Olmsted Count Attorney will not pursue charges in Rochester labor trafficking case

Olmsted Count Attorney will not pursue charges in Rochester labor trafficking case

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(ABC 6 News) – The Olmsted County Attorney’s Office declined to file charges in a Rochester labor trafficking investigation April 11, citing the difficulty of bringing the alleged traffickers back to Minnesota to face charges.

Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem spoke to ABC 6 News last month about the difficulty of discovering and prosecuting a crime that occurs almost exclusively in private spaces.

However, the deal-breaker in the case of a 2022 escapee from trafficking was the “impossible” task of getting international suspects into Olmsted County Court, Ostrem said.

“Justice is not served, but we just don’t have the ability to get there,” Ostrem told ABC 6 News Friday.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension referred a Rochester-area investigation to the attorney’s office in early March.

According to search warrants the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) filed earlier this year, a young woman claimed she was sold to a family in the United Arab Emirates, then sent to Rochester to care for a woman while the woman stayed at the Broadway Plaza hotel on 1st Street SE and received treatment at Mayo Clinic.

RELATED: BCA finishes investigation into Rochester labor trafficking; refers case to Olmsted County – ABC 6 News – kaaltv.com

The woman escaped the hotel in 2022, according to court documents. Ostrem said she made contact with a Minnesota advocate, who helped the woman find a safe place to stay and eventually communicate with law enforcement.

Ostrem said the fact that the woman was allegedly sold to the family in the UAE years before the incident, then brought to Rochester for only three months, complicated the case.

“Before the case could be fully investigated, the family and alleged perpetrators returned to their home country,” Ostrem said in an email. “There is no expectation that the perpetrator will ever return to the United States, specifically to MN.”

He added that the labor trafficking survivor who reported the incident to Rochester law enforcement “understands the decision” the attorney’s office made.

 “The fact of the matter is, they’re not here now,” Ostrem said. “There are some times we can file a warrant to try and arrest someone outside of the states … this doesn’t rise to that level.”

In Minnesota, Safe Harbor provides housing and support for survivors of labor and sex trafficking. Each region’s contact information can be found here. The Advocates for Human Rights help provide legal assistance. The Day One crisis line (1-866-223-1111) can connect survivors to resources in Minnesota, and survivors outside of the state can use the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888)

Rochester and Olmsted County resources include Dodge & Olmsted County Victim Services (507-289-0636) and the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (507-289-5960).