Help me help my friend in DC.
May 19, 2010 3:09 PM   Subscribe

A Russian friend of mine may be in a dangerous situation in Washington, DC.

My friend and former student K arrived in DC yesterday, along with a friend. She came over on some kind of travel exchange program put together by a Russian travel agency called 'XXXXX'. They paid about 3K for this program.

The program promised a job offer in advance, but didn't deliver. They said they would send one via email, but failed there, too.

Her contact in the USA barely speaks English, doesn't answer her calls but does answer mine. He has asked her and her friend to meet in NYC tonight around midnight, with promises of hostess work in a lounge. Yes, I know how horrific that sounds- that's why I am working all possible angles here.

She is not going to NYC but I need some help handling and understanding how to handle this- I have a friend helping them with a cheap hotel for the night, but that's all at the moment. I am presently driving to LA and could fly her and her friend to meet me there on Saturday, but couldn't house them indefinitely. I will be monitoring this thread over the next hour.
posted by fake to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (243 answers total) 742 users marked this as a favorite
 
She should probably contact her consulate.
posted by HuronBob at 3:14 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


As in, the Russian consulate? Can you help me find some contact information?
posted by fake at 3:16 PM on May 19, 2010


Russian Embassy (www.russianembassy.net)
2650 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20007
Tel:(202) 298-5700
Fax:(202) 298-5735
posted by carmicha at 3:17 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


He has asked her and her friend to meet in NYC tonight around midnight, with promises of hostess work in a lounge.

For the love of god make sure she does not take him up on this offer.
posted by griphus at 3:17 PM on May 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


The consulate is housed within the Embassy.
posted by carmicha at 3:18 PM on May 19, 2010


I have a generally good impression of Ayuda. They're probably gone for the night, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to call them tomorrow, explain that your friend is in town and worried that she's found herself in a trafficking situation, and ask them who they know who can help.
posted by craichead at 3:19 PM on May 19, 2010


Actually, call them now. Maybe someone is still there.
posted by craichead at 3:19 PM on May 19, 2010


Ugh. Sorry for triple-posting. Their page on human trafficking says:
To get help please call (202) 387-4848 or come to our walk-in hours for victims of human trafficking: Washington DC, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. For directions to our office please click here.

posted by craichead at 3:21 PM on May 19, 2010


I just called the DC Russian Embassy at 202-298-5700; they are still open. Also, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center has a 24-hour phone line at 888-373-7888.
posted by lalex at 3:30 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


this is from the department of justice, so may or may not be useful based upon her legal status in the country - but you could call and see if they could help.

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/help/tip.htm
posted by nadawi at 3:31 PM on May 19, 2010


I am going to make her call the embassy right now.
posted by fake at 3:35 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I called the embassy and they were totally unhelpful and suggested calling back for counseling tomorrow- 2029398907. I am going to try to find a hotel or place to stay for her now.
posted by fake at 3:57 PM on May 19, 2010


I live in DC, let me know if you need any help from someone here. I don't really know about human trafficking scams or anything like that, but if I can help in any way, memail me.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:58 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Memailing.
posted by fake at 4:04 PM on May 19, 2010


Do you know if they received work visas (and more important, do they have possession of the paperwork)? If so, I can make a few calls and attempt to find them some employment in DC - if I can manage it (about a 50% chance), it wouldn't pay high-paying, but it would be legitimate and not part of the "entertainment industry." Do they speak good English? Reading and writing skills?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:08 PM on May 19, 2010


Dee,
They have j1 visas in their possession... one speaks reasonable english, no idea about the other.
posted by fake at 4:10 PM on May 19, 2010


Just an FYI, you are very unlikely to get any assistance from the embassy.
posted by Behemoth at 4:19 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kind of seconding what Dee said. They must have arrived here on some type of visa, either a tourist visa (which precludes any type of work in the country) or a work visa which takes quite a bit of effort and time for the (specific) employer to get for them. There are other visas but these are the most common. Sounds like a shady deal. If they came on a tourist visa and some person said they will meet them at midnight to put them to work, I hope they run to the nearest Russian Embassy. They may have a couple of issues with this--if they came here on a tourist visa with the intention of working, US immigration will not be happy with this. If they came here on a tourist visa and have the means to get themselves back to their country (I know, once here, many people are loath to leave but...) they will at least salvage their toruist visa and be able to return again. Should they just stay and work on a tourist visa and get caught, they will be barred from coming back to the US for 10 years (minimum)... It's a complicated mess.
p.s. "Hostess work in a lounge" generally means stripping then prostitution. There is no reason to import someone at great expense to work at a minimum wage job that anyone off the street could do.
posted by MsKim at 4:20 PM on May 19, 2010


A J-1 visa is a cultural exchange visa, and some types of work are allowed. So they're not automatically in trouble with immigration if they work while here. It sounds like they would need a new sponsor, though, and I'm not sure there is time to arrange that. Here's more info on what types of jobs are allowed: DS-2019 form.
posted by zinfandel at 4:56 PM on May 19, 2010


I am not going to be able to monitor this thread for a few hours. They are staying at a hotel, but unfortunately still planning on going to NYC tomorrow. I will do my best to talk them out of it tomorrow morning.
posted by fake at 5:01 PM on May 19, 2010


if they got to nyc tomorrow, they are signing up to be prostitutes. they will get their passports taken, they will probably be beaten, and the only way to get out will be to die or to become to old to be of use to them anymore. or, you know, this "contact" is a totally upstanding citizen and always conducts interviews for hosting jobs in a different city than they were originally told in the middle of the night. which seems more likely?
posted by nadawi at 5:18 PM on May 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


Are you 100% sure they're at the hotel?

Try to get the address of where the guy wants to meet them in NYC, and call the NYPD ASAP. Even if you're unable to get an address, you still have the guy's phone number, which may still be useful to them.

Here is a list of contact numbers at the NYPD. The main switchboard is (646) 610-5000
posted by schmod at 5:36 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I live in DC, let me know if you need any help from someone here."

2nd.
posted by anti social order at 5:59 PM on May 19, 2010


Is anyone in NYC willing to accompany them to meet the guy? I would fly there myself if I wasn't in a car full of my stuff in Wyoming.
posted by fake at 6:00 PM on May 19, 2010


Your friend has become a victim of human trafficking. Her 'hosts' know that her fear of immigration authorities may prevent her from seeking help. That fear makes it possible for them to continue selling women into sexual slavery. (And yes, that's exactly what it is. Your friend's passport will be taken, she will be raped, she won't be paid and she may never have the opportunity to contact the outside world again). But i promise you, if you contact the police, they will be far less concerned about the immigration status of two Russian women than they will be about potentially bringing down a human trafficking ring. Some jurisdictions even have specific amnesties which protect the victims of human trafficking in return for information about their traffickers. If your friend won't contact the police, you should call them yourself.
posted by embrangled at 6:02 PM on May 19, 2010


God fucking damn it, I can fucking see what is happening. I have called the fucking dc police, the embassy, and every russian speaker and dc resident I know. I need some help, not a lecture on trafficking.

The problem is that I can't convince her/them, so now I am trying to find some other means of protection or prevention.


I am really desperate here. The place they've been promised a job is a place called lux lounge, which I doubt exists.
posted by fake at 6:15 PM on May 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


The Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-3737-888. They do not take down personal information. It is entirely confidential. There should be Russian-speaking operators on there. Please, even if they insist on going to New York, ask them to reach out to the hotline. I would also suggest that you give them a call as well.

And add me to the list of DCers who can help out if you need anything on the ground.
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:16 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


And just saw your post - I'm not trying to lecture you on trafficking; you are stuck in a horrible situation. But someone on the hotline might be able to convince your friends. The hotline might help you with ideas as well.
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:17 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


The place they've been promised a job is a place called lux lounge, which I doubt exists.

