NEW YORK - In July 2017, Chloe Ailing, a 20-year-old British model claimed she was kidnapped in Milan, Italy. Italian authorities said at the time the model was set to be sold for sex to the best offer on the dark web.
The dark web is the internet's sinister side. The dark web cannot be found by using search engines such as Google. It can only be accessed via special software known as TOR, The Onion Router. You can find guns, drugs, sex, and counterfeit cash for sale on the dark web.
Just this week, a court was looking into whether Ailing made up her story.
However, human trafficking experts are sounding the alarm about people being for sale.
"The case in Italy was definitely different from what we typically see in the U.S.," Emily Waters of Safe Center LI said. "In regard to minors, the most recent statistics from 2015 were that 80 percent of trafficked youth have had some type of contact with child protective services or the foster care system."
Waters said that people are enticed into trafficking through false promises. The dark web is only a small portion of the trafficking that happens in the United States and in New York, she added.
The Safe Center LI has in its hands a few cases on the dark web right now. The center is working closely with Nassau County Police to identify them.
"These are identifiable through specific language used in the advertisement, through pictures, through other pieces of evidence that the police are able to put together," Waters said. They even use emojis.
But human trafficking isn't only on the dark web. You can buy sex on traditional websites such as Backpage and Craigslist.
"In New York we frequently see immigrants from Asian countries and from Eastern European countries who come to the U.S. for a better life and are then taken by human smugglers who have brought them to the country," Waters said.
Retired vice detective John Birbiglia said that he was part of investigations where Asian women came from China into California and were then sent to so-called safe houses. The women were then brought to massage parlors. He worked a number of human trafficking cases involving immigrant women forced into prostitution or other forms of illicit activity.
"Most of the prostitution cases that we were involved in through our investigation, the young ladies were either promised a modeling job or a singing job and once they would come here and met whomever they were supposed to meet, that's when it would start" Birbiglia said. "That's when the beatings would start, that's when [they'd be] put up in hotels… the next thing they would end up on Craigslist, Eros, Backpage."
Globally, 20 million people are estimated to be victims of human trafficking.
"As with other forms of illicit crime, human trafficking is becoming more nuanced and more difficult to identify," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. "Much of these activities are going underground and they're going online."
President Donald Trump signed an executive order designed to strengthen the enforcement of federal law regarding to transnational criminal organizations, including traffickers.
"It's playing a whack-a-mole game," Waters of Safe Center LI said. "For every one you take down, 10 more pop up. And again, it goes back to the demand issue. As long as there are people out there willing to pay for this, it's going to exist."
Although traffickers who hide behind a screen may be getting smarter, so are the police, we are told.