Saturday, August 27, 2011

Human trafficking and prostitution

This past year I noticed some new mandatory posters in brothels in Melbourne: they are aimed at working girls, explaining what human trafficking means and urging the victims to contact the police.
There are also a lot more immigration rades on the parlours, in search for girls working illegally.
In Australia, this problem has mostly to do with Chinese nationals (they comprise the biggest percentage of both victims and perpetrators).
However, human trafficking is not a new phphenomenon: it's been around for a long time.
So called Russian "entrepreneurs" got on that band wagon decades ago.
I came in close contact with someone affiliated with it many years  ago, when I was working in one of Las Vegas Casino's restaurants as a waitress.

That guy's name was Darius: he was hired as a busboy for our restaurant. When I introduced myself, he immediately realised I was Russian (my strong accent always gives me away) and told me he was originally from Lithuania (used to be one of the Republics and a part of Russia). Darius spoke fluent Russian and we often took our lunch breaks together so we could chat in our native language.
Darius was young-early 20's. He told me about his mandatory two years in Russian army and how they were sent to Baku (my hometown). I couldn't believe it-I got to know someone who could give me a glimpse of what was really going on back then from the government/army point of view (see my post "How I Survived The War").
What I found odd about Darius is that he was very ambiguous about his past, about how he came to be in US and what he did for a living in Chicago (that's where he used to live prior to Vegas). He rode a bicycle to work (didn't have a car),lived in an apartment, had a job as a busboy (lowest on a hospitality totem pole), yet he carried not one, but two pagers AND a cellphone on him at all times.
Back then cellphones were still quite bulky and airtime cost a lot of money, so they weren't quite so widespread and common.
I asked Darius about the pagers and he just said that he "wants to be in touch" with his friends.
One day,as we were having lunch, Darius asked me if I still had friends in Russia. I explained to him that I didn't, not really, as I went to school and Uni in Baku and my parents lived in Moscow, so I was really "disconnected": I never had any friends in Moscow (didn't live there long enough to make any) and due to separation of Azerbaijan, lost all contact with people I knew there.
But Darius wasn't satisfied with that answer. He told me that he has a plan: he knew how we (him and I) could make a lot of money and it would be so easy,too.
Even back then, I was already jaded enough to know that there is no such thing as "free lunch", but I was willing to listen.
The plan was as follows: my parents (who lived in Moscow) were to advertise in a newspaper or magazine for "available work in America" for young attractive women. They were to tell the girls that it would be "hostess" work in hospitality industry.
Upon girl's arrival to Las Vegas, Darius and I were to put them up in a flat (rented by us specifically for that purpose), take their passports away and tell them they have to pay us $100/day (from each girl) for "housing and maintenance".
Darius told me that he has an "in" with the owner of one of the major strip clubs in Las Vegas (Crazy Horse-I always knew that place was up to no good). He could get girls jobs in there, by-passing the whole "Sheriff's Card" procedure and then it would be a sweet deal for all concerned: him and I would be making "easy money" and the girls would keep everything they earned on the top of $100/day to themselves.
Darius had no idea that I was working as a stripper and a prostitute as well as waitressing. The whole scenario made me sick!
I told him him  I wasn't comfortable with the plan. He insisted that I should think about it. He kept saying "it works, trust me, I've done this with people in Chicago", which actually made me not trust him at all (Chicago is a well-known American mafia hub with extensively documented and long-term ties to Las Vegas).

Some time passed and I forgot all about that conversation. One day I was sitting in employee cafeteria, deep in thought: I was going through a really rough divorce with husband#3 (haven't gotten around to writing about that asshole yet). Daruis joined me and asked what was wrong.
I've explained the situation to him: husband tried to attack me, broken into my house a month after he moved out, refuses to cooperate in divorce proceedings, demands money from me (bloody story of my life)etc,etc,etc. Darius got a very thoughtful look and then said "Do you want me to get rid of him for you?". Just like that, as though he offered me a stick of gum.
I asked him what he meant. He said:"You know, get rid of him,had him killed". We were speaking Russian, so no one could understand us and still, I automatically looked around.
"What the hell are you talking about?!" I hissed "Are you crazy?!". He said:"Oh, don't be like that. Are you a Russian or not. You know it would be the fastest and easiest way to solve all your problems. It'll only (only!!!) cost you $10K, we'll make sure you got an alibi for the time of the murder and I'll make it look like it was a random robbery/attack gone too far".
I have to be completely honest: for a moment, for a split second, a had a fleeting thought of how nice it would be if Bob (my ex-husband) was just gone. He will never know how close he actually came to his "brush with death".
Ultimately,of course, I wasn't even going to entertain the thought. I told Darius "no" and that was that.
I tried to stay away from him in the next few weeks,as I had a strange feeling-one of my "foreboding" ones. I pay a lot more attention to those now.

About a month later the restaurant manager came up to me in the kitchen and asked  if I knew anything about Darius' or his whereabouts: apparently he pulled a "no-call,no-show" at work for three straight days. I really didn't know (as Daruis and I never socialised or saw each other outside of work-I didn't even know where he lived). That was that and after another couple of days he was fired "De facto" (as he wasn't there to be served with his "pink slip").

Another few weeks went by and suddenly Darius was all over the news: his body was found in the lake (Lake Mead), with some water still in his lungs (which means he was alive when he went or was put under the water). Investigation ensued and it was confirmed that Darius did, in fact, had ties with Chicago mob: as a matter of fact, that's why he got a busboy job,wouldn't buy a car (so he didn't have to register it) and generally kept low profile. He skimmed some money from their human trafficking business in there and was trying to set up his own shop in Las Vegas!
I honestly don't know what that boy was thinking! Did he really believe that he could get away with that?! Did he think he was insignificant enough for the mafia not to "bother" and let him just abscond with the money?!
One thing is for sure: my guardian angel must been sitting on my shoulder during that time,as I steered clear of any and all involvement with him and even refused his repeat invitations to come over to his place (it was nothing sexual,actually, I think he was genuinely lonely and wanted someone from his Motherland to talk to).

Life is stranger than fiction sometimes.

P.S. After I posted this entry,out of curiousity, I googled "Darius Lake Mead  Las Vegas". Apparently, he is still on LVMPD's (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department) website under "cold cases 1990-1999". His full name is Darius Kavalyauskas,aged 24. Coroner listed the cause of death as "asphyxia caused bt forced drowning". Looking at his photo sent shivers down my spine.

1 comment:

  1. Hey hun, I'm still interested in meeting for coffee! I'm sorry but I've lost your number. Give me a text - my number is posted on my blog homepage.