It Exists. Call them. 718-336-6698.
posted by schmod at 6:18 PM on May 19, 2010


Fake, I just sent you a GMail... I may be able to contact someone who would have some contacts in New York who might help. It is a real outside shot, but I will make the call now and monitor this thread and GMail...
posted by Slothrop at 6:21 PM on May 19, 2010


FYI just checked the website. It looks like a front page. The photos section features random images of NYC. The menu link gets you nothing. The majority of the site has no content.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 6:40 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I didn't mean to lecture you, fake. I thought some of that information might help you to convince your friend not to go to New York. This exact situation has happened to thousands of women before her and she needs to know that it has ended badly for all of them. She is extraordinarily lucky to have been given this brief opportunity to escape the trafficking process. I'm posting from my phone so can't point you to specific resources, but please call the human trafficking line suggested above. Also, tell your friend that women in her situation sometimes recieve long stay US work visas in return for giving information to the authorities. If you can tell us more about her reasoning in still wanting to go to New York, maybe we can help you talk her out of it.
posted by embrangled at 6:40 PM on May 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Would the NYPD be more interested? This guy is supposed to be meeting them in NYC, right? Did he give them an address? I would try to get the address they're supposed to be going to in NYC and call the NYPD with the information.
posted by ishotjr at 6:46 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK. This is the place. 1915 Coney Island Ave.

Lux Lounge website is obviously fake or under development.

Was some sort of Russian restaurant when the Street View car drove through. A google search seems to indicate that a variety of restaurants have operated out of the location. The property was listed for sale in Feb09 for $89,000, got in a lot of trouble with the food/building inspector between April and May, and was pulled from the market in August. The name of the restaurant at this point was "Heaven Nights."

A Tajikistani restaurant was operating at the location in 2004, and had the same phone number as the Lux Lounge.

This place, Бар "Time" has also had the same address at some point.

The Lux Lounge had its "grand opening" on Feb 26, 2010. This photo does not inspire confidence. Since then, the club has played host to a small number of acts.

There are other tidbits indicating that it operates (at least on occasion) as a strip joint.
posted by schmod at 6:46 PM on May 19, 2010 [29 favorites]


The physical address doesn't check out in Google Street View either.
posted by mkb at 6:49 PM on May 19, 2010


Do you have money yourself that you can bribe her with? You need to do whatever is necessary to convince her not to go to New York. If that means telling her you have a job lined up in D.C. next week to buy some time........do it. Do whatever it takes to buy yourself some time.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:51 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is anyone in NYC willing to accompany them to meet the guy?

I'm no shirking violet, but you're talking about getting involved with what is likely a Russian mafia situation.
posted by Justinian at 6:51 PM on May 19, 2010 [35 favorites]


I GMailed the poster the following :

"Okay, my friend suggested two possible resources -

One is Polaris Project which is in DC. They are an anti-human-trafficking organization. Their Web site is http://www.polarisproject.org/ . Maybe your friends could call their telephone number and have someone evaluate their situation? Telephone is 202-745-1001 .

The second group is Sanctuary for Families in New York. They are also an anti-human-trafficking group. Web is http://www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org/ . Their phone number is (212) 349–6009 ."
posted by Slothrop at 6:58 PM on May 19, 2010


OK. This is the place. 1915 Coney Island Ave.

*gasps* This is the exact address my maternal grandfather's father's family lived at when they first came to America in the 1920's. They were hatmakers and fur traders from northern Moldova.

Sorry for the random derail, but it was just shocking to come across an address I know well on MetaFilter, much less in a thread such as this one. So sad to think of the building's modern usage...

posted by Asparagirl at 7:05 PM on May 19, 2010 [111 favorites]


Don't know if the poster is still reading this, but

NYPD online tipline:
https://a056-crimestoppers.nyc.gov/crimestoppers/public/tipForm.cfm?pgLang=english&mwID=0

Get as much information as you can out of your friends on where they're going, call the police department (800-577-TIPS), fill the online form out. I don't know if the NYPD will be any more responsive, but it's worth trying, and this way at least information on your friends is out there. Hell, if you find enough details on where and when these people are supposed to meet and post it here, I for one would be willing to tie up phone lines about this to see if more people calling helps any.

Can you buy them a return ticket out of NYC, or do they have any money for a return trip? Do you know how they're going to get to the city? If they go by train, maybe try to get the police to meet them there. I know it's shitty, but there are worse things that could happen to them.
posted by _cave at 7:13 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


FYI: There's a Lux Lounge in DC, on New York avenue. Possible language-barrier misunderstanding?
posted by Dimpy at 7:14 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Def nyc. Calle trfk hotline & made case.
posted by fake at 7:25 PM on May 19, 2010


I also live in DC and work fairly close to the Russian embassy; please don't hesitate to MeFi mail me if you think I can be of help in any way, even just taking your friend out for coffee or lunch tomorrow.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:27 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hard to believe its a language issue, contact speaks russian. I have his #
posted by fake at 7:33 PM on May 19, 2010


I have been talking to the poster by phone and he is still checking in on the thread safely while driving. He is putting a plan into action but I am sure he would appreciate any further information or advice people have.
posted by Slothrop at 7:34 PM on May 19, 2010


The physical address doesn't check out in Google Street View either.

@MKB: Google's geolocation is a bit off. It's a few doors down, and is the one with Cyrillic writing on the awning. (You can narrow down the location by googling the awnings on either side of it).

I'm in DC, but don't speak Russian. MeMail me if there's anything I can do.
posted by schmod at 7:47 PM on May 19, 2010


Is anyone in NYC willing to accompany them to meet the guy? I would fly there myself if I wasn't in a car full of my stuff in Wyoming.

I would recommend that no one does this... I know they need help but they need POLICE help not good samaratin help.
posted by MsKim at 7:50 PM on May 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


OP's phone is down so updates might take a bit.

The problem is that I can't convince her/them, so now I am trying to find some other means of protection or prevention.

If you really can't talk them out of meeting this person, ask them to leave their passports somewhere safe - even a bus station locker - just in case this is what it looks like.
posted by anti social order at 8:00 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


For NYPD involvement, you might have the best chance of interesting the NYPD Vice Enforcement Division of Queens--they're the ones tasked with human trafficking cases. I can't find a direct number online, but the general switchboard number is 1-646-610-5000. The sex crimes reporting number is 1-212-267-RAPE; this might not be an exact fit, but it is probably staffed with some urgency 24-7 and they may know how to redirect the call. You want to emphasize "Russian girls promised regular jobs in DC meeting probable sex trafficker instead in Brighton Beach."

As to the request to have a MeFite meet them there at that location: the only third parties who should show up at that location and try to separate them from what are likely Russian mafia handlers are NYPD officers. If they are en route and need help to get back to DC, or need assistance in DC before returning to Russia, you could direct them to the Travelers Aid Society.
posted by availablelight at 8:04 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


PS If you need help making necessary calls, say so.
posted by availablelight at 8:08 PM on May 19, 2010


Forget third party request
posted by fake at 8:18 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


One last resort to try to stop any meeting, or bail them out afterwards:

ICE hotline 1-866-DHS-2-ICE
posted by availablelight at 8:21 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


(ICE also investigates "Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling", in addition to some of the more negative press it gets.)
posted by availablelight at 8:26 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Could you ask them if they have any final words for their mothers or something along those lines, to reinforce the gravity of the situation?
posted by 6550 at 8:35 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am now camped out in buffalo, wy.

I called the 18883737888 hotline above. They now have complete information (including this thread) and are connecting me with other resources. Tomorrow morning I will attempt to connect K with them, I have a plan to make them call. I have been told by every single entity contacted that my words are near worthless and the contact must be initiated by the parties in question. Comprehensible but crushingly frustrating.

The hotline gave me facts about j1 visas, enumerated some potential outcomes and pitfalls, and gave me specific emotional approaches so as not to alienate or condescend.

