Field Notes

Indictment shows the horror of child sex trafficking

Indictment shows the horror of child sex trafficking
Laura Lambden, who is accused of sex trafficking of a minor.

We’ll call her Mary, which is not her real name.

She’s 14-years-old, from Vancouver and a symbol of so much that is wrong right now.

Her story, which should not be read over breakfast and contains graphic content, is detailed in court papers related to the indictment of the men who prosecutors said paid to have sex with her and the woman who was her alleged pimp.
 
It started last summer when Mary, a runaway, was hanging out with the older sister of a friend of hers.
 
The older sister had been supporting herself as a prostitute. One day she took Mary to see Laura Lambden, who prosecutors say was the sister’s pimp and would sell drugs to her.

In court papers, this is what prosecutors and investigators say happened:

Mary was looking to buy some drugs and Lambden asked her if she wanted to make some money.
 
I’ll let you stay with me, Lambden told her. All Mary had to do was work for her.
 
Mary was not looking to be a prostitute. She was 14 and without many choices. Going home was not one of them. While there are agencies and organizations looking to help runaway teens, many of the runaways don’t know about them until after they’ve started making mistakes.
 
Investigators say that Lambden wasted no time, immediately setting Mary up on a “date” for that evening with a man named David Parsons.
 
Mary was driven to a hotel by the Vancouver Mall, given a room number and a key.
 
Fortunately for her, the man was not there. She waited a little and “had a friend pick her up because she did not want to have sex with David,” according to a FBI agent who interviewed Mary.
 
Unfortunately for her, investigators said Lambden was not satisfied.
 
Back at the apartment, Mary was dressed in a pink tank top, bra and pink shorts and made to sit on a bed while Lambden took photos, according to court documents.
 
Mary said she objected but was told it was necessary so “they would know what you look like.”
 
The second date had happened. Mary said she was driven to a meeting place where Parsons picked her up and drove her to his home.
 
She told investigators that Parsons’s first order of business was to ask her age; he wanted to know if she was really 14. Mary pulled out her school identification.
 
Mary recounted how she had sat down on a brown couch on the right side of the room that she would later describe as feeling like carpet. She then said Parsons had her perform sex acts on him and they then had intercourse on the couch.
 
Mary said that he also asked her if she knows “any 6-year-olds,” which she took as meaning she was too old for him.
 
He also told Mary he was happily married and had a good job.
 
Mary got $150 for the experience. It was an experience that convinced her she had made a mistake and she took back to the streets and staying with what friends she had.
 
By September, she was running out of options and investigators said she ended back with Lambden, who reminded her, “You’re going to have to start working with me if you want to stay here.”
 
Soon after, Lambden arranged another “date” for her – this time with a man named Ben Riggs in Oregon City, according to investigators.
 
Lambden came and when the three were in his house, Riggs and Lambden stripped while Mary stopped at her bra and underwear.
 
But, Mary told investigators, Lambden said that Mary would have to strip if she wanted to get paid. She was then told to perform oral sex on Riggs, but Mary said she wouldn’t have intercourse with him because she had a boyfriend.

In the end, investigators said Lambden had sex with Riggs, who then paid the two $500.
 
Mary said Lambden promised her $200, which was then cut to $100 because of her refusal to have intercourse. She then cut it in half again, demanding $50 for rent. By the time they got back to Lambden’s apartment in Vancouver, she had taken all the money back, she said.
 
Soon after, Mary stole Lambden’s cell phone – the one with she had called the men and taken pictures with – and went to the police.
 
The three adults have now all been indicted and the investigation continues. They are currently awaiting trial.
 
Mary is far from alone on the streets.
 
A study is now underway in Portland that will put some hard numbers to the story of the sex trafficking of children in the area.

It’s been said for years that the problem here is among the worst in the country. This study will quantify that. Early indications are that sex trafficking is not just an urban myth.  It is too real.
 
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, which just formed a human trafficking unit, prosecutes between six and 12 cases a year.
 
It’s estimated that 80 kids a year in Multnomah County fall victim to trafficking.
 
When the Portland Police and FBI conducted an operation over the weekend, a teenage prostitute showed up with her baby.
 
Mary, meanwhile, is being helped by officials who are getting her help, trying to put her back on the right path.
 
Keep your fingers crossed.