Their nightmare dragged on for more than two years. The undocumented women from Eastern Europe were brought to the Chicago area where they were later beaten, branded and forced into prostitution.
The man responsible for the scheme, Alex Campbell, was sentenced Monday to life without parole in a federal prison and to pay $124,000 in restitution.
“They (the victims) have a life sentence -- all of them . . . and their life sentence at your hands compels a life sentence for you,” U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman told Campbell during sentencing.
Campbell, 47, formerly of Glenview, Ill., operated the Day and Night Spa on Northwest Highway in Mount Prospect, Ill. He called himself “Cowboy” and used violence and threats of violence to force three women from Ukraine and one from Belarus to work for him without pay between July 2008 and January 2010, according to a press release from U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement.
The four women testified that Campbell recruited undocumented women to become part of his “Family,” which he claimed was an international organization that would provide them with support. He offered them jobs in his massage parlor, a place to live, assistance with immigration. He then charmed them into becoming his girlfriends.
That’s when things really changed.
After gaining their trust, he forced the victims to be branded with a large tattoo that included his moniker, which he said made them his property and allowed him to stop paying them. He took the women’s passports and visas and forced them to work long hours each day. If the women disobeyed, he would beat them.
Campbell forced one victim to work at other massage parlors, but not at the Day and Night Spa, which according to her testimony showed he operated “cleanly” to avoid problems with law enforcement. He extorted another victim to pay him more than $25,000 to leave the “Family” by threatening to send a sexually explicit video recording to her parents in Belarus.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, one woman testified that Campbell raped her, kept her child from her,gave her drugs and kept the money she earned. She also said he beat her if she didn't make $1,500 each day.
Another 20 women were victimized by Campbell, the press release said without offering more information. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said she couldn’t provide more details about the women. Campbell has long maintained his innocence.
He was convicted in January of three counts each of forced labor, harboring illegal aliens for financial gain, and confiscating passports and other immigration documents to force the victims to work, and one count each of sex trafficking by force, and extortion.
The women qualify for temporary immigration status for victims of human trafficking.
Since 2002, the government has awarded 3,183 human trafficking visas. About 61 percent of these applications filed to U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services were approved during the same time, according to data obtained by The Chicago Reporter.
And the cases involving Campbell stand out as exceptionally harrowing, authorities said.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for almost 25 years,” said Immigration enforcement special agent in charge Gary Hartwig, “and this is one of the most significant human trafficking cases I’ve seen in my career.”