The phone conversations I had with people in this thread (and by memail) were incredibly helpful. I am particularly grateful for the help updating here ande additional phone calls/resources being mobilized by those mefites. And j, thank you thank you for the memails.

I hope to update after our convo tomorrow. I will do whatever is necessary to keep them away from nyc for another day.
posted by fake at 9:03 PM on May 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can you get them to insist on a meeting AT the police station? Presumably their contact will say no, which should show them that he's up to no good.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:05 PM on May 19, 2010


(at = inside)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:07 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lobstermitten- Very doubtful. recall that police are widely corrupt in russia.
posted by fake at 9:22 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, frankly, I really hope this just turns out to be a legit operation, even though the chances look vanishingly small.
posted by fake at 9:24 PM on May 19, 2010


let them prove themselves to be a legit op.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:30 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


it certainly doesn't look like they are and it will be interesting to see what shakes out. with your friends safe no matter what.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:30 PM on May 19, 2010


Will do.
posted by fake at 9:31 PM on May 19, 2010


Ah, didn't think of that. Trying to think of "safe" meeting places, as a last resort - places where the guy will automatically be caught on camera, where there are authority figures who could help if the guy is sketchy. Church? Bank? City Hall?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:32 PM on May 19, 2010


Yeah, it is good thinking. I keep trying to think out to extremes, tech solutions, etc... so far no real genius though.
posted by fake at 9:44 PM on May 19, 2010


you reported the situation, you have some good info as per roadblocks, you have a community paying attention, you're camped and keeping an eye, etc. your genius will pull through. stay tuned.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:47 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know if you know the area you're in at all (your profile says you're from Fargo), but my aunt lives in Buffalo and whenever she has to fly she usually goes out of Casper, WY or Billings, MT. Hopefully won't have to happen, but good info to have just in case you need to get to them or get them to you right away.
posted by malthas at 9:47 PM on May 19, 2010


I'm trying to reach friends in NYC who might know of a legit job in hopes that they can guarantee something immediate, just to stave off the girls going to this obviously scary meeting, but I'm not having any luck.

Clearly, this is not a good situation. Does someone not know a journalist or media contact in NYC who would show up in hopes of a story and, at the very least, show the baddies that these particular women are "connected" and not worth the trouble?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:50 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


And does anyone have any information about "Aloha?" I could find anything online that seemed like it was the place.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:51 PM on May 19, 2010


Yeah,Dee, I tried Googling them and Yandexing as well, no bones. Don't have any contact info for them from K, either. I will do my very best to get all info from her documents tomorrow morning.
posted by fake at 9:57 PM on May 19, 2010


Does she have a camera? Photos of them and their doc's, emailed to you, would be a good idea.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:01 PM on May 19, 2010


Don't think so, but I can buy her one and have her pick it up...
posted by fake at 10:05 PM on May 19, 2010


I know they said "Definitely New York City" but the Lux Lounge is actually on New York Avenue. So I could see how there could be some confusion even without the language issue.

Personally, I'm curious why your friends are still so adamant about going up to New York.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:06 PM on May 19, 2010


There are a lot of emotional, cultural, and personal issues at play which are not all logical or easy to understand, especially from the perspective you get from here.
posted by fake at 10:13 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


>I can buy her one

Possible there is a place like Kinko's or Staples that would be able to do this for them.
Do you know about where they're staying in DC? We could help finding nearby resources.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:16 PM on May 19, 2010


sorry, "do this for them" = take photos and email them, without you having to buy a camera.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:17 PM on May 19, 2010


There is a Russian Counsulate in NYC as well:

Russian Consulate General
www.ruscon.com
9 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128
(212) 348-0926
posted by availablelight at 10:29 PM on May 19, 2010


I memailed you about this in more detail about my personal experiences and resources, but in case it helps someone reading this later:

There is middle ground between, say, working as a waitress and being chained and beaten. I am not saying that they are going into a good situation. That is doubtful. However, even if they go through with it, there is still a chance that they will be able to walk away from whatever situation they find themselves in. So don't lose hope.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:58 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Should your friends end up in Brooklyn despite your efforts, I have one more resource to suggest: the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, which offers immigrant and family violence services, among others. Even assuming your friends are not Jewish, this place is a mere 1.5 miles away from the Lux, and likely knows of any more appropriate resource they could draw on.

Note that they have Russian-speaking staff, which is what I Googled for. There is a phone number and e-mail as well.
posted by dhartung at 11:21 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is not necessarily prosecutable as human trafficking or forced labor (yet), but it definitely sounds like visa fraud. See a very similar case here. While there may be some breach of contract with the agency as far as misleading them about the nature of the work, I wouldn't count on the Russian authorities doing much about it. I would look into the exact terms and names listed on their visa. Since they have a J1 Visa, they probably have a sponsor, and as mentioned above it is non-trivial to get legit work from someone who is not their sponsor, so they should at least know who that is. Also, make sure they leave their passports and return plane tickets somewhere safe if/when they go to the meeting, as that is a frequent point of exploitation in these situations. And don't let them go alone.
posted by sophist at 11:21 PM on May 19, 2010


fake,

You may have called them already, but I sent a message to Jake Adelstein about this thread, and he said to contact the Polaris Project in DC.
posted by lukemeister at 12:38 AM on May 20, 2010


To those saying this still might be an honest job offer: I've studied human trafficking and other forms of forced migration under a professor who specialises in researching it. This is quite literally a textbook case of women being trafficked into the sex industry. Traffickers target Russian women. There's always a promised job offer, and it always falls through at the last minute. There's always financial pressure to stay, often to repay loans taken out to finance the trip. The actual job is almost always prostitution, usually forced and unpaid. If there was any hope of this being a legitimate job offer, the employer would be making a much greater effort to distinguish himself - in word and in deed - from the standard operating procedure of human traffickers. Not interviewing them at midnight in a strip club would be a really good start.
posted by embrangled at 4:23 AM on May 20, 2010 [71 favorites]


Also, you say there are complex personal and emotional issues at play. I understand that she will be embarrassed to admit she's been duped, and that she may be under financial pressure to stay and earn the cost of her trip. But if she remains adamant about going through with the meeting, despite overwhelming evidence that she will be sold into unpaid prostitution, i would begin to wonder if she's actually afraid of something even worse. Have the traffickers threatened to harm her loved ones back in Russia, for example? This is a common tactic in the trade, and might help explain her apparent determination to go willingly into a dangerous situation. Unfortunately if this is the case, I'm not sure what else you can do to help, short of offering to warn her family.
posted by embrangled at 4:42 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


When it comes to convincing them that this is human trafficking, I think the approach varies depending on whether they (A) are educated about the concept of trafficking and the techniques and tricks that traffickers use, but just refuse to admit they are in that type of situation, or (B) are not that familiar with the idea of human sex trafficking and maybe don't think it is a real thing. If the latter, then I think you need to find some resources to introduce them to the concept. I'm thinking the ideal would be a Russian-language documentary about trafficking, available online, or a support group for victims of trafficking that has someone that would speak to these girls (either in person or on the phone), but maybe even something as simple as an episode of Law and Order on Hulu would be enough to get the message across. If the former, then I think it may be actually harder to convince them of what is going on, but if you just lay out the calmly and directly, and emphasize the reasons that this is vanishingly unlikely to be anything other than human trafficking (for example, why would a bar bring women all the way from Russia to work as hostesses when there are millions of Americans out of work right now who would love to take that kind of job).

