Human Trafficking Charges in Federal Court

Introduction to Human Trafficking Charges in Oklahoma

The Federal Crimes Defense Attorneys at Cannon & Associates are FIERCE ADVOCATES for those charged with any and all federal crimes. We have successfully defending many clients in federal court across Oklahoma. 

We are led by John P. Cannon, a former Assistant District Attorney and Assistant Attorney General who prosecuted crimes in state court before becoming the experienced Edmond criminal defense attorney he is today. A successful defense can result in a case dismissal, dropped charges, or a not-guilty verdict at your federal criminal trial. 

If you or a loved one is under investigation or has been indicted, call us for a free confidential case evaluation. Edmond Federal Crimes Defense Attorney John Cannon is a FIERCE ADVOCATE and available to talk to you today. Call Cannon & Associates at (405) 657-2323 and prepare your defense. 

Human Trafficking Today

Human trafficking is the 21st Century version of slavery. Human trafficking is the illegal trading of people; typically for sexual exploitation, labor, or forced marriages. 

Human trafficking usually begins with the kidnapping or abduction of a person that is subsequently forced into manual labor, marriage, servitude, of most often sexual trade. In some instances, victims are coerced or drugged. Internationally, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise. Although human trafficking is most prevalent outside the United States, it is still present in this country. As a result of the international prevalence of human trafficking, Congress has enacted federal laws and regulations to respond to and prosecute offenders, including labelling human trafficking as a “law against humanity”. 

Human Trafficking: A Federal Crime

Human trafficking, sexual tourism, and child pornography are prosecuted at the federal level and federal prosecutors show no mercy when evidence exists to prosecute any of these offenses. The American abolition of slavery, the Thirteenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause form the basis for federal prosecution of these crimes. Conviction for human trafficking in federal court will result in a lengthy federal prison sentence and mandatory sex offender registration. 

Human trafficking, sex trade, and child pornography are investigated by multiple state and federal investigative agencies; however, in Oklahoma, the following are the most invested agencies: 

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”);
  • Homeland Security;
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”);
  • Department of Justice (“DoJ”);
  • DARPA; and
  • Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations (“OSBI”).

The United States’ Attorney Offices for the Western District of Oklahoma, Northern District of Oklahoma, and Eastern District of Oklahoma are all committed to the Department of Justice Project Safe Childhood and combat sex crimes against children. Further, with the major Interstates I-35, I-40, and I-44 running through Oklahoma City, a large amount of human trafficking travels through Oklahoma City and the Western District of Oklahoma. 

Definitions of Human Trafficking

Multiple federal statutes define human trafficking, including the following: 

18 U.S.C. § 1589 – Prohibits forced labor

This statute defines victims of forced labor as victims of: force, or threats of force; Abuse or serious harm; or threats of abuse of law. The potential federal prison sentence for this federal crime is up to 20 years in prison. However, if the federal prosecutors prove kidnapping or aggravated sexual abuse, or death – the penalty can carry life in prison.

18 U.S.C. § 1590 – Prohibits trafficking, with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor

The statute defines trafficking as the following conduct with a victim: obtaining, transporting, harboring, or recruiting a victim for forced labor. The potential federal prison sentence for this federal crime is up to 20 years in prison. However, if the federal prosecutors prove kidnapping or aggravated sexual abuse, or death – the penalty can carry life in prison.

18 U.S.C. § 1591 – Prohibits child sex trafficking by coercion, fraud or force.

Under federal law, any sexual act on account of “anything of value” is commercial sex.  Sex trafficking is defined Anyone that knowingly solicits, transports, harbors, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits a sexual act by any means or the person is not 18 years of age and is “caused to engage” in a commercial sex act. The punishment range for a violation of this federal sex criminal statute is 15 years to life in prison, if the victim is 14 years old or young. The punishment range is 10 years to life, if the victim is between 14 years of age, but not yet 18 years old.

