NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A human trafficking survivor joined U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) Saturday to advocate for a bill that would send the IRS after pimps and traffickers for tax evasion, and provide aid and protection to survivors.
In a news conference at the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse, at 40 Centre St. in downtown Manhattan, Maloney was joined by sex trafficking survivor Shandra Woworuntu in talking about the Human Trafficking Fraud Enforcement Act of 2014.
The bill would give the IRS more funding and resources to target pimps and traffickers for taxable income, and give financial aid and whistleblower protections to survivors of human trafficking.
Maloney noted that Al Capone was eventually busted using tax evasion charges, and the IRS can also be used to follow the money and catch sex traffickers too.
“We must use every tool at our disposal to crack down on the underground commercial sex economy,” Maloney said in a news release. “This illegal industry is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. While Shandra, an inspiration to all of us, was able to escape her trafficker, who was later imprisoned, she struggled financially for a significant amount of time, as no compensation was ever provided to her.”
Woworuntu is originally from Indonesia. She is college-educated and had worked as a financial analyst there, but lost her job due to political instability and racial persecution, Maloney’s office said.
Worowuntu came to the United States in 2001 and had planned to take a hospitality job in Chicago, but she never made it there. She was kidnapped at John F. Kennedy International Airport, her passport was stolen, and she was forced into sex slavery in the Tri-State Area for nearly a year, Maloney’s office said.
Woworuntu escaped her trafficker by climbing out a bathroom window in Brooklyn, but struggled financially after breaking free, Maloney’s office said. She was finally able to get back on her feet and reunite with her daughter with the help of the nonprofit Safe Horizon, and now lives in Elmhurst, Queens and works as an activist and public speaker, Maloney’s office said.
“While I am happy now, leading a life providing support and education for survivors and the public, I struggled for a while after escaping my trafficker,” Woworuntu said in the release. “My trafficker was eventually put in jail, but I never received any money and was at a point where I was homeless, before I got help and got back on my feet.”
Maloney’s bill would authorize $4 million to set up a specific office in the IRS to prosecute sex traffickers for tax violations. It would also set up stiffer penalties – including fines of up to $50,000 and prison terms of up to 10 years – for sex traffickers who fail to file returns or pay taxes.
The bill would also set up a new felony – aggravated failure to file – in cases where income is derived from criminal activities and is not reported.
The bill would further give sex trafficking victims up to 15 percent of the fines levied against their abusers.
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