According to Fox 5 DC, a lawsuit has been filed against the Fairfax County Police Department officers, located at 12300 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy, Fairfax, VA 22033.
The lawsuit was filed in October alleging that several officers were involved in a sex trafficking ring. A Costa Rican woman came forward with the allegations that she was forced to work as a prostitute from 2010 until 2015. The Daily Beast has reported that multiple women have reported similar stories of being lured into working as prostitutes under the ring leader, Hazel Marie Sanchez Cerdas. Many claimed that their passports and travel documents were taken, and harmful threats were made to them and their families if they failed to comply. Sanchez Cerdas pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and was sentenced to five years.
Two detectives have been named in the amended lawsuit, Michael Barbazette and an FCPD officer, Jason Mardocco. These names were provided by the former FCPD officer assigned to work on the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, William Woolf. Woolf began his investigation into the trafficking ring during the time the victim was being trafficked. During interviews with many trafficking victims, he learned that officers traded sex for law enforcement protection. This included being tipped off in advance to active police sting operations.
His supervisor, Michael Barbazette, became interested in his work in 2014. After accompanying him on many interviews, Bargazette began to make Woolf's investigation more difficult by denying travel requests, refusing overtime, and even demanding daily reports detailing his activities. Complaints made by Woolf to his other supervisor did not prove to help. In 2015, he was interrogated by another supervisor for interviewing sex trafficking witnesses only to be told to "keep [his] mouth shut." Additionally, he was contacted by Edwin Roessler, the Chief of Police, who was allegedly covering up the actions of the police officers and questioned if he was “willing to play ball” and stop looking into sex trafficking any further. He was then reassigned to work on runaway and child pornography cases before resigning in 2017.
Attorney Kevin Biniazan is an experienced sex trafficking victims lawyer who represents victims in civil lawsuits. During an interview, Kevin shared some of the legal options available to sex trafficking victims, including situations where they can file a civil lawsuit.
"Trafficking is a worldwide issue that affects more than 40 million people. While the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act allows victims to sue their traffickers, it also allows them to sue anyone who benefited or enabled the trafficking. The act of sex trafficking can include the use of coercion, either by force or fraud, to engage in commercial sex acts. This type of exploitation often includes moving victims far away from their homes, either across states or other countries."
"Sex trafficking victims and their families can file in criminal courts to get justice against the direct perpetrators. However, they may also be able to file in civil courts against both the traffickers and anyone that enabled the trafficking. If law enforcement agencies knew of the abuse but allowed it to continue, they could even be held accountable in a civil lawsuit."
"Victims are encouraged to seek the professional assistance of an experienced sex trafficking victims lawyer. Not only can a lawyer offer compassionate guidance, but they will also know the state's specific statutes of limitations and any loopholes allowing victims to file if past the timeframe. Victims can remain anonymous in order to protect themselves and their families. Aside from recovering financial compensation, victims gain the justice they need to begin to heal while helping protect future trafficking victims."