Good luck fake, and good job.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:01 AM on May 20, 2010


Where are they? I or someone else in DC could go to their hotel and try to convince them not to leave.
posted by zennie at 5:07 AM on May 20, 2010


For future reference in situations exactly like this please contact the US State Department at jvisas at state dot gov. We (and by that I me my coworkers and I) will get this situatuation rectified imediately upon learning of such situations. We cannot take action to ensure that women like fake's friend here are not exploited unless we know about these situations!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:07 AM on May 20, 2010 [191 favorites]


Does that mean you're on it, Pollomacho?
posted by zennie at 5:14 AM on May 20, 2010


We'll be on it as soon as I get some details! Lux lounge and Aloha are a good start!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:18 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I wish I could help, but my family members who are cops work out of a precinct in Harlem, no where near where you're saying these girls have been asked to go. I can try and get a message to my cousin, but I doubt it will help.

I've also MeMailed a MeFite who's an NYC journalist; maybe this person would be able to help.
posted by TrishaLynn at 5:21 AM on May 20, 2010


For NYPD involvement, you might have the best chance of interesting the NYPD Vice Enforcement Division of Queens--they're the ones tasked with human trafficking cases. I can't find a direct number online, but the general switchboard number is 1-646-610-5000. The sex crimes reporting number is 1-212-267-RAPE; this might not be an exact fit, but it is probably staffed with some urgency 24-7 and they may know how to redirect the call. You want to emphasize "Russian girls promised regular jobs in DC meeting probable sex trafficker instead in Brighton Beach."

Correction (it was late last night and the caffeine had run out): you actually want the NYPD Vice Enforcement Division for Brooklyn, not Queens, for this location. I'm happy to see pollomacho's response and hoping this means things are looking up at the interception end.
posted by availablelight at 5:40 AM on May 20, 2010


I have a few friends who speak fluent Russian, email my nick at gmail if that would be helpful.
posted by Skorgu at 5:53 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I got them on the phone with the trafficking hotline this morning. They now have numbers to call and resources, but in spite of everyones best effrts and offers, still plan to meet the guy in NYC.

I feel horrible about this, but now am working with a number of groups/people trying to do something else.

Please no more memail. xxxxxx@gmail or xxxxxxxxx. Don't call me just to talk or only with words of support.
posted by fake at 6:12 AM on May 20, 2010


I'm in NYC and willing to help if needed. Let me know if you want me to start asking around for temporary legit work, I know some folks who might have something. I can even just take your friends to lunch and try to talk them out of meeting this dude, if that's helpful.
posted by miskatonic at 6:15 AM on May 20, 2010


Now you need to stay in touch with them so you know exactly when and where the meeting is going to take place--at least get her to promise she won't go anywhere to meet ANYONE without passing along the info to you and hopefully hours in advance. Then you use that info to get someone on scene (feds at State or ICE, NYPD, etc) for the meeting.

I think finding them another job is a worthy idea, but what happens if they're told the hostessing gig will pay more, or they "owe" the agency to take the placement, or they can work it on top of an existing job to make ends meet, or they can at least accept an offer of housing with other girls working there, etc.?
posted by availablelight at 6:49 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are there any places with public-facing web cams or closed circuit camera systems that are nearby? Maybe that would be good to have a few of their faces available for others to see?
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:59 AM on May 20, 2010


I feel horrible about this
I don't think you should feel horrible. You've been a really good friend. You've done everything you could possibly do: you've given them information and resources and advice. But when it comes right down to it, they're adults, and they get to make their own decisions. I think they're making an unwise decision, but it's not my call, and it's not yours either. It's not your job to save them.

I think the best thing you can do now is to be supportive and friendly and non-judgmental. Wish them luck. Ask them to stay in touch. Let them know that they can call you at any time, no matter what, and if something is wrong you won't be shocked or horrified or tell them "I told you so." (And that's true even if their problems are more of the "my boss is withholding my wages" type than the "I have been forced into sex slavery" type. Also, I would consider the possibility that they know that "hostess in a lounge" may be code for "stripping" and are ok with that.)
posted by craichead at 6:59 AM on May 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Here's a full list of human trafficking resources available to you in NYC.

dhartung's suggestion to contact the Jewish Community Center is a good one. They speak Russian, and have a huge presence in the area (Brooklyn's community of Russian Jews is one of, if not the largest in the world). 718-449-5000

Other contacts:
Keith Kolovich is the Group Supervisor for the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit for ICE in NYC. 646-230-3379 keith.kolovich@dhs.gov

Brian Conroy is the chief of the NYPD's vice unit. 646-610-7482 bnconroy@nypd.org
posted by schmod at 7:27 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


And does anyone have any information about "Aloha?" I could find anything online that seemed like it was the place.

This place seems to fit the description. Google translate link.
posted by av123 at 7:35 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fake, if it helps, there's a Russian Community Life Center in Brooklyn where I am sure you could get them in touch with someone who speaks Russian and would be willing to talk with them, maybe even take them to a local police precinct to explain the situation. I don't know anyone at the center itself, but its an affiliate of Hope For New York and I know a number of people on the board of directors / advisory team there who I could put a call into to see if they could help get the wheels turning.

Good on you for working so hard on this.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:36 AM on May 20, 2010


Keith Kolovich is the Group Supervisor for the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit for ICE in NYC. 646-230-3379 keith.kolovich@dhs.gov

Brian Conroy is the chief of the NYPD's vice unit. 646-610-7482 bnconroy@nypd.org


At the very least, Fake, email these guys this thread.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:40 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Arg. I'm useless, but I just posted and a link to this thread in pretty much every social media channel I have access to. Crossing fingers.
posted by LMGM at 7:49 AM on May 20, 2010


The Justice Department also has a contact number at 888-428-7581, which may be able to help you if you've exhausted your options with the State Dept hotline.

(CC'd to Faked's GMail along with ICE and NYPD contacts). I'll happily pass this thread along to Keith Kolovich and Brian Conroy if nobody has already done so.)
posted by schmod at 7:54 AM on May 20, 2010


I have help from the state dept, five or six individuals, and two human trafficking prevention groups. Wheels are turning and all parties are being vetted. Sitting tight in wyoming right now. AFAIK tickets to NYC have not yet been purchased.

Still hoping this turns out to be something other than it appears.
posted by fake at 7:55 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Schmod, go ahead and pass it on, the keyboard on mydroid is starting to glitch out..
posted by fake at 8:02 AM on May 20, 2010


This may sound silly, but if they are still in DC I could leave work at some point this afternoon and take them to a museum or something -- possibly doing something ACTUALLY touristy would help them feel good about the trip and maybe break them out of the denial they might have about what they're doing here and help give them some perspective. At the very least, they're in a foreign country and presumably confused and frightened especially with all this going on and I am a big advocate of doing something that feels normal in these circumstances. Also, either way, going to the Smithsonian or something could be fun and is almost definitely better than sitting around fretting. Even if everything turns out great in the long run, there's no reason not to take advantage of their time in DC.

Good, good luck -- no matter what happens you're an amazing friend and obviously have done the best you can.

I'll stop posting now because obviously you know there's plenty of support out there if you need it and are probably feeling overwhelmed so I apologize if I'm making it worse but it's nice to know that positive things are happening.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:06 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I just wanted to say that I <3 mefi with all my being right now. Seriously guys, this is an amazing amount of effort and I'm alternating between awe of all the people reaching out and helping and anger that this sort of thing still goes on in the world.
posted by griffey at 8:38 AM on May 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


RMrs. Pterodactyl, if I thought that there might even be a fraction of a chance that would work, id take you up on it. In wish they could meet you, but they've already left for the greyhound station and refused all offers and plans to stay in DC for one more night (godfuckingawful to write that down). There are people ready and authorities know in NYC.

I am going to get back on the road, but no one should hesitate to call with info or whatever.
posted by fake at 8:52 AM on May 20, 2010


People may wonder why I often spend my free moments making shoddily written, sarcastic, jokey, favorite-bait posts on MeFi. Now you all know.

