Amid rash of human trafficking cases, Dart calls on website operators to work with police

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is calling on website managers to work with police to prevent human sex trafficking and labor exploitation, after his investigators' work helped lead to charges against 10 people on related offenses over the last two weeks.

Authorities say the cases - one alleging the operation of a brothel near Palatine -were investigated by the Police Vice Unit and the internet Crimes Against Children unit. In half the cases, defendants used aggregator websites to attract customers, authorities said.

"These cases show that trafficking and child exploitation can happen anywhere and be perpetrated by anyone," Dart said in a prepared statement. "I am calling on these websites to make a difference by helping prevent more victims from being trafficked."

On Oct 6, four people were charged with involuntary servitude, trafficking in persons and promoting prostitution stemming from allegations they operated a brothel in the 1500 block of Norway Lane near Palatine. The defendants - Christian Hurtado, 28, of Elgin; Daniel Hurtado, 26, of Elgin; Martha Hurtado-Hernandez, 57, of Chicago, and Rigoberto Parra, 46, of Aurora - face similar charges in Kane County.

In July, Christian and Daniel Hurtado, Hurtado-Hernandez and Parra were charged with involuntary servitude, trafficking and promoting prostitution, along with Hector Briseno, 54, of Chicago, after authorities said they operated a sex ring out of residences in St. Charles, Elgin, South Elgin, Hanover Park, Palatine and Chicago.

All were ordered held on $5 million bail, their arrests occurring before Illinois implemented cashless bail.

In a separate case, Carlos Cooks, 53, of Elk Grove Village was charged Oct. 6 with involuntary servitude and promoting prostitution after investigators say he forced a woman to have sex for money. Police say Cooks placed ads for the woman online, arranged for encounters with johns, controlled the money she received and physically abused her if she did not participate.

According to the sheriff's office, warning signs that someone may be trafficked include: visible signs of abuse such as unexplained bruises or cuts; someone else controls their money; they are isolated from loved ones; they are secretive about their whereabouts; unexplained shopping trips and expensive jewelry or cellphones; and other behavioral changes.

Signs of child exploitation include: age-inappropriate knowledge about sexual situations; mood swings or sudden change in attitude; unexplained gifts; and receives requests for sexually explicit images or sends sexually explicit images.

Dart urges residents to call police if they suspect someone is being trafficked in any capacity, sexual or labor.

Christian Hurtado, 28, of Elgin is one of four men facing charges stemming from the alleged operation of a brothel near Palatine.
Rigoberto Parra, 46, of Aurora is one of four men facing charges stemming from the alleged operation of a brothel near Palatine.
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