A decade ago, Susana Trimarco’s 23-year-old daughter left her house in Tucuman, Argentina for a doctor’s appointment and said: “I’ll be back soon.” She was never to be seen again. Her daughter, María de los Angeles Verón, is believed to have been kidnapped and forced into prostitution, becoming one of the millions of human trafficking victims in the world.
That began Trimarco’s remarkable and dangerous mission to find her daughter: Chasing down leads in brothels, confronting pimps and standing up to politicians she says were complicit in her daughter’s disappearance. Following a tip that her daughter was in a brothel in a northwestern province of Argentina called La Rioja, she posed as a prostitute and visited a series of dark and dangerous brothels looking for her daughter. She wanted to see how the networks operate, first hand and up close.
“I have no fear of this mafia, and I hope that Justice will make justice,” she said in court recently.
Her efforts, which have brought her international recognition –and kudos from the U.S. White House to Canada - have uncovered a network of human sex slave traffickers that reached as far away as Spain. A foundation Trimarco created in her daughter’s name has helped to rescue 150 victims of human trafficking around the world.
In November, a terrified 13-year-old girl pounded on an apartment door in Brooklyn. When a surprised woman answered, the girl pleaded for a phone. She called her mother, and then dialed 911.
The girl, whom I’ll call Baby Face because of her looks, frantically told police that a violent pimp was selling her for sex. He had taken her to the building and ordered her to go to an apartment where a customer was waiting, she said, and now he was waiting downstairs to make sure she did not escape. She had followed the pimp’s directions and gone upstairs, but then had pounded randomly on this door in hopes of getting help.
That 911 call set in motion the arrest of Kendale Judge, then 21. Judge has pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking, kidnapping, rape and compelling prostitution. He is in jail, and we haven’t heard his side of the events yet.
The episode also shines a spotlight on how the girl was marketed — in ads on Backpage.com, a major national Web site where people place ads to sell all kinds of things, including sex. It is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.