3 men recently sentenced in Anchorage for sex and human trafficking

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 11:03 AM AKST
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Content Warning: This article contains information that some readers might find disturbing. Specific details have been omitted to protect the victims’ identities.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The FBI in Alaska says three men were recently sentenced for sex and human trafficking. One Anchorage man received a sentence of 35 years in federal prison on five counts of sex trafficking minors, three counts of production of child pornography and two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms.

The FBI’s Anchorage Field Office investigated 36-year-old Tristan Jamal Grant and say he made a business from manipulating at least two teenage girls and an 18-year-old woman beginning in 2018. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Alaska, Grant was sentenced for trafficking both of the minors from October to December 2018.

According to a sentencing memorandum for Grant, he pressured the two teens to post ads on adult sites.

“If girls do not reach that particular quota there’s usually a consequence,” said FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden.

She went on to say that “the money doesn’t go to the girls, it doesn’t go to the victims in these cases. The money goes to the actual trafficker.”

Court documents state that Grant also recorded himself having sex with the minors. One witness in the case told authorities that Grant made sex videos of her since she was 13 or 14 years old and that she was later trafficked by another of Grant’s associates.

Goeden said traffickers prey on young, vulnerable women.

“That vulnerability can be anything from a mental health issue, drug and alcohol issue, homelessness or a teen who’s a runaway who’s having some issues at home,” she said.

Court documents state Grant once gave a 15-year-old girl so much Xanax that, “she was falling over and completely blacked out and recollection of her trafficking was spotty.”

“Traffickers will either look for girls that already have some type of chemical dependency issue, or they will create that chemical dependency issue because it helps keep the girls, you know, (quote end quote) ‘compliant,’” Goeden said.

Authorities told Alaska’s News Source that Grant used his girlfriend to recruit some of the girls she had previously met while serving time at the McLaughlin Youth Center.

According to the sentencing memorandum, witnesses testified that Grant was abusive and manipulative, even shooting his girlfriend, who was pregnant with his child at the time.

Local experts say human trafficking is prevalent in Anchorage. Heather Hagelberger is the Trafficking Prevention and Intervention Program coordinator at Covenant House Alaska, a shelter and housing nonprofit that takes in young people who don’t have anywhere else to stay or need help getting back on their feet.

“We have seen an influx of traffickers coming up from the Lower 48 because it’s an untapped resource of people,” Hagelberger said.

According to Goeden, Alaska is on par with the Lower 48 in terms of the prevalence of human trafficking. Hagelberger said young men and women are sometimes targeted by businessmen who come to Alaska for a short stay.

“Sometimes they find a way to make a little money by letting their friends know that this girl or guy is interested in doing some things in exchange of money,” she said.

When asked if those things include sex, Hagelberger said “sometimes.”

“And sometimes it’s labor stuff, it really just depends,” she said.

In 2021, Covenant House sheltered 221 young people and Hagelberger said that 40% of the youth treated in the residential program last year were involved in some type of trafficking. She went on to say that children with past traumas are the most likely targets.

“When it’s unresolved it causes us to have issues with brain development, with cognition, and with our ability to even express ourselves well,” she said.

In the past few weeks, two other men — one of Anchorage and another who was a Kotzebue resident — were sentenced to a minimum of 23 years and 20 years in federal prison, respectively, for either sex or human trafficking.

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention month. If you, or someone you know, needs help, call the FBI’s national hotline at 888-373-7888 or text 233-733.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, resources are available on the Standing Together Against Rape (STAR) website or by calling the statewide crisis hotline at 1-800-478-8999.

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