The term “coercion” for purposes of this statute means: 

(A) threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person;

(B) any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or

(C) the abuse or threatened abuse of law or the legal process

18 U.S.C. § 1591(e)(2)

Sex Trafficking and Sentencing Guidelines

United States Sentencing Guidelines dictate Sex Trafficking Offenders are assigned an initial offense level of 34; however, a higher level is assigned, if the offense involved violence or force. As the mandatory minimum sentence for human trafficking is ten years, that will be the minimum possible imprisonment upon conviction of that offense.

Who can be Indicted for Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a billion-dollar industry with a business structure as complex as large businesses that operate in legal industries. Sometimes parties may be involved in the sex trafficking industry without knowing they are connected to a criminal enterprise; however, if federal prosecutors believe the individual knows of the criminality of the business; they too could be indicted. The following is a list of only a few of the most likely targets of human trafficking or sex trafficking indictments / federal criminal charges:  

  • Producers or distributors of child pornography;
  • Recruiters or offenders that target victims;
  • Companions or security for underage victims;
  • Solicitors of human trafficking services (described above);
  • Marketers of services for human trafficking;
  • Planners or logisticians in process of human trafficking; and
  • Anyone that aides or abets human trafficking.

Sex Tourism

Sex Tourism is defined by the Department of Defense as “[t]he extraterritorial sexual exploitation of children is the act of traveling to a foreign country and engaging in sexual activity with a child in that country. Federal law prohibits an American citizen or resident to travel to a foreign country with intent to engage in any form of sexual conduct with a minor (defined as persons under 18 years of age). It is also illegal to help organize or assist another person to travel for these purposes. This crime is a form of human trafficking, also referred to as child sex tourism. Convicted offenders face fines and up to 30 years of imprisonment.” Sex tourism is prohibited by United States Criminal Code at 18 U.S.C. §2423. Specifically, Section B forbids travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and provides the Federal government “extraterritorial jurisdiction” over such cases.

It is unlawful under the United States Criminal Code to travel abroad for sexual exploits with a minor and as stated above, federal prosecutors will exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction, i.e. jurisdiction outside the United States to prosecutor such conduct. Sex Tourism carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.

Human Trafficking Defense

As is the case for every type of federal criminal allegation; not every person accused of human trafficking is guilty. An experienced human trafficking defense lawyer can help defend you from unjustified allegations or indictment. 

As referenced above, legitimate businesses many unknowingly contribute to human trafficking, including travel companies, limousine or vehicle services, small or private airlines, and many more.  Unfortunately, that means legitimate businesses may be forced to defense or suffer a long federal investigation into federal human trafficking charges. An unknowing peripheral participant, may be forced to face the same indictment as a kingpin in sex trafficking; even an up and up business when a client was using your services for human trafficking. 

You should hire an experienced federal criminal defense attorney, if you are under investigated for or have been indicted for any federal sexual offense. 

Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers serving Accused in Oklahoma

At Cannon & Associates, we provide experienced federal criminal defense for those accused of state and federal crimes in Edmond, Oklahoma City, and beyond in Oklahoma. We understand the federal detention hearing process, federal criminal jury trial, and the sentencing guidelines governing federal criminal proceedings and sentencing for federal crimes.

We offer free confidential case evaluations and can advise you on the steps to seek pre-trial release and defending your federal criminal case as a whole. 


Experience matters when you are facing federal indictment in Oklahoma or the potential loss of your freedom. It is important to know the Oklahoma federal criminal defense lawyer you hire is dedicated to your cause and versed in all aspects of federal criminal defense and federal sentencing guidelines. John Cannon, owner of Cannon & Associates is a former prosecutor and very experienced in the law and issues associated with fighting federal criminal charges and criminal jury trial. He has been recognized as a Super Lawyer and Top 40 under 40 in criminal defense. Contact Cannon & Associates to protect your rights and Fight your case. Complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 1(405) 657-2323 for a free confidential case evaluation.