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Judges in the South Carolina federal district court sentenced defendants to pay restitution in eight of 17 convictions last year, putting the state above the national average in monetary penalties for human trafficking. According to the report, South Carolina is only behind New York for the most defendants fined or compelled to pay victims in the United States. The 17 convictions put the Palmetto State fifth in the nation for the number of people who were found or pleaded guilty.

In 2018, agents with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security in South Carolina brought charges against nine alleged human traffickers in four cases, the report shows, putting South Carolina beside Oregon for the 10th most federal charges.

Congress passed a law against human trafficking in 2000, defining the crime and penalties for pressing people into sex for money or labor by means of force, fraud or coercion. The crime typically falls into two categories: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Many times the victims of sex trafficking are children and teenagers, according to victims advocates.

All the new federal cases last year in South Carolina were sex trafficking cases, the institute reported.

State House lawmakers passed a human trafficking law in 2012 and strengthened it in 2015.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is for reporting human trafficking.

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