Sex Trafficking

  • 02 February, 2024
  • 40 MB

**CONTENT WARNING** This episode contains discussions of sex trafficking and the depiction of traumatic events. Listener/viewer discretion is advised.

On this crucial episode of the Justice Team Podcast, founder and partner at Singleton Schreiber Brett Schreiber joins Bob Simon to tackle the grave and pressing issue of sex trafficking and sexual abuse within the United States. Shedding light on the disturbing statistic that an estimated one million people are trafficked in America at any given time, the duo delves into the critical signs of trafficking that law enforcement and others can spot. Throughout their discussion, Bob and Brett examine the intricacies of civil prosecution for sex trafficking, emphasizing the need to hold both individuals and corporations accountable. They underscore personalized victim representation and the emotional toll on legal teams, emphasizing the commitment needed for justice.

Brett Schreiber, Singleton Schreiber


Bob Simon (00:12):
Welcome to this edition of the Justice Team podcast on the Justice Team Network. This is practical advice for lawyers, and this one’s also going to be advice for consumers out there too that are faced with very stark reality of which Brett Schreiber, who has been doing sex trafficking, sexual abuse cases.

Brett, who’s been on the show a couple of times that I remember is one of the smartest lawyers I know, and we’re kind of joined to the hip with a few other firms to do the civil prosecution for a lot of sex trafficking cases. And Brett, what I’ve seen has been eye-opening.

Brett Schreiber (00:45):
No, indeed. It’s alarming. It’s disturbing, but it’s truly an opportunity to do well by doing good.

Bob Simon (00:56):
And I think the statistics even show that 1 million people in America alone are being trafficked at any given time.

Brett Schreiber (01:04):
Right. No, and you see it now. I mean, even in airports, I was just traveling again recently over the holidays, and they’ve actually put up signs in a number of locations that law enforcement have learned, the American sign language for the H and the T and if someone were to simply slash an H and a T to law enforcement in an airport or in a bus terminal, that is to tell law enforcement that they’re actually being human trafficked-

Bob Simon (01:33):
Wow. Wow.

Brett Schreiber (01:35):
Which I think speaks volumes, right? It speaks volumes about the evolution of enforcement, but it also speaks volumes about the size of the problem.

Bob Simon (01:42):
That’s insane. Yeah, I did not know that. We’re going to talk a lot on this show today about what rights you have civilly, what statute limitations apply, what are the statutes that apply, and who are the people that are accountable because a lot of times, we’re seeing the pimp or whomever, they don’t have pockets, they’re going to jail, prison if they get picked up. It’s like, well, how are these people going to get compensated? And honestly, how do we stop it and how do we stop this behavior? How do we curb it?

Brett Schreiber (02:08):
Well, unfortunately, Bob, as we know it is the world’s oldest profession, and I would love to say that we will bring an end to it, but I don’t know if we will. I think we can certainly make a significant dent in the reduction of it. I think what we are seeing now in these cases, time and again, is these large transnational motel chains that everybody has heard of. Motel 6, Travelodge. Red Roof Inn.

Bob Simon (02:35):
Red Roof Inn.

Brett Schreiber (02:36):
Yeah. They are probably the three collective, the Holy Trinity of evil when it comes to literally setting the stage for human and sex trafficking to occur in this country. There are bad actors, there are no doubt. There are a lot of terrible people who are involved, but every actor needs a stage, and these hotel chains and motel chains have provided it for them.

Bob Simon (03:01):
And what I’ve seen these, it’s not a political issue. It’s neither red nor blue, it’s green, and simply these motels, hotels are just taking money and turning the other way. And I’ve seen a lot of the victims that we’ve been talking to, which we call survivors, they have asked cleanings to help. I’m being trafficked here for 30 days, and they’re like, “I make way too much money to speak up.” Or we found that there was one, I think it was in Iowa where they’re charging the higher rates for that motel in Iowa off the freeway than you would’ve like the montage in Laguna.

