Several people robbed at gunpoint on beach behind Fontainebleau

Several people were robbed at gunpoint Saturday night as they hung out on the beach directly behind the Fontainebleau, police said.

The Miami Beach Police Department said the group was at the beach shortly before midnight when two men between the ages of 20 and 30 approached them with guns.

One of the men said, “This is a robbery — give us your phones,” while pointing his gun at the victims, police said.

Two of the victims gave their belongings to the thieves, police said, while two others dropped their phones while running for safety. One of the victims also had her wallet stolen.

Police said one of the victims was able to get away, hide under a boardwalk and call 911.

Police said two of the victims in the robbery were juveniles.

Police said one of the thieves was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt that said “Thrasher” on the front and dark pants. The other was wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt, with possible gray striping down the sleeves, and dark long pants.

Police said both men had their hoods pulled down, covering the majority of their faces.

Anyone with information about the robbery can call local law enforcement.

Alleged traffickers charged in modern sex slavery

Another 21 alleged members of an international sex trafficking ring have been charged in the United States with forcing hundreds of Thai women to travel to the US to work as “modern sex slaves.”

They join 17 members charged last October, three of whom have pleaded guilty.

The indictment, unsealed Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota, details a scheme dating back to 2009, which denied the women their freedom until payment of bondage debts that were often as high as $60,000.

According to a statement made by US Attorney Gregory Brooker of the District of Minnesota, the defendants include 10 Thai nationals and 11 US citizens, arrested at various locations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Chicago. One defendant remains at large.

“The complexities of this organization represent the lengths to which criminals will go to profit off of human beings. This is an important reminder that sex trafficking and the associated buying, are not victimless crimes — this organization preyed and profited on vulnerable women,” said Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, who took part in the dismantling of the criminal enterprise.

Operating since January 2009 through May 2017, the criminal organization allegedly trafficked hundreds of women from Bangkok, Thailand, to various cities across the US, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, and Austin.

‘Owned by the organization’

The women, often from impoverished backgrounds and speaking little to no English, were lured with promises of a better life and steady income in the US.

The indictment says they were informed back in Thailand that they would engage in prostitution activities, but were often “painted a rosy picture of life in the United States,” with a quick payoff of the debt and a chance to send money back home.

Once in the US, the women were forced to have sex with strangers — at times all day, every day, with up to 10 or more men — and were isolated, not allowed to leave the prostitution houses without an escort. In the event of an attempted escape, the woman and her family in Thailand would be threatened, compelling her to return to “work.”

The indictment described them as “modern sex slaves.”

“The victims are isolated,” the document states. “The victims are effectively ‘owned’ by the organization.”

In addition to the significant bondage debt, the victims were forced to bear the cost of cosmetic surgery they were encouraged to undergo, to make them “more appealing to potential sex buyers in the United States,” according to the indictment.

Typically, 60% of the profit was routed to a trafficker to pay down the bondage debt, while the rest of the money would be retained by the “house boss” who owned the prostitution facility.

A sex ring worth tens of millions of dollars

The eight-count indictment outlines bulk cash smuggling and money laundering offenses, detailing “funnel accounts” to route cash from cities across the US to money launderers in Los Angeles.

The ring moved tens of millions of dollars from the US to Thailand and elsewhere using a “hawala-based system,” in which family members and trusted individuals would carry large volumes of cash on their person, including hiding cash in clothing and dolls.

The women brought to the US for sex purposes were also forced to open bank accounts in their own names, which were controlled by members of the organization for coordinated deposits.

“The special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation are committed to taking the profit away from these human traffickers,” stated Special Agent in Charge Shea Jones of the St. Paul Field Office IRS Criminal Investigation.

“As all financial transactions leave a trail, IRS Criminal Investigation special agents used their accounting expertise to analyze the complex financial transactions made by these criminals.”

Their positions ranged from traffickers, who held the bondage debt of a victim, to house bosses, who “owned” the houses of prostitution, to money launderers and facilitators, whose responsibilities included transportation of women to different houses of prostitution — travel costs which were added to the victims’ bondage debt.

According to US Attorney Brooker, this investigation took years to complete and to finally “disrupt and dismantle this criminal organization from all angles.”