Usually I get these cases weeks or months after they've stepped off that bus.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:59 AM on May 20, 2010 [108 favorites]


Fake - can you get the bus information (bus # / departure / arrival time, etc.). While you're on the road perhaps we can work in this thread to arrange for someone to meet them (with a signboard with their names perhaps?) at Port Authority when the bus arrives.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:01 AM on May 20, 2010


fake, do YOU need resources (a place to crash, another phone, internet connection) en route to LA? This has to be enormously stressful and if someone can give you a place to take a break from driving that might be a good idea. I can't help because I am in Wisconsin and thus out of your way but this would be a good place to ask.
posted by desjardins at 9:02 AM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Greyhound schedule Washington DC to NYC for May 20th. Looks like they could catch arrivals to NYC at 7:00pm (bus # 2246), 8:50pm (2252), 10:00pm (2258), 11:00pm (552), 11:50pm (2264), 12:45am (1008), 2:10am (520), or 2:20am (2276). Lowest fares are all the same price so that doesn't look like it would affect their decision on timing, so I'm guessing they'll get in on one of the earlier options, if it helps.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:15 AM on May 20, 2010


I am in NYC with a flexable schedule - MeMail if you need sneakers on the ground.
posted by shothotbot at 9:18 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fake, I relayed this to you by email as well, but if you need a couch, laptop, and wifi in Denver while you're on your way through, let me know.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I life in NYC, and I'm available all day today. I sent you an email. Human trafficing is bad business and I'd like to do whatever I can to stymie it.
posted by fuq at 9:27 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fake said they're already on their way to the Greyhound depot in DC, so they could be leaving at 12:15 PM, 1, 2:30, or 4. Arrival between 5:45 and 8:50.
I think they would arrive at Port Authority:
625 8TH AVE
New York, NY 10018
posted by joecacti at 9:30 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bus schedule is good.

New conflicting info. I spoke to th sponsor listed on their visa. They claimed that the girls should be in Virginia Beach, which was an offer that had been eztended and then canceled. Then some kind of manager called them and told them to go to NYC, and I amwaiting to get ticket details from them.


They plan to meet the guy before doing anything else and at this point, that is their choice. I am going to inform them that people and money are waiting if they change their mind but because of this phone call they are even more adamant and. Committed.


I am going to call and harass the sponsor now and try to understand wtf is going on better. Again, hoping this is all for nought or something other than it seems.
posted by fake at 9:30 AM on May 20, 2010


I just got off the phone with fake. He is understandably wearing out his keyboard on his phone, and talking on it when he's not doing that. Hope the battery doesn't run out. He asked me to post an update after our discussion.

I advised him that I'm not in NYC but I want to do what I can to help, the latest info and the immediate follow-up with the girls after fake contacting the sponsor sounds incredibly fishy to me.

I am going to reach out to a couple friends (who I am not even sure if they are in NYC), so if we could arrange for a couple people to meet them there at the bus station and at least give fake some eyes on the ground, direct interaction with these girls, and someone to sit them down and buy them a coffee and explain the situation, I think it would help.

fake is going to email me more info on the girls, whatever he has (names, contact info, bus info, etc.). I will reach out to those in this thread available to help with that info, as well as some guidance on contacting the Port Authority police at Port Authority and making sure that whoever is able to go there is safe when they are there (its not a safe place late at night). Dan has another MeFi friend who has kindly agreed to put them up, offer other resources, etc. so I will be including her on the email information.

If you are in NYC and able to help and haven't posted above already, please post or contact me over email. Thanks.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:46 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is going to sound really cheesy and I'm almost embarrased to suggest it, but if anyone is "friends" with Ashton Kutcher on Twitter, consider sending him a link to this thread. I just heard an interview with him the other day where he said that human trafficking is his big philanthropic interest. Also, he is very big into Twitter and would definitely see the link. Probably couldn't hurt to have a celebrity with some pull get involved. I would do it but I don't have Twitter or particularly understand how it works.
posted by amro at 10:03 AM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


amro,

I just sent a tweet to Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk). We're not 'friends', but some people do respond to tweets from strangers.
posted by lukemeister at 10:15 AM on May 20, 2010


his list for ending slavery is @aplusk/end-slavery

i really don't know how twitter works, either. just backing up amro in case that's a good contact. you never know.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:17 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ditto lukemeister.
posted by Phire at 10:21 AM on May 20, 2010


I just called the number for the Lux Lounge, thinking I would ask them when they open, so I could go check it out. The number forwards to another number, which in turn has a generic "not accepting calls" message and a chance to leave voice mail.

I may go by tonight and see if this place even exists. Anybody want to join me?
posted by bingo at 10:22 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I may go by tonight and see if this place even exists. Anybody want to join me?

As others in this thread have mentioned, if our suspicions are correct, the Russian Mob is likely to be involved. I would avoid arousing too much suspicion.
posted by schmod at 10:27 AM on May 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


My showing up there to see if the venue exists will not arouse any more suspicion than everything above already has.
posted by bingo at 10:34 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I may go by tonight and see if this place even exists. Anybody want to join me?

Do not do this, particularly if you do not understand the Russian language.
posted by availablelight at 10:34 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Maybe volume would help on Twitter - if multiple tweets with this URL arrive @aplusk, especially with hashtags like #humantrafficking, that might rise above the clamor of his daily Twitter life.
posted by donnagirl at 10:41 AM on May 20, 2010


Last night I emailed the International Justice Mission in DC (nonprofit group who stages raids on traffickers in foreign countries) and they sent me this:

"IJM does work against injustice, but we do not currently take on any casework within the United States. I highly recommend performing a Google search for both the G/TIP office (the US Government's Global Trafficking in Persons office) and the Polaris Project. Both agencies allow you to report cases of trafficking within the United States. The phone number for the Polaris Project’s National Human Trafficking Center is 1-888-373-7888; they would likely have strong resources for you."
posted by aquafortis at 10:41 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


They are on the bus now arriving at 5pm.


Just got off the phone with Kevin from their visa sponsoring agency. He told me that he did not know their contact, that the contact is unaffiliated with the sponsoring agency, and that he did not know that lux lounge served alcohol or occasionally held stripping events. He also did not know about their accommodations being substandard. By the sponsoring agencys rules they are not allowed to work at lux. He has work for them in DC but they were adamant that they needed to meet with the contact.

He called the girls on the bus and spoke with them. In a brutalizing about-face they assured him that everything is fine, that they feel safe, and apologized for the 'problems I am causing'. They insisted on continuing in spite of his asking them not to go.


They have stopped answering my calls and texts and refused to send me bus ticket info. I am fucking sick and wrecked and need to get away from this phone. If you choose to meet them at the station, be prepared for them to want no help. X
posted by fake at 10:49 AM on May 20, 2010


Likewise, without going into too much detail, I am similarly running into the barrier of the fact that they are adults with free will.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:56 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


fake...that sucks. I will hope for the best. I don't know that you could have possibly done more than what you have done. I hope that you have an opportunity to get off the road and try to put your mind to peace. Sorry.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2010


Isn't it entirely possible that this was their plan all along and that they simply didn't tell their sponsor for fear of being stopped? It seems as though there is more going on here than you (or any of us) are aware of. I'll be interested to hear Pollomacho's take on this when the time is right for him to reveal what he knows.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:58 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's at this point that I wonder whether they knew this all along and are under the impression that they will make a truckload of money working as "hostesses" in NYC.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:59 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Buh? No greyhound buses arrive in NYC from DC at 5PM! In fact, there are no Greyhound or Peter Pan arrivals from DC between 4:20 and 5:55.

There's a BoltBus from Chinatown that arrives in NYC at 5:15, which is the closest thing I could find. However, you'd never confuse it with Greyhound.
posted by schmod at 11:00 AM on May 20, 2010


Fake, you're a good person who has done all you can. If it's any consolation, if the situation is what we're all assuming it is, the fuss you've kicked up will probably allow them to realize their circumstances much, much earlier than they would otherwise, and the contacts you've already made will make their escape easier than it would have been.

