Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

The United States: Land of Opportunity or Land of Deception?

Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

The United States: Land of Opportunity or Land of Deception?

Article excerpt


Human trafficking is a grave violation of human rights and human dignity. It causes harm to millions of persons around the world. Individuals are trafficked and exploited in numerous workers industries, ranging from the sex trade to a variety of labor settings, including manufacturing, construction, agriculture, mining and quarrying, fishing and domestic service. Your locale is not immune; human trafficking persists in our own communities. Attempts at combating this modern-day form of slavery require efforts from all segments of society, and attorneys are well-positioned to play an important role. This article provides an overview of the problem of human trafficking and associated money laundering issues. The authors briefly review current anti-trafficking laws and discuss ways that lawyers can contribute to efforts to curb the tide of human trafficking.


Maria, a 15 -year-old Honduran girl, and her two friends were approached by two welldressed men claiming to be businessmen and offering to take them to the United States to work in a factory.3 After arriving in Houston, the girls were not sent to work in a factory but brothels disguised as bars instead.4 The girls were held captive, raped, and beaten daily if they did not make enough money.5 Men who came to the bar to have sex with the girls were able to pay for a mattress, paper towels, and spermicide.6 Maria was able to escape after six years, but her two friends are still missing.7 Maria is just one of the many victims of human trafficking each year. Human trafficking has become a "multibillion dollar form of modern-day slavery".8

Because human trafficking is such a lucrative business, traffickers commonly need to carry out money laundering schemes in order to hide their illegal profits. Many methods of money laundering are used to transfer illegal funds through financial systems and out of the country. With the developing technology of financial systems, money can move domestically and internationally with no effort. Although laws have been set in place to deter and prevent money laundering, traffickers are finding new ways to avoid the traditional financial systems and keeping their funds hidden.

Money laundering and human trafficking are global issues fueled by people's desire for money. Because companies and individuals conduct business internationally, having money and humans crossing the borders each day seems to be a normal occurrence. Many individuals from other countries look to United States for jobs and other opportunities to have a successful life. Traffickers feed on this fact, and as long as the demand is high for sex and cheap labor, they will continue to supply the humans at any cost. As individuals continue to be trafficked domestically and internationally, the United States appears to be a land of deception rather than a land of opportunity.


Money laundering is used to conceal the real nature and source of financial transactions and it occurs in three stages. The first stage is placement, which involves inserting the money into the financial system. In order to avoid problems with placement, launderers will typically structure the money by making a deposit for less than $10,000 and escape the reporting requirements for the Currency Transaction Report. The money is often converted to a less suspicious medium, such as money orders or cashier's checks.9 Layering is the second stage and takes place when illegal funds are broken up in order to complicate the audit trail. Layering techniques include wire transfers to offshore banks or using the value of an offshore bank account that contains illegal funds as collateral for a bank loan in United States.10 The final stage is integration, which is the process of putting the money back into the economy and making it appear to be from a legitimate source. Although regulations are put in place to deter and prevent money laundering, many businesses are vulnerable to the transfer of illegal funds through their systems. …

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