Brett Schreiber (03:36):

Bob Simon (03:37):
I mean, come on. You didn’t know.

Brett Schreiber (03:38):
Yeah, exactly. No. As we explore these cases, I think we’re going to see that a lot of times the hotel staff is either in on it or is getting paid kickbacks to essentially put their head in the sand when people are coming in every single morning and cash paying when these johns and these perps are showing up over and over again, asking about the same room, asking about the same location, clear evidence of physical abuse of people coming in and out, clear evidence of drug use, people coming in and out. There’s so many red flags that are being turned away. And I think what’s really going to be, I think eye-opening as we start discovery in these cases is how much of this has either one, made its way up to food chain up-

Bob Simon (04:25):
Yeah, made its way up.

Brett Schreiber (04:25):
And what they knew and what they ratified, or two, what things they put in place so that they could literally keep their own heads in the sand, keep and pretend that they have some kind of plausible or really implausible deniability.

Bob Simon (04:38):
And you see in some of these hotels, literally, people sitting in the lobby and obviously just “Johns” running in and out and a person sitting there on their phone doing logistics just going after to the same room. So let’s talk about what statutes apply. So there’s a really good anti-sex trafficking statute that’s federal, and we’re going to go over some of the ones in the big states out there and tell you what statutes apply and what it’s, so let’s start with the federal trafficking statute, which is 18 US code section 1591. Now, the critical language here is it used to be that there had to be almost be like a willful, you’re acting-

Brett Schreiber (05:17):
Like a conspiracy.

Bob Simon (05:18):
Conspiracy. But now they lighten the language. It’s almost like a known or should have known statute.

Brett Schreiber (05:23):

Bob Simon (05:23):
So that’s the federal one. And how are you applying that in your cases, Brett?

Brett Schreiber (05:28):
Well, what we’re going to do primarily is it’s a powerful tool, this federal statute, to basically find a way to hold largely the motels and hotels accountable again, on a should-have-known standard. At a certain point, you just can’t, like I said, keep pretending that you don’t know what’s happening. I think this is going to be a very effective means, especially in states outside of California that don’t have the same level of victim and survivor protections that we have here. And so in states that don’t have that, I think this is going to be the hook that is really going to help a lot of people and really hold some of these corporations and transnational entities to account.

Bob Simon (06:20):
And the statute for the federal one is 10 years, right?

Brett Schreiber (06:23):

Bob Simon (06:23):
10 years. So a lot of people, you get hit up by a survivor and it happened eight years ago, at least federal … You fell in federal court, you’re safe.

Brett Schreiber (06:32):
Exactly. Yeah. It has to have been within 10 years. And again, obviously, in California you have up until the age of 40 for these claims to be brought. So you also have a larger period to bring claims here. And being a state of over 350 million people, 11% of the population, I think we probably disproportionately represent victims and survivors of sex trafficking and abuse in our state, which you’re going to see more than 10 or 11%. It’s probably perhaps double that if not more, because of where our location is because of respective borders because of a whole host of issues. And so we’re seeing far more of these cases than we ever wish we did.

Bob Simon (07:21):
And that’s California. So if you have somebody, a victim can survivor that comes to you under the age of 40, you’re safe with the least with a statute of limitations. And then you could think if you could go under California law, it’s like pleading almost like a premises liability case. It’s like proving of negligence against the entity.

Brett Schreiber (07:38):
Exactly.And I think what we’re finding though, and while the federal statute is going to be a very effective and powerful tool based upon that should-have-known standard, what we were talking about before is what we’re seeing and why, I think even just your standard premises and negligence theories are going to be as effective as they are here and in many places is because this is happening over and over again. We were talking before, I’m pretty sure we have cases that we’re both looking at right now that involve the exact same hotel.

Bob Simon (08:10):
We were just talking about that.