Gillian Anderson and Mark Rylance Launch Global Campaign for Uncontacted Tribes

Published May 26, 2017 Survival International ambassadors Gillian Anderson OBE and Sir Mark Rylance have launched a global campaign for uncontacted tribes – the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Both actors are long-standing Survival supporters, and star in a new campaign film. The film spearheads an international push to protect uncontacted tribes, who face unprecedented threats to their survival. All the government […]

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Health, Education, and Human Services Committee Successfully Concludes the 2017 Navajo Language and Culture Revitalization Summit

Published May 26, 2017 TSAILE, ARIZONA – On Wednesday, the 2017 Navajo Language and Culture Revitalization Summit presented by the Health, Education, and Human Services Committee and co-hosted by Diné College from May 22 to 24 at Diné College successfully concluded. The three-day summit concentrated on building awareness, dialogue, understanding, unity, and action regarding Navajo language […]

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Remember the Removal Bike Ride Participants Leave for 950-mile Journey

Published May 26, 2017 TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation will host a send-off ceremony for the 12 young Cherokees who leave Tahlequah on Tuesday for the 2017 Remember the Removal Bike Ride. This year’s cyclists range in age from 16 to 24. They will join eight cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in […]

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Armed man arrested at Phoenix Comicon

Police arrested a man at Phoenix Comicon on Thursday after he made it into the event with four guns and a knife.

About noon, police received a tip about a man who had allegedly posted pictures on social media of Phoenix police officers and threatened to kill them, according to police spokeswoman Sgt. Mercedes Fortune.

The tipster provided police with the location of the suspect and his description.

When officers found the 30-year-old suspect at the Phoenix Convention Center and took him into custody, Fortune said, he was allegedly wearing body armor and carrying three handguns, a shotgun, additional ammunition and a knife.

“At this time, there is no evidence to cause investigators to believe this is anything more than an isolated incident,” Phoenix police said in a press release.

“We are extremely grateful to the Phoenix Police Department for their diligence in following security protocol and working quickly to apprehend the individual,” said convention director Matthew Solberg in a statement sent to CNN.

Comicon attendees often dress in costume with prop weapons, but it’s unclear whether the suspect was dressed up.

According to the Comicon website, police and the Phoenix Convention Center security were responsible for checking each prop weapon brought into the event. Prop guns were allowed, but each was required to have the tip of its barrel painted orange.

Police and convention organizers said they are tightening security in response to Thursday’s threat. Prop weapons will no longer be allowed at the convention, Fortune said, and delays are expected as security and police ramp up screening efforts at event entrances.

Loved ones search for answers after kills 2 teens

Embracing each other in grief, family and friends gathered Thursday to mourn the loss of two teens who were killed in a crash over the weekend.

David Stewart, 17, and Mi’chael Miles,17, both died in a vehicle that  was driven by their friend Milton Davis, 18.

“I know that my baby is in heaven,” David’s mother  said.

Lying in intensive care at the hospital Davis said he’s still processing his friends’ deaths  and the fact he survived.

“I don’t feel right, at all,” Davis said.

Davis said  says he remembers driving onto Northwest 27th Avenue near Northwest 199th Street  on Sunday night when they crashed with another vehicle.

That driver also survived the crash.

On Thursday hundreds of people wore white in honor of the victims.

“We’re in denial,” Darlene Holland, Mile’s teacher, said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation and those close to the teens said they are waiting to find out what happened that night.


‘Moonlight’ actors perform with classmates in end-of-year performance

The end-of-year play at Norland Middle School in Miami Gardens included special highlights this year: award-winning actors.

Jaden Piner and Alex Hibbart starred in “Moonlight,” the Miami-based film that won an Oscar for Best Picture. 

On Thursday, they had roles in a mashup of performances that included vignettes from “Hamilton” and “Hairspray.”

The seventh graders told Local 10 they were thrilled Norland is getting attention for being a special school for performing arts. 

The head of the drama program, Tanisha Cidel, said there is a lot of untapped talent in Miami-Dade County. She will be running a workshop over the summer for anyone interested in the performing arts. 

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