DES MOINES, Iowa -- Nine defendants will be serving significant time behind bars in federal prison for their role in sex trafficking and related offenses in and around Des Moines. All defendants were sentenced within the past three months.
The Department of Justice for the Southern District of Iowa says this is a significant accomplishment in combating sex trafficking in Des Moines for both their office and law enforcement. But as Channel 13's Whitney Blakemore is finding out, this is just the beginning of a concerted effort to target these types of crimes in Iowa.
It's not typical for Iowa to have three cases closed and nine defendants sentenced for sex trafficking and related offenses in a matter of months.
“This is a large number for Des Moines,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, Marc Krickbaum said. “It’s not a large number because it's happening more right now, it's a large number because we’re looking for it more.”
Krickbaum says it is thanks to both prosecutors in their office, and law enforcement out in the city, committed to investigating these types of crimes. It is a crime that happens in Iowa, more than many would like to believe.
“Two of these three cases involve homegrown sex trafficking operations where the traffickers and the victims are from Des Moines, are working in Des Moines, and are trafficking in Des Moines,” Krickbaum said.
Krickbaum says their biggest case, prosecuting 29-year-old Darren O. Coleman of Des Moines to 25 years in federal prison along with six other defendants, is a perfect example of police working tirelessly to stop this crime.
“That case started with a car that was illegally parked in the airport and wouldn't move,” Krickbaum said. “That's not how you think a sex trafficking or human trafficking case starting, but they turned it into a seven defendant sex trafficking case that could've ended with a car moving out of it's spot in the airport.”
Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek says they are trained on how to recognize this nationwide problem and how to investigate further.
“You know, as we talk to the community about see something say something, that's something that our officers always have in the front of our minds," Parizek said. And they added that they aren't stopping anytime soon.
“This is what you find when you start turning over rocks and the more rocks you turnover the more of this we are going to find,” Krickbaum said. “So there's no question in my mind that this is the tip of the iceberg.”
Krickbaum added these cases demonstrate just how prevalent sex trafficking is in Iowa. He says the sentences speak for themselves, with multiple defendants handed decades in federal prison where they will serve all, or almost all of their sentencing.
Anyone who suspects human trafficking is occurring, be it a minor engaging in paid sex acts, or anyone being coerced into prostitution or labor, is urged to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.