Brett Schreiber (08:11):
And so there’s what we’re going to find, and this is why knowledge is power and sharing is caring. We all have to collaborate and stay in touch in these cases both. We can’t be siloed. We cannot allow ourselves to be siloed because the defense will not be siloed.

Bob Simon (08:30):
I mean, we’ve been finding with a lot of the survivors, they find other people that corroborate their stories. And this is just a way to help us prove these cases and hold the bad guys accountable.

Brett Schreiber (08:39):
That’s it. And you’re going to find these little clusters where the same groups and the same hotels and the same pimps and the same survivors were kind of being moved around because they don’t keep them there for too long. And they would literally follow the same path. And again, the companies, the corporations, the stage setters as I’m calling them, they all knew well [inaudible 00:09:01] what was going on.

Bob Simon (09:02):
The other statistics show how important it is for foster kids because 60% of people that are trafficked, we’re in the foster system, which is crazy. And then you have seven out of 10 women after they … If they age out of foster care, which really means you turn 18, you have no resources, they literally give you a trash bag and say, good luck. Seven out of 10 become pregnant before the age 21. And what happens with those children? They’re right back into the foster system. And these are the folks they prey on.

Brett Schreiber (09:29):
For sure.

Bob Simon (09:29):
And that’s kind of, if you want to start helping, you can help there certainly. We can help on the civil side by prosecuting the bad guys, but I mean that’s just a societal cure. So let’s go over just some real quick ones. In California, this is why we need to pay attention because there might be legislation that opens up after age 40. So pay attention. I’m just looking at, we have a whole list here of every single state that applies.

Brett Schreiber (09:53):
Well, California has actually, and I just wrote an article, I think it ran in the Daily Journal on this issue, about in 2024, that that statute of limitations is going to be extended. My problem is that it was only going to apply to abuse that occurs now and into the future. So while we are protecting victims and survivors from this day forward, it does not expand beyond what is already considered by a fairly expansive look back window. And there was a period for certain claims a couple of years ago that also opened up. But I think another really important area that I think is often overlooked because again, it disproportionately affects imperfect people, is what we’re seeing inside of a lot of lockdown facilities. Wow. A lot of juvenile detention facilities, the Polinsky Center in San Diego being one of them, the Chino women’s prison outside of LA being another, there’s a host of them.

To just put it bluntly, these places are [inaudible 00:10:56] dungeons. These oftentimes juveniles or young adult offenders are serving their time in their debt to society and eventually they become sex slaves to-

Bob Simon (11:08):
That’s crazy.

Brett Schreiber (11:09):
… the people who are-

Bob Simon (11:12):
Who are imprisoning them.

Brett Schreiber (11:12):
Imprisoning them. California is unique in that they have now opened a ten-year statute of limitations, or at least up and through 2026 after the abuse if the abuser has been convicted. Otherwise, they can bring claims up and through 2026.

Bob Simon (11:28):

Brett Schreiber (11:30):
And again, there are far more of these claims than we would ever think there are.

Bob Simon (11:36):
And the same thing, we’ve been kind of inundated and had to hire more to our team to help the scale of helping these survivors. Just real quick to interject, if you want to find Brett Schreiber. Quick Instagram, it’s @brettschreibe. I’m @planetfunbob. You can slide into our DM so we can talk about this stuff and we can share with you the list of statutes nationwide. And some are surprisingly good in stage, you would think would not be. I mean, Alabama has a proposal where they’re going to open it up to age 55 right now, it’s good until age 25, right? I mean, Alaska doesn’t have one, but they’re trying to open it up. But we’ll see.

Brett Schreiber (12:10):
New Mexico, I think has potential to be a case in a state that is going to open in the next couple of years. There’s some movement afoot, and there’s a number of states. I mean, it’s … Like you said, this isn’t a red or a blue issue. This is just about doing the right thing issue. And so who would not want to support ways for survivors of sex abuse, whether as a child or as an adult to be able to get recourse and to hold those responsible accountable? You don’t have to be progressive, and you don’t have to be conservative to support that.

Bob Simon (12:45):
Sure. And it’s not like these people that are out there doing the sex trafficking or out there going to the voting booth.

Brett Schreiber (12:54):
They’re not. No. Again, I’m happy to see that finally people are waking up to this tragic reality and you just got to hope that this is another opportunity. It’s like we were talking about the other day, that this is the legacy stuff. You got to ask yourself. Yeah, I know it’s easy. Hey, I’m a car crash lawyer. I’m a comp lawyer. And just to perpetually pun, very much intended, stay in that lane. But you got to ask yourself, what is that legacy that you’re going to bring? How are you going to lose, excuse me, how are you going to use your license to literally change the culture and change the world?

Bob Simon (13:33):
That’s it. And I think this is one very good cause of action to be able to do it. And I prefer to do these individually, survivor by survivor going up against the bad actors. And unfortunately, it is what it is. I know Brett and I have done very hard cases in the past, and this is going to put a target on our back with some very powerful people, and it is what it is.

Brett Schreiber (13:53):
No, indeed. And I’ll say, which you will, but I’ll be happy to say it in this setting and anywhere else that anybody will listen. But I do believe that the mass tortization of sexual assault cases is perverse. I think when you turn these cases, which we’ve seen in the context of Uber and the MDL that they have created in San Francisco to try to settle these cases in mass, they literally have a matrix that decides the value of your claim-

Bob Simon (14:25):
Depending on the type of … It’s crazy.

Brett Schreiber (14:26):
Depending whether there’s literally provisions in that matrix-

Bob Simon (14:30):
For digital penetration. It’s crazy. I’ve seen it. [inaudible 00:14:33].

Brett Schreiber (14:32):
And muffs kids. But for if the driver jerks off looking at you in the rearview mirror or not.

Bob Simon (14:41):
X or not. Yep, or not.

Brett Schreiber (14:42):
There’s a different value associated with that. And the problem with that beyond just the fact that it’s gross, is more fundamentally, it makes it all about the act. And anybody who’s handled these cases know it’s about the effect.

Bob Simon (14:55):
It’s about the survivor and the effect thereof. And that’s where … I mean, I’ll get on the same soapbox as you for a moment. This is why I prefer to do these individually because it’s an individual loss to that specific person. Yeah, it’s the same defendant. And maybe at the end of the day, there’s a huge negotiation for everybody. It’s that individual person. It’s not lumping people together and say, well, he was not looking in the rearview mirror. Here’s 25,000. Nah, that’s not how it works. I see these as much bigger loss cases and we seen, we never where it’s in the Epstein case, for instance, I know that they had held the bank that was … They had a big settlement.

Brett Schreiber (15:30):
Oh, no. And let me tell you, I think there’s going to be cases that are going to go beyond the hotels and motels. I think there is going to be a case potentially against some of the tech entities, some of the banking entities. I think there’s a lot of … Section 230, which is the perpetual immunity that big tech has always had since the beginning is slowly starting to be chipped away in large part because of some of the social media effect on kid cases. And there’s been some authority that’s coming down on that, recognizing that they essentially are a publisher in some way. And their algorithms are designed in such a way to push certain information and to amplify certain information.

Bob Simon (16:11):
Well, that’s what we found. They’re finding a lot of these victims on Facebook.

Brett Schreiber (16:16):
Oh yeah.

Bob Simon (16:16):
They’re getting targeted, they’re communicated through, and that’s kind of where the grooming starts.

Brett Schreiber (16:21):
And I think big tech, and I think some of the big banks, and I think some of the ways that people can transmit cash via app and other digital means, there’s going to be a reckoning with some of them too because there are going to be points in time when they too help to set the stage for this endemic problem to continue.

