FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — From August until December, police say, a Fayetteville man forced a 19-year-old Fort Bragg soldier into prostitution.
The incident is unique, according to Fort Bragg officials.
But some warn the crime shows that human trafficking can effect every echelon of the community, including the military.
The man charged with exploiting the soldier, Jibri Quandel Thomas, turned himself in to Fayetteville detectives Jan. 11.
He faces several state and federal charges related to prostitution and human trafficking.
Fayetteville police say he forced the soldier into prostitution between August and December of last year. The soldier was living in barracks on Fort Bragg at the time.
When first arrested, Thomas, 23, of the 3200 block of Brookemere Place, was charged with promoting and advancing prostitution.
Three days later, while still in the Cumberland County Detention Center, he was charged with human trafficking.
Both crimes are related to Thomas's exploitation of the soldier, according to police.
In court documents, law enforcement alleges that Thomas "did recruit, entice and transport" the soldier "with the intent she be held in involuntary servitude for the purpose of prostitution."
The Fayetteville Observer does not identify victims of sexual crimes.
Police have declined to give details on how the soldier was recruited or how she was held in involuntary servitude.
Fort Bragg officials say human trafficking of soldiers is rare, if not unheard of. Post spokesman Tom McCollum said military officials are unaware of any similar case at Fort Bragg.
But at least one community advocate says similar crimes against soldiers may not be that uncommon.
Pete Twedell is director of a counter human trafficking program known as 5 Sparrows, which operates as part of the Fayetteville Dream Center, which partners with churches and local organizations to help the victims of the crime.
Twedell said he has heard of at least four or five cases in which soldiers were victims of human trafficking in the region in the past four years.
He said there's nothing that would preclude a soldier from being a victim of such a crime, especially in a community with so many service members.
Fort Bragg is the largest military installation in the nation with roughly 56,000 troops.
"Human trafficking is a real and growing problem that affects all strata of our society, including Fort Bragg," Twedell said.
Twedell said Fort Bragg-based military law enforcement are not participating in a local human trafficking task force that includes lawmen in Cumberland County.
That task force was created last year and includes members from the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, Fayetteville Police Department, Spring Lake Police Department, Hope Mills Police Department and others.
Fort Bragg officials said they are taking the issue seriously, even if they don't see a growing problem.
"Though this may be a unique situation, any soldier or family member forced into human trafficking needs to know help is available," McCollum said. "Primarily, they should turn to their immediate commander or senior (noncommissioned officer) for help.
"A large part of their duties and responsibilities is to look out for the health and welfare of their service members. Service members have to trust them to extend this responsibility to them in unique situations like this."
Chaplains and legal assistance officers also are available to assist, as is any law enforcement agency on or off the installation, McCollum said.
He said victims should call 9-1-1. They also can call Fort Bragg's Family Advocacy Program's victim advocates at 322-3418 or the post's SHARP advocates at 584-4267 if a victim does not feel comfortable talking to a law enforcement agency.
"Both lines are available 24 hours a day," McCollum said.
Twedell, with the nonprofit Dream Center, said the organization has not served a victim who was a soldier.
"However, the majority of these victims stated their primary clients were military service members, many of whom were married," he said of known local victims of human trafficking.
Finding victims of the crime may be difficult, Twedell said.
In some cases, a trafficker forces a victim to become an assistant who commits crimes on the trafficker's behalf, he said.
According to Thomas' arrest warrant on the promoting and advancing prostitution charge, he provided transportation to the soldier and pocketed a portion of the income gained from prostitution during August.
A related incident report said the crime occurred at a McDonald's in Spring Lake and was not reported until December.
Police have declined to provide more details on how the soldier was forced into prostitution or other aspects of the crime.
"The investigation is ongoing," said Officer Antoine Kincade, a spokesman for the Fayetteville Police Department.
Law enforcement alleges that Thomas is a suspect in other human trafficking cases on the East Coast.
He is being held in the Cumberland County Detention Center on $400,000 bail for both of his local charges.
Thomas also faces federal charges. On Jan. 28, he was indicted in federal court on charges of racketeering for prostitution and transporting for prostitution.
The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, alleges that Thomas traveled between Maryland and Guilford County between March and August to support a business enterprise involving prostitution.
He's also accused of transporting a "Jane Doe 1" from Maryland to North Carolina so the unnamed person could engage in prostitution.
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