by Jeff Pederson
For The Beacon
Once thought of as the type of unsavory criminal activity only found in major metropolitan areas, cases of human trafficking have now been reported in all 72 counties in the state of Wisconsin.
On Monday, March 11, an overflow crowd packed the St. Paul Lutheran Church sanctuary in Sheboygan Falls to hear a gripping presentation from Sheboygan Police Department Detective Tamara Remington titled “Human Trafficking in Sheboygan County.”
Remington detailed several specific cases of human trafficking in Sheboygan County, while describing how each convicted human trafficker went about reeling in their victims and keeping them under their control through highly effective brainwashing tactics.
After defining human sex trafficking as the recruiting, enticing, harboring and obtaining of an individual for a commercial sex act, Remington began the presentation by tracing her background in law enforcement and her introduction to human trafficking early in her career.
“I got my introduction to human trafficking working as an Asian gang detective in San Jose, California,” Remington said. “I recall that there was a grocery store that served as a hub for human trafficking.
“After I moved to Sheboygan in 2005, I worked as the school liaison officer at Sheboygan South High School in 2009, which introduced me to human trafficking here in Sheboygan County,” she said. “After working in the field for a number of years, I have started doing these presentations on human trafficking. I don’t do these presentations to scare people, but rather to provide awareness and education that hopefully with help people in the long run. Talking about it is important and I feel it will start to make a difference.”
After stating that human trafficking cases have been reported in all 72 Wisconsin counties, Remington noted that Sheboygan County ranks near the top in the volume of human trafficking cases uncovered in each county in Wisconsin.
“Sheboygan County is tied for second with Racine County in the number of reported human trafficking cases,” Remington said. “Milwaukee is No. 1 and considered a human trafficking hub in the Midwest or as some have said “the Harvard of pimping.” In fact, Milwaukee is in the top three nationally for volume of annual human trafficking arrests.
“Seeing that Sheboygan is so high on the list, it shows that there is a definite problem here that must be addressed,” she said. “It should also be noted that human trafficking is a under-reported crime because the victims don’t self identify with the crime.”
Remington titled human trafficking as “modern day slavery,” which includes human traffickers using victims to collect money for sex or labor.
“Human trafficking covers sex and labor trafficking,” Remington said. “A total of 80 percent of the reported human trafficking cases involve selling people for sex and the 20 percent cover selling people for labor.
“Both are a major problem in today’s society and are occurring in Sheboygan County,” she said. “I work on the sex trafficking cases exclusively in my job as a detective with the Sheboygan Police Department.”
Remington noted that the majority of human traffickers recruit their victims via social media and video games.
ers have been using popular video games like Fortnite to recruit victims. They communicate through the headsets that the kids and adult use to play these games with their friends.”
Human trafficking victims range widely in age, race and backgrounds, but Remington said they typically have a few traits in common.
“Victims that I’ve encountered range in age from 2 to 72 and even older,” Remington said. “They come from all races and upbringings, and are of all shapes and sizes. However, the one thing nearly all of them have in common is a high level of vulnerability.
“Most of the victims are at-risk with a history of homelessness, truancy, physical or sexual abuse and previous involvement in pornography,” she said. “Some are runaways and other are from great families. Some are already drug users, while others have never taken drugs before. The profile of victims can really run the gamut, but they are all typically vulnerable in some way.”
Remington indicated that most sex trafficking victims are targeted at a young age, which varies from around age 11-12 for boys and age 12-13 for girls.
“Most of the time the victims are brainwashed and drugged,” Remington said. “They definitely are not allowed to leave the control of the human trafficker, or ‘pimp’ at any point. The human trafficker often also use threats and fear tactics to control their victims. They often scare the victims into thinking they will be going to jail.
“On top of that, many human traffickers go as far as to brand their victims with a symbol or name to further claim the individual as their own ‘property,’” she said.
Remington provided case histories and profiles of a handful of convicted Sheboygan County human traffickers, including Jason Guidry, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison on three sex-trafficking counts and one court of possession with intent to distribute heroin in February 2015.
“I interviewed Jason Guidry in working on this case and I can tell you that he looks like former Green Bay Packers player Donald Driver and has a personality that is very charismatic and likeable,” Remington said. “However, he is a human trafficker that lured in, drugged, enslaved and sold six girls for sex in Sheboygan County.
