Traffic Stop Leads to County Police – FBI Human Trafficking Investigation

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White Plains, NY,  February 7, 2011 — A traffic stop by a Westchester County police officer has lead to the arrest of a Florida man on charges that he forced at least three women into working for him as prostitutes through intimidation, acts of violence and threats to harm their family members.     

Westchester County Police and the FBI believe that the suspect has victimized more women in similar fashion and are currently conducting a multi-state human trafficking investigation. Investigators have determined that the suspect, Nicholas Alvarez (pictured below) , transported women between New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and Virginia to engage in acts of prostitution under his coercion.

WCPD_Alvarez Alvarez, 35, of Miami, FL, was arraigned late Friday in U.S. District Court in White Plains on three counts of transportation for illegal sexual activity. He is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.     

The investigation stems from a traffic stop made at noon last Thursday by Police Officer Donald Palmer, who pulled over a van on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers that lacked a rear license plate. The occupants gave Palmer a variety of documents as identification, which he recognized as forgeries. A subsequent check revealed that the van had been reported stolen in Virginia.     

Palmer and other members of the county police took four persons – a male and three females – into custody. Detectives from the General Investigations Unit subsequently determined the women had a previous history of prostitution and conducted interviews with them. Although the women initially refused to cooperate, the detectives, through their training and experience, suspected the women were victims of human trafficking. 

“These women were extremely fearful of Alvarez, but we were able to establish trust with them after many hours of interviewing. They eventually told us that he had beaten them regularly and threatened to kill them and their family members if they tried to stop working for him,” Police Commissioner George N. Longworth said. 

After detectives determined that Alvarez had transported the women from state to state to engage in prostitution, they contacted the two county police detectives who serve on the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force in White Plains. Those detectives and the FBI then joined the investigation.     

“We are grateful for the cooperation of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this ongoing investigation,” Longworth said.      

The commissioner said the case highlights the growing problem of human trafficking and he has directed that a block of instruction on the topic be added to the Department’s Unified In-Service Training Program. That program provides ongoing training for veteran officers of the county police and municipal police departments in Westchester. 

“The exploitation of any human being is unconscionable and beyond the bounds of decency,” Longworth said. “We want to ensure that all officers are equipped to identify the signs of this growing problem.”

Bary Alyssa Johnson of The Westchester Guardian wrote on the issue of human trafficking in the February 10th edition of the paper. Find it on page 4.  

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