A federal jury Monday convicted a former Northwest suburban massage parlor operator of sex trafficking, forced labor, harboring illegal aliens and other offenses alleging he mentally and physically abused four women to force them to work for him July 2008 to January 2010.
Alex Campbell, 45, of Glenview faces 15 years to life in prison after being found guilty on three counts each of forced labor, harboring illegal aliens for financial gain, and confiscating passports and other immigration documents to force the victims to work and one count each of sex trafficking by force and extortion.
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After a three-week trial, jurors deliberated more than two hours before returning the guilty verdicts Monday.
Campbell, who formerly operated the Day and Night Spa on Northwest Highway in Mount Prospect, used violence and threats of violence to force three women from the Ukraine and one from Belarus to work for him without pay and, at times, little to no subsistence, authorities said.
U.S. attorney spokesman Randall Samborn said Campbell sent women to engage in commercial sex acts with customers at other massage parlors in Cook County, including Club Tan in Arlington Heights and a spa on North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.
According to court testimony, Campbell operated Day and Night "cleanly" to avoid problems with law enforcement until his arrest in January 2010. Samborn said the title for the spa was not in Campbell's name and that there have been no other charges in the case.
"Forced labor and sex trafficking preys upon vulnerable women and is tantamount to modern-day slavery," Gary J. Hartwig, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago, said in a statement released after the verdict.
"The jury has vindicated the rights of four women who suffered mental and physical abuse, sexual exploitation, extortion, and threats of deportation, all so Alex Campbell could make a profit."
Campbell, also known as "Dave" and "Daddy," remains in federal custody without bond while awaiting sentencing. U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman scheduled a hearing on post-trial motions for April 19. No date was set for sentencing.
All four victims testified against Campbell, as did co-defendant Danielle John, 25, of Glenview, who pleaded guilty before trial to two counts of harboring illegal aliens for financial gain. She also is awaiting sentencing.
Authorities said evidence showed that Campbell recruited and groomed foreign women without legal status in the United States to become part of his "family," which he claimed was an international organization that would provide them with support. He offered them jobs in his massage parlor, a place to live and assistance with immigration, and he lured each of them to enter into a romantic relationship with him. After gaining their trust, he forced the victims to get tattooed with his moniker, which he said made them his property and allowed him to stop paying them.
At the same time, he acquired the women's passports and visas. The women were forced to work long hours every day and do as Campbell instructed them, and they were beaten and punished if they disobeyed him, authorities said.
He extorted another victim to pay him more than $25,000 to leave the "family" by threatening to send a sexually explicit video recording to her parents in Belarus, officials said.
"Human traffickers are in our neighborhoods and harming our communities by using what appear to be legitimate businesses as fronts for their operations," said Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, whose sheriff's police initiated the investigation. "I hope this conviction sends a strong message that these criminal acts will not be tolerated in Cook County."
The U.S. attorney's office filed a motion for a protective order in October 2011 for some of the women expected to testify against Campbell. It charged Campbell "beat one witness with a pool cue" and "also threatened to inflict severe harm upon, and even murder, some of the women." According to the document, Campbell was previously convicted of attempted murder in 1988.
The Cook County state's attorney's office assisted in the investigation, which was coordinated by the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force.
The task force, together with the Salvation Army Family and Community Services STOP-IT Initiative Against Human Trafficking, operates a toll-free hotline, (877) 606-3158, which victims of trafficking or those with information about human trafficking can call for assistance.