But again, I can't stress this enough. You're a good person who has done a good thing, regardless of the outcome.
posted by KathrynT at 11:01 AM on May 20, 2010 [38 favorites]


Schmod - BoltBus is owned by Greyhound
posted by iamscott at 11:06 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


As you know where and when they will be meeting with this contact, is it possible to ask the police to check in once they are supposed to have arrived?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:13 AM on May 20, 2010


There's a MetaTalk thread where not-important comments on the situation should probably go, guys.
posted by floam at 11:16 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


3 buses are arriving at Port Authority from DC, at 5:45, 5:50, and 5:55. Probably one of those.
posted by joecacti at 11:21 AM on May 20, 2010


BoltBus is owned by Greyhound

I know, but that's mostly irrelevant to this situation, given that a foreigner would almost certainly not know that distinction, and because the Bolt Bus departs quite some distance away from DC's Greyhound terminal, which isn't well-publicized.

On the other hand, Peter Pan's schedules and destinations are closely coordinated with Greyhound's, which could easily cause confusion to a foreigner. I believe they are the only other tenant of DC's Greyhound station.

In any event, the 5PM time is most likely a lie. Bus schedules along that corridor also aren't particularly renowned for being accurate, given that the bus has to contend with traffic around DC, Baltimore, Philly, New Jersey, and NYC, all of which have their own rush hours.

Amtrak has two trains that arrive in NYC around 5, although they didn't leave until after 2, which makes it unlikely that the girls boarded then.
posted by schmod at 11:24 AM on May 20, 2010


I've taken tons of buses between DC and NY and I doubt they'll be arriving at Port Authority. The Bolt Bus, Megabus, and other discount buses usually drop people off at or near Penn Station, where they have reserved dropoff spots for buses. They sometimes have a second stop in Chinatown.
posted by iamscott at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just received a text asking me not to call any more people. Let that guide your behavior as it will. I have to keep my eyes on the wobbly, blurry road.
posted by fake at 11:41 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pollomacho: if you're still reading please check your memail ASAP and get back to me.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:46 AM on May 20, 2010


All you can do is do your best and let your conscience be your guide. One hopes that the fuss that this has raised, and the sense that these girls are now in the public view, and in the view of authorities, will make them unappealing targets.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:52 AM on May 20, 2010


If nothing else, you've planted the DANGER WILL ROBINSON seed in their minds if anything starts to look wonky. I hope they'll reach out to you again in that case. Sometimes that's all you can do for people.
posted by availablelight at 11:53 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think at this point that heroics are ill advised. There are several people in positions to take quick action monitoring the situation each step of the way from here out. The women know this and they know how to get in touch with any one of these people. They have been informed of why this seems to be a bad situation. Armed with what they know (more than anyone else), they have made the adult decision to go forward with their plans.

Additionally, I believe Astro Zombie is correct that now that a fuss has been raised, those that are would-be exploiters are well aware that these women are being monitored and contacted and they are now less likely to be targets.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:00 PM on May 20, 2010 [17 favorites]


Fake: You've gone vastly above and beyond what is reasonable by now. Please pull off of the road and get some rest -- the last thing we want at this point is for something bad to happen to you.
posted by schmod at 12:04 PM on May 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


Fake, where in the country are you? Please let us find you a place to crash before you, uh, find one yourself.
posted by KathrynT at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Please come out east some time so we can buy you a beverage of your choice. In the meantime, take care. You did good work here.
posted by availablelight at 12:14 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you need a place to stay however briefly in Cedar Rapids, IA or vicinity, I could hook you up. No strings.
posted by Madamina at 12:21 PM on May 20, 2010


Nthing letting us know where you are! I don't think you'll make it down to Dallas but there's a foldout bed here if you need one.
posted by lhall at 12:33 PM on May 20, 2010


There's really not anything most of the commenters here can do for this situation except offer sentiment. I suggest putting your money where your mouth is, and donating to a recognized charity like Shared Hope.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:42 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


[folks - please take further discussion to MeTa, this is getting way far afield for AskMe, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 12:48 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Posted some location info to metatalk. Though I have been cut off, as mentioned above wheels are still turning, communication happening, all possible safeties engaged and there is good reason to hold on to hope for a non-disaster outcome.
posted by fake at 1:48 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


[folks, this needs to go to METATALK, not here. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:48 PM on May 20, 2010


D, please, stop calling somebody, please, don't call to xxxx. All is ok.There is no problem!!!
11:25AM.

OK
11:26AM

D! Listen. I don't know how thanks you. Lux lounge is a strip bar, if we will go there, i don't know what would be... Thank you so much.! You saved our lifes.
3:33PM

No thanks necessary. It wasn't only me.
3:35PM

Also, there may be people to escort you at the station. They are good people.
3:35PM

Yeh, i know. I've sms with (mefi member) i think she is cool)
miss you. & see you soon.

3:35PM




.....
I just stopped and puked my stress out on the side of the road. Not out of the woods yet, but omfg, omfg
posted by fake at 2:59 PM on May 20, 2010 [471 favorites]


oh, my god. fake. what an update.

Are you still on I-25?
posted by peachfuzz at 3:01 PM on May 20, 2010


Oh thank God.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:05 PM on May 20, 2010


Practically in tears over here....SO happy to hear it and happy for you and them.
posted by availablelight at 3:11 PM on May 20, 2010


A member of this site convinced them to meet her instead of the contact. I think she is cool)

They will meet in a few minutes.
posted by fake at 3:16 PM on May 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


Sorry for these new questions so late in the game here, but I'm wondering how much do you know about the situation that preceeded their arrival in the US? The reason I ask is I'm wondering if it's possible that they have family already here or back in Russia that could be in danger? And maybe that is the reason behind their determination to follow through with meeting with this guy? With human trafficking, there is likely some threat being held over their head in addition to their own freedom.

Just wondering if that is another lead that Pollomacho or someone could check into to try and give these girls an out...
posted by Eicats at 3:18 PM on May 20, 2010


Huzzah!!!!
posted by zerobyproxy at 3:18 PM on May 20, 2010


oh wow- I totally missed the update (should have previewed)— thank god for everyone's help! I'm so glad for the intervention that worked!!
posted by Eicats at 3:20 PM on May 20, 2010


On 220


@
posted by fake at 3:23 PM on May 20, 2010


Wonderful news!
Anybody following this who's on the route between SLC, Vegas, and southern California: in the MeTa thread, there's some effort to find fake a place to take a break from driving.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are no emoticons for the relief I am feeling, so I must invent one:

8-OHMYFUCKINGGOD
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:33 PM on May 20, 2010 [19 favorites]


Thank god. Thank you for the updates, fake. Please drive safe(r).
posted by rtha at 3:47 PM on May 20, 2010


I just heard their voices on the phone. They are safe with one of us. Confirmed. Rejoicing.
posted by fake at 3:47 PM on May 20, 2010 [153 favorites]


Amazing news! I'm sure that there are still plenty of offers to help, but for what it's worth, I have a few 2 nights for 1 coupons for HI hostels (Good in NYC and DC and some other cities) that I could mail to help give them a place to stay and meet other travellers.
posted by Skwirl at 3:48 PM on May 20, 2010


Hooray!!!
posted by ohyouknow at 3:48 PM on May 20, 2010


I mentioned this in the MeTa thread, but please find out if they have any additional needs. I will be happy to help out in whatever capacity I can offer.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:50 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


My god.
posted by jokeefe at 3:57 PM on May 20, 2010


I'm actually in tears. Holy shit, Metafilter. I love you hard.
posted by jokeefe at 3:58 PM on May 20, 2010 [23 favorites]


I mostly lurk (and favorite a lot of stuff) but I just have to say, Fake, that you are the (wo)man! As is everyone on here.
posted by SillyShepherd at 4:00 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I know I'm late to all this-- and in a way I'm grateful because I would have been wretched with anxiety all day following this in real time-- but I have two Russian friends who are currently living in Pittsburg, should translation help still be needed.
posted by jokeefe at 4:05 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter, fake, you are truly amazing. *so relieved*
posted by katrielalex at 4:13 PM on May 20, 2010


I am, again, literally in tears. I mean there are tears pouring down my cheeks right now. Fake, you're a hero. Pollomacho, you're a hero. MeFites, y'all are accomplices to heroism.
posted by KathrynT at 4:15 PM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I say this too often, but this time I really mean it: AWESOME.
posted by scody at 4:25 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fake, kudos to you for hanging in there even when your friends marched on resolutely with their plan. Kudos to you for trusting your gut instinct in the first place. Kudos to you for being a stellar human being. I'd keep giving you kudos but apparently I have something in my eyes that is preventing me from seeing my keyboard clearly. Hugs to you, be safe and please get some rest.
posted by futz at 4:33 PM on May 20, 2010


Fantastic. If any support from Wisconsin is needed, let me know.
posted by quin at 4:50 PM on May 20, 2010


I, like many mefites, have been lurking all day, following along and hoping for the best, wishing I could be of assistance. Let me add my "HURRAH!"