“Jason Guidry started out by reeling in the six girls on social media,” she said. “He was what we call a ‘romeo’ or ‘finesse’ human trafficker, who gave each of the girls false promises. He somehow managed to promise to marry all six of them.”
Using the deeply addictive lure of heroin as a way to enslave the girls, Remington said Guidry reeled in each of the girls slowly and methodically.
“Human traffickers are normally very good at reading people and Jason Guidry was certainly that,” Remington said. “He introduced each of the girls to powdered heroin, which he swore was not addictive. All the girls started by snorting it at first. Five of the six had never done drugs before. He invested time to get to know the girls and he playing into their vulnerabilities.
“After putting in that time, they all became addicted to heroin and through that addiction he was able to control and sell the girls for sex,” she said. “Jason Guidry used his own credit card to purchase ads on sex website, which is how we got him. We took his case to federal court and he got 25 years in prison.”
Remington added that while some criminals are able to be rehabilitated, human traffickers in general are not.
“Human traffickers are so manipulative and have a certain personality type that make them general unable to turn their lives around like some other convicted criminals are able to,” Remington said. “Many human traffickers attempt to continue carry on their crimes while inside prison.”
As the volume and profile of human trafficking cases raises, state legislators, district attorneys and local law enforcement officers have become more vigilant in tracking, arresting and prosecuting human traffickers.
“It is a long, difficult process to track, arrest and convict a human trafficker,” Remington said. “It can take many years to put a human trafficker behind bars. All of our state representatives have been very supportive, as has our Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski and our Sheboygan County Sheriff Cory Roeseler. In addition, our police officers and dispatchers are very well trained to handle human trafficking cases.”
As far as categorizing human trafficking customers, Remington says she has seen it all.
“I’ve arrested many human sex trafficking customers including city workers, teachers, Elks Lodge members, soccer coaches church ushers, landlords, you name it, I’ve seen it,” Remington said. “In 2015, we started a network of Sheboygan County motels and hotels called Sheboygan Safe Stay, which has really helped in identifying human sex trafficking activity and led to the arrest of many customers at hotels and motels, where much of this activity takes place.”
Remington said there is currently a push to incorporate human sex trafficking education into the local school curriculum.
“We are very focused on spreading the word about the dangers of human trafficking,” Remington said. “We are hopeful that we can add it into the school curriculum in the next two years and we have also taking steps to require that in order to obtain a driver’s license, a person would need to complete a course on human trafficking.”
Remington shared several safety tips that could save a person from falling into the trap of human trafficking.
“I encourage people to hang out in groups, rather than alone when in public,” Remington said. “Another big one is limiting the amount of personal informational shared on social media, especially deeply personal things involving trauma or abuse that a human trafficker could pick up on. If something doesn’t seem right to you, please ask questions. Also, I highly recommend communicating as much as you can about what is going on in your life with family and close friends. Following these tips could truly turn out to save you from following into the clutches of a human trafficker.”
Remington mentioned several local organizations that assist human trafficking victims.
“It used to be that Safe Harbor was the only place that provided sources for human trafficking, but now there are many others that are doing great work in Sheboygan County,” Remington said. “Once victims enter the life set for them by a human trafficker, they move into a whole different, awful world than they’ve known before. Organizations like Love INC and Freedom Cry have been doing outstanding work providing clothing and other needed items and assistance for human trafficking victims.
“While we have more help available to human trafficking victims than ever before, we are still in need of alcohol and drug dependency services, inpatient rehab and transitional living programs,” she said.
The free presentation was sponsored by Sheboygan Falls Kiwanis, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Bethany Lutheran Church and St. Spryridon Greek Church.
For assistance, Remington suggested contacting the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or herself by phone at 920-459-4267 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The March 26 Beacon article titled, “Sheboygan County No. 2 for sex, slave crimes,” contained the following statement, which was identified as a direct quotation from Detective Tamara Remington during a presentation on March 11:
“I’ve arrested many human trafficking customers including city workers, teachers, Elks Lodge members, soccer coaches, church ushers, landlords, you name it, I’ve seen it,” Remington said.
In fact, that statement paraphrased a section of Detective Remington’s talk. It was not a direct quotation. Furthermore, Detective Remington has worked in law enforcement for over 20 years, in different parts of the country. Based on a follow up discussion with Detective Remington, we now understand that she did not intend to refer to a member of the Elks Lodge in the Sheboygan area. Rather, she indicated that she uses that example in each of her human trafficking presentations to make the point that human trafficking customers come from all professions, walks of life, and affiliations.