Human Trafficking Case Sheds Light on Larger Issue Citywide

It took SFPD, the District Attorney's office, and the feds to bust a man accused of human trafficking — and he's just one of many.

(Courtesy Image)

A human trafficking case in San Francisco reached a rare conclusion this Thursday, with the arrest and charging of Kris Mike Nunez.

Nunez, 19, faces multiple counts of pimping a minor over 16, pandering a minor over 16, human trafficking, and sales of narcotics.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the San Francisco Police Department caught Nunez in the act of pimping a young woman earlier this year, allowing the agencies to coordinate an undercover investigation that would eventually indict him.

The SFDA and the SFPD teamed up back in February with the specific goal of identifying and resolving cases of human trafficking. After searching Backpage.com, a site renowned for promoting sex-trafficking, an SFPD officer noticed an ad for sex services by a female that appeared to be a minor.

The officer, working undercover, asked to meet the victim at a hotel downtown in exchange for payment. The advertisement on Backpage.com requested a donation of $250 for the girl. The officer agreed to a price and met the girl at the hotel, where he discovered she was 17.

The officer searched the victim’s cell-phone and suspected Nunez might be her pimp. Hotel security also observed Nunez at the hotel that same day, linking him to the case.

With the combined efforts of the SFPD and SFDA, Nunez was searched and arrested on April 19, 2018. Coincidentally, Backpage.com was also shut-down by federal authorities that month, and the CEO was charged with conspiracy and money laundering. Nunez was officially charged on June 7, and the victim is receiving services.

District Attorney George Gascon said it was integral that all agencies worked together because each lacks the resources to do it alone. More than 30 search warrants and 1,000 hours of work completed by multiple officers and data analysts helped close the case.

“This is not light-duty work, this is work that requires a lot of expertise, a lot of heavy lifting and we are completely overwhelmed,” Gascon said. “We do not have the resources to do the work today.”

Unfortunately, Nunez is not the only human trafficker in San Francisco. Data from the Third Human Trafficking in San Francisco Report suggests San Francisco is in the top ten cities that experience human trafficking nationwide, due to a high immigrant population and an increase of industries that are more susceptible to exploitation.

Assistant District Attorney Frank Carrubba confirmed this possibility and emphasized that the secrecy of human trafficking makes the crime seem less extensive than it is.

“Together with New York, San Francisco is probably one of the largest hubs for human trafficking in the U.S.,” said Carrubba. “Our numbers (of arrests and prosecutions) don’t reflect that and the reason our numbers don’t reflect that … is that this is very much hidden.”

The late Mayor Ed Lee created a task force and started an annual data report of human trafficking in San Francisco in 2013. Thus far there have only been three official reports of human trafficking located in San Francisco, but the most recent one cites an estimated 529 human trafficking survivors in the city.

In San Francisco specifically, data shows that 42 percent of reported cases in 2016 were labor trafficking and 46 percent were sex trafficking. The report also found that sex trafficking was more common for homeless minors, and the majority of sex trafficking victims were under the age of 25.

“Human trafficking in both the sex and labor trade is often hidden right under our eyes in the community,” police Cmdr. Greg McEachern said.

Gascon believes $1 million more in funding for human trafficking cases could help uncover several more cases and charge perpetrators like Nunez.

“It is a priority for us. We’re doing everything that we can, but we have limitations,” Gascon said

The SFDA is also asking any other victims of Nunez or anyone with tips to contact them as soon as possible.

You can reach the District Attorney’s Office at (415) 553-1674 and the San Francisco Police Department at (415) 575-4444.

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