Please keep us posted.
posted by Abbril at 4:51 PM on May 20, 2010


If anyone in BK knows russian let me know

XXX-XXX-XXXX

I have them. everything is good.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:01 PM on May 20, 2010 [469 favorites]


the unnamed hero speaks.
posted by fake at 5:08 PM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


A) Good job!!

B) This sets a new high bar for Eponysterical usernames
posted by jpdoane at 5:11 PM on May 20, 2010 [110 favorites]


Holy cats. Good on you, fake and ifds#9. And good on you, AskMe.
posted by ooga_booga at 5:14 PM on May 20, 2010


IFDS you are my hero. I'd say more but I have that leaky eye problem too.
posted by jokeefe at 5:30 PM on May 20, 2010


As far as Russian speakers, we need someone just for drinking and hanging out!

Well, "need" is subjective...
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:11 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


eponysteriffic!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:17 PM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


After about the 20th post here I started thinking "I hope this has a 'resolved' tag." I couldn't stop reading; I was scared to scroll back up. I was wrecked when I had to leave work and stop refreshing this afternoon. So relieved to come back and see fake's update with the sms messages, posted shortly after I went offline.

Can we add that tag now?
posted by nickmark at 6:19 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I added the resolved tag. Let's take rejoicing to the one MeTa thread now? If anyone needs personal details removed from either thread, please MeMail me.
posted by jessamyn at 6:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the best use of the Internet that I, personally, have ever seen. I'm so proud to be a member of this community. Everyone who did something to help, you are an inspiration. This is the Best of the web.
posted by anoirmarie at 6:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


OMG. Clearly the most amazing site thread of all time. So glad all is working out.
posted by mwhybark at 6:26 PM on May 20, 2010


This is great. If the gals come back to DC, I don't have much, but I'd be happy to save them some $ getting around town for a while.
posted by zennie at 6:42 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am so happy I'm literally crying. I would still love to see them and just give some hugs. IFDS, let us NYers know if you/they need anything. Like, even hugs and beer. xoxo.
posted by functionequalsform at 6:58 PM on May 20, 2010


Breaking news: "internet fraud detective squad, station number 9" has been promoted to "internet fraud detective squad, COMMANDER, stations number 1 through 10!
posted by ericb at 7:12 PM on May 20, 2010 [37 favorites]


Congratulations!! If you need a hand in any way, count me in. Here's a NYC resource directory that might help with whatever comes next:

NYC.gov: "The Human Trafficking Services Resource Directory, prepared by the Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, is a referral guide to be used as a tool for service providers, law enforcement agencies, attorneys, and victims."
posted by aquafortis at 7:25 PM on May 20, 2010


i don't live in nyc, but in philly. i speak russian. i will happily lend any translation services. i'm so glad this all worked out... i've been following with intense horror and anticipation. russian is pretty much the only thing i have to offer, and obviously everything is resolved now, but ... whatever! yay!
posted by timory at 8:15 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


update@metatalk.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:19 PM on May 20, 2010


Oh Thank God. Thank God.
posted by sarcasticah at 9:57 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Finally paid my $5 dollars and signed up due to this. Absolutely amazing to everyone involved. Through some sappy tears, I say thank you. Best use of the Internet I've ever seen.
posted by neverminding at 10:51 PM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


I told a colleague of mine who used to work in an anti-trafficking org about this, and she sent me a whole boatload of links. I'm posting them all here, so that anyone who sees this thread in the future can find them:

Hey Elliot,

Here are some resources. Probably more than they need, but it’s worth putting out there in case anyone else needs info like this in the future!

New York Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line: 1-888-428-7581 (voice and TTY). New laws provide options for trafficking victims regardless of immigration status. Operators have access to interpreters and can talk with callers in their own language. The service is offered on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. After these hours, information is available on tape in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin.

New York Anti-Trafficking Coalition This site has links on the right nav to a lot of local, New York-area organizations that provide direct services to different communities of people who have been involved in trafficking as well as family service, violence, and health facilities.

Nat’l Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-3737-888

Polaris Project: nonprofit which provides anti-trafficking hotline, resources, legal services, and shelter in DC and the New York area (Newark, NJ).

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) is a coalition of nonprofit, faith-based, and government agencies that can connect you to resources for support.

Casa Alianza/Covenant House New York, provides direct shelter support for victims of trafficking, domestic violence, and homelessness.

Salvation Army Anti-Trafficking Division provides housing and immediate/urgent support for victims of trafficking. You can search by zip code for local shelters where they can provide housing and resources for trafficking victims.

Angel Coalition (in Russian or English) is a Russian nonprofit that helps with anti-trafficking and repatriation of victims as well as working with embassy’s to get visas/passports and other travel documents restored. They can also help with return travel, if so desired.

Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (PDF) (and reauthorizations since then, they may be eligible to apply for a T-1 Visa which allows them to remain in the U.S. with work authorization and a path to citizenship (if that was the ultimate goal).

U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) - Trafficking you can report traffickers and get help for victims to DOJ.

U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons same with the Dept. of State (and this is where they issue T-1 Visas).
posted by roll truck roll at 11:17 PM on May 20, 2010 [24 favorites]


"IFDS, let us NYers know if you/they need anything. Like, even hugs and beer. xoxo."

I was away from the computer for most of the day and night.

Just got time to read this thread now. Wow. And I'm getting really upset and overwhelmed by the whole situation. And incredibly grateful for the outpouring of love and assistance and good thoughts.

So the answer is yes we need hugs and beer. Mostly hugs.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:45 PM on May 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


Just, wow.
posted by SciencePunk at 3:35 AM on May 21, 2010


So the answer is yes we need hugs and beer. Mostly hugs.