Bob Simon (16:42):
And if you’re listening or viewing, if you are a lawyer, if you are in this situation, reach out to us with any questions or advice. If you’re a lawyer and you’re looking to send a survivor our way, if you have attorney’s share, you can put Brett or my firm at the top of your waterfall, right at first refusal. We’ll look at it quickly with our team and get back to you if we can help. But I think it’s on a broader level, if anybody else wants to join arms across the nation, I mean, we’re literally finding these in every single state. I’m licensed in, well, two states. We have offices in three. I mean, I’ve got 20 offices like Brett over here in an army of lawyers in Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington, California. Now we figured out Mississippi. Where are you not? Probably the [inaudible 00:17:21].

Brett Schreiber (17:20):
Well, it’s funny, I was looking at it. I think we covered about 30 states right now.

Bob Simon (17:24):
Oh okay. So it wasn’t easier where are you not.

Brett Schreiber (17:25):
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, like the Dakotas … No, actually I got somebody in South Dakota.

Bob Simon (17:30):
Oh, man.

Brett Schreiber (17:30):
One of my Law & motion lawyers. But no, but my Law & Motion lawyers are really big on this too, with respect to providing the air support because some of these bigger issues about taking on tech and taking on banks are probably going to be decided more in courts of appeal than in trial courts. And so if this is something that anyone is interested in pursuing, it’s just like I was talking about before, sharing is caring, we have to lock arms, we have to share information, we have to collaborate, we are stronger together, and we got to do this, right? These clients, they deserve it. And it’s, again, this is an opportunity to leave a monument in this world.

Bob Simon (18:10):
And if you do get into this type of work, it’s emotional. The intake, phone calls are hours. To hear these stories is heartbreaking. And it’s almost unbelievable.

Brett Schreiber (18:19):
And if you’re doing it, you have to not only have that support for the client and for the survivor, but you also have to have that support for your staff.

Bob Simon (18:30):
For you and your staff.

Brett Schreiber (18:30):
Yeah. I’ve got now a full-time social worker on our team, and we’re bringing on another, what they call SAVA, Sexual Abuse Victim Advocate to, again, to help. We’re providing kind of in-services and supports, teaching people how to use trauma-informed language. These are not individuals who are calling you and the first time going to just tell you all about the car wreck they were in last week and the chiropractic visit that they had to follow. Oftentimes, these individuals may have never told this story to anybody. And so that requires … That’s an awesome responsibility and an awesome amount of trust, and you got to be sure to do that, right? And so it’s important. It’s critical. We both talked about it and are doing it. You have to staff up. You have to have the people who understand to be the sympathetic ear. But then you also, you can’t be, like I said, the dump truck who just wants to aggregate and settle these cases out. These are going to be single-event cases fought on the ground case after case. And you got to be prepared.

Bob Simon (19:38):
Prepared. And this is what I love to in a couple of years from now when these are finally getting in front of trials, is just have an army of lawyers that we’ve all trained the right way that can just step up and try one after another, after another, after another.

Brett Schreiber (19:49):
And I like nothing more. I mean, that’s why we’re up to 60 lawyers at my office because when we’ve had defendants go, “What are you going to do? Try 50 of these?” “Yeah, that I still got 10 people back in the office working, so it’s all good. I’m your huckleberry. Let’s roll.”

Bob Simon (20:03):
Love it. And that’s the beauty of Justice HQ and the lawyers that we got here, is you can literally have somebody step up tomorrow to go try a case if you get in that situation. So ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening to this episode. It was a powerful one. It’s something we’re passionate about. Brett Schreiber, you reach out to. He’s in San Diego some of the time, but across the world, fighting injustice everywhere the other part of the time. Brett, thanks for coming on, buddy.

Brett Schreiber (20:22):
Appreciate you, Bob. As always.

Bob Simon (20:23): Maybe you could see any shows or ask any questions. Thank you for listening. Ciao.

Brett Schreiber (20:30):

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