Please accept this virtual hug, good at any time.
posted by pjern at 3:52 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unbelievable. Good work fake, and good work askmefi. Two lives were saved. I am grateful.
posted by scunning at 5:42 AM on May 21, 2010


I'm going to break my long-running zero-post record here just to say that this is one of the most amazing things I've ever read.
posted by Slitherrr at 5:47 AM on May 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


I will be raising a glass to everyone tonight. Well done.
posted by jquinby at 5:55 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heros, every one of you. Well done.
posted by cptnrandy at 6:14 AM on May 21, 2010


wow. This thread made me bite off my nails and then scream a tearful joyous YEAAAAH in relief. All of you, and especially to Fake, you RAWK.
posted by dabitch at 6:29 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


internet win!
posted by meta x zen at 6:41 AM on May 21, 2010


I was shocked to see this thread appear on "The Browser," an rss feed of the day's best reads, after following it anxiously here on MeFi:

Help Me Help My Friend In DC
Fake et al | MetaFilter | 19 May 2010
Amazing, nail-biting real-time thread. MetaFilter commenters in DC and New York club together to save a pair of visiting Russian students from falling into the hands of sex-traffickers

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:44 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


After years of lurking, i finally joined after reading this.
So happy it worked out! I'm in NYC, let me know if there's anything i can do to help.
posted by qnarf at 6:48 AM on May 21, 2010


This is one of the many, many reasons I love MeFi. Wow.
posted by dbiedny at 6:53 AM on May 21, 2010


People make me so proud sometimes. We should all be so lucky to have friends like Fake. And Metafilter.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:39 AM on May 21, 2010


So amazing.
posted by dejah420 at 8:30 AM on May 21, 2010


Like family, we may fight, bicker, and argue, but I love this community for reasons this thread so profoundly displays. Good on all of you who helped!
posted by schleppo at 8:57 AM on May 21, 2010


Wow - so amazing. IFDS, I'm sending hugs your way. Fake, IFDS, and everyone - you are all examples of the best of what people can be.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:29 AM on May 21, 2010


Folks, it's really time to wrap up this thread and take conversation that isn't directly on-topic to the big long MeTa thread. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn at 9:52 AM on May 21, 2010


Here is a list of immigration lawyers in NYC who speak Russian.
posted by phunniemee at 9:59 AM on May 21, 2010


Anyone offering to help: We need an immigration lawyer familiar with J1, preferably Russian speaking. Please direct your helping attentions that way.
posted by fake at 10:13 AM on May 21, 2010


This is amazing and wonderful. Good work people.
posted by timpanogos at 10:21 AM on May 21, 2010


Specifically, these folks appear to deal heavily with work/travel/exchange visas. I hope the info can be helpful.


Patrick Klauss
Berd & Klauss, PLLC
12th Floor
44 Wall Street
New York, NY 10005
Tel: (212) 461-7152 (Apparently this guy gives free phone/email consultations.)


Law Offices of Michael H. Markovitch
250 West 57th Street
Suite 1619
New York, NY 10107
Tel: (212) 947-7534


Bohunka O. Goldstein
Law Offices of Bohunka O. Goldstein
233 Broadway
Suite 1800
New York, NY 10279
Tel: (212)619-2270
posted by phunniemee at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just stumbled across this 10 minutes ago. To all who offered their help: thank you for restoring some of my lost faith in humanity.
posted by Pachycerianthus at 10:50 AM on May 21, 2010


Also, from a Russian friend: http://www.tsiringlaw.com
posted by jokeefe at 11:10 AM on May 21, 2010


Fake: have you talked to the Angel Coalition?
posted by roll truck roll at 11:12 AM on May 21, 2010


A recommendation from someone at my firm:

Spar Bernstein
http://www.4immigration.com/

What an amazing story... I too am a long-time lurker and just joined to post this.
posted by ReBoMa at 11:58 AM on May 21, 2010


Look into T-1 visas. I'm not sure what the burden of proof is, but there are lawyers that specialize in this. Be sure to ask when you start making phone calls.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:00 PM on May 21, 2010


Long time lurker here that had to say something, as this is absolutely incredible. With all the blogs that have highlighted this saga, I'm sure that a lot of folks out there on the interwebs learned something new about the horrors of human trafficking, and hopefully the resources and knowledge provided by everyone here will help someone else make the right choice down the line. Kudos to you all!
posted by Defender90293 at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2010


Fake: have you talked to the Angel Coalition?

Not yet. Lining up a free consultation with a Russian speaking lawyer ATM. Thanks to Ocherdracho. (sp, sorry)
posted by fake at 12:23 PM on May 21, 2010


No worries, the username is hard to spell.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:29 PM on May 21, 2010


I just wanted you guys to know: If you're in the Portland Oregon area, there's a pretty good chance this will make it on the "Web Watch" section of "Live At 7" tonight on KGW (at 7pm PDT). If you're not in the Portland area, you can watch online: Live stream is at http://bit.ly/KGWlive and the boothcam to see the producer and director and hear the fun bits while commercials are on: http://tinychat.com/thesquare

I'm not trying to spam or anything, I just thought you guys might dig it.
posted by verso at 3:54 PM on May 21, 2010


This is just amazing, I'm so glad everything worked out. This is like the second time I've ever come upon MetaFilter and you know what, I'm glad I dropped that 5 bucks for an awesome community like this.

Anyway, I'm around NYC as well, let me know if there's anything I can do, I can't house anyone as I'm back from uni. for the summer at home, but beyond that if a need does arise, drop me a line, maybe I can help.
posted by mr_negativity at 5:16 PM on May 21, 2010


Late to this, but I'm in Brooklyn and if there's anything I can do let me know.
posted by Skygazer at 9:20 PM on May 21, 2010


Back on the old Lux Lounge issue, it looks like they have a Facebook page as well as a brand new twitter account. You probably have to be a member of Facebook to access the Facebook page and pic I post below.

For what it's worth, some of the photos on the Facebook page look totally normal, but two of the most recent sets look pretty sketchy -- in a "Bottle Poppin' Friday" set there are alot of young women in micro-mini skirts pictured grinding up on (and in some cases assuming blatant sex positions against) guys in the club. I know that's not weird, but they're bending over for multiple guys the same night. I was personally freaked out but admittedly have not been clubbing in a loooooong time. Maybe someone who goes clubbing alot in NY could say whether that's totally normal? In particular there is one woman there in an animal print super short dress who grinds against while bending over down to the floor for four or five different guys and almost looks like she was really having sex with one of them. The Bottle Poppin pic set and another Coyote Ugly Night confirm that there is a pole and that scantily clad women dance on it; in the latter set you can see underwear and garter belts stuffed with dollar bills.

Based on these pictures put up by Lux Lounge itself, I think the club sees behavior that is much more consistent with potential exploitation of immigrant women and/or human trafficking involvement than bingo observed the night he went.

(Fake and INDS and others here, your actions really moved me. Good luck, and thanks.)
posted by onlyconnect at 9:49 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Y'all made the Newsweek blog. Wow
posted by MsKim at 10:32 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Outstanding. Simply outstanding. I'm proud to be a part of the MeFi family.
posted by darkstar at 1:32 AM on May 22, 2010


From Mother Jones: MetaFilter Saved My Pals From Sex Traffickers
posted by PenDevil at 2:33 AM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Those without Facebook can see most of the same photo gallery material in this YouTube video. Hookahs at 0:10, tattooed bikini dancing girls at 0:55 on. Tips in the clothes at 2:28.
posted by dhartung at 8:23 AM on May 22, 2010


I made a FPP a while back on the subject of stories about the sex trafficking of Eastern European women called The Price of Sex, which some people might be interested in viewing. (Especially if you're someone convinced that this was much ado about nothing and totally not about trafficking--you'll be able to understand why that's not quite the case and why this got attention quickly.)
posted by autoclavicle at 12:51 PM on May 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


autoclavicle, thanks -- perhaps crosspost the link into the Metatalk thread, too?
posted by scody at 1:14 PM on May 22, 2010


It's still not clear who exactly was responsible for this incident, but they'll probably be covering their tracks within this week, so I am making an archive of the websites involved in this.
posted by shii at 2:16 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


[please please please take metacommentary, or any commentary really, to the MetaTalk thread and do not comment here. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:18 PM on May 22, 2010


I just read all of this for the first time and I must say, you all are a bunch of amazing people. Reading this and the Newsweek blog made me love humanity a little bit more today. I hope these women remain safe and sound. Amazing jobs, everyone.
posted by Kskomsvold at 9:54 AM on May 23, 2010


My heart weeps with joy. Bless all of you who for caring. Love mefi, this is why its my social network.
posted by dsaelf at 10:22 AM on May 23, 2010


The outcome of this situation, and a thank-you letter from K and S, is here:

http://metatalk.metafilter.com/19420/Update-on-K-and-S

Thank you, everyone.
posted by fake